BTR04

This entry is part of 14 in the series article 84

BTR04

The Bible Review
Issue #4, July 10, 1990

In This Issue

“The Word was God” by Charles Welch, The Berean Expositor Vol. 1 (circa 1909- 1911)

“Right Division and Its Use” by Oscar Baker, Truth For Today, Vol. 40, No. 7 (1990)

“Do You KNOW The Mystery?” by J. McEown, Bible Explorations, Vol. 1 No. 7 (1987)

“The Wages of Sin #2” by Charles Welch, The Berean Expositor Vol. 2 (circa 1912-1913)

“Subscription Information and Permission to Distribute”, by Leo Wierzbowski, editor of The Bible Review

“The Word was God” by Charles Welch, reprinted from The Berean Expositor

We propose giving a few words of explanation upon the first verses of the Gospel of John, because upon several occasions, and in different places, friends have asked our opinion about a very subtle interpretation which is being promulgated by a certain section of Christendom, and which leads the reader to think that the inspired original tells us that the Word was a God! We do not desire to leave the simple exposition of the Scriptures for declamatory utterances; we would rather allow the truth to come with its own convincing force, but we cannot refrain from remarking that practically every heresy that has arisen in the history of the church may be found ultimately, if not immediately, to be an attack upon the inspiration of the Scriptures, or the person and work of Christ.

The Edition of the N.T. which contains this evil has both the Greek text and the translation side by side, and we have found it to be our repeated experience, that when pressed upon the point, those who use this edition, and so solemnly and impressively refer to the Greek, confess that they do not understand it, but have swallowed the interpretation of the passage as being truth, and with all the brazenness of ignorance brandish the magic reference to the “inspired original” to degrade Him Who is the glory of that blessed book. We will, however, take a leaf out of their book — so far as method is concerned — by setting the Greek original and a literal translation side by side. For the benefit of those who are not conversant with the Greek, we will transliterate the words into English characters, using e for Eta and o for Omega, and (i) for Iota subscript.

  1. En arche(i) en ho 1. In the beginning was the logos kai ho logos en Word and the Word was pros ton Theon with the God kai Theos en ho logos. and God was the Word.
  2. Houtos en en arche(i) 2. The same was in the beginning pros ton Theon. with the God.
  3. Panta di’autou 3. All things through Him egeneto, kai choris autou became, and without Him egeneto oude en, became not one thing, ho gegonen. which has become.

The argument brought forward in the interpretation under consideration rests largely upon the use and omission of the Greek article. The Greek article corresponds with our English “the,” and in its varied cases to “of the,” “to the,” &c. The reader will easily find the article in the first line, as the literal rendering follows the order of the words, ho logos is “the Word.” When, however, a noun is in the accusative or objective case, the article is declined in sympathy with the noun, and so ho logos would become ton logon. Now as the word Theos (God) is a similar word to logos, the last two words in the third line ton Theon, are simply ho Theos in the accusative case. We mention this not to try to teach Greek, but to prevent misunderstanding on the part of those who may, Berean-like, search out these things, but who may not be possessed of the necessary knowledge to commence their studies. The reader will see that, whilst we have the article before the word “God ” in the third line, it is omitted in the fourth line. It does not read kai ho Theos, but kai Theos; not “and the God,” but “and God.” Thus we may read the sentence:Ä

The Word was God, or, God was the Word.

The use of the article, however, determines the true subject of the sentence, hence we see that in lines 1 and 4 ho logos Ä “the Word ” Ä is the subject. Now, seeing that we know which is the subject of the sentence, we need not be so careful to place it at the beginning; therefore we find that emphasis is laid upon the subject, “the Word,” by the figure of speech called Hyperbaton. This figure is aptly named, because the word means “a stepping over,” and by placing a word out of position renders it more conspicuous. Hence in reading the passage we must emphasize like this Ä “In the beginning was THE WORD, and God THE WORD was.” No amount of explanation which we may give can have any weight unless it can be seen to be in harmony with the Scriptures of truth, and so we will take the reader to other passages, rather than give cut and dried grammatical rules.

If any of our readers are confronted with one of these exponents of the “Greek original” whose interpretation we are considering, they might ask for an evidence of consistency by reading the translation given of another verse in the selfsame chapter, viz., verse 14. If kai Theos en ho logos means “and the Word was A God,” why should not kai ho logos sarx egeneto be translated, “and the Word became A flesh”? Such a translation is manifestly absurd, yet it is based upon precisely the same argument, the absence of the article before the word flesh. We might multiply instances. Does ho Theos agape estin mean “The God is A love?”

A moment’s reflection will enable any reader to see the truth of the grammatical rule, that the article is employed to demonstrate, whilst its omission describes. “The God” points out the subject of the sentence, “is love” describes His essence. So “the Word became flesh” describes the sphere into which the Word came, namely flesh. So in John i. 1, “the Word” (demonstrative) was, so far as His essence is concerned, “God ” (descriptive). Thus we read the two passages together:Ä

The Word WAS GOD. The Word BECAME FLESH.

In each case the absence of the article describes, whilst the change in the verb tells that in the first instance the condition was one of essential character, “was” (verb “to be”); the other, that which He assumed when the fulness of time came, “He became.” Before we deal more fully with these two verbs, there is one more verse in the first chapter that claims our attention. “No one hath seen God at any time” (verse 18). Here again the word Theos is without the article, and if treated as in the first verse would be rendered, “No one hath seen A God at any time!” God in His essence no one hath seen, yet such passages as Gen. xxxii. 24Ä32; Josh. v. I3Ä15; Ezek. i. 26Ä28, &c., are inspired truth. If the first verse had read, “the Word was the God,” we should have to exclude both the Father and the Spirit from the Godhead, for the words being thus placed in apposition would have become exclusive.

We have already mentioned the importance of noting the distinction between the verb “to be” and the verb “to become.” In verses 1 and 2 we have the verb “to be” (en) meaning “was,” but in verse 3 we have the verb “to become” (egeneto), meaning “became.” The English obscures this distinction, but a consideration of the use of these two verbs in one or two other passages will help us to see how complete the testimony is that “the Word was God.”

In verse 17 we read, “The law through Moses was given (edothe), but grace and truth became (egeneto) through Jesus Christ.” Thus by a comparison of verses 3 and 17 we find that both in the creation of the universe, and in the spiritual sphere of grace and truth, all things “were made,” or “became,” through Him. When the incarnation is the subject, this same verb is used, the Word became flesh; but not so when speaking of the essential deity of the Word Ä the Word WAS God. He BECAME flesh. This distinction is clearly seen in John viii. 58, Prin Abraam genesthai, ego eimi. “Before Abram became (or was made), I, I am.” If the Lord merely intended to say that He had an existence before Abram, He would surely have said, “Before Abram was made, I was.” But no, in the full consciousness of His Godhead, He says, “I AM.” The words are further emphasized by the pronoun ego. The Greek verb carries the pronoun with it; thus eimi means “I am.” Hence, if we add ego we must read, “I am,” or “I, I am.” Those who can refer to the Septuagint will find further suggestive thought by comparing the words Ego eimi ho on of Exod. iii. 14 with John viii. 58, and iii. 13.

Space will not allow our going further with this subject. Abundant evidence is in the Scriptures to disprove on the one hand the statement that “the Word was a God,” while everywhere it joyfully renders to the Son the same homage as to the Father, confessing that He is the true God and eternal life. It will be observed that we have kept to the task of expounding the Scriptures, and not attempted to “search out God unto perfection.” It is not our task to endeavour to be wise above that which is written. Mathematics or philosophy can render no tangible illustration or confirmation of the mystery of the Godhead. Suffice it for us that we believe that there is one God, and that there is revealed for our faith the transcendent fact, that, whilst we own one God, we are also called upon to worship God the Father, through our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, as we are quickened and led by God the Holy Spirit.

May we be kept faithful to the Lord and His truth, and believe and rejoice in the fact that the Word who was made flesh and tabernacled among us, was nevertheless the One of whom it is written, THE WORD WAS GOD.

“Right Division and Its Use” by Oscar Baker reprinted from Truth For Today

It is not likely that any readers of T-F-T are not acquainted with 2Timothy 2:15 and its exhortation to rightly dividing the Scriptures. Practically all who read the Bible at all make some division of its contents. Probably the simplest division is in distinguishing the O.T. from the N.T.

This then is a beginning. Whether it is a right division is another question for you to work on. There may be some question about all of what we call the N.T. rightly carrying that name. So in the simplest of division we may run into some difficulties.

Now as to the O.T., we find that it is under the heading of Moses and the Prophets at times. But the Jews covered the whole of it by the term Moses, The Psalms, and The Prophets. There were other divisions, but these will suffice for now.

The N.T. has been divided into Gospels, Epistles, History, and Prophecy. This may be altered by some. But you can see that there is a tendency to divide up the Bible for study and understanding. Now we are told to do that rightly. That brings in problems.

For convenience, many have divided the Word into time divisions, calling these divisions dispensations. But a strict usage of the word dispensation does not allow this. But division into some time periods does have some advantage and those who wish really to get into it will see, for one part at least, that there are 4 periods of about 500 years connected with Israel. This is just one aspect.

Then there is a division into those parts that are for Gentiles and those for Jews. This may prove profitable. But again there are going to be difficulties connected with it.

There is another way of dispensational division that has proven most profitable for those who really want to get into things. It is about the only method that erases the seeming contradictions in various parts of the Scriptures. It is a method that helps one to understand what is the plan and purpose of God for the ages. This sort of study is seriously recommended for those who wish to know the purpose of God and conform their lives to it. For those who are merely curious, this method will prove very confusing and totally unacceptable to the flesh or old nature. This method brings out the two ekklesias or dispensations of the kingdom and the church, at the same time recognizing the fact that not all the saved belong to a church, but that it is from among the saved of the earth that these groups are chosen. One body is called for an earthly purpose and ministry. The rest of the saved of the nations will occupy the new earth. With these bare facts in mind, you may be able to go on and find great treasure in the Word. Do not neglect to investigate what is the dispensation of the mystery, or the church which is the body of Christ with Him as Head. You will find that this aspect is truth for today.

These general truths should help you to get started on your own.

“Do You KNOW The Mystery?” by J. McEown reprinted from Bible Explorations

The word “mystery” in Scripture does not mean something supernatural or ambiguous as we understand the word today. It means a secret. That is simply knowledge kept hidden until it is revealed. We find evidence of this in Dan 2:28 where Daniel states, “There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets…” The Greek word for secret is “musterion”. This is the same Greek word used in the LXX (a Greek version of the Old Testament) which is translated mystery in the New Testament. Therefore it is correct to ask, “Do you know the SECRET?”

God, in His love, revealed many secrets to men as the time was right and as men needed the information. Daniel and his companions were captives in Babylon. The king there demanded they tell him his dream which he had forgotten. Failure to do so meant death. For their safety they needed to know that hidden knowledge and God revealed the secret of the king’s dream to Daniel.

When Christ was on earth, He spoke only in parables to the crowds who followed Him merely to see a miracle or get a meal. But to his disciples who wanted to understand His words, He revealed secrets…secrets about His kingdom out of heaven on earth. He told His disciples: “…it is given to you to know the mysteries (secrets) of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given,” (Mt 13:11). God had said that with Christ as their King, Israel was to rule the world and become priests to the rest of the nations. This seemed a hopeless dream as the majority of Israel was rejecting Him, their King. His disciples were bewildered, but He told them the secret that His kingdom would one day be realized in spite of every opposition. The disciples followed Christ, not for what He could give them but to hear Him. Why do we follow Him? Do you WANT to know the mystery?

After His death, resurrection and ascension, the Lord revealed many mysteries or secrets to the Apostle Paul, for the benefit of the saints. They were waiting for the Lord’s return and Israel’s promised kingdom. But some of their fellowmembers were dying. The remaining ones were concerned about the dead saints and about their own futures when the kingdom commenced. At that time, Paul wrote, “Behold, I show a mystery (secret); We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed,…at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption…” (1Co 15:5153). This knowledge was given to believers who wanted to understand God’s ways in their day. But do you know THE mystery about today?

The last secret God revealed chronologically, He gave to one man, the Apostle Paul. “…that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery (secret),” (Eph 3:8,9). Paul preached things about Christ which were untraceable before. It was known that Christ would come and be the world’s Savior and Israel’s King on earth, but that Christ would be elevated to be Head over all Beings in a kingdom for above all heavens, was a secret, not told before. That Christ would call out some believers from all nations to be with Him and reign there, was never told before. That Gentiles would be equal heirs and equal partakers in this kingdom was news. In the past, they could only share some of Israel’s blessings. Their service and inheritance had not been equal. Israel had advantages before.

In this last secret revealed to Paul, God said He was creating a new thing, one church, so closely connected to Christ, its Head, that it is called the “Body of Christ”; one church completely acceptable to Him because of Christ’s work. For this church there are no symbols, holy days or feasts; no priests or hierarchy among its members. This church is not to look for trumps and signs or for Christ’s coming to earth, but rather to look to the moment of Christ’s manifestation far above all heavens. They are told, “When Christ Who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.”, (Col 3:4) where He now is.

Colossians 1:23-26 tells us that the revelation of this secret fulfills, that is fills full or completes the Word of God. Thus there have been no further revelations from God. It also tells us that this mystery was hid from ages and generations until given to Paul. It cannot be learned from the Old Testament or New Testament writings before that time. Paul didn’t know it when he wrote his first seven epistles, (Galatians, Hebrews, I&IICorinthians, I&IIThessalonians and Romans). Compare those with his last seven to see for yourselves, (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I&IITimothy, Titus and Philemon).

God’s last secret reveals what He is doing today and how we can have part in His church and plan. Do YOU know the secret? Read Paul’s last epistles to learn about it. Write us and we will prayerfully do our best to help you.

“The Wages of Sin #2” by Charles Welch reprinted from The Berean Expositor

“Not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth” (I Cor. ii. 13).

On page III of Volume I. we commenced the consideration of the subject of eternal punishment, giving room for some quotations from the writings of the exponents of the doctrine of eternal conscious suffering, and adding a few words upon some texts often misquoted, misinterpreted or misapplied in the writings and discourses of orthodox believers. We now desire to leave the traditions of men and the phraseology of the schools, to consider the words of God Himself upon this great subject.

As we are all aware, the Bible is written in Hebrew and Greek, from which the various translations have been made. It is utter folly to bolster up arguments and doctrines by words occurring in a translation, our only appeal and absolute authority must be the words of the original Scriptures. We therefore propose to bring under review the various words used in the Scriptures, seeking to explain their meaning not merely from dictionaries or lexicons, but from the usage of the words themselves within the bounds of the written Word.

For the sake of clearness we shall use English letters as equivalents for the Hebrew and Greek, believing that those who desire a fuller acquaintance with the originals will be able to discover the words quite easily. The first word which we will consider is the word abad. It is translated “perish” 79 times in the Old Testament (A.V.); other renderings are as follows, “be perished,” 12 times; “be ready to perish,” 4 times; “cause to perish,” 3 times; “make to perish,” twice; “destroy, be destroyed, destruction,” 63 times; “be lost,” 8 times. Other translations of only one or two occurrences are, “be broken;” “be undone;” “be void of;” “fail;” “lose” and “spend.”

Let us now consider some of the passages wherein this word occurs. “Ye shall perish among the heathen” (Lev. xxvi. 38). The context speaks of “they that are left.” The word may not mean utter extinction here, but for the purposes for which Israel were chosen and placed in their land, they are as good as dead, perished. The next reference, however, is quite clear in its usage of the word.” They . . . went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the congregation” (Numb. xvi. 33). This doom is spoken of by Moses in verse 29, “If these die the common death of all men.” They went down alive into the pit, but not to live therein, for they died an uncommon death, and thereby perished from among the congregation.

Again in Numbers xvii. 12, 13 the word “perish” is used synonymously with dying, “Behold we die, we perish ….. shall we be consumed with dying?” The words are used with full unequivocal meaning by Esther, when she had dared, unbidden, to enter the presence of the king, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther iv. 16). The perishing here is again explained by the words of verse 11, “All the king’s servants …. do know that whosoever …. shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live.” Esther dared the death penalty, and expressed her feelings by the words quoted, “If I perish, I perish.” The multiplication of terms in Esther vii. 4 is striking, “For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue.” Here it is evident that perishing is much more than the horrors of eastern slavery; it is used in connection with destruction and death, not life in misery.

In Jonah i. 14 the cry of the storm tossed sailors is no jugglery with words when they said, “Let us not perish for this man’s life.” They did not intrude any idle speculation concerning “after death,” they knew they were in immediate peril of drowning, hence their cry. So also with the gourd which sprang up over Jonah, “which came up in a night and perished in a night.” The gourd had withered, and as far as its purpose was concerned it was the same as if it had been destroyed by fire.

In Deut. xi. 4 we read, “How He made the water of the Red Sea to overflow them ….and how the Lord hath destroyed them unto this day.” What this destruction was like we may read in Exod. xiv. 28, “There remained not so much as one of them.” They had perished, they had been destroyed, althouh their bodies were seen by the Israelites “dead upon the sea shore.” We say nothing about “annihilation;” that word is used by those who wish to cast a slur upon the teaching of the Word in order to keep their own traditions. The dead bodies were there, but life, conscious being, enmity or love, sorrow or joy, were gone; as conscious beings they were destroyed, even although their carcases lined the sea shore.

Turn again to another passage, Deut. xii. 2, “Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods.” How were they to destroy them? Were they to sit down and argue concerning the “indestructibility of matter”? Certainly not; their instructions were definite, “Ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire, and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place” (verse 3). Surely words cannot be more explicit.

When Athaliah waded through a sea of blood to the throne, we are told that she “destroyed all the seed royal.” When we hear the doom of the “cherub of the anointing” (Satan) uttered in Ezek. xxviii. 16, we find the words are, “I will destroy thee, oh covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire,” but this destruction is explained in verses 18 and 19 by these words, “I will bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth . . . and never shalt thou be any more!”

Is there any need to continue the study of this word to confirm us in its simple and primary meaning? The instances of Korah and his company, of Esther and her people, of the sailors in the vessel with Jonah, of the overthrow of Pharaoh and his host, and the burning, breaking down, hewing down, and overthrowing of the heathen places of worship, supply us with God’s own usage of the word, against which all the sophistry of man is as nothing. As is the case with all languages, words take secondary and even more remote meanings, but none of these can ever lessen the bearing of the primary sense, or alter their original force. Thus we find the word abad translated “lost,” as in the case of the lost asses of I Sam. ix. 3, or the lost sheep of Psalm cxix. I76; and again “fail,” in Psalm cxlii. 4, “refuge failed me,” or “every vision faileth” (Ezek. xii. 22).

The use of this word, translated “spendeth” in Prov. xxix. 3, is full of power. “He that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance.” This word abad, bearing the meaning the foregoing passages indicate, is used by the Lord as one of the many descriptions of the wages of sin, e.g.:Ä

“The way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psalm i. 6).

“The wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs; they shall consume; into the smoke shall they consume away” (Psalm xxxvii. 20).

“As wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God” (Psalm lxviii. 2).

“His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psalm cxlvi. 4).

We shall consider the figures used by the Lord under a separate head, but we cannot help drawing attention to God’s simile in Psalm Ixviii. 2, or Psalm xxxvii. 20. Melting wax and consuming fire are quite consistent with the teaching of the Scriptures, and the meaning of the word abad. Never-ending torments, and a deathless state are utterly foreign to the meaning of the word, and antagonistic to the figures used by the Lord, or the historic usages of the word. John iii. 16, so often quoted yet so little believed, gives perishing as the alternative to “everlasting life.” So far, we are able to see that the Scriptural expression, “the wages of sin is death,” needs no modification. As applied to abad it entirely coincides with its meaning and usage.

Before we leave the consideration of this word we would draw attention to the way in which it enters into the name of the king of the supernatural beings mentioned in Rev. ix. 11, “whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.” This is of the utmost importance, for it fixes the meaning of the Greek word rendered “destroy,” “perish,” &c. (which we shall, D.V., consider in subsequent issues), as being equivalent to the word abad. The word abaddon is translated “destruction” in the following passages: Job. xxvi. 6; xxviii. 22; xxxi. 12; Psalm lxxxviii. 11; Prov. xv. 11 and xxvii. 20. Note the connection with “Sheol” and “Death.”

Another Hebrew word which we must consider is shamad. This word is translated “destroy,” 66 times; “be destroyed,” 19 times; once only by the following, “destruction;” “be overthrown;” “perish;” “bring to nought;” “pluck down;” and twice “utterly.” It will be seen that just as the word abad was translated the greater number of times by the word “perish,” so shamad is translated in the majority of cases (86 out of a possible 92 occurrences) by the word “destroy.” It occurs in Deut. ix. 3, and is the result of a consuming fire. Again in Deut. ix. 14 it is threatened against Israel, and explained as being the words of God, “Let Me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven.” This reference will show the awful fulness of the word shamad. It is this word which comes first in the decree of the Jews’ enemy, “to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish” (Esther iii. 13).

When the Lord spoke concerning Israel and its punishment He said, “I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord” (Amos ix. 8). Here the Lord makes a provision, an exception; a clause which does not follow the threatened destruction of the sinner. Jacob used the word ” destroy ” in Gen. xxxiv. 30 to mean the effect of being killed (see for further reference such passages as Lev. xxvi. 30; Numb. xxxiii.52; Deut. i. 27, and Judges xxi. 16). To destroy, abolish, or demolish is the meaning of the word. This is the fate of the wicked, e.g.:Ä

“All the wicked will He destroy” (Psalm cxlv. 20).

“The transgresors shall be destroyed together” (Psalm xxxvii.38).

“When the wicked spring as the grass and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed for ever” (Psalm xcii. 7).

Again we submit that the cumulative witness of the use of these two words confirms the Scriptural statement that “the wages of sin is death,” and that the idea of eternal conscious suffering is as foreign to the meaning and usage of shamad as it is to the meaning and usage of abad.

There are one or two more Hebrew words which we must consider together; these we must leave for another occasion. We trust our readers will not think the time or space wasted in thrashing out the true meaning of these words. It is our only way of gaining the truth. Man-made definitions are all contaminated by tradition, for which we have neither regard nor respect, from which we ask no quarter, and to which, for the sake of the truth, “we yield subjection, no, not for an hour” (Gal. ii. 5).

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