"THE" LITTLE BIG WORDS OF THE SPIRIT
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It is so necessary to observe that all Scripture is God-Spirited, even down to the jot and tittle (in the Old Testament Hebrew, Matthew 5:18). The New Testament affirms this in 2 Timothy 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 2:12,13). Man is not to take away nor add to the Spirit's Word (Revelation 22:18).
The expression of “murdering the King's English” has been around since before Shakespeare's day. In his The Merry Wives of Windsor (c.1600 AD) he expressed it this way, “Here will be an old abusing of --the King's English.” Babylon 10 Dictionary online uses as one illustration for “murder”, “to mangle; as, to murder the king's English.” All of us may have at times innocently or ignorantly “murdered” the American English. Since humans are the translators of the Bible, such ones are not exempt from abusing language, especially when they are set on paraphrasing the original message into English?
Some editorial translation policies such as that of the King James and ESV claim to make a word for word translation (where possible). Others such as the NIV admit in their policy that they are interpreting what they think the Bible writers meant in certain passages; this is called “meaning-to-meaning” translating. Then there are “paraphrased Bibles” such as The Living Bible that uses “poetic license.” Unfortunately, one's theology governs what one thinks the original says. This is similar to what the Pharisees were doing when Jesus condemned their leaven of traditions. As teachers they were adding their glosses which they called traditions to explain the written Word. The fact that they had to debate what these traditions were on certain subjects prove that calling them “traditions” was just a ruse. Jesus said, “Beware of it” (Matthew 16:11).
One of the most abused words in translating the Holy Spirit's words is the definite article “the.” I understand that the use of the word “the” was very important in ancient Greek. To a certain degree it is also important in English. I like Alexander Thomson's illustration of the “definite article the.” If one says to you, “I have a book to show you,” you might say, “Show me the book.” What you have done is to change an indefinite “a book” to a definite “the book” by using the definite article “THE.”i You have legitimately done this because the book in referred to, is now to your mind as a definite (specific) object. Greek uses the definite article in much the same way. It is like taking your finger and pointing to the Thing.ii The Greek language used its Definite Articles with very great precision. When an Article is omitted in the Greek language, there is a very good reason.iii
Paul told the Athenians that seeking the God would not be in vain (Acts 17:27). “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:23). The KJV translation might suggest to us that the Athenians had erected an altar to the Living God. But Paul did not say that. The word “the” is not in the original language (the ASV has it correctly). It was just an extra altar erected by the pagans who wanted to respect any idol god they might be missing among their hundreds of “deities.” The contemporary geographer, Pausanias (I. 1, 4) says that in Athens there were “altars to gods unknown.”iv
In the next verse in Acts 17, Paul asserts that he is proclaiming “the” God, the Creator. The KJV says simply “God that made the world” (v. 24). But in the original language Paul proclaims, “o Theos o poiesas tov kosmov”; i.e., “The [o] God that made the world.”
In English we can omit some definite articles and still be understood. We Americans have been raised to hear of only one God. Therefore, to us “the God” is redundant. Whereas Paul was precise to the idolaters about the God he preached, the English translators could acceptably omit “the” from Paul's discourse and we don't think anything about it. However, the English word “faith” is another matter. It can be a quality of trust; i.e., a matter of believing. On the other hand, faith can be what is believed; i.e., a body of dogma.v In the Greek Koine, the definite article indicates the latter.
Definite Dogma to be Believed
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
When the Holy Spirit says that the faith was delivered to the saints in Jude 3, we can be confident that not just any body of belief was and is sufficient for saints but that one's earnest responsibility is for “the faith” that was given in the First Century. What we are to believe is not left in limbo, because the specific “Faith” has been given. Hence, our part is to seek and defend “The” Faith.
Robertson in his Word Pictures, observes,“the faith (tēi - pistei). Here [it is not] in the original sense of trust, but rather of the thing believed.”vi Robertson gives similar passages where the body of dogma is referred to: (1) Jude 20-- “building up yourselves on your most holy [the] faith (tēi [the]– pistei)”; (2) Galatians 1:23-- “gospel, the faith (euayyelizetai tēiv pisteiv)”; (3) Galatians 3:23-- “But before [the] faith (tēiv pisteiv) came”; (4) Philippians 1:27-- “striving for the faith of the gospel (sunathleō tēi pistei tou euaggelion).” Acts 6:7 can be added at this point: “obey the faith (hupēkouon tēi pistei).”
It is interesting to know that “the thing” called “the faith” is analogus if not equivalent to “the gospel.” Both “the faith” and “the gospel” are to be obeyed: “for obedience to the faith among all nations” (Romans 1:5; compare with verse 16 and 17 where we are told that the gospel is God's power to save).
It is unfortunate that so many doctrines that are formulated and divide us are because church leaders have not taken the time to go to the original language or even compared the various translations. For example, “Saint” Augustine, a church leader, lived a few centuries close to the original writings, he admittedly did not know or care to know Greek. He was a Latin scholar. Yet, although the Bible was not written in Latin, “Saint Augustine” became the “father” of many erroneous teachings in Christendom among the western Catholics and the Protestants.
One reason the doctrine of “grace” in Ephesians 2:8-10 is misinterpreted is because the definite article “the” is ignored in the translations and study. "For by grace you have been saved, through the faith" (Wilbur Pickering's New Testament; Apostolic Bible Polygot [English]). The grace that saves is obtained through “The Faith.” “DiaG1223 τeisG3588 pisteis G4102” is the same expression as in Jude 3. Yet, how many preachers ignore this fact?
The means of salvation is not sourced in us but is given to us by God. The Spirit through Paul is contrasting THE faith (currently given) with the Law of Moses as he does in other places. When the Spirit says not of ourselves, He is excluding the Law of Moses.
"And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through THE faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by THE faith" (Philippians 3:9).
Throw Out the Lifeline
ivRobertson's Word Pictures, Greek dictionary.
v Google Dictionary
viRobertson's Word Pictures, Greek dictionary.