01 Aug.  2003         
of Jesus  
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will

How can we understand difficult sayings in the gospels?  Do we need to know Greek?

My Answer
It is not necessary to know Greek.  If the Word of Truth is not understandable in the translations made available throughout the world, then the Holy Spirit has somehow failed to preserve and protect it.  Furthermore, I came to understand the Lord and see him clearly while studying English versions.  He is clearly -- though not perfectly -- displayed there and easy to understand if only a person is open to his Gospel. When we receive the Word and see him in his Glory, we know it is a miracle that such a Word has been preserved in this dark world and we rejoice greatly!  It is the continuing fulfillment of his promise:


[35] Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Having the conviction that only the utterances of Jesus and those other writings that he validated as the Word of God is my source of Truth, I am left with a relatively small body of utterances from which to draw - primarily four gospels and Acts 1:1-11.  I am extremely reluctant to question the validity of anything in this small body.  So, when any word, phrase or verse seems discordant with the wonderful revelation that comes from viewing the whole, my assumption is that I have not properly understood him and that, in time, I will see the true word and all will be well, perfectly consistent and without contradiction.  In a few cases, I have gone on for years withholding any conclusion about a text or utterance in the belief that He will someday enlighten my dull heart, mind, and soul so that I will be blessed thereby.  Indeed, He has thus blessed me many times when, in a way that I never imagined, the Light suddenly appeared and I understood a puzzling utterance for the first time.  I didn't need Greek. I didn't need theologians and scholars, I just needed to get the confusion cleared from my own heart and mind to see the glorious, consistent whole.

The puzzle remained In a few cases where I have not been able to reconcile a seeming contradiction or inconsistency.  Finally I will feel led to seek to resolve the problem by other means.  This has led me to the conclusion that there are some errors in the common English versions and also in the most ancient extant Greek manuscripts.  We have not only the possibility of modern translation errors, but also the possibility of errors in scribal transmission during the first three hundred years, prior to the time of writing of any ancient script that has come down to us.  Also, there were lapses in the memories of his immediate disciples as they recalled his teaching prior to having it written down in the Greek language.  There is also a probability of translator errors during the early years as they translated from whatever language Jesus used in speaking and teaching to the language of the earliest manuscripts.  

That the memories of the early disciples differed is not a matter of intelligent debate  because we see the differences plainly displayed in the parallel accounts of the same utterance in the synoptic gospels.  Then there is the certain fact that the forces of darkness have done every thing they could do (very limited, of course) to deliberately pervert the Word by changing it to agree with certain doctrinal points of view contrary to the Lord.

When I behold the beautiful face of Truth and, after many years during which I have examined and treated my "eyes of understanding" and tested them with every conceivable or available glasses prescription and have applied different lighting and perspective -- if then there yet remains a blemish on the otherwise perfect image, then I  suppose that someone has adulterated the image.  When I proceed to discover that there are other sources of the image, old and ancient, that do not include that particular blemish, I am moved to purge the blemish from my view and adopt the flawless portrait of Truth that emerges and to rejoice greatly that the Lord has truly protected the Word that we may behold it in all its Glory. This is not to adulterate the Word but to discern the efforts of others to adulterate it. This is not to worship the printed page as though the paper and ink were inviolate, but to reverence and honor the precious Truth that the Lord miraculously conveys to us by means of that frail medium.

A notable example is the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19,20.  Most English versions present it as does the RSV:


[19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.
The Trinitarian formula shown highlighted came to seem strange to me as I began to see the Truth enshrined in the Words of Jesus.  I couldn't exactly isolate the problem, but it just did not sound right.  This became even more of a problem after I realized that Jesus did not teach the Trinity, which was a doctrine hashed out in the early church, most particularly under the oversight of the Roman Emperor, Constantine, at the Council of Nicea in AD 323.  The face of Truth had a blemish on it when I viewed it in the light of this text.  Nevertheless, there it stood, distracting me, for years and years and years! Only recently, someone came to my aid and removed the blemish when I learned that Eusebius of Caesarea, who was present at Niceae (seated by the emperor, we are told) wrote many surviving things before the Council in which he quoted these very verses. His pre Nicene quotations read like this:
Go ye and make disciples of all the nations in my name, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.
As bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius had oversignt of and access to one of the greatest collections of Christian literature in the ancient world, which was destroyed in the early Fourth Century.  My conclusion agrees with that of many others, who see that his early sources included more ancient copies of the gospels that did not survive the destruction of the library. Trinitarian doctrine became official doctrine of the Catholic Church at Nicea, and Eusebius was among the Trinitarians.  The evidence strongly indicates that someone inserted the trinitarian phrase in Matthew 28:19 then or shortly thereafter to provide a scriptural basis for the doctrine.  The oldest copies of the Gospel of Matthew that have survived were penned after Niceae, and they contain the inserted language.  And Eusebius, in quoting this text in his writings thereafter quoted it as it has come down to us!

So, I believe we do not require Greek expertise, but only to be patient with ourselves and open to the Truth.  If we continue in the Lord's Word, it will come according to his promise:


[31] Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples,
32] and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

Brother Ed

Return to List of Questions         Email          Return to Home Page