Keith Giles has written a fantastic article on the Patheos blog site titled “How Evangelicals Changed The Bible To Support Their Beliefs”. In it, he gives specific examples of the ways in which conservative evangelicals have chosen to change the meaning of words in newer English translations to fit into their theological frameworks, rather than more accurately reflect the original Biblical meaning.
You can read the article in full at the Patheos website, or an extract of it below:
“It’s ironic that the same people who call me a “Progressive” and a “Heretic” have no problem with the changes made to the Bible over the centuries to make the Scriptures say what they want.
For example, I’ve posted extensively about the fact that the word “Homosexual” never appeared in any English translation of the Scriptures until 1946. Evangelicals who learn this never seem to bat an eye at this and instead argue that the word “Trinity” isn’t in the Bible either [as if adding a word that isn’t there to change the meaning of the text is the same as pulling a concept out of the text and giving it a name].
Bottom line: They don’t care that the text was changed because the changes made support their beliefs.
They also don’t care that the word “gladly” was removed from Philippians 2:10-11 which should read:
“…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should gladly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
That word, “gladly” suggests that everyone will eventually turn to Christ willingly and joyfully proclaim that Christ is Lord.
The reason Evangelicals don’t care that the Greek word “exomologe?” [which literally means “to acknowledge openly and joyfully“] was downgraded to simply “confess” is because it leaves them wiggle-room to suggest that those sinners who eventually confess will do so through clenched teeth and bend their knees under protest just before they get roasted in the lake of fire forever.
Bottom line: Evangelicals who claim the Scriptures are inerrant and infallible don’t care that changes like this were made because it supports their toxic theology.
Evangelicals also have no problem whatsoever using the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Old Testament scriptures in their English Bibles. Why? Because even though it was created by Jewish rabbis almost exclusively to debunk Christianity, it contains verses like this in Isaiah 53:10:
“Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.”
This verse [and several others in the Masoretic text] suggest that God was the one who caused Jesus to suffer on the cross. This makes Evangelicals happy because they embrace the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory [PSA].
So, what’s wrong with this verse? Well, it came a few hundred years after the birth of the Christian faith and it radically re-writes the older Septuagint text which was used and quoted by Jesus himself. [That’s right.]
Want to know what Isaiah 53:10 says in the original Septuagint translation? Here ya go:
“The Lord is willing to cleanse him of the injury. If you make a sin offering, our soul will see long-lived offspring, and the Lord is willing to remove him from the difficulty of his soul.”
Wow. Look at that! The Septuagint text which pre-dates the Masoretic actually teaches us that God’s response to the crucifixion of Jesus was to “cleanse [or heal] him of the injury” and that it was not God, but “you” [or “us”] who made him “a sin offering.”
So, the next time your Evangelical Christian friends try to convince you that they only believe what the Bible teaches, or that they are the ones who care about the inerrancy and infallibility of the text, please feel free to remind them that their version of the Bible was carefully edited and altered to support the doctrines they claim are “clearly taught” by the Scriptures.
Until they actually start to care about these sorts of changes that were made specifically to obscure the true meaning of the Scriptures, I have no time to listen to them label me the “heretic” or “liberal” Christian.”
2 thoughts on “How Evangelicals Changed The Bible To Support Their Beliefs (by Keith Giles)”
What about “The Lord’s will was to crush him with pain”?!! Isaiah 53:10
“Surely this can only mean that God beat Jesus up?! Right? Wrong!The truth is that the original Hebrew language is untranslatable! Look at what translators of the New Revised Standard Version say on their footnotes to this verse:
a. Isaiah 53:10 meaning of Hebrew uncertain
b. Isaiah 53:10 Meaning of Hebrew uncertain
The Greek version of this verse, written 200 years before Jesus, by Jewish Hebrew scholars who were fluent in their native tongue and Greek have rendered the Hebrew text as follows: when the Greek text is translated into English it says:
‘and the Lord desires to purify him [the Servant] of the plague’!
What?! Yes! They never saw the Hebrew [which was their native tongue] saying that God willed to crush the servant with pain but understood it to say that God willed to purify him from the plague he endured! Totally opposite!
When the New Testament quotes the Old Testament, it does so by referring to the Greek Version of the Hebrew. This means that we need to take this Greek version seriously especially since we don’t know what the Hebrew says! So, let’s not build such an important teaching on a verse that is non translatable from the Hebrew.”
There are many aspects in which this argument overextends itself. I must begin by pointing out that both in the Hebrew and the Greek, what is not “uncertain” is that it was the “will of the Lord” to do whatever follows. This is important, given that the entire premise of the article is that what has befallen the Servant was not the action or will of God. Now, it is true that the Hebrew is uncertain regarding what follows, but that is not the same as claiming that it is “untranslatable.” If it were, we would not see the remarkable level of agreement in the English translations of this passage. I would also agree that it is not a healthy practice to build a doctrine on an uncertain passage of Scripture. However, the doctrine of PSA does not rely on Is. 53:10 alone, nor does it need v.10 for the overall message of substitution already seen thus far.
What do we do with the uncertainty of v.10? To begin, when divergences between the LXX and the Hebrew text of the Old Testament occur, it can often be attributed to spelling mistakes. Simply put, depending on the quality of the Hebrew manuscript being used by the scribe translating it into Greek, various errors can occur. This is especially the case with certain Hebrew letters that are remarkably similar in appearance. In the case of the Hebrew text, which is translated in the NET Bible as “to crush him,” the word for “crush” without vowel points looks like this: ???(daka). On the other hand, the word for “heal” or “purify,” as the article suggests, looks like this:??? (rapha). In a handwritten manuscript, the Hebrew letters ?and ?are remarkably similar, as are the letters ?and ?. While not conclusive, it is highly likely that the scribe misread the Hebrew text to read “heal” rather than “crush” and translated this into Greek, resulting in the change in the LXX.
Another reason that the Hebrew reading of Isaiah presents a conundrum is that the Hebrew 2nd person plural (you) and 3rd person singular (he/she/it) in this passage are identical. The Greek reflects a choice of the 2nd person plural (you) in its translation which renders the rest of the verse opaque, whereas the English translations of the Hebrew have opted for the 3rd person singular (he). That is what is uncertain in the text. While Calarco would have you believe that the entire verse is in question, it is not.
With all of this being said, both the Hebrew and the Greek text agree that what is happening to the Servant is God’s will, and while it is true that the apostolic community often cites the LXX, v.10 is not cited in any New Testament text, making much of this argument moot.
“Because the Servant willingly submitted to the violent death of the violent crowd, because he is numbered WITH the rebels, identified with them, lifted up their sin, intervened for the murderous rebels; and the murderous rebels are acquitted from their sin as a result of what the Servant went through!
The Servant endures violence and murder to heal the murderers! This whole process is about restoration! God intended to restore the mobs right in the face of their murder! God subverts sinful violence by absorbing it and bringing good from the evil. Now this sounds like God!”
There is very little explanation given here for why the author understands the acquittal specifically for those who have abused the Servant. The text reads, “My servant will acquit many.” While it might be presumed that those who abused him are potentially part of the “many,” there is no indication of this in the text, or that it is limited to them. And while I can agree that there are aspects of this text that speak of restoration, it is still a restoration brought about through the vicarious suffering of the Servant.
A Glaring Omission
Before engaging with the final point in the article and making some final points of my own, I can’t help but point out that the article avoids Is. 53:6. In more widely read translations, this verse reads that “the Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all,” whereas the NET Bible reads, “the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him.” While I might quibble about the differences in these two options, what is striking about this text—and even more so about its omission in this article—is that the text very clearly states in both translations that it is the Lord who causes this to happen! Given that the article’s starting point was to argue that the suffering of the Servant was NOT the Lord’s doing, I would think that v.6 would need to be addressed. Sadly, as it has been avoided, I cannot comment on how this would be explained by the PC that holds to this theory of atonement, nor can I see how it can be explained away.
Out with the Old, in with the New
Read 1 Peter 2:21-24 where Peter quotes this passage. Here we see that Peter understands Isaiah in terms of restoration amidst violence. Peter nowhere understands Isaiah 53 the way it is preached nowadays in the western church. When he quotes Isaiah 53, he says nothing about God putting sins onto Jesus in order to punish him on our behalf in order to satisfy his wrath!
It is interesting that the author cites 1 Peter 2:21-24 and asserts that the author only understands Is. 53 through the lens of restoration. Given that the author has spent considerable time discussing the Hebrew and the Greek of Isaiah, it would be beneficial to do the same here, particularly in the case of a singular Greek verb, ?????????. I find this to be important because it falls within the opening clause of 1 Peter 2:24, which reads, “He (Jesus) himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…” The use of this Greek verb is one of bearing or carrying; however, when it appears in sacrificial texts, it means to offer as a sacrifice or to make an expiation or compensation.This word appears in the epistle to the Hebrews 13:15 as well and is the Greek word used in LXX Isaiah 53:12.
I feel this is important, as its context in 1 Peter is certainly one of example, but the actual referent is one of substitutionary atonement. Certainly, I would agree there is an element of restoration, in that Peter is reminding his audience that they have been made new through Christ, but this restoration has only been given to them through the sacrifice of the Savior.
While the focus of this article has been to demonstrate the faulty reasoning behind this particular approach to Isaiah 53, I would like to close with a few observations about the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement. As you may have noticed, several times within this article I have agreed with its author. I have done this because the truth of PSA does not eliminate other aspects of the atonement—it only serves as the necessary foundation for all of them. It is true that the sacrifice of Christ provides restoration from sin, both for the believer and ultimately the world. It is also true that through his sacrifice on the cross, Christ has proclaimed victory over sin and the Accuser. It can also be said that Christ’s life and sacrifice are the ultimate moral example for mankind. But without the atonement for the sin debt owed by every individual on earth, none of these other features can mean anything.
We should recognize that PSA does not rely solely on Isaiah 53, so even if there were more cogent arguments against reading it in the Isaianic text, it would not remove the teaching elsewhere.While the ideas presented by progressive Christianity are enticing, they cannot account for the theme of sin, fall, sacrifice and redemption that begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation. The rise in popularity of these alternative theories of atonement should serve as a clarion call to the church that the full nature of sin and guilt, alongside the immeasurable magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, must be taught more clearly and more passionately.
Hi Ken, Daryl here. Drawing attention to such questionable ‘translations’ and manuscripts, inducing doubt, and suspicion, I have to say, is a common tactic to attempt weakening an orthodox stance, which causes many questions to arise in those less trained in hermeneutic linguistics. Having gone thro’ an intense time of questioning much myself in the past, I resolved to thoroughly investigate such apparent conundrums.
I believe you truly believe what you present. This fruit of deconstructing your faith, for whatever reasons, does not stand up to careful scrutiny, in search of the truth. I wrote a blog in response to your article, ‘What If This Is The Next Great Revival’?You can check it out on my website. My attention is dedicated to revealing, and dismantling ‘destructive heresies.’ Truth pursued will expose error.
Your ‘homosexual’ ‘argument’, and ‘all will be saved’ rhetoric, I have addressed rather recently as well. Your 75 reasons are entirely absent of the conditions of salvation. I agree that there are translation issues, some spurious, but you’ve created or followed over developed conspiracies, which are common to rejection of historic Christianity.
After reading this full article, I read about 20 on the Masoretic vs. Septuagint, and there is lots that could be said. This article was pretty precise, on Is. 53:10. I pray for you Ken, and would gladly correspond.
Very helpful from Daryl. I appreciate this type of careful reasoned debate and picking through the scriptures. Thank you both.