To Drink Wine, or Not?

The stance of a Christian toward intoxicating drinks or stimulants is one that crops up time and again in Bible study and discipleship classes. It is a legitimate area of discussion because the witness we give to the world about our faith really matters.

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Pet. 2:12).

Several Christian denominations teach that moderate alcohol is permitted but excess drinking is unwholesome.

Reading some of their arguments for this position, one has a feeling they are influenced more by the prevalent culture – particularly western culture – than a willingness to subjugate one’s desires to scriptural dictates.

But Americanism or Eurocentricism is not Christianity. There are some practices that may be deemed acceptable in American, Danish or Irish societies, but the Bible carries the highest authority to arbitrate on these matters.

While opinions differ on wine issues, scientific studies are establishing that the harmful effects of intoxicating drinks exceed their benefits.

Some scientific studies actually show that alcohol consumption can result in erectile dysfunction and low testosterone in men. However, the questions on many lips are:

Should Christians avoid alcoholic beverages? Does the word “wine” in the Bible refer to all fermented drinks – beer, whiskey, cocktails or brandy? Are certain kinds of wine permitted for believers? Or are we to do away with any kind of wine – natural palm wine, grape or other fruit wine?

In sound biblical interpretation, you don’t force a single meaning onto a word when that is used in conversely different ways.

The Bible calls Jesus a Lion and it also refers to the devil as a lion, but that doesn’t mean Jesus is the devil.

Similarly, looking at the Bible, we see that there are two kinds of wine. Though the term “wine” is used, the contexts determine which type is being referred to.

The Bible presents us with the benefits that one kind of wine offer and the damage that the other type does in the lives of those who indulge in it. They are:

Good wine

The Bible describes wine as a good drink and also points at the consequences of its use as desirable.

Different terms are employed by the Bible to describe this kind of wine: “the best of the wine” (Num. 18:12) and “new wine” (Neh. 10:37, 39).

It’s mentioned as part of the blessing or prosperity in the land.

“May God give you of the deal of heaven…and plenty of grain and wine.” (Gen. 27:28); “He will give rain for your land in its season…that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil.” (Deut. 11:14).

It’s referred to as wine from the vine “which cheers gods and men” (Judges 9:13).

The Bible clearly mentions the benefits of this kind of wine and this can be seen in the way it was used as an offering to God in the verses above.

It must be noted that yeast which was used to make wine intoxicating was forbidden with all sacrifices, so the wine mentioned in the temple sacrifices were not intoxicating (“Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast” Exodus 23:18; 34:25).

Leaven or yeast was also used as a symbol of sin and wasn’t acceptable in offering sacrifices to God.

This good wine was used to quench thirst or refresh. “He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil” (Deut. 7:13)

Then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Prov. 3:10).

It was also used as a symbol of spiritual blessing or of the Holy Spirit (Prov. 9:2; Song 5:1; Eph. 5:18). This is non-fermented “new” or non-alcoholic wine which is permitted.

Strong drink

This kind of wine is the fermented brand, variously described as “mixed wine,” “strong drink”, venomous “poison” and “staggering wine”:

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.” (Prov. 23:29-30).

And these also reel with wine and stagger from strong drink: The priest and the prophet reel with strong drink, They are confused by wine, they stagger from strong drink; They reel while having visions, They totter when rendering judgment.” (Isa. 28:7).

The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. The shepherds also have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all. “Come,” they say, “let us get wine, let us fill ourselves with strong drink…” (Isa. 56:11-12)

Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is, how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down. For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake; it stings like a viper.” (Prov. 23:31-32).

You have shown your people desperate times; you have given us wine that makes us stagger.” (Ps. 60:3).

It is also described as a “mixture” (Ps. 75:8), “the cup of trembling” (Isa. 51:17), and “the wine cup of fury” (Jer. 25:15). Those who drink this type of wine are described as “sick” and “inflamed with wine” (Hos. 7:5).

In Jeremiah 35, we read about the Recabites (those who descended from Moses’ father in law) who refused to take wine:

Then I set bowls full of wine and some cups before the Rekabites and said to them, “Drink some wine.” But they replied, “We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jehonadab son of Rekab gave us this command: ‘Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine.” (vv. 5-7).

This couldn’t be referring to the good wine God promised as a blessing to His people, but fermented wine. Though the term “wine” is still used, the context indicates which kind of wine it is.

The wine apologists

• Those arguing for drunkenness fail to make the necessary distinctions between “good/sweet wine” and “intoxicating/strong wine” but intentionally blur the lines in order to cement their own agenda.

• They also appeal to the instance of Jesus giving the disciples at the Last Supper wine as a legitimation of taking intoxicating wine.

An evidence that the wine served at the Last Supper wasn’t intoxicating can be seen in the fact that leaven/yeast which was used to ferment sweet wine was forbidden for use by Jews during the Passover.

God gave them the law that any Jew who must participate in the Passover must not eat leaven (Ex. 23:18; Lev. 6:17). There’s no reason to suggest that Jesus would break the ceremonial law by identifying with sin, particularly giving or taking intoxicating wine, prior to the Passover.

Another problem for those using this text as a prop is: the drink at the Lord’s Supper is never called wine. The Greek words there are tou genēmatos tēs ampelou meaning “the fruit of the vine.” (Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18).

• Most commentators who are pro-social drinking allude to the miracle of Jesus changing water into wine are the wedding of Cana of Galilee (John 2:8-10). This is Jesus’ first miracle in the NT and we need to get a clear picture of it.

Dr. Elmer Towns enunciates:

“Nature’s process to make wine (sweet) is by bringing water from the clouds to the earth, up through the vine into the grape, finally to be crushed into a juice. The miracle followed this process at the wedding although the process was speeded up into an instantaneous act. Making intoxicating wine involves allowing the grape to rot and adding man’s creative elements (leaven) to produce alcohol. God said, “Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly” (Prov. 23:31). As God, Jesus could not have contradicted this command from Proverbs and provided wine for the guests at the wedding meal.” (Bible Answers For Almost All Your Questions, Thomas Nelson, TN, 2003, p. 19).

From the passage itself, a distinction is made between “poorer wine” (Greek: elasso) and “good/superior wine” (Greek: kalon).

Intoxicating wine is not the superior or good wine, it’s the inferior wine. We need to be careful of all those who argue otherwise.

• Another desperate argument in support of Christians taking intoxicating wine is to latch on to the accusation of the enemies of Christ that he was a “winebibber” unlike John the Baptist who didn’t take any strong drink (Matt. 11:19 KJV).

One Jehovah’s Witness friend told me rather defiantly, “Jesus drank with sinners, so He drank alcohol.” This statement was quite revealing, since it is an attack on the sinlessness of Jesus Christ.

By alleging that Jesus indulged in sin with sinners, he’s telling us that Jesus is not really a Saviour and that it’s also necessary for us to drink alcohol with sinners, even though celebrating Fathers’ day or Mothers’ day or birthdays with them can mark us for destruction. What a convoluted logic!

Studying the NT, you won’t find any record of Jesus ever tasting wine, not even sweet wine (although He probably enjoyed sweet wine). Second, the verse appealed to is a claim by Jesus’ enemies.

The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

Jesus went to the feast to preach the gospel to them and deliver them from sin – including the sin of drunkenness – but His enemies maliciously accused Him of being a “drunkard.” That’s like someone accusing me of being a stoner because I went to preach to a gang of cannabis addicts.

• Another tactic is for the strong wine teachers to create a moral allowance for drunkenness by creating an artificial distinction between “drinking moderately” or “drinking in excess.”

“It’s not a sin to drink moderate alcohol but it’s a sin when you indulge in it excessively,” they argue.

All you have to do to see the danger lurking in this argument is to replace alcohol with another sin:

“It’s not a sin to fornicate or commit adultery moderately but it becomes a sin only when you indulge in it excessively.”

“It’s not a sin to steal moderately but it becomes a sin only when you indulge in it excessively.”

“It’s not a sin to tell lies moderately but it becomes a sin only when you indulge in them excessively.”

Can you see the warped reasoning this is? Is there any sin in God’s Word that is permitted only in moderation?

Considering the nuance of human variation, who exactly gets to set the definite standard between taking alcohol in moderation and in excess?

The US Department of Health and Human Services says one drink or less per day for women or two drinks or less per day for men qualifies for moderate drinking. But this is quite dicey and is not applicable to everyone.

It has been scientifically established that the human body acclamatizes to the intake of alcohol such that the quantity that can make you tipsy varies within few months. But if you start out with a bottle of alcohol, your body soon gets used to it until you want more and more of it.

On the other hand, those who abstain from alcohol for months will find just one bottle quite intoxicating. The fact is: drunkenness is drunkenness. It’s a matter of action, not its degree.

I have personally known and lived with religious people who subscribe to this broken cistern of “moderate” drunkenness and I don’t know of a single one of them that didn’t become a full-blown drunk within a period of time.

That is the deceptive power of sin. “I will go out as at other times, and shake myself free,” was Samson’s rationalization after his consecration had been shaved off in the valley of Sorek.

Bondage to sinful habits usually start out with that sweet little voice in our heads: “I’ll just do it a little and walk away from it.” Go check the lives of these people ten years down the line, they are addicts still repeating it to themselves: “I’ll do it just a little once more and I’ll finally stop.”

It’s only a matter of time before they realize that the fleeting pleasure that alcohol offers holds them like a fly in amber and all their superb intentions will fail to keep them from being dragged down into the morass of physical, mental, psychological and spiritual ruin!

Why a Christian should avoid alcoholic beverages

1. God rejects drunkenness because it degrades human dignity.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph. 5:18).

Here, we see intoxicating wine or strong drink contrasted with the filling of the Spirit.

Just as the Holy Spirit wields influence over our thinking, manner of speech and comportment – to the degree at which we yield to him – alcohol can also affect the way we talk, walk and our outlook on life.

God warns us, not to gaze at intoxicating wine because it stings like a viper (Prov. 23:31-32). The deleterious health effects of indulging alcohol testify to it.

The kind of wine that gets you drunk and make you stagger is not what you should justify. “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies!” (Hab. 2:15).

If God pronounces woe on something then it’s dangerous for us to wink at it.

2. The Bible identifies drunkenness as a characteristic of the unsaved. (1 Cor. 6:10). In ancient Rome drunkenness was very rampant. It was seen as a social beverage but Paul writing to Christians there, exhorts them to avoid it:

Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Rom. 13:13-14).

We cannot use our culture as an excuse to indulge in liquor or drugs. God will hold us accountable to His revelation.

3. Drunkenness defiles the body. (1 Cor. 6:19) In addition to this, it destroys the personal and collective morals of any society. It opens the door to lawlessness, violence and disrespect for God-instituted authorities.

4. It is a lifestyle that is contrary to the Spirit and teaching of Christ. As Christians, we are to follow the examples of Jesus Christ. He never gave Himself to drunkenness and He never sinned (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:21). He always did the will of God and would not disobey God’s commands regarding drunkenness.

5. Drunkenness opens the door to other sins. Whilst it’s known to numb pain by tranquilization, it removes a person’s inhibitions and destroys his self-control.

With the inner moral restrain of the drunken person now out of the picture, sinful acts he would never consider doing otherwise becomes very easy to indulge in. This has led to some of the most vile, degrading and abominable outcomes in human experience.

The spectres of drunk persons spewing obscene language, reacting in rage, unleashing violence on others or engaging in sexual depravity even to the point of committing murder is an indicator of the destructive consequences of the sin of taking intoxicating wine.

A man who is a distinguished professional in his field under the influence of alcohol would roll in gutters and even wet his own pants. Another would get drunk at various places where he worked and would be fired and even the savings he had would be frittered on alcohol. Alcoholism strips people of their dignity.

I once interrogated a man who bragged of sexually assaulting many young men after intentionally plying them with alcohol in order to draft them into his debased gay circle. He personally admitted that alcohol is his biggest tool of weakening their moral defenses.

The Bible never teaches that happiness is result of an artificial stimulant such as alcohol. True happiness comes from within – peace, observing the beauty of nature, joy in the Holy Spirit and doing God’s will.

Freedom from Addiction to Porn and Masturbation

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Addiction to enslaving habits

In recent times, as I have read through blogs, social media threads or magazines and followed through Christian TV shows, a subject that keeps coming up during feedback from readers or the audience hinges on addiction to pornography and masturbation.

In almost every instance – particularly on Christian forums – the struggler admits he has prayed, fasted and in some cases, even received deliverance ministrations to be free from these twin enslaving habits, yet the problem persisted.

These are deep areas, and I believe we will keep encountering such problems as the Internet and/or social media increasingly becomes an addictive past time.

We are in an era where obsession and preoccupation with sex has become the norm and abstinence has become quaint and impractical.

Visual pornography entered mainstream western culture with magazines, which confined users to static erotica.

The few x-rated movies of the 80s were found mainly in adult bookstores and other public or semi-public venues where most people didn’t want to spend much time at.

But then, video rentals and late-night cable channels emerged, which gave “life” to static porn and offered to people a level of access and privacy which cinema houses didn’t have.

Though there were private, cheaper and dialed up porn in the early 2000s, the sexual floodgates opened with the rise of high-speed Internet in 2006, giving rise to a whole new creature: a plethora of short porn clips, hardcore streaming videos and “tube sites” which have wrought incalculable damage to many lives and families.

In 2016 when, Pamela Anderson, the former Playmate and Baywatch star described pornography as a “public hazard” that affects men’s “ability to function as husband, and, by extension, as father,” her informed opinion was greeted with a howl of rage by the secular world who felt she was ripping their sacred cow into shreds.

The sad truth is that, we have reached a stage in which so many men and women are shackled to several sexual sins and when they enter into marriages with such unresolved issues, sexual problems and other unwholesome consequences begin to show up.

Take for instance, a man who has spent years objectifying women through the virtual images that porn synthesizes in the mind.

When he now meets with a real three dimensional woman (flesh and blood), the effects of that sin start to show themselves as forms of sexual dysfunctions (e.g. dependence on porn to stimulate sexual desire, premature ejaculation, anorgasmia – inability to achieve sexual climax often without self-stimulation), a cultivated taste for perverse sexual acts or a complete loss of attraction for his partner.

Gary Wilson, in his enlightening book, Brain on Porn: Internet Pornography and the Emerging Science of Addiction, notes that:

“The earliest people to report porn-relates problems in online forums were totally computer programmers and information-technology specialists. They had acquired high-speed internet porn ahead of the pack – and then developed uncharacteristic sexual tastes, delayed ejaculation or erectile dysfunction (ED) during sex. Eventually, some experienced ED even while using porn. Nearly all were in their late twenties or older.” (Commonwealth Publishing, 2014, p. 17).

Unfortunately, these are problems many Christians refuse to admit – even to themselves – hence, their roots remain buried beneath a dark pool of psychological and spiritual bondage.

An urologist and author, Harry Fisch, writes bluntly that porn is killing sex. In his book, The New Naked, he zeroes in on the decision element: the Internet. It “provided ultra-easy access to something that is fine as an occasional treat but hell for your [sexual] health on a daily basis.”

In May 2014, a prestigious medical journal published research showing that, even in moderate porn users, use (number of years and current hours per week) correlates with reduced grey matter and decreased sexual responsiveness.

The researchers cautioned that the heavy porn users’ brain might have been pre-shrunken rather than shrunken by porn usage, but favoured degree-of-porn-use as the most plausible explanation (Simone Kühn and Jürgen Gallinat, JAMA Psychiatry, 2014 doi:10:1001).

In July 2014, a team of neuroscience experts headed by a psychiatrist at Cambridge University revealed that more than half of the subjects in their study of porn addicts reported “that as a result of excessive use of sexually explicit materials, they had … experienced diminished libido or erectile dysfunction specifically in physical relationships with women (although not in relationship to the sexually explicit material” (Valerie Voon, et al., PLOS One, 2014:DOI:10:1371).

I am deliberately quoting these secular and liberal sources to show you that the damage that porn does to the human soul goes beyond the conservative and liberal debate; it goes beyond puritanical religious and social norms – it is a widespread effect of the consumption of virtual sex in our time.

As I reflect on these baffling scenarios, a Bible verse flashes into my mind:

“[In the last days] For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy” (2 Tim. 3:2)

My attention is drawn to the first line, “people will be lovers of self.” Self is the root of all personal sins. Sexual sins are one of the fruit of self.

Selfishness is the leading cause of many broken marriages today because it has become rife. Many enter into it to please themselves first before the other person.

And when a sexually selfish person is joined to another sexually selfish person, what do you think will be the end result?

So many people are only interested in things that will pleasure self. And this is why love has been mis-defined and misconceived.

Because selfish people have no love to offer anyone, they replace love with sex to an extent that once the word “love” is mentioned, what it means to them is “sex.”

The problem will have to be addressed from the heart. Self must be crucified for Christ to dwell in us.

Now, how can a Christian struggling with addiction to pornography and masturbation attain victory?

The solution to the bondage of sin is the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

It was there that He took up our sins and the punishment we justly deserved upon Himself and in exchange, imparted onto us His righteousness – God’s righteousness (1 Cor. 5:21).

The outworking of this righteousness is to take away our sins and then give us power over that sin, enabling us to live as spotless children of God. The outworking of this grace of victory over sin is based on faith in Christ’s work.

One reason many fail in the area of victory over enslaving habits is because they do not walk in this faith, hence do not receive the grace to walk in victory.

They do not allow the Holy Spirit to operate on their hearts but want to walk the Christian walk in the flesh.

Romans 6:6 tells us that we have been crucified with Christ so that the domination of the flesh is destroyed and we can now be free from the enslaving power of sin.

The degree to which you walk in faith in God’s power is the degree of grace that will be available to you.

Another reason, which I briefly referenced above, is that many people want to walk with God and run with the devil.

They think they can experience freedom from guilt and oppression on the one hand, while holding to all the rottenness of the world on the other hand.

For instance, you can’t have victory over pornography if you still drool on graphic sex scenes in movies, websites or books.

You can’t attain victory over masturbation if you listen to lyrics of vulgar music like Naira Marley’s “Jo Soapy.” That’s like snorting bits of coca every night and asking for rehabilitation every morning.

Here’s what God expects of us:

“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11)

“If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as…” (Col. 2:20)

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

“and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24)

Take note of these verses and mediate on them. Make them your combat kit.

A guy said when he was gaining victory over his addiction to masturbation and he felt the urges coming on, he would begin to confess the scriptures and the thoughts would dissipate. That was how he was able to eventually gain victory over it.

That leads me to another point: many people who are bound with addictive sinful patterns have weak prayer lives and don’t feed on the Word of God.

I have been in touch with several Christians who have lamented about how they’ve tried “everything” to be free from enslaving sins and yet still get defeated, and I give them a litmus test. Once they flunk this test, the answer they are seeking is right there.

I would ask, how much do you pray daily, read your Bible, and how much of Scripture do you commit to memory from time to time?

Most of the time, you will hear crickets chirping from the forest, because they don’t pray to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit; they don’t dig deep into the crystal spring of the Word, but they somehow want to be clean! It doesn’t work that way! Jesus said:

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (Matt. 26:41)

When you don’t pray or hide the Word of God in your heart, it will be very easy for you to sin because you are as spiritually light as paper, blown about by every wind of spiritual or physical pressure.

What gives you strength from within is how much you are connected to God through fervent prayer, worship and the Word.

However, I know that some people do pray and read the Bible and try to apply much discipline but are still enslaved. That’s because the root of that bondage hasn’t been dealt with.

You would think these people have a “split personality” if you didn’t understand how demonic forces operate within people.

I can relate to this because I know what it is to have an area of your life held hostage by evil spirits. And I have seen it in people – these are Christians who were truly saved, but have some aspects of their lives still shrouded in darkness which demons have a fortress in.

There’s usually a progression:

Phase 1: Sin. The sinful act resulting from the thoughts and decision to sin. If it becomes regular it leads to this:

Phase 2: Besetting sin. The sin habit forms and when the person indulges in it frequently it leads to:

Phase 3: A stronghold. This is a “sin tumour” or fortress in the believer’s life (2 Cor. 10:4-5). If it’s not pulled down by spiritual weapons, it leads to:

Phase 4: A strongman residing in the stronghold (Lk. 11:21). The cultivated sin tumour is now energized by a demon from within and the person loses control over that area until the strongman loses the legal grounds.

Most people who have struggled with porn or masturbation for decades usually follow this downward spiral category, but not in every case.

Some of these people are married but will admit masturbating at least twice daily or more. That’s a sign of bondage.

I also notice that people who have been sexually molested or exposed to sex at young ages tend to have this demonic compulsion to masturbate or end up in porn/exhibitionism.

One of the best kept secrets in the secular world is that most porn stars are actually victims of sexual abuse. They never left that spiritual cage, they only decorated it.

Before such captives are rescued, the strong man first have to be bound and dislodged.

This is simply about renouncing the sin that led to a stronghold, breaking demonic soul ties forged with one’s own flesh (or others as the case may be) and expelling these spiritual strangers from one’s life.

Forget about the scenarios prevalent in Hollywood: folks levitating, heads spinning like owls, pea soup or green slime being spewed or people barking like dogs.

These are borderline scenarios and are not even necessary if your faith in the power of Jesus is strong enough. He has paid a great price for your freedom, make use of it and walk in victory.

Finally, people seeking deliverance from addictions to unclean habits should first be properly educated on how to exercise self discipline, see the necessity of spiritual growth and discipleship and learn how to crucify self. Otherwise, they would most likely obtain temporary relief.

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.