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Dead Wrong

When you’ve studied the Bible for many years, you think you can’t be surprised anymore by what the text says. Sure, we all keep getting new insights as the Spirit enlightens us, but the text itself seems pretty solid.

Until you look under the hood.

No, I’m not about to question the words, like the liberal scholars have done, but to question the translations. I used to believe that with the plethora of English translations and paraphrases at our disposal I wouldn’t need to know the original languages. After all, no Bible translator would dare to tamper with it, and would always use the most rigorous scholarship to ascertain the best possible semantic range of any given word or phrase. But as I’ve written earlier (search here on pharisee), that turns out to be untrue. Even so, I thought that between the many translations and dictionaries I had a handle on the text.

Then along came the interlinears. If you don’t know, an interlinear has the English (or whatever language spoken today) lines interspersed with Greek, so you should be able to pinpoint how each word was translated. If you wanted to study a word you could find the Greek under it and look it up. But it’s still amazing how long I’ve used those interlinears and missed so much. In one of the two primary ones I use, sometimes words were simply ignored. But what really opens up the text is when an interlinear also supplies the grammatical parsing of each word, such that you can also know the tense (time: past, present, future, and variations), voice, mood, and other grammatical technicalities.

I decided recently to study Ephesians directly from an interlinear that has the grammatical parsing, and found some very interesting things. The most shocking thing was the discovery that Eph. 2:1-5 was saying the very opposite of how every English translation I checked rendered it. Here are examples of how some major translations render verse 1:

NASB: And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, KJV: And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; YLT: Also you -- being dead in the trespasses and the sins, TNIV: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins
But the Greek actually reads like this:
You all are dead to your falling away and missing the mark
So instead of painting the picture of when believers were still lost they were dead in sin, it tells us of our new, current condition of being dead TO sin. The Greek words are in the present tense, not the past, and the dative case of the sins is translated to the, not in the (ref. This Link). Why do all the major translations ignore the grammar and change the meaning of the verse (likewise with vs. 5)?

Several possibilities I suppose, but the main one is the Calvinist presupposition that the lost are literally spiritually dead, meaning the same as physical death where the body is incapable of action. Translating vs. 1 and 5 this way bolsters their interpretation. And they are paranoid about giving ground to the view held by some that the saved can be sinless (which I agree is unbiblical), but they go too far because they (and practically everybody else) misunderstand the Biblical notion of death.

I came across This Article from a year ago that, although presuming the erroneous dead in, tells us how the first century Jews would have understood the passage, using Genesis 2-3 as an illustration. It agrees with my view that death can be simply defined as separation. Physically, death occurs when the body and spirit are separated; the body’s decay is a result, not a cause, of that separation. The article makes a very good point in stating that Ephesians 2:1–2 defines what it means to be dead: to be dead is to live in your sins and trespasses while you follow this Satanic world system! In the context ’death’ does not mean ’unable to respond to God,’ it means ’living a sinful life in harmony with this evil world.’ (emphasis mine)

Putting that concept together with paying attention to the grammar, we can understand that Paul is basically saying this:

You are terminally separated from your old life of sin and are now reconciled to God through Jesus’ sacrifice. You are saved by grace!
This does not mean we can no longer commit sin, as some would teach, but that our former relationship to sin is separated from us and we are no longer slaves to it (ref. Rom. 6:14). That relationship is broken, and a new one has been formed. So it’s not that we were once spiritually dead and now are not, but that we exchanged one relationship for another; we were separated from fellowship with God, and now we are separated from fellowship with evil. We’re dead either way!

That discovery has of course prompted the great and ominous question, What else have we missed??" What else are we presuming on the basis of inaccurate translations by people who should know better? Can we trust translations that all seem to be lockstepping together in their biases? We need accuracy, not continued bowing to tradition!

I’m no expert of course, but there’s no law stating I can’t follow an interlinear and understand the meaning. If you’re morbidly curious, I paraphrased the New Testament letters and made them available for free at the Downloads page here. I only broke it up into paragraphs for readability. See how many other things you can find that don’t quite match the traditional renderings.

27 Comments

Ryan

Thanks for pointing this out! I have always wanted to use an interlinear but thought that the NASB was literal enough...

Paula Fether

Greetings Ryan! Glad to help.

Martin Willemoes Hansen

Hi Paula,

Thanks for yet another very good article :) keep them coming, btw, what interlinears would you recommend?

In His awesome grace, Martin

Paula Fether

Hi Martin, thanks!

I currently use Scripture 4 All. It isn’t perfect but very useful with its grammatical parsing. I keep meaning to look around some more but never seem to have time.

Lin

I just started using scripture4all and am excited about it. I just do not understand our why our translations have not gotten better.

Paula, very good post. I am going to print out the Eph paraphrase and do a bit of studying using scripture4all. I think this will help me get the swing of it.

Paula Fether

Tanx Lin! Let me know if the paraphrase seems okay to you. I tweaked a couple spots today, when I discovered the same kind of issue with "saved by grace" which is really "saved because of grace". I posted a little more detail over in Cheryl’s blog today.

Truthseeker

The interlinear is amazing. I looked up the verse about Junias, since I was questioned about whether she was known among the apostles as being one of them or as being known by them but not one of them, and in seeing the interlinear version, it seems clear to me, at least, that she was known as one among them because of the preposition used in the original. It makes me wonder...is anyone out there doing a truly good revision of the bible? Paula, this really is a good post. It is an eyeopener.

Paula Fether

Yes, Truthseeker, and it’s another dative case. Again checking the grammar guide, it does not allow "among" as even a possibility, unless we take the meaning of being a part of the group. In other words, the comps claim "among" means "by" or "to", which it can’t because of the grammar. They want Paul to be saying that the apostles just know these people and highly esteem them but they are not part of the group. But the grammar says what it says, and it definitely includes Andronicus and Junia as one of their own group. They are "in", not "known to or by".

Truthseeker

Paula, I just read your translation of Ephesians. For the first time, when I read the portion about husbands and wives, I did not feel like the bible was being a cruel taskmaster. I don’t say that disrespectfully, of course. It is just that the language typically used in translations is so male-biased and thus sooooo oppressive! I would love to see the whole bible in this light!!! I can’t wait to see what some of the other books in the NT read like when translated...especially those that deal with the issue of women! I can’t wait to share this with my grown daughters, and others. (not on the internet, of course, and with proper acknowledgement for the translation). Wow!!! Would that all Sunday school classes were this good!!!! Lin, I agree, I, too, wonder why our translations haven’t gotten better. This is almost revolutionary. To awaken people now to the use of interlinears could be likened somewhat to the effect on the world when the common folk finally had ready access to bibles in their own language.

Paula Fether

Thank you TS! It’s slow, laborious work, and I still stand amazed at how none of the standard translations seem to care what the grammar is, but if this is where God is leading me then all I need is a fire lit under me to get to work. I’m already feeling drawn to 1 Peter, as I’m seeing patterns and contexts I’ve never seen before until I started working directly with interlinears.

At the very least, I have a new appreciation for the work of translation. Each word has to be checked, and frequently compared to grammar tutorials that can take several readings to comprehend. Then there is the constant tug-of-war between technical accuracy and conveying thoughts. Each epistle has to be examined from many angles.

Paula Fether

Something to add:

Notice this part:"He raises us and seats us among the heavenly ones in the Anointed One Jesus, so that he can show in the coming ages the overwhelming riches of his grace, his kindness to us who are in him, because you are those who have been saved because of grace through faith. And this is a gift of God, not of you, so nobody can brag. For we are his achievement, created in the Anointed One Jesus to do the good deeds God prepared for us to accomplish."

It’s as if Paul is saying that Jesus holds us up as a trophy, to say to the forces of evil, "Ha! Here’s mud in your eye! Look what I did!" And he quickly follows with the warning about us not getting conceited as a result, since this was a gift and not a wage we earned.

Truthseeker

Paula, I like the ’we are his achievement’ part, it sounds both very personal to Jesus and active or deliberate on His part. You obviously have a level of skill and ability with the grammar texts and other resources that are beyond me at this point, which really add to your ability to translate. That is a huge blessing! What path has led you to the point where you are now, in your study of the bible, if you feel free to share? Have you taken any courses that were particularly helpful to you in studying the bible, or are you self taught? Meanwhile, I am looking forward to more of your translations while I work through passages myself. I have never been so excited about reading the bible.

Paula Fether

Well, I’m sure it helps to be born into a family with college-educated parents who insisted we all talk in complete sentences, and a family business in the printing and publishing industry. But I think a big influence was the collection of commentaries and other Bible study books dad inherited from some of the preachers in our ancestry. Being a "home body" and reader I took interest in those, especially since the teachers and pastors at church seemed ignorant and apathetic about digging into the Word.

At about the age of 15 there was a rare and unique move of the Spirit in our summer church camp, after which I had an insatiable thirst for the Bible, which has never left me. I read it through in the KJV and then the Living Bible, and both have their place. The LB opened up the scriptures as to their basic intent and flow of thought, so in spite of its shortcomings I see value in it. Then came the NIV which remained my primary Bible for many years.

The first topic to make me really dig was creationism. Like everyone else I had been indoctrinated into evolutionism, but I could not reconcile it to Genesis and the creation books available at the time were just pathetic and unscientific. Then came Morriss’ Scientific Creationism, which I made an outline of and handed out to people, because most people would otherwise never know that answers existed in the Bible.

Other topics came along, including of course women’s issues, which I’ve been looking at off and on for many years. But progress really didn’t pick up speed until we got high speed internet, and then I came across articles by some of the giants of the egalitarian cause. There was also the many debates in message boards, on topics such as Eternal Security, the Rapture, Calvinism, Biblical inerrancy, world religions, etc. Those times in the "trenches" were stressful but caused me to dig to defend my views.

And my views have not always been as they are today. I’ve been shocked into changing them on many occasions. I think that’s an important and basic quality, to be willing to be corrected. But by itself it can leave you vulnerable to being led astray, so it’s vital to combine it with careful grounding in the Word.

I never went to any seminars or seminaries, nor took any courses in theology. I was simply driven by unanswered questions to read the writings of theologians. My only claim to a credential is Acts 4:13- "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." To walk with Jesus is to get an education the world will never understand.

(Which could get me on my education rant, but suffice it to say that learning is better obtained in the apprentice / individual study method than the Prussian rank-and-file, homogenizing method.)

Looking back on that incident when I was 15, I remember telling God I wanted to be putty in His hands, that I would hold nothing back. I think that’s why he lit this fire in me. It is my deepest desire to make him proud, to glorify him, and to make use of every minute he gives me. I feel I’ve wasted so much time even so, and I know from prophecy that the time is very short and I’ll probably never finish this task. But I will not slack because of the lateness of the hour.

In the meantime, you may be interested in the Commentary link in the Blogroll menu, and also the one near the bottom of the list called "my theology docs".

Truthseeker

Paula, thanks for sharing. I completely agree with and am grateful for the fact that God does not require us all to be formally educated in theology. He well knows how to equip and train us ’fools’ in ways like He has with you and with many others, bypassing formal education (not to say there is no place for it, for many have been helped by it-or in spite of it?) and using much reading, discussion, etc., instead. I am very impressed with the story of The Heavenly Man, the brother in China who was called at an early age and never went to seminary, yet was and still is enormously used by God. Many of us, due to various circumstances, may never be able to go to seminaries, so we have to rely on the alternative methods, guided by the Holy Spirit, to become informed and ’educated’. I am in that category. The nice thing about this kind of education is that one doesn’t ’waste time’ on studying for exams and listening to lectures that may not even be worthwhile, just to satisfy criteria of an establishment. Personal motivation is also very powerful as an impetus to study well regardless of whether one is in an institutional mode or not. I am looking forward to reading your commentaries and the blog article. I am on vacation and will have to do so when I return. Like you, I have had to be willing to rethink some longheld beliefs regarding various theological issues and agree that we always have to be willing to change yet hold in tension the need to not just be swayed by any wind or doctrine that comes along. My current situation, though very oppressive in some ways (being in a very comp church) has moved my toes close to the fire and forced me to know what I believe and examine the issue in far greater depth than would otherwise have been the case. It will make me a better articulator of the matter than would ever have been the case before. As you said, "Those times in the trenches were stressful but caused me to dig to defend my views." I completely agree with both the stressful part and the benefits. You are so right that time is short and I feel it is incumbent upon me to use the time wisely, as well, for I do not know how God may wish to use me so it behooves me to ’be ready’ in any event and to be able to give a reason for the hope that lies within me-in all its facets. One of my favorite verses-all time-is the one that tells us that we shall know the truth and the truth make us free. I think this applies to more than just our actual moment of salvation. The more we know the truth, the more we experience freedom in our spirits. And that is where true life is found-much more so than in our circumstances. Following that with the understanding that Jesus said "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" keeps us from looking in the wrong places for this true life. Not neglecting, of course, the rest of that verse which says that no man comes to the Father except by Jesus. All roads don’t lead to heaven. Paula, in closing, I just want to say thanks, again, for the deeply refreshing contributions you have made, and continue to make via this site and others.

Paula Fether

Thanks very much, Truthseeker, for your kind remarks and encouragement. Being a non-conformist, as you know, carries the price of rejection, especially by fellow believers. I still marvel at how so many believers actually tear down the Body, sort of like when Jesus called Peter "Satan" for thinking in worldly terms.

I agree, sometimes regimented education gets so detached from reality that it hinders learning. It is very useful for things like science and etymology, but rather lacking for critical thinking skills. And Jesus never used "groupthink" or formulas, but daily examples from life. That is the context of the Bible, the practical rather than the esoteric. (Some would object that the parables were precisely esoteric, but Jesus qualified them as only being hidden from the hard-hearted, not the uninitiated).

Well, you have a nice vacation and rest up for the work to come. Not all time off is wasted. :-)

Paula Fether

I created a page here for links to NT books as I paraphrase them. Just use the Pages tab at the top of the page.

UPDATE: Decided to make a nicer venue for this. Now the link is under Blogroll, Translation.

Bud Brown

I commend you for your diligent examination of the scriptures, and I applaud you for attempting to work with the original languages. I gather that you study hard, making the most of the tools available to you!

Please allow me to offer one correction to your observations about Ephesians 2:1. I’m not sure which interlinear text you consulted, but Ephesians 2:1 definitely does NOT read "You all are dead to ..."

There is no preposition in the text; the English preposition "to" is a wooden attempt to translate the Greek dative. The dative case in Greek is quite nuanced with a dozen or more fields of meaning (depending on which grammarians you consult).

One of the more common uses of the dative case is to signal the location or sphere or place in which a thing happens. You have rightly observed that the scholarly consensus on Ephesians 2:1 is that the dative signals the sphere or realm in which we are dead - our sins!

The immediate context argues decisively for this understanding of the dative, for in verse 2 (which is part of the same sentence that begins in v. 1) we have additional dative constructions. It is important to note that v. 2 actually employs the preposition "in" (Gr. en), a clear signal of domain or sphere.

Although it is possible that Paul could use the dative in one sense in one part of the sentence and in a difference sense in another part, this is very awkward and somewhat unlikely.

From a strictly grammatical and syntactical standpoint it is far more likely that the English translations you cite above are correct, and highly unlikely (though not technically impossible) that your rendering of "dead to" is accurate.

So while I commend your desire to understand and dig deeper into the text, I must point out that your conclusions are faulty because they rest on a faulty premise.

Paul is asserting that we are dead "in" our trespasses and sins, not "to" them.

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Paula Fether

Hi Bud, welcome! Let me respond to your informative and kind comment. Rom. 6:11

TNIV In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

International Standard Version In the same way, you too must continually consider yourselves dead as far as sin is concerned, but living for God through the Messiah Jesus.

New American Standard Bible Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

King James Bible Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Young’s Literal Translation so also ye, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to the sin, and living to God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Greek οὑτως και ὑμεις λογιζεσθε ἑαυτους ειναι νεκρους μεν τη ἁμαρτια, ζωντας δε τω θεω εν χριστω ιησου.

As you can see, τη ἁμαρτια is in the dative case here and is translated always as "to sin". I understand that the word is actually "the", but surely there must be a reason why all the translations include the "to" as the needed preposition to convey the dative case in English. In all fairness, the word "in" is as much in doubt as the word "to", since both are only implied.

From grammars I consulted, I understood the dative case to emphasize not merely location but the receiving of action (e.g., see This Article, or better, see This Article). So it would be reasonable to conclude that context is the more important factor in choosing which English preposition to use.

In the example of Romans 6:11, the translators chose "to" because saved people are obviously not still in sin. Yet, if we follow the rule you provided, it must be translated "in". So can you please explain why the dative is translated (twice in Rom. 6:11) as "to" in this verse, but "in" in Eph. 2:1-5? Also, can you show other instances of the dative case being translated as "in" besides Eph. 2:1-5? The only one I could find was Col. 2:13, which has the word "in" explicitly (in the NA text). But it still can be "to": "You were dead in to your sins". Also, how do you deal with the present tense of "being" in Eph. 2:5?

And of course another issue is the understanding of the word "dead". If, as the article I referenced claims, the first century reader would have understood it as "a broken relationship", then being "dead in" something would make no sense to them. The more I think about it, the less sense the very concept of being dead "in" something makes.

Thanks for your cross-examination! You are a true Berean.

Bud Brown

You are correct in the way that you have cited Romans 6:11, and I was tempted to reference it in my previous comment.

But there is one critical distinction between Romans 6:11 and Ephesians 2:1 that should be noted. Romans 6:11 is stated in the present tense and refers to our current condition in Christ. But Ephesians 2:1 is stated in the past tense (imperfect, I believe, but I’m working from memory so it could be in the aorist).

In other words, Ephesians 2:1 observes our condition prior to our salvation - we were dead in sin, whereas Romans 6 refers to our condition after our salvation - we are dead to sin.

The other point that I’d urge you to reconsider is the dative chain in Ephesians 2:1 & ff. The other datives are clearly datives of sphere so it is extremely unlikely that Paul would have begun with a sphere of reference and then switched in mid-sentence. Possible, but unlikely. And given the fact that understanding 2:1 as a dative of sphere makes good sense, there’s no reason to read it as a reference of sphere.

Another thought occurs to me. Do you use any Bible software? There are a number of interlinear Bible available that may facilitate your good work.

And, for what it’s worth, I am the author of the piece that you cited earlier. Thank you for finding and referring to it!

Blessings on all.

Paula Fether

Ah, didn’t make the connection. Good article!

Eph. 2:1, "και ὑμας οντας νεκρους τοις παραπτωμασιν και ταις ἁμαρτιαις ὑμων", is in the present tense. I see no reason to force that or verse 5 to conform to the tense of the verses between them. IOW, "You, being dead to your sins in which you used to live... and being dead to sin God made us alive to Christ... It actually forms a pericope, meaning vs. 5 picks up where vs. 1 left off. The meaning "with respect to" fits nicely throughout. We are dead to that which we used to be alive to. You many want to check the references I gave which argues that the dative here is not the dative of sphere.

But the larger context is whether the NT consistently teaches the concept of "dead in sin". Romans 6 would seem to preclude that, and the context here Paul specifically uses the word "in" in some places. If he is consistent, which we both would agree is the case, then I would expect him to say "in" when he means "in".

John speaks of the lost as being "condemned", which of course does not mean literally dead but legally doomed. But even there, the lost are condemned to something, not in something. Can you cite some examples of teaching the concept of "dead in"?

Thanks for your "sharpening"!

PS: some interlinears put the aorist in the present tense, which I don’t get at all, and I will go back over my paraphrase of Eph. and correct the ones I missed. It’s my understanding that the aorist, whether past or present (but normally past), must refer to a punctilienar event.

Bud Brown

The finite verb in the sentence is an aorist (which refers to past time in the indicative mood). There is no finite verb in v. 1; what you are reading is a participle.

The time aspect of a participle is determined by the finite verb which it modifies. In this case we have a present participle which modifies an aorist verb. In this construction the time aspect of the participle is contemporaneous with the action of the main verb.

About the main verb in this sentence: the verb ("you walked") is an aorist indicative which points to a time in the past. It is accompanied by the particle ("then") which usually indicates a time in the past.

So it is inescapable that the main verb in this sentence clearly indicates that their "walking" was in time past, not in the present.

Please don’t confuse the meaning of the present tense of the participle. The present tense only signals time (past, present or future) in finite verbs, not in participles. In participles they signal a "kind of action" or rather signify how the author wants to characterize the action.

In Ephesians 2:1 the present participle ("being") merely indicates that WHEN then were walking according to the world’s standards they were simultaneously dead in their sins.

If you would like some references to a couple of Greek grammars that explain this, I would be happy to supply them.

Respectfully...

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Paula Fether

Bud, I have always agreed that "you walked" is in the past tense. But it is not the main verb of the sentence, "God made us alive." Instead, "walked" is in a phrase ("in which you walked...") and its tense only has to match other words in that phrase. Granted it’s a long phrase: "in which you walked, in accord with... in accord with... among whom...)", but it ends at vs. 4, where the phrase "yet God, being rich in mercy..." begins. So "walked" only governs vs. 2 and 3.

"You being dead" is one phrase, each of whose parts are in the accusative case; they are not governed by the case of other parts of the sentence. "[to/in] the sins" is another separate phrase, and it too stands alone and its parts must match; they are all in the dative case. Many other phrases follow, each one in its own case.

Look again at vs. 4: "God, being rich in mercy...". God is presently rich in mercy (notice also the word "in"), and the "being" there is in the present tense just like vs. 1. We cannot force God’s being rich in mercy to the past alone just because of the aorist tense of "made us alive" following in vs. 5; "being rich in mercy" is in it’s own phrase. Every translation puts it in the present: "God, who IS rich in mercy,...".

Well, that’s how it looks to me, Bud. Thanks again for challenging me.

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Totally | Words of a Fether

[...] crucified”, since this is beyond the ability of the lost to comprehend? As for Eph. 2 (ref. Dead Wrong), again the context works against the T interpretation. If the lost can only sin “by [...]

Researching the original sin fiasco - Page 4 - Christian Forums

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The Bible must be the invention either of good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God. However, it was not written by good men, because good men would not tell lies by saying ‘Thus saith the Lord’; it was not written by bad men because they would not write about doing good duty, while condemning sin, and themselves to hell; thus, it must be written by divine inspiration. ~ Charles Wesley, McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict , 1990:178.

Christians are not distinct from the rest of men in country or language or customs. For neither do they dwell anywhere in special cities of their own nor do they use a different language, nor practice a conspicuous manner of life… But dwelling as they do in Hellenic and in barbaric cities, as each man's lot is, and following the customs of the country in dress and food and the rest of life, the manner of conduct which they display is wonderful and confessedly beyond belief. They inhabit their own fatherland, but as sojourners; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is to them a fatherland and every fatherland a foreign country… They live on the earth but their citizenship is in heaven.~ The Epistle to Diognetus, near the end of the second century.

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