PLEASE UNDERSTAND! When I post about common exegetical missteps, it is not an attempt to embarrass anybody or to project the idea that I am smarter than others! I love the LORD and I love HIS WORD! I believe we ought to spare no expense or effort to make sure that when we quote the Bible, we quote it accurately and correctly! After all, it is the word of God, therefore, when we say what the Bible says, we’re saying what God says or the principles, ideas, commands, and intentions God wants to convey. Consequently, when we misrepresent what the Bible says, we misrepresent the words, thoughts, intentions, and commands of God, which is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly!
So with that mind, here’s another one we so commonly and frequently mess up! We preach it, we quote it, and we sing it! What is it? It’s 1 Corinthians 2:9, which says: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 is the Apostle Paul’s adaptation of Isaiah 64:4. So, this is actually what Paul said and Paul is quoting the Old Testament, so what’s the problem?
Do you remember the radio commentator; Paul Harvey? He was famous for the way he reported his stories. Harvey would introduce a story, but before he concluded the story, he would go to a commercial break. When he came back from the commercial break, he would say; “And now, the rest of the story.” The problem with 1 Corinthians 2:9 is that it is not the complete thought the Apostle Paul was trying to convey! When we quote 1 Corinthians 2:9 and quit, we misrepresent Paul because we leave before giving him the opportunity to tell the rest of the story!
So, here’s the rest of the story! In 1 Corinthians 2:9 Paul says; “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” But wait a minute! Paul IS NOT THROUGH TALKING! In the very next verse, Paul says: “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit. . . “ What has God revealed to us by His Spirit? The things which God has prepared for them that love Him!Paul said one thing in verse 9, but he cancels it out in verse 10 and the following verses! Eyes haven’t seen, ears haven’t heard, neither has it entered into the hearts of men what great things God has prepared for those who love Him, BUT GOD HAS REVEALED THEM TO US THROUGH HIS SPIRIT! That’s the complete thought!
So, when we quote verse 9 and run off without reading the rest of the story, and proclaim verse 9 as the Gospel truth, we are actually lying and are misrepresenting the intention of the text! We are saying God hasn’t revealed what Paul said God has revealed! To get the full picture, we need to at least read to verse 12! This is what that looks like;
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”
Wow! Do you see that? We preach and sing that God ‘has not revealed’ and ‘we can’t know’ when the Bible actually says, ‘God has revealed’ and ‘we can know!’ The sermons and the songs sound good! But nevertheless, they are not theologically sound! How did this happen? It happened because we didn’t read the rest of the story!
How many times have you heard your pastor, some preacher, your favorite evangelist, or heard a song say: “The Bible says: ‘God won’t put no more on you/us than you/we are able to bear!” How did you feel when you heard that? Well, you should have felt like something’s not quite right! Why? Because the Bible DOESN’T SAY THAT, and GOD DOESN’T OPERATE LIKE THAT!
Even before discussing what the Bible actually says, let’s consider the implications of that widely believed, yet false premise. What kind of God would ‘put something on you,’ and then offer to relieve your burdens, only after you pray for relief? That’s a sick and sadistic god! Definitely NOT THE GOD revealed in the Bible! If you actually believed in a god like that, you would have some sort of resentment, even if it was only subconscious! One of the reasons the world rejects our faith is because so many of us who profess faith misrepresent faith by making statements that sound good but make no sound theological sense, such as the statement of this discussion!
Now, here’s what the Bible actually says: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 KJV.
Now, let’s break the verse down: The Greek word for ‘temptation’ in the verse is a word defined as; ‘a test, an enticement to do evil, adversity, or affliction.’ The phrase: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man,” means whatever you are going through IS NOT a unique situation! You’re not the only one, others have and are going through what you are going through! What you think is unique to you is actually quite common to everybody!
God is faithful and God will not suffer (allow) you to be tempted/tried/afflicted/burdened above/beyond what you are able, but with whatever you’re going through, God will provide a way for you to escape so that you may be able to bear/handle it.
Now notice, Paul did not say the temptation/trial/affliction came from God! James said in James 1:13: “Let no man say when he is tempted (same Greek word Paul used in our verse), ‘I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempted he any man.” Wow! James actually said, we are not to say what we’ve been saying because God doesn’t roll (operate) like that!
The gist of the matter is this: Whatever trials, afflictions, burdens or adversities we face; GOD DIDN’T PUT THEM ON US! And James tells us not to say that! But the GOOD NEWS is that God is faithful, in that God will not allow whatever we’re going through to be more than we are able to bear! Paul said, God will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape. In other words, the answer is in the question, within whatever you’re going through is your relief, and there is a blessing within your burden!
When we say, “God won’t put no more on us than we are able to bear,” we misrepresent the character and nature of God. God is not the source of our burdens, sin is! We live in a sin-cursed and fallen world. But when we encounter the various burdens and afflictions that everyone encounters and goes through, we (believers) can rely upon a faithful God who will not allow whatever we’re going through to be more than we are able to handle! The real message is this: If God allowed you to come it, (or it to come to you), God will help you through it! Whatever your burdens may be, what the enemy has designed for your defeat, God wants to use for your good! Don’t curse the darkness, just light a candle because we serve a God who is able to turn our stumbling-blocks into stepping-stones!
When you go to court to testify or to be sworn-in as a witness, you are asked to solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! Some years ago, the popular columnist; Paul Harvey would tell news and special-interest stories. The stories were always good and interesting, but the one thing that distinguished the show was the fact that Harvey would only tell half of the story before having a commercial break! After the commercial break, he would then tell the rest of the story!
Much of what I am hearing today in the church-world, in personal conversations, in ‘gospel’ music, and in social media reminds me of the court-room and the Paul Harvey shows: People are promoting ‘half-truths’ as the whole truth and are not waiting until after the commercial breaks to hear the rest of the story! As a result, there is a lot of bad theology being offered that is actually detrimental to wholesome spiritual development and true biblical faith!
Let me give you a few examples: Many are familiar with or have heard of Romans 8:28, which says: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (NKJ). Taken by itself, this verse seems to simply imply that if I love God and are called according to His purpose, everything that happens to me; the good, the bad and the ugly, is working together for good! That sounds fine, but the question that begs to be asked that most people don’t ask is: What is good? Well, Paul actually answers that question in the very next verse, where he continues his thought by saying: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29 NKJ). The complete thought is that all things (the good, the bad, and the ugly) work together for good to those who love God (and by the way, according to Jesus in John 14:21-24; to love God is to obey God!) and the ‘good’ is that they might be conformed to the image of Jesus! In other words, in the life of the one who loves God, all things are working together for the purpose of shaping and molding that person to be like Jesus! Now, the Bible also says that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). In Genesis, we discover that man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28). Therefore, for the believer, everything is working together for the good, and the good is that the believer might be conformed to the image he/she was originally created to be; the image of God! The good is ‘to be like Jesus’ and to be like Jesus is to be like God originally created us to be! So, to only read and seek to apply Romans 8:28 without reading Romans 8:29 is to miss the purpose of all things working together for the good!
Another horrendous example of this same exegetical error is found in the treatment of 1 Corinthians 2:9, where the Apostle Paul wrote: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” ( KJV). Paul adapted Isaiah 64:4, which says: “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him” ( KJV). Oh! I can’t tell you how many songs I’ve heard or how many sermons I’ve heard, based on this verse, promoting the idea that the things God has prepared for those who love him are unimaginable! But most people would be surprised to know that was NOT the idea Paul was trying to get across! In the next verse; 1 Corinthians 2:10, Paul said: “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (KJV). Do you see that? Do you see how serious this is? When we say, preach, sing, and declare that eyes haven’t seen and ears haven’t heard what great things God has prepared for them that love him, we are NOT telling the truth! Why? Because Paul also said: “But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit!” I think part of the problem is that when most people read the Bible, their understanding is influenced by chapters and verses instead of by thoughts! The original biblical writers did not write using chapters and verses, those were added later on to help us find their thoughts! So, as we read the Bible, we must remember that a verse is not always a complete thought and the end of a chapter doesn’t necessarily mean the complete end of a conversation.
Now, I need you to read carefully at this point because I’m about to address something that is very egregious, but most who are doing it don’t even realize it! The idea of believers having the ability to ‘speak things into existence’ IS NOT BIBLICAL! That’s mystical, New Age, thinking! Let’s look at the ‘one’ verse where this idea comes from. Paul wrote in Romans 4:17: “As it is written: I have made you the father of many nations. He is our father in God ‘s sight, in whom Abraham believed– the God who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist” (CSB17). Note that Paul said that it is God who gives life to the dead! Paul said, it is God who calls things into existence that do not exist! In the Genesis account, the Hebrew word for God’s creative act is ‘bara.’ In all of Scripture, this word is only attributed to God! Only God can create something out of nothing! Man doesn’t have to power to ‘create,’ we only have the power to procreate and recreate! We cannot, nor is there really a need to ‘speak it into existence’ because everything we need is already in existence! We just need to learn how to use faith to bring to bear what God has already created and promised!
There are many more, but these are just a few examples of the many current popular theological ‘boo-boos’ that are being made! Often, these errors are the results of a lack of diligent Bible study and application of logic. Oh! How much more are the words the Apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé; Timothy, applicable to us in this day! “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth. But avoid all empty (vain, useless, idle) talk, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. And their teaching [will devour; it] will eat its way like cancer or spread like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:15-17 Amplified Bible).
I think one of the most egregiously misquoted and misapplied biblical passages today is John 10:10! I cringe every time I hear it misquoted and misapplied. Even more distressing is the fact that the misquotes and misapplications are being done, not just by people in the pew, who have had no theological training, but also by preachers in the pulpit! I would like to suggest that this passage, this quote from Jesus, as of late, has been notoriously misquoted, misapplied, and misunderstood by too many pastors, preachers, and parishioners.
look at the passage:
thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that
they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (KJV)
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have
come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (NIV)
We can see, just from just a quick glance, the glaring misquote
that most people make! Jesus DID NOT SAY: The ‘enemy,’ Jesus said: The ‘thief.’
There is a substantial difference between an enemy and a thief! Perhaps the
gross misapplication stems from the misquote? When the term ‘enemy’ is used,
the devil quickly comes to mind. But Jesus did not say ‘the enemy,’ he said ‘the
thief’ and Jesus WAS NOT REFERRING TO THE DEVIL when he used the term; ‘thief.’
(Please excuse the all caps, I realize it is interpreted as shouting, but I
want to shout to get my point across!)
Now, before we get into the context of the text, I think it would be good to stop for a moment and understand why it doesn’t make sense for Jesus to have referred to the devil as a thief. There is an interesting exchange between Jesus and the devil in the wilderness temptation accounts that many have allowed to go over their heads. Let’s look at Luke 4:5-8: “Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, `You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.” (NKJ) The interesting thing about this dialogue is that Satan claimed that the authority over all the kingdoms of the world and their riches had been given to him. He also claimed to have had the right or the authority to give the authority and riches of those kingdoms to whoever he wanted. Now, the interesting thing to me is that Jesus did not dispute this claim! Surely, if the devil was lying at this point, Jesus would have known it and since the devil knew that Jesus was the Son of God, he knew that Jesus would have known that he was lying! In addition, if the devil was lying, the temptation wouldn’t have been a temptation at all! Therefore, since the devil, whom the Apostle Paul also referred to as ‘the god of this age’ has authority over the kingdoms of the world and their riches, what sense does it make for him to be trying to steal material things from believers? In fact, the more reasonable strategy (the one the devil actually uses and the one he tried on Jesus) would be for the devil to tempt us with the offer of material goods! Therefore, to say that the devil is the enemy who comes to steal, makes absolutely no biblical sense! If any thing, the devil comes, not to steal our material blessings, but to actually give material riches for the purpose of attempting to seduce us away from God! Furthermore, if the devil would want to steal anything from us, it wouldn’t be our stuff, it would be our faith and joy!
But, let’s get back to the passage! One of the primary rules
of biblical interpretation is context! So, in order to put John 10:10 in proper
context, we have to look at the overall conversation Jesus was having and more
specifically when he first started to talk about the thief. Consequently, in order
to put John 10:10 in its proper context, we have to at least, go back to John
10:1, where Jesus said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter
the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief
and a robber.” (NKJ) So, we see that the thief in the context of John 10, is not
trying to steal what the sheep have, but is actually trying to steal the sheep!
In verse 8 Jesus said: “All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not hear them.” (NKJ) So, we see that Jesus used the terms; ‘thief,’
‘thieves,’ and ‘robbers’ to refer the religious leaders who came before him,
who were taking advantage of people (the sheep) for their own selfish gain! The
thieves and robbers were the religious leaders who sought to gain access to the
sheep by some other way than Jesus; the door of the sheep (v. 7).
Therefore, when taken in its proper context, it is obvious that John 10:10 was not a direct statement about the devil, but rather it was a statement about the false religious leaders who did not care to properly instruct the sheep, but rather abused the confidence of the sheep for their own gain! The thief, who comes but to steal, kill, and destroy in John 10:10 is NOT THE DEVIL, but rather is the false prophet, the false teacher, the false religious leader who abuses and uses the people of God for selfish personal gain!
To further substantiate this conclusion, it is interesting to note that, in the Greek text, the word that is translated as ‘kill’ in John 10:10 is a word that is used only 14 times in the entire Greek New Testament and only once in John! It is not the normal word that is most often translated as; ‘kill.’ It is a word that denotes, not just a simple killing, but rather killing in the form of a religious sacrifice. Since the thief kills the sheep as a religious sacrificial offering, this further supports the identity of the thief as a religious personality!
Even after verse 10, Jesus continues his argument, but shifts the analogy of the false religious leaders from being thieves and robbers to being hirelings; mere hired-hands. The hireling, Jesus says in verses 12-13, cares nothing for the sheep, therefore, runs when he sees the wolf coming because he is in it only for the money!
Now, I hope no one gets the impression from reading this that
I am a devil’s advocate! No! I am not trying to defend the devil, I am just
arguing for handling the biblical text with exegetical integrity! We should be
most careful to do due-diligence in reading, studying, preaching, teaching, and
interpreting the biblical text! The Apostle Paul cautioned his young protégé Timothy
by saying: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker
who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim.
(Just as an aside, when 2 Timothy 2:15 is quoted and referenced, most often used is the King James Version, which says: “Study to shew thyself approved . . .” But even in quoting and applying this text, there are two things that most modern biblical readers don’t realize. First, the Greek word that is translated as ‘study’ in the KJV is a word that means, ‘1) to hasten, make haste 2) to exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence. Secondly, during the time the KJV Bible was written, the English word; ‘study,’ did not have the primary meaning it has today! Today, when we think of study, we think of intense reading, meditating, and remembering. But when the KJV was written, the primary meaning of ‘study’ was; ‘to endeavor’ ‘to try.’)
The lessons I hope to convey in this post are manifold, namely: 1) Don’t simply assume or accept a meaning or interpretation of a text simply because it’s the meaning or interpretation most people give it, even if those people are preachers and pastors who are supposedly biblically literate. 2) Remember the primary rule of biblical interpretation is context, and 3) Make every effort to become astute in handling the Word yourself! Your salvation and spiritual well-being is too important to leave solely in the hands of some pastor, preacher, Bible teacher, or any other person!
I recently purchased a book in my Logos 7 Bible Software by Mark L. Ward, Jr., entitled: Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible. In the book, Ward points out the fact that the King James Bible is the only 1611 release that is still on any best seller’s list! He also points out the fact that many common sayings, such as; “By the skin of his teeth” and “A labor of love” are taken directly from the King James Version of the Bible. But the highlight and meat of the book is Ward’s insightful handling of what he calls; “dead words” and “false friends” in the KJV.
Dead words are words found in the KJV that were in common use when the KJV was published in 1611, but are no longer in common use today. A good example is the word; “leasing” which is found in Psalm 4:2 and Psalm 5:6. The word has nothing to do with renting a domicile or a building, but rather denotes; the act of lying or falsehood. Another good example is “champaign” (pronounced exactly the same as the wine beverage), which was the term used for open level countryside in Deuteronomy 11:30. Ward list several more dead words, but readily points out the fact that dead words are really no problem for the modern English reader of the KJV because they are easy to recognize.
However, the greatest pitfall for the modern English reader of the KJV is undoubtedly the danger of failing to recognize “false friends.” Ward defines false friends as; “Words that are still in common use but have changed meaning in ways that modern readers are highly unlikely to recognize. Many words and phrases in the KJV are still in use but meant different things in seventeenth-century England—and yet what they now mean makes sufficient sense in context that most readers don’t notice the change. They don’t realize they need to look these words up.” The example of false friends that Ward illustrates and analyzes in detail include the word; “halt” in story of the Prophet Elijah’s confrontation with Israel and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:21. In modern use, the term “halt” primarily means to “stop.” But that is not the usage that was prevalent in 1611, when the KJV was first published. Ward points out that although some modern versions such as the NASB (New American Standard Bible) and the NIV (New International Version) render the meaning of “hesitating” or “wavering,” the ESV (English Standard Version) gives the meaning the KJV translators had in mind with their use of the word. In 1611, the common use for the word “halt” was to limp or be crippled. This is the same meaning of the word in Luke 14:21 (KJV). Elijah was not asking the people how long were they going to stop, or even waver or hesitate between two opinions. He wanted to know how long would they limp or be crippled by their indecisiveness!
Ward cites several more false friends found in the KJV, such as “conversation.” Today, the word means dialogue or talk, but in 1611, the word was commonly used to denote all of one’s dealings with another, hence, manner of life or conduct. The Apostle encourage his readers to “love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.” Today “pitiful” means to be pathetic or weak, but in 1611, the word meant to show pity and compassion for others.
As I was reading Ward’s book, I thought of a few “false friends” that he didn’t mention (of course Ward never claims to cite them all; his work is primarily to alert us of their existence), such as “faint” in Luke 18:1. Jesus said, “Men ought to always pray and not faint.” Today, the word primarily means to feel dizzy and lose consciousness, but in 1611, the primary meaning was to lose courage or to give up! What about when we read in the KJV that we are to be “careful” for nothing? But we tell one another everyday to be careful! Well, careful today means to take precautions and be mindful of potential problems or danger, but in 1611, it’s primary meaning was to be anxious and worried. So, when Jesus says to Martha in Luke 10:41, “Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things.” He was not complimenting her on her good housekeeping skills, he was telling her that she was anxious and filled with anxiety.
I was happy to know that “unicorns” really are real, because they are in the KJV Bible! But the unicorn in the KJV was not the mythological one-horned horse that we know, but rather was a wild ox! In fact, the unicorn in Psalm 22:21 apparently had more than one horn, because the author prays; “Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.”
Ward’s book is on my “suggested reading list” for a greater understanding of the Bible and the use of the English language for all preachers, teachers, and serious students of the Bible. If you don’t own Logos Bible Software, the book can also be purchased in Kindle and paperback formats from Amazon.com.
1. Mark Ward, Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible. Edited by Elliot Ritzema, Lynnea Fraser, and Danielle Thevenaz. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), 31.