[forthright] Please, Not Webster's Again

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2009 06:50:01 -0800 (PST)
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

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Please, Not Webster's Again
 by Barry Newton

This past week week I encountered it again. We have all
heard it. I have lost track of the times I have seen it
in print.

If we'll be honest perhaps we may have even said it
ourselves while discussing the Bible. "According to
Webster, this word means..."

No longer is it just Webster's authority to which
people appeal. This past week during a discussion on
what the Bible teaches about faith and works, someone
pointed me to Encarta, an online dictionary, as
providing reliable definitions.

Good dictionaries or encyclopedias will accurately
describe all of the ways an English word is used today.
But our English dictionaries can fail miserably to
inform us about the message in our English Bibles.


Translators select English words to accurately convey
an idea from the original languages of the Bible into
English. Unfortunately, many times our English words
carry additional meanings foreign to what the biblical
word meant. It is these additional English meanings
which can create havoc.

Several popular arguments utilize a type of shell game
in order to claim as biblical, messages foreign to the
text in the original language.

What do you find when you look up the word baptize in a

A good one will describe various modes of applying
water such as sprinkling and immersion, as well as
several other ideas. If people today were to use
baptize to signify eating a hamburger, that too would
be listed.

To use an English dictionary as the basis of arguing
that the Bible promotes sprinkling water as a form of
baptism would be irresponsible.

Others still argue that Acts 2:38 teaches people should
be baptized because their sins have already been
forgiven. It is true that in English we say, he is
wanted for murder to indicate someone is sought because
he is accused of having already committed murder.

However, the Greek word eis which is accurately
translated as for in our Bibles to indicate purpose,
never means because. Thus Acts 2:38 can not mean that
we are baptized because our sins have been forgiven. It
teaches us to be baptized that we might be forgiven.

Sometimes this shell game regarding for has been taken
to a new level by pointing to "Christ died for our
sins." (1 Corinthians 15:3) Although English
translations might use for in both this verse as well
as Acts 2:38, they are completely different words in
the Greek. Therefore a person can not legitimately
argue on the basis of 1 Corinthians 15:3 what is meant
in Acts 15:3.

If we want to understand what a Biblical word means, we
need to consult a Hebrew or Greek Lexicon, or a good
Bible dictionary or encyclopedia. We do not need to be
looking at Webster's.

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