The Baptism with the Holy Spirit: the Seal and the River

If there is one doctrine that I think has united the church and unfortunately, divided it along denominational lines for decades, it would be the teaching regarding the baptism with the Holy Spirit. This doctrine still remains controversial in several denominations today, and yes, a flash point point of mordant disagreements.

My experience reading and listening to pneumatological positions, polemics and musings – on both sides of the fence – leaves me with an impression that many who reject the reality of the baptism with the Holy Spirit today are largely influenced by denominational tenets, wrong teachings, misunderstandings and selective attention to Scripture, which have all ossified into “traditions” over the years.

In some cases, many believers have been burned by fanatical teachings and practices espoused by movements that have gone off the ditch with spiritual experiences and then ended up in an opposing extreme position – becoming a cessationist and rejecting all spiritual experiences altogether.

It seems we all struggle with this anomaly of going off into a doctrinal ditch on one side only to come out of it and swerve right into the ditch on the other side of the road.

But we need to find a biblical middle ground on this, because if something is clearly set forth in God’s Word, we have no right to deny or dilute it.

In a bid to rightly critique the Word of Faith movement, a theological reference work made a statement that denied the baptism with the Holy Spirit as a distinct experience subsequent to salvation:

The command to “ask Jesus for a baptism in the Holy Spirit” is not found in Scripture. The Holy Spirit baptizes all believers into the body of Christ at the moment of salvation (1 Cor. 12:13). (Paul Enns, Moody Handbook of Theology, Moody Publishers Chicago, 2008, p. 677)

Let’s first look at this verse:

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body; whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).

Our attention needs to be drawn to three things here. First, the context of this verse points more to the unity of the body of Christ, than a doctrine.

Second, if we followed the rendering in the original Greek, the first part of this verse would read as: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” The Greek preposition here is en which means “in,” not “by.” Another Greek preposition that usually follows the verb baptizo is eis meaning “into.”

The clarity of the verse in question was hampered by translational dynamics.

Third, the word baptized in this verse in the past tense (not the perfect tense) and it refers to a single event that already took place at a certain moment in our past experience.

Granted, some Christians have jumped on this verse and inferred that unless you have been baptized with the Holy Spirit, you’re not yet in the body of Christ. This interpretation stems from flawed bible hermeneutics.

To understand what that verse was saying when it used the words “baptized into,” we need to consider four parallel passages in the New Testament where the same terms were used. (All quotes, unless otherwise stated, are from the NKJV)

Baptism into repentance

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance…” (Matthew 3:11)

The Greek preposition rendered “unto” (or “for” in other bible versions) is eis which means “into.” So literally, it reads as: “I indeed baptize you with water into repentance.”

The people whom John baptized had already repented before they were baptized into repentance.

That baptism was only an outward acknowledgement of the repentance that had occurred inwardly. In fact, John the Baptist abruptly refused to baptize those who didn’t show any proof of inner repentance:

“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.” (Matt. 3:7-8)

Baptism into the forgiveness of sins

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:37-38 NIV)

Be baptized…for the forgiveness of sins” in the Greek is literally “be baptized…into the forgiveness of sins.”

As explained earlier, their sins were already forgiven by their repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It wasn’t the baptism at Pentecost that washed away their sins, it was only an outward testimony of the forgiveness of sins they had received.

Baptism into Christ

“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:24-27)

Again, we see that they were already children of God through their faith in Jesus. They were already in Christ before they were baptized into Christ. Their baptism was simply a public acknowledgement of the spiritual adoption they had received.

Baptism into death

“How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:2-4)

Here, we see that being “baptized into” is used in connection with being baptized into the death of Jesus Christ. Baptism is then spoken of as a burial which indicates that the person first dies to sin through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ before baptism (“the burial”) which publicly acknowledges that spiritual state.

Now, in the light of this understanding, let’s look again at 1 Cor. 12:13

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”

It means we were already in the body of Christ, regardless of our race or class, just as the people whom John baptized were already in repentance, just as the people baptized on the day of Pentecost were already forgiven of their sins, just as the people referred to in Galatians were already in Christ, and just as the people referred to in Romans were already dead to sin before they were buried in baptism into Christ death.

So, the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a public acknowledgement of our membership in the body of Christ. Therefore, it can be defined as the supernatural seal that is given to each individual member of the body of Jesus Christ by which He acknowledges them as a part of Him.

Now, I am going to provide another definition of the baptism with the Holy Spirit as I address the second aspect of the quote from Paul Enns earlier. He argued that nowhere in the Bible do we find an express command that Jesus should baptize anyone with the Holy Spirit.

But this argument is specious in the sense that there are several Christian doctrines that we adhere to today that were not expressly commanded, but merely implied from biblical narrations, descriptions and deductions.

The Bible presents doctrines into two ways: as commands or statements, and as description of events or experiences. When we combine both statements and events, we then have a complete picture of what the Bible is saying.

Even from the NT, we see many different men baptized with water, but John pointed at Jesus Christ and declared, “this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:33 RSV). Jesus alone has been given the privilege to confer this supernatural seal on the members of His body.

The term “baptism with the Holy Spirit” is an instructive description, because one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit in Scripture is water.

God knew some people would confuse the New Birth – which places us in the body of Christ – with the distinct experience subsequent to it, called the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which confers its outward acknowledgement on us.

Thus, in the NT, Jesus used the image of water to picture both the Holy Spirit dwelling presence in the New Birth and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. First, in John 4, Jesus told the woman at the well of Samaria:

10 If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

13… Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Here, Jesus is talking about receiving eternal life – just as he told Nicodemus in John 3. The work of the Holy Spirit in us when we become saved is what Jesus likens to a fountain of living water. This well of salvation is for our personal benefit.

But in John 7, Jesus speaks of another experience in the Holy Spirit:

“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39)

He is comparing the receiving of the Holy Spirit to the act of drinking which then leads to an outflow of rivers (note the plural) of living water. This is an apt description of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, there are two experiences in the Holy Spirit. There is water in a fountain, and there is water in a river. The water is essentially the same, but they have their different purposes.

It’s from this ambit that we can also define the baptism with the Holy Spirit as the supernatural infilling and overflow of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer making him/her a channel of God’s power to others.

To confuse the New Birth with the Holy Spirit baptism would be as fatal as confusing justification with sanctification.

I will be continuing from here in a series of articles where I’ll be discussing the distinction, nature of the Holy Spirit baptism, the conditions of receiving it as well as respond to some objections to it.

Are Christmas Trees Idols?

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One of the arguments presented by Christians who oppose Christmas celebration is that Christmas trees are idols.

I think the first material where I encountered this teaching was one of the Alberto series titled “The Force” published by Jack Chick. In it, Alberto Rivera, a self-acclaimed ex-Jesuit priest, said without a shred of documentation:

“As time passed, all over the world on the 25th of December, the sun was worshipped by these various names: Tammuz, Horus, Osiris, Sol, etc. It was a time for orgies, sacrificing of babies to Baal, drunkenness, and merriment. Semiramis ordered trees to be decorated with little balls representing the sun. God fought this evil holiday by forbidding the Jews to decorate trees as the heathens were doing (Jer. 10:1-4).” (The Force, The Crusaders Vol. 15 by Jack T. Chick, 1983, p. 26).

You don’t have to be a scholar to see how groundless these statements are. All you have to do is enter the names of these idols into a search engine and you will realize that there were no specific fixed dates on which they were worshipped, much less on December 25th.

The hackneyed tale of Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz often tied to Christmas by some religious groups is not my issue here. I’ve addressed that hypothesis in my article, The Mirror Image Syndrome.

Also, if you need more info on the yak milk and powdered sparrow eggs being put out by Chick Publications, you can read this. My main concern here is that Bible passage often trotted out, Jeremiah 10:1-5 (KJV):

“For one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree…”

Using the principles of sound Biblical interpretation, here are reasons why these Bible verses do not refer to Christmas trees:

1. One of the ways to properly interpret the Bible is to cross reference, to examine parallel passages. It’s dicey to build a doctrine on just one verse of the Bible, especially when other passages go in an opposite direction.

For instance, the passage says, “One cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman.”

Reading this, one would picture a lumberjack going into the forest to cut down a Christmas tree, but this is not the intended meaning.

When you read the entire chapter, you will see that this “workman” was one who took material—in this case the wood from a tree—and formed it into an idol.

Later in this passage, the “workman” is portrayed as plating an idol with silver and gold. He was clearly not a lumberjack; he was fashioning a “graven image… they are all the works of cunning men” and they are “the gods that have not made the heavens and the earth” (vv. 9-14)

In a parallel passage, we read, “The workman melteth a graven image…”

Then he makes an idol with wood from a tree:

“He… chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image…” (Isa. 40:19, 20).

Therefore, the “workman” was an idol carver. The Hebrew word is “charash” meaning “an engraver” or “artificer.” And we all know images of idols were fashioned out of wood, gold, silver, brass or adorned with them.

2. One of the ways to have a good understanding of the Bible is to read it in a clearer and more accurate modern translation.

For instance, the tool the workman uses is called an “ax.” Though the word ax (or axes) appears 18 times in the King James Version, the Hebrew word here (maatzad) translated ax is a different word.

It is not the ax that a lumberjack would use to cut down a tree, but is a carving tool or tong. The workman would use this tool to form an idol from the tree already cut down.

Some translations, more correctly, use the word chisel: “…they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel” (NIV).

3. Just quoting a Bible passage isn’t enough, we must look to see if the passage actually describes what we are saying. Otherwise, we are unfairly reading our preconceived notions into it.

The idol described in Jeremiah 10, was carved from the “stock” of a tree (margin: “wooden idol,” vs. 8). Positioned “upright as a palm tree,” it was fastened with “nails and hammers” so it would not fall over (vv. 4, 5).

While this could be true of a Christmas tree, what is described here is a wooden idol in a standing position. Being lifeless, it cannot stand on its own, and must be fastened down to avoid falling over.

4. Reading the preceding and proceeding verses of a passage is vital to Bible interpretation.

When we take a look at the whole of Jeremiah 10, it’s contrasting the Living God who made the heavens and the earth to man-made idols that “cannot speak…have to be carried, for they cannot walk.”

It speaks of “the living God and the everlasting King” and derides man’s idols “for his images are false, and there is no breath in them” (vv. 5, 10, 14 RSV).

The prophets commonly pointed out the foolishness of believing in “idols…the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: they have ears, but they hear not; noses have they, but they smell not: they have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not” (Psalms 115:4-7).

The idols Jeremiah described, “speak not”— implies a mouth, but no speech. This would make no sense if Jeremiah was speaking of a Christmas tree— after all, no one expects a Christmas tree to talk!

These idols apparently had legs, yet could not walk. They must be carried, “because they cannot go” (Jer. 10:5).

Had Jeremiah’s subject been a Christmas tree, his whole argument would break down at this point since everyone knows a Christmas tree must be carried—no one expects a Christmas tree to walk.

5. The idols that Jeremiah was describing were dressed in clothing: “…blue and purple is their clothing” (Jer. 10:9).

A Christmas tree may be decorated, but no one puts clothing on it—not blue, purple, red or any other colour of clothing.

The fact that he even uses the term “graven [carved] image” (v. 14) to describe them is proof that he was not referring to a Christmas tree but an idol carved in the likeness of a man.

Isaiah described the same thing (Isa. 44:9-15). Though the wood from a tree can be carved into the shape of an idol resembling a man, it is merely a lifeless idol. “There is no breath in them” (Jer.10:14).

Again, the subject could not be a Christmas tree – no one supposes a Christmas tree has breath! (cf. Hab. 2:18, 19).

It has been documented that the custom of decorating with a Christmas tree, as we know it, extends back 500 years to Europe, especially Germany. But the custom originated among Christians.

They were not apostates trying to inject paganism into the church. Fruit or round decorations placed on the tree, to them, spoke of the fruit on the Tree of Life in Scripture. The traditional star at the top represented the star that guided the wise men to the place of Jesus’ birth.

While the Bible condemns worship of trees and fertility deities (such as Baal and Asherah) under green trees, it also shows us that trees were created by God. There were trees in the garden of Eden and even trees in the New Heaven.

Yes, we need to guard against pagan influxes, but at the same time, we also need to guard against extreme and fanatical teachings that see paganism behind every wall, shadow and everything God has created. That mindset is not typifying freedom but spiritual bondage.

That a Christian decorates a tree doesn’t imply idolatry unless he/she is worshipping or praying to it. That I have pictures of a dozen birds in my room doesn’t mean I worship birds or I’m a sorcerer.

I don’t know of any Christian that bows to Christmas trees or looks up to them as a conduit of sympathetic magic, so what is this false accusation based on?

Come to think of it, if Christians regarded these decorations as deities would they be throwing them out in the trash after a while?

The true Christian conduct is to avoid passing judgement on issues that are disputable. If you believe Christmas trees defile your faith, fine, don’t buy one, but then, don’t judge others doing so as idolaters.

KJV Onlyism: A Travesty of Bible Understanding

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In 2016, a family friend and I went to the church bookshop. He wanted to buy two Bibles for his children. He scanned through the Bible shelf and picked out a King James Bible. “Why? But they are still children,” I protested.

He didn’t seem to get it, he apparently felt the KJV should be the default version for everyone because of its regular usage by the church’s general overseer.

“These children won’t understand the old English of the KJV. It should be bought for adults,” I opined. “Children need a Bible that they can fluently read and understand as much as what they read in school. If the Bible is too complicated for them in their young ages, they will grow up not studying and understanding it.”

He listened on, so I selected the Contemporary English Version and gave it to him. He’s not a native English speaker, but after reading a few lines from it, he smiled in excitement saying, “Its English is so clear; it’s like the sermon of a modern European evangelist!”

We both laughed and he purchased the Bibles.

It later dawned on me that this man had hitherto not been exposed to reading any English translation except the KJV. He had been locked in the KJV from the start and this has blunted his personal study and knowledge of Scripture.

The fact is: the language of the KJV can make the Bible complicated to a modern reader.

This has to be demonstrated, not merely claimed. But before I get to this, I want to first point one of the dubious arguments that led me to into KJV Onlyism 12 years ago. Here it is:

“It is all a question of authority! If we say that God wrote only one Bible, and for us today it is the Authorized Version – 1611, King James Version, then our problem is solved. But if we say this version is nice, and that version is nice, and it is a matter of preference, then the authority becomes human opinion” (William Schnoebelen, Blood on the Doorposts, Chick Publications, 1994, p. 211).

This is a mendacious rhetoric that illustrates the cognitive dissonance of the KJO belief. Its major flaw is how the writer places Bible authority on a certain translation whereas the Bible’s authority rests on its inspiration – not its translation.

The Bible’s original languages were Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. These are the inspired and authoritative languages. English is merely one of the translations of the originals. God didn’t write the KJV, and history reveals that the roots of fundamentalism rest in the authority of the Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible, not in any English translation.

Second, the idea of God writing “only one Bible” occurs only in the bubble universe of the KJOs. They peddle their beliefs by collapsing Bible inspiration into transmission and translation. God inspired the original autographs but many copies and translations were made from them.

All through history, there have been different translations of the Bible. People who believe that only the KJV should be used, fail to recognize that men like Peter, Paul, and Jesus Himself didn’t always use the same version!

Just a few of many examples from the KJV confirm this point:

When Isaiah 53:7 is quoted in Acts, it says: “…as a sheep before her shearers is dumb” (Acts 8:32). But when we turn to Isaiah 53:7 it says, “…like a lamb dumb before his shearer.” One says her, the other says his.

When the writer of Hebrews refers to Genesis 47:31, he says that as Jacob died, he “worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff” (Heb. 11:21). But when we turn to Genesis 47:31, it says he “bowed himself upon the bed’s head.”

When Paul quoted Isaiah 28:16, he wrote: “Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Rom.10:11). But when we turn to Isaiah 28:16, it says: “He that believeth shall not make haste.”

What is clear here is that New Testament writers did not always use the same version. This is beyond dispute. In these examples, they quoted from the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) whereas the Masoretic text was used for the King James translation of the Old Testament.

I have no problem with people using or loving the KJV, but I have a problem with persons insisting that we must use only the KJV if we are to be in a right standing with God, and then employ all kinds of manipulation, bullying and ad hominem to validate that sectarian position.

When a teacher disseminates wild conspiracy theories and obvious falsehoods all in a bid to bind Christians under a tradition – such as sole usage of a certain bible version – it’s cultic indoctrination and it should be thoroughly rejected.

A KJV Onlyite wrote rather facetiously:

“Readability statistics generated from Grammatik and Word for Windows show why the KJV is 5th grade reading level, while the NKJV and NASB are 6th grade, and the NIV is 8th grade reading level! … According to readability statistics generated by Pro-Scribe, the KJV is easier to read than USA Today, People Magazine and most children’s books.” (Gail RiplingerThe Language of the King James Bible, AV Publications 1998 p. 159 emphasis hers).

Below are examples in the KJV refuting her assertions:

In the KJV, it is stated that Ruth went out to glean in the fields, “ears of corn” (Ruth 2:2). A 21st century reader would have maize corn in mind, but the Hebrew word there is se’orah which means “grain” or “ears of grain.” In ancient Israel, it was popular to grow wheat and barley, but not maize corn (Zea mays).

Also, in Mark 2:23 we read that Jesus “went through the corn fields on the sabbath day.” The image conjured up is of Jesus walking through maize fields, but maize was wholly unknown in the Old World, including Palestine until A.D. 1492.

The Greek word there refers to “fields of grain/wheat.” In old English, the word “corn” was generally used to refer to grains, wheat or barley as well as maize. But English language has changed since then.

In the KJV, we read about a person coming into a church wearing “gay clothing” (James 2:3). The Greek word translated “gay” is lampros which (like “lamp”) simply meant bright. In old English, “gay” in this context meant bright or attractive clothing, but today it means a homosexual. A modern reader can end up with a confused interpretation of that text.

In Acts 28:13, Paul and others were on a ship, when the KJV says “they fetched a compass.” Reading this, you would think they used an instrument with a little needle pointing to the cardinal points. But what we call a “compass” had not even been invented at that time! This expression simply meant to circle  around (see Josh. 6:4; 2 Sam. 5:23).

In the KJV we read: “…thou knowest all the travel that has befallen us” (Num. 20:14; cf. Lam. 3:5). The “travel” in the text was an old English word which meant travail or hardship. We use the word differently today.

In the KJV, we read: “Be strong, and quit yourselves like men” (1 Sam. 4:9). An almost identical wording is found in Paul’s admonition of the Corinthian Church: “Stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1Cor. 16:13). The word “quit,” as used here, is obsolete. In modern English we would say: “Conduct yourselves like men” or “be brave like men.”

The Song of Solomon 2:11, 12 in the KJV reads: “The winter is past, the rain is over and done; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”

Reading this text, one would immediately think of a turtle, a slow-moving reptile with a hard shell. But how does it have a voice, you’d wonder. In the age of the KJV translation, the word turtle meant a turtledove which is known to make a soft purring sound.

In the KJV, we read: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit…” (Col. 2:8). The word “spoil” here evokes images of decay and putrefaction, but the underlying Greek word means “to plunder” or “take as plunder.” To a 17th century English reader, “spoil” or “despoil” conveys that meaning, but not in the 21st century.

In the KJV we read that a delegation of Jewish leaders was sent to prophetess Hulda, who lived “in Jerusalem in the college” (2 Kgs. 22:14). In Elizabethan English, the word college had a different meaning than today.

The Hebrew word so translated means second. That’s why newer versions, including the NKJV, translated it “second quarter” or “second district” of Jerusalem. A modern reader who reads the KJV text would think Hulda was living in a college dorm!

1 Cor. 16:15 “they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” The word “addicted” is now used with negative connotation, like someone addicted to nicotine or drugs. Modern translations have correctly rendered the text as, “devoted themselves” to the ministry of the saints.

In 1 Thess. 4:15 Paul says “by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.” In 1611, the word “prevent” doesn’t mean what we today mean by that word, namely, “to stop or hinder.”

That word as used back then meant “to precede” and the reader in 1611 wouldn’t have stumbled over its meaning, but a contemporary reader would stumble. A modern rendering would be, “we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep” (NIV).

Similarly, Psalm 119:147 says “I prevented the dawning of the morning.” In today’s English, the word “prevent” means “precede.” The Psalmist was simply saying he rose before dawn!

Paul wrote, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: He who now letteth will let…” (2 Thess. 2:7). When the KJV was translated, “let” meant to hinder as Paul told the Romans, he had intended to come to them “but was let hitherto” (Rom. 1:13). He was hindered in coming to them. But today, the word “let” is used in an opposite sense. It implies allowing a person to do a thing, not hindering him from it!

In the KJV, we read that when Paul came to Jerusalem “he assayed to join himself to the apostles” (Acts 9:26). The word “assay” in modern English means substances being tested in the lab, but here it means Paul attempted to join the apostles.

Rom. 1:28 “…God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.

Some ungodly things people do are actually convenient. In 14th century English, “convenient” was used to refer to what is proper and appropriate. So the text is referring to things that are indecent.

How does a contemporary reader without the Greek text, a foreign version or a modern translation understand 2 Cor. 6:11-13?

“O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompense (I speak as unto my children), be ye also enlarged.”

Now compare this with the NIV:

“We have spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts. We are not withholding our affections from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange–I speak as to my children–open wide your hearts also.”

In the light of these examples, no one with a modicum of fairness and honesty would argue that the language of the KJV is clearer than USA Today, People Magazine and most children’s books.

Obsolete Words

Isa. 8:21, “And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry.” Today we would say hard-pressed or greatly distressed.

Isa. 14:23 “…I will sweep it with the besom of destruction.” We now call it broom.

1 Cor. 12:13 “but by the Holy Ghost.” Due to different translation companies, there were inconsistencies in the KJV renderings of the Hebrew word “ruach” and Greek word “pneuma” in reference to the Holy Spirit. Some resorted to the old English use of “ghost” for all spirits. (Same for “Sodoma” in Rom. 9:29 instead of “Sodom”).

John 2:6 “…after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.” Today we would say three gallons.

Isa. 3:22 “The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins.” In today’s expressions, the items listed are fine robes, capes, cloaks and purses!

Gen. 8:1 after the flood “the waters assuaged.” In modern expression, we would say, “the waters subsided.”

Isa. 19:8 “all they that cast angle into the brooks.” Now we call them “hooks” instead of angles.

Job 41:18 “By his neesings a light doth shine.” This is an obsolete word that puzzles a contemporary reader. The right word is sneezing.

Jer. 4:22 “For my people is foolish … they are sottish children.” Now we say stupid or senseless children.

There’s no child in the 5th grade or primary school that would have a grasp of the KJV than the NIV.

Grammatical inaccuracies

English, like most other languages, has evolved over a period of 400 years, therefore, many words in the KJV that were grammatically correct in 1611, are now awkward and flat out wrong today:

Phil. 1:23 “betwist” [between]
1 Thess. 1:8 “God-ward” [toward God]
Matt. 25:44 “athirst” [thirsty]
John 21:3 “I go a fishing” [I am going fishing]
Matt. 25:35 “for I was an hungred” [for I was hungry]
Gen.26:31 “betimes” [early]
Ruth 4:4 “to advertise thee” [to advise you]
James 1:25 “whoso” [whosoever]
1Cor. 7:28 “but and if thou marry” [but if you marry]
Matt. 13:21 “dureth” [endure].

Embarrassing/Vulgar words

The socio-cultural expression of 17th century England is not the same as today. There are some words that were acceptable back then that would be outright rude, embarrassing and even vulgar by modern standards. Here are some examples:

1 Kings 21:21 “him that pisseth against the wall.” Instead of using such an embarrassing description, newer translations use an euphemistic term: “male.”

Song of Solomon 5:4 “My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.”

An American lady once quoted this in a forum some years ago and wrote, “See, there’s fisting (a sexually perverse act) in the Bible.” If she had read this verse in any newer version, she would have been cleared of her ignorance that bowels was used of the heart in old English.

Gen. 12:16 “and he asses … and she asses.” If you read this out to a teenage or youth group, it will be met with snickers due to the urban usage of “asses.” Newer translations render it as male and female donkeys.

Hebrew 12:8 “then are ye bastards…” This is a strong word. So for proper decorum, “illegitimate” is used in modern translations.

2 Peter 2:16 “the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice.” This is also a strong word which for the avoidance of unnecessary distraction is now rendered as “mute donkey.”

Scholars in linguistics and philosophy of language would agree that language has the dual roles of communication and representation. It is a receptacle of human thoughts and the medium through which we give expression to our subjectivities.

Thus, the central purpose for having a Bible translation is to convey the meaning of words (in the Hebrew and Greek originals) to people in such a way that they can understand it as clear as tomorrow’s newspaper.

The KJV may have served this purpose over 400 years ago, but by modern English and translational standards, it can at best, puzzle and at worst, mislead many a reader.

The rigid insistence that Christians must stick to a less clear, obsolete and rather complex translation – which is difficult for common people to grasp – is similar to the dogma of Rome that made the Latin Vulgate the only “authorized text” in Europe, leading to the dark ages of ignorance and deception.

The Word of God is meant to be lucid even to a child, otherwise it would be a travesty of the Gospel that is being preached from it which should give light to everyone.