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The Dangers of Messianic Legalism IV:

Unclean and Impure?

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Question #1: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

After sending the e-mail question yesterday concerning devotion to "Mary," I searched your previous e-mails to see if this had already been addressed. And of course, it was under the category of "Mother of God." I should have researched first before troubling you with a previously-addressed question. My apologies.

This research allowed me time and space to read through a number of e-mails you have posted, and I must say, to my utter amazement, I was truly surprised to see how even today, we still fall into the trap of focusing on the "Letter of the Law" rather than the "Spirit of the Law." I couldn't help but empathize with Jesus in His struggle to try to reach the mentally cemented, hard-core beliefs and opinions He confronted in His day. "History repeats itself." Reading some of the e-mails and your responses was a modern-day witnessing of how prevalent this still is today.

The entirety of your work shows us the "Spirit of the Law" - what really matters, which is love for and faith in our Lord Jesus-Christ. All this nit-picking of word definitions, he said/she said, etc. seems so utterly pointless - like an exercise in pampering false intellectual pride. Ultimately, what does it matter if Jesus wore black sandals versus brown sandals (example)? What really counts is where He went and what He did - His mission and His sacrifice.

My heart goes to you for having to defend and explain so many details as a result of your ministry and work. How much easier if we all just set aside the nitti-gritty arguments and nit-picking and remembered what we all must do for salvation - the big picture. Such argumentative e-mails are like an intellectual/mental exercise in futility, meaninglessness and a deviation from what really matters for our salvation. The dissection of opinions seems so pointless. This gives new meaning for me to "being [innocent] as little children" - simple, uncluttered mentally.

I am not writing this as a form of judgment of some of these e-mailers, but only as a sharing of a saddened heart to see how we get so caught up in the meaningless rather than paying attention to what really matters. Perhaps your clarifying the debated issues is what they need. For myself, I prefer simplicity and working at meeting my Lord in the heart rather than the head.

Thank you for your care in shepherding the flock, and for staying true to your mission!

From a grateful heart that yearns for her Lord and Savior, Jesus-Christ.

Response #1: 

Good to hear from you again. I did not receive your other email yesterday so no apology needed (none needed anyway – write any time).

You make a very good point. As Jesus told the legalistic Pharisees of His day:

"Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly."
John 7:24 NIV

In other words, it is not enough to skim the surface of the Law and assume that one has comprehended its meaning:

The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not covet," and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Romans 13:9 NIV

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these."
Mark 12:28-31 NIV

Clearly, the Law is not designed to get people to conform to minute details divorced from spiritual content. It is the reverse which is true, namely, the Law is designed by its commentary on minute details to get people to think of the greater spiritual issues:

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth a of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."
Matthew 23:23 NIV

When we put these points together – i.e., reality over appearance (Jn.7:24), the underlying purpose of the Law in focusing on the love of God and reflecting that love to others (Rom.13:9; Mk.12:28-31), and the importance of not substituting the literal application for the deeper spiritual meaning (Matt.23:3) – and combine them with the fact that now the Law has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ so that we are now justified by faith in Him alone, we believers should be able to see clearly that we are no longer to worship in shadows which have now been replaced with the glorious reality of Christ.

For Christ is the fulfillment (lit., "end") of the Law, resulting in righteousness for everyone who believes [in Him].
Romans 10:4

What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.
Galatians 3:19

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink,or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration ah or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17 NIV

The law is only a shadow a of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.
Hebrews 10:1 NIV

Thanks again for your solid spiritual common-sense.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi Doc!

I know someone who is afraid to eat pork because of what the bible says in Leviticus. I told him that God has sanctified it and God has made it clean, and Jesus also said only what comes from the heart defiles a person. He responded by saying, "since when does God change His mind?" Some would say that this law against eating swine was for the Jews only but Paul said in 1 Tim 4 that false teachers would teach that eating certain meats were wrong. So would this mean that it's ok for Jews to eat pork today? and if so, why did forbid it in the Old Testament? Thanks in advance!

Response #2:   

Good to hear from you. You are right, as usual. Under the New Covenant of grace, the dietary portions of the Law are now inactive for all believers, whatever their background, and that goes for those of Jewish race and heritage as well. That does not mean that it is wrong for Jewish believers not to eat pork (or anything else). It does mean that it is wrong to invest such behavior with any spiritual significance whatsoever. And it is doubly wrong to imply – much less to overtly claim outright – that eating pork, for example, is in any way un-Christian or of a lesser order of spirituality for anyone, Jewish believers included. I can certainly see how a Jewish believer from an Orthodox home might want to refrain and not use his/her right to partake of "all things" which Christ has cleansed, in order not to offend his/her kith and kin and in the hopes of one day winning them to Christ. Love is a wonderful reason to abstain from all sorts of things which, while "permissible" may not be profitable (1Cor.6:12; 10:23). It is also commanded in certain cases (Rom.14:21; 1Cor.8:13).

(9) About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. (10) He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. (11) He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. (12) It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. (13) Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." (14) "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." (15) The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."
Acts 10:9-15 NIV

This experience, we recall, was repeated three times for Peter, in order to drive home the point (Acts 10:16), and he remembered the lesson vividly enough to repeat it to the elders in Jerusalem on more than one occasion (Act 11:4-17; 15:7ff). From this point forward, even the Jewish apostles did not live according to the Law as a matter of scruple, even if they sometimes fulfilled some of its principles as a means of witnessing and to avoid offense.

(11) When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. (12) Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. (13) The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. (14) When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? (15) "We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ (16) know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
Galatians 2:11-16 NIV

The point Paul draws from this event is exactly the one we should draw: being under grace, we know that we are saved by that grace through faith, and that we are not saved by trying to keep the Law, since no one can be saved in that way. The Law is an "attendant leading us to Christ" (Gal.3:24), because it points out in an undeniable way the rather obvious fact that we are sinners and need a Savior (Rom.7:7ff.).

The purpose of the Law was evangelism. Internally, within Israel, it pointed to Christ in all its symbolism; externally, it pointed to God by demonstrating that His special nation was separate and separated from the rest of the sinful world. We, the people of God, the Church of Jesus Christ, are indeed sanctified in Him – through the Holy Spirit, not through the Law (2Thes.2:13; 1Pet.1:1-2). God has not "changed His mind"; rather, God has fulfilled His purpose for the Law in the life and death of His own beloved Son on our behalf – and it is Jesus who is now the focus of all we believe.

The Law had its purposes, but those have now been fulfilled because Christ has actually come into the world and died for our sins. Indeed, He has been resurrected, has ascended to heaven and been glorified, taking His seat on the Father's throne at His right hand! Going back to the Law is like saying that it still needs to be fulfilled; it is like saying that Christ did not come or that He died in vain – heaven forbid! It is like saying that the Church should not or does not now include the gentiles into the embrace of Christ with no distinction between Jew and gentile. In short, engaging in modern day legalism, of any stripe however it defines itself, is to completely misunderstand – or deliberately misrepresent – the entire first advent and the entire New Testament. It is also a course of action which is greatly debilitating to a person's spiritual welfare, and can even prove fatal to faith.

Finally, the idea that Jews and gentiles are significantly different in the eyes of God is a dangerous teaching, especially when carried to an extreme (as it often is). I read this week with heavy heart a communique from Chafer Theological Seminary informing me "we teach that in God's eternal plan there is a clear distinction between Israel and the Church forever". That position is not scriptural as the genuine Church of Christ includes all who have believed from Adam and Eve until the day of Christ's return (see the link: Dispensations and the Church). Jews originally had and will again have (during the Tribulation) the primary leadership role in the Church just as Israel had and will again have at Christ's return the leadership role in the world in all things spiritual. In this life, there are cultural differences between Jew and gentile, and there is a measure of deference and respect owed to Jews by gentiles (Rom.3:1-2). But in Christ, we are all one Body, as we shall be forever:

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,
Romans 3:11 NIV (cf. Col.3:11)

Israel is the ultimate organization of the Church, and all gentiles will be subsumed into her as equal partners and equal heirs of God, full members of the Bride of Christ (please see the links: "Israel the Ultimate Organization" and "The Gates and Foundation Gems of New Jerusalem").

In all these matters, the Law is the thing of least importance and our blood line next to it in lack of importance. God looks at the heart, no matter how important such outward things may be to human beings (1Sam.16:7).

For more on the dangers of legalism, please see the following links:

Combating Legalism I

Combating Legalism II

Combating Legalism III

Combating Legalism IV

Combating Legalism V

Combating Legalism VI

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism I

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism II

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism III

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Messiah in whom we are all one Body,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

You may already know about this one:

The Feasts of the Lord - (DVD)

Would you like to know the specific day of the Lord’s return?

Product Description

Pastor Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries believes he knows – the exact day, if not the specific year.

It is laid out in a series of two DVD teachings produced by WND Videos called "The Feasts of the Lord."

The spring feasts – or appointed times – were fulfilled by the first coming of Yeshua, the Hebrew name of Jesus, which means "Salvation." The fall feasts will be fulfilled by His Second Coming – in the very near future, explains Biltz in an engaging, informative and entertaining series of teachings you will want to watch again and again and share with your friends, relatives and fellow believers.

Biltz emphasizes that these feasts, described in Leviticus, were not intended for the Jewish people alone. They are repeatedly referred to in the Bible as "the Lord’s feasts" – meaning they are for all people. They are meant to be observed as well as to serve as signs of the times in which we live – reminders of the greatest events of the past and foreshadowings of the future to come.

A feast is defined as "an appointment, i.e. a fixed time or season; also a signal (as appointed beforehand)." Filled with specific scriptural references, word studies, and a historical explanation of the real significance of the feasts of the Old Testament.

Biltz says much of the church is asleep – unaware of the significance of the feasts in God’s holy time clock. The feasts were not intended to be abandoned by believers after the coming of Jesus. His followers observed them in the First Century. It’s time to rediscover them again as the hour of His return approaches.

About Pastor Mark Biltz

Biltz has a passion for studies of literature written from a Jewish mindset. He realized that the Jews loved the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and that they had been studying the Tanakh for millennia searching for inspiration. Therefore, along with a handful of faithful believers, Biltz started El Shaddai Ministries 7 years ago to educate Christians from all different denominations on how anti-Semitism and replacement theology has crippled our understanding of God and the covenants He has made with His people – the Jews.

Pastor Biltz has been interviewed by FOX television, has appeared on the broadcast and cover of Prophecy in the News and has been interviewed by several radio stations across the United States and Canada. He is a well-known and popular commentator on the Feasts of the Lord and his series of DVD’s on the Feasts have gone around the world. He has revealed a link between charts of solar and lunar eclipses from NASA’s website with Israel’s history, the Biblical feast days, and signs in the heavens drawing clear similarities between them, lining up through history. He’s spoken at congregations & meetings around the US and is a frequent visitor to Israel.

Response #3:   

Never heard of him or it before (surprising if he has been on FOX, given how much FOX I watch). Have you seen it? Sounds like I would have a hard time getting through it. I can tell from the blurb that it's something I would violently disagree with (the idea that the feasts should be observed, that is – isn't that what the R.C.'s have been doing all these years?):

Should Christians celebrate Jewish festivals?

It's a bad habit, perhaps, but, after Col. Thieme, I have always had a very little patience for listening to "presentations" (or sermons or what have you). If someone has something, I want to see it in print, fast-forward to the key points and arguments, and only invest quality time if it won't be a waste of time.

Thanks as ever for your excellent recons.

Happy New Year!

Your pal in Jesus,

Question #4: 

No, I have not seen it. Struck me as maybe being a Messianic.

Response #4: 

I checked out his website and the "ministry" is familiar to me (didn't recognize his name). Strangely, under "about us" and "frequently asked questions", there is nothing about his qualifications. From what I googled up, it seems that he attended a Bible college in Kansas or some place (no word on whether or not he graduated). I also learned (if true) that he is a lapsed R.C. of Jewish roots. I find that really interesting, because, after all, what is hyper-Messianic evangelicalism but a Hebraized form of Roman Catholicism gussied up for itchy-eared Protestants?


Bob L.

Question #5:

Like you, I get quickly bored with the usual sermonizing one hears in present churches; such things pale in comparison to real teaching and leave you with a feeling of having wasted your time; the good thing is most are now only 15-20 minutes long, the bad thing is you just wasted 15-20 minutes. It will really get crazy when things start falling from the sky and the ground shakes. Just like combat a person will have to keep their focus on the mission to overcome the natural fear that would grip your throat and numb your brain.

Response #5:   

Good points, my friend. I might go to one of these churches, waste of time or not, if it wasn't for the fact that those sermons either make me hopping mad or severely nauseous (sometimes both).

We are in for some rough times, it is true. But at least we will have the benefit of a divinely prescribed "short-timers calendar". Seven years doesn't seem that long any more (know what I mean?).

Your pal in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

How are you all - you are always in my prayers...

I noticed that in the Study on "Antichrist and his kingdom" on page 8 on nimrod you mentioned his messianic movement and his messianic crusade would this mean that those people who are thinking and going in too much for Jewish/messianic things are going in the wrong direction ? I was thinking of the people I have known back when ... they said they were "messianic" believers and "spiritual Hebrews "!

Also on page 12 I noticed you referred to " Macc1:20-64 " Should I get a book of Maccabees ?

Thanks a lot Bob

Response #6:   

Very good to hear from you as always! On Messianics, I hadn't considered it, but I think you make an excellent point. The beast will be of Jewish extraction, and it may just be his neo-legalism that makes him so attractive to some Christians and explains away whatever other qualms they may have (that is, among the ranks of the deceived). After all, while people would have a hard time being convinced that a gentile preacher in a suit was Christ, a Jewish esthete who scrupulously carried out the Law (at least visibly) had long hair and walked around in a robe and sandals would no doubt be convincing to many, and will apparently have, as you intimate, a large and growing following of adherents ready made to hand before he even gets started. Thanks!

I do cite the books of 1st and 2nd Maccabees for their historical references to these points. Both of these books are part of the Apocrypha and neither of them are inspired works (hence the "cf." before the citation). I only mean to show by these references the pertinent what-I-would-call "secular" sources which mention Antiochus Epiphanes putting an end to the temple sacrifices in Jerusalem. I have several versions of these works and seldom if ever consult them (when I do, it is usually for vocabulary comparison).

Thanks as always for your prayers. They means so much!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hello--I am sorry to bother you again, and I can't recall if I have asked you this before, and if I have, I apologize...but could you take a look at what this guy paragon wrote to me? He is one of the most....arrogant people I have ever encountered on CARM. Some of what he wrote is true, and I understand what he wrote about the differences between "koinos" and "akarthasos" or however the second word is spelled...but aren't they still synonyms? I apologize for its length, but I thought you would need to read all of it, to get a "feel" for this guy. Here is is:

I appreciate that you are familiar with Strong's. At least you're familiar with a lexicon. I applaud you for that. Now, I will address your comment and prove how you are wrong. And yes, that means that Strong's is wrong too. Am I arrogant for saying that? No. I guarantee you my knowledge of foreign languages surpasses about 95% of the people on this forum. Don't take my word for it. Attend to what I am about to write. Analysis of the Greek texts prove that the Greek words κοιν ς (koinos) and ἀκ θαρτος (akathartos) are not synonyms. First, in Acts 10:14, it is written, The fact that Peter denies ever having eaten anything κοινὸν (koinon) OR ἀκ θαρτον (akatharton) means that κοινὸν and ἀκ θαρτον are different words. Peter has no need to be redundant. If they were indeed synonyms, he would have used only one of them, not both. The Greek word κοινὸν is the accusative inflection of the root adjective κοιν ς (koinos). From this adjective, we get the phrase Ελληνιστική Κοινή (Hellenistike Koine). Do you know what that translates into English as? It is often translated as "Koine Greek" — the very language in which the NT was written. What does "Koine" actually mean? It means "common." It is called "Koine Greek" or literally "common Greek" because it was the Greek dialect of the common people, as opposed to Alexandrian Greek, Attic Greek, and other dialects. The adjective κοιν ς is derived from the root verb κοιν ω (koinoo). This is the verb used in Mark 7 and translated as "defile" which you assume means the same thing as "make unclean." Now, let's take a look at some statistics regarding the adjective κοιν ς (koinos). In the A.V. (King James Version), here is how it is translated into English: "unclean": 3 "common": 7 "defiled": 1 "unholy": 1 Total: 12 Now, if the KJV is correct, then yes, the Greek word κοιν ς can mean "unclean." After all, they translate it as "unclean" three times. So, where are these three occurrences in the KJV? It is very interesting that all three occurrences are found in one single verse: Romans 14:14. In the English translation of the KJV, Romans 14:14 is translaed as: Now, most Christians assume Paul is talking about unclean meats and so forth because that is exactly how it is translated in the KJV. Who would know any better? Yet, let's look at the Greek: Count 'em. Three occurrences of κοινὸν and nowhere else is κοινὸν translated as "unclean." So, you might say, "Well, they should be translated as 'unclean' here even though they aren't anywhere else." As bizarre as that logic is, it is still wrong. If we look to the Latin Vulgate, it will prove what the Greek word means. What is the bold-faced Latin word ? It is commune which is an inflection of the root adjective communis meaning "common." Yes, as you guessed, it is from this Latin word which we derive the English word "common." So, the Latin Vulgate has the Latin word commune for each occurrence of the Greek word κοιν ν (koinon). Now, should we still translate κοιν ν and commune as "unclean"? If we look at the statistics again, aside from those three occurrences in Romans 14:14, nowhere else is κοιν ν translated as unclean. It is translated as "common" about 58% of the time. If, however, those three occurrences in Romans 14:14 are actually supposed to be translated as "common," then that means it is translated as "common" about 83%, while being translated as "defiled" and "unholy" about 17% of the time. Anyway, back to Romans 14:14. In order to know what the Latin word commune and the Greek word κοιν ν (koinon) should be translated into English as, let's just see Acts 10:14 which clearly distinguishes between "common" and "unclean" in English. What are the underlying Latin and Greek words? Acts 10:14
Greek: ὁ δὲ Π τρος ε πεν μηδαμ ς κ ριε ὅτι οὐδ ποτε ἔφαγον π ν κοινὸν ἢ ἀκ θαρτον. Here's the Latin: ait autem Petrus absit Domine quia numquam manducavi omne commune et inmundum. We derive the English translation "common or unclean" from the Greek phrase κοινὸν ἢ ἀκ θαρτον (koinon e akatharton) and the Latin phrase commune et inmundum. This shows us the following equivalency relationship: Greek κοινὸν = Latin commune = English "common" Greek ἀκ θαρτον = Latin inmundum = English "unclean" So, in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate translations of the Hebrew Tanakh, what words are used to translate the Hebrew word טָמֵא (tame) which possesses the meaning of "unclean" in English? Let's take a look at Leviticus 5:2. KJV English translation: Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether [it be] a carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and [if] it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty. Greek Septuagint: ἢ ψυχ ἥτις ἐὰν ἅψηται παντὸς πρ γματος ἀκαθ ρτου ἢ θνησιμα ου ἢ θηριαλ του ἀκαθ ρτου ἢ τ ν θνησιμα ων ἢ τ ν βδελυγμ των τ ν ἀκαθ ρτων ἢ τ ν θνησιμα ων κτην ν τ ν ἀκαθ ρτων Latin Vulgate: anima quae tetigerit aliquid inmundum sive quod occisum a bestia est aut per se mortuum vel quodlibet aliud reptile et oblita fuerit inmunditiae suae rea est et deliquit. Equivalency relationship: English "unclean" Latin inmundum Greek ἀκαθ ρτου (akathartou) So, this tells us that even from the days of the Greek Septuagint (250 B.C.), the Greek word ἀκ θαρτος was the word which possessed the meaning of "unclean," not κοιν ς. Likewise, it is the Latin word inmundum which is used to translate ἀκ θαρτος, NEVER commune. So, this proves that translation of "unclean" which occurs three times in Romans 14:14 for the Greek word κοιν ν and the Latin word commune is wrong. It should be translated as "common" as it is translated elsewhere 7 of 12 times (10 of 12 if you include the three times it is mistranslated in Romans 14:14). Peter's statement in Acts 10:14 clearly defines which Greek and Latin words are translated in English as "common" and which Greek and Latin words are translated in English as "unclean." Make no mistake about it. So, you are wrong, and Strong's is wrong too. There is no basis for your assertion that "common" and "unclean" are synonyms. Nowhere can the Greek adjective koinos be translated into English as "unclean." That is only the Greek word akathartos. The translation of koinos in Romans 14:14 as "unclean" is wrong, all three times. That's a fact. Just to make it clear to you: Something "unclean" (Gr. akathartos; Latin immundus) is always unclean. It cannot be clean, then unclean, or any degree in between. It's always unclean. These include the carcasses of all unclean animals listed in Deut. 14 and Lev. 11, as well as several other things that convey uncleanness to man, including the dead body of another human being. Something "common" (Gr. koinos; Latin communis) is a CLEAN food which has BECOME unclean but is otherwise not UNCLEAN by itself. Take a piece of meat from a cow, slaughtered correctly, that is touched by the carcass of a pig. It then becomes unclean although it was not inherently unclean according to the Torah. It has contracted uncleanness from a source of uncleanness. Alternatively, it can be something which contracted supposed uncleanness from what the Pharisees considered to be a source of uncleanness. Pharisees believed sacrifices to idols were actually sacrifices of the dead (cp. Avodah Zarah 29b, Mishna; Psa. 106:28). Thus, one became unclean by sacrifices to idols. However, idolatry did not actually make one unclean according to the literal text of the Torah. Nevertheless, in order to create a fence around the written Torah, the rabbis held that idolatry did make one unclean. Something "common" or "defiled" could be anything, from one's hands (which is why the Pharisees decreed netilat yadayim), meat sacrificed to idols, wine used for libation to idols (yayin nesek), etc. However, this was something the Pharisees contrived. There is nothing in the Torah that is "common." Either something is "clean" or it is "unclean." There is no in between according to the written Torah, but there was many, many in betweens according to the Pharisees (they actually had "degrees"). That is one reason why Yeshua scolded the Pharisees for netilat yadayim. The Pharisees required one to wash their hands before eating bread because of the dirt on one's hands. They believed that the dirt made one's hands defiled and unfit for saying blessings. But, Yeshua tells them that dirt does not defile a man's heart because it just ends up going into the commode. Once again, he says nothing about unclean foods. Not one occurrence of the Greek word akathartos in Mark 7 or Matthew 15.
But, I don't expect you to understand any of that. =)

As you can see, he is extremely condescending to me...anyway, let me know what you think, when you have the time. Thanks and God bless!

Response #7: 

There is a lot of material here and I am coming into the discussion mid-way it seems. I am guessing from his references to Mark 7 that the reason this is a point of contention has something to do with our Lord's removal of the ban on unclean food in Mark 7:19. The first thing to notice is that Mark in that passage says that Jesus "rendered all foods katharos", the opposite of akathartos. So, for the purpose of substantive discussion on the issue of what Mark 7:19 means, the precise definition of koinos is beside the point (except, I suppose, that to the extent that the katharos-akathartos opposition is highly specific, to that extent we may be sure that Jesus most assuredly did mean to revoke the ban in Mark 7:19; i.e., it strengthens the grace argument).

However, while there may on occasion be some different emphases in the two word groups, in general I do find them synonymous. This can be easily shown from scriptural usage, for example, in this same context when our Lord tells Peter at Acts 10:15 (repeated at Acts 11:9), "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common". In this example, the one is clearly the opposite of the other; so we have it from the Lord that considering something koinos ("common") is to consider it the opposite of katharos ("cleansed"). Clearly, our Lord understood Peter to be using the two words as synonyms (since He makes a point of incorporating both ideas in the response, yet in a unified way rather than separating them out).

Given the decisiveness of the above, I see no great need to go into all the superfluous detail included here (I find much of the linguistic argumentation flawed), except to point out that the Septuagint actually demonstrates the development of koinos as a synonym for akathartos. The word koinos does not even occur in the canonical books of the LXX translation, but does occur fairly often in the Apocrypha. So for example in Judges 13:14 we find "Let her not eat any unclean (akatharton) thing"; but in the inter-testamental Hebraic Greek we find at 1st Maccabees 1:62 "Howbeit many in Israel were fully resolved and confirmed in themselves not to eat any unclean thing (koina)". The phraseology and the contextual meanings of both passages is identical for all intents and purposes so that we may indeed see the two morphemes as essentially synonymous – it is just that employing the adjective koinos became a "new" way used to express the same idea.

The argument that the use of two adjectives must mean that the two words refer to decidedly different things is invalid, as in all languages with which I am conversant it is a very common thing to double or stack a concept for the purpose of emphasis. "He is a good man and true" may technically express two slightly different ideas, but the purpose of the dual usage is clearly to emphasize the common idea between the two terms, namely, that of honor. In the case of "with impure and unclean hands", the former idea focuses more upon the exterior source of pollution (common as opposed to sacred: koinos), while the latter focuses more upon the interior pollution (internal uncleanness: akathartos); but beyond all argument the two mean the same approximate thing in the context of Acts 10:14 as is proved in the very next verse: "What God has rendered katheros, don't you consider koinos".

In the marvelous grace of Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Dear Doctor--Thanks for your help. One more question: do you think this guy is truly knowledgeable in Greek--or do you think he just thinks he is? I mean, anyone can study the basics and use a lexicon. Just wondering. What I find really irritating with guys like this is that they think they know better than the dozens, even hundreds, of scholars with Ph.Ds who worked on biblical translations into English. Remember that guy who thought that most bibles got it wrong in Gen. 9:3? He thought it was a conspiracy to enrich church coffers to render it "every moving thing" or something similar, when he claims it was "reptile eggs" that God gave to Noah and his family to eat! Although how rendering it as most bibles do could enrich church coffers, he never told me, when I asked him...but there are so many people out there who think being able to read a lexicon and grammar book and concordance renders them experts in Greek or Hebrew. And what about his argument about the Vulgate? And its translation of "common"? Is what this guy says about it accurate? I told him what you told me--that the Vulgate has had many unauthorized changes made to it, over the centuries, so it is hard to know what Jerome wrote originally. He didn't buy that; said it was a perfectly good translation of the Greek. At any rate, I refuse to go by what the Vulgate says. What do you think?

Response #8:   

To be honest, I see little point in worrying about what the Vulgate says. The Septuagint text has a very vexed and complicated history (and is thus of little use for textual evidence), but at least the Greek usage is sometimes helpful in explaining or comparing vocabulary choices. The Vulgate's text is an impossible mish-mash, and since we really don't know what it is translating (which LXX, which or how much of the Hebrew, which Old Latin version, etc.), it's not of much use. In terms of its commentary on the Greek text, why would we be wanting to remove ourselves yet another step from what is only a translation of the Hebrew anyway? At least with the LXX we know we are dealing with a translation of the Hebrew, however flawed. With the Vulgate, we are not even sure in any given passage that we are looking at a translation of the translation (since Jerome and his many later revisers also used the Hebrew and Old Latin versions, and since we do not know in any given passage if what has come down was what he originally wrote, so confused is the text).

I have only on very rare occasions gotten any help whatsoever from the Vulgate. This issue shows why. So what if the Vulgate translates koinos as commune? The best we might be able to say there is that the translator found a generally equivalent word. We have no idea how deep the translator's understanding of the underlying theological issues were. And of course in translating the entire Bible consistency and readability are larger issues – for most translators anyway. There is really little difference between comparing how the NASB translators render a Greek term and comparing how the Vulgate does it (except that the NASB translators had more scholarly resources available and almost certainly understood the issues better – and we can be sure that in the OT they are translating the Hebrew/Aramaic). Latin makes things look more scholarly. It doesn't necessarily make them more scholarly in fact (and I say this as a died-in-the-wool Classicist). As to this person's abilities, as I say, I find the linguistic arguments less than compelling. The fact that he/she could argue that the use of two words together makes it impossible for these to be synonyms, for example, shows either 1) a poor feel for what language is and how it is used generally, or 2) a disingenuous approach to argumentation.

Yours in Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hi Doctor--You'll be interested to know that one Messianic says you made Jesus out to be a "false prophet" because of your comments about what you said Mark 7:19 means--having Jesus declaring all food clean. I also put down on the boards what you wrote to me about that verse, earlier this year. Didn't go over too well with the Messianics...

Oh, this guy "____"--his name shows you the estate of his humilty--says he took a couple of elective courses in college in Biblical Greek, so naturally he knows more than YOU do, with ONLY 11 years of study in the Greek, LOL! He wrote that Peter wouldn't possible have used those two words "stacked together" in Acts 10. I wrote, "How do YOU know? Were you there when Peter had the vision on the rooftop???" And told him there ARE some Greek grammar things that are used for emphasis, though I have never heard of this "stacked" thing. Just that double negatives in Greek are acceptable and used for emphasis. Even if they are forbidden in English.

And his notion that Rom. 14:14 is mistranslated with "unclean" because the word is "koinos"...so what???? As you showed, the two Greek words for "unclean" and "common" are synonyms. Sheesh. What sense would it be for Paul to mean that "no clean food is unclean of itself..."?

Oh, and he says you obviously are NOT an impartial reader of the Greek...I asked him, "And I suppose YOU are TOTALLY impartial???"

What really bugs me is guys like this that take a few lessons in Koine Greek and suddenly, they are scholars who know more about translating the bible correctly than the hundreds of scholars with Ph.Ds in biblical languages do--oh, they are prejudiced, biased, out to make a buck, and fill church coffers, etc. Bah! Some translations I know are better than others, and some are downright disgusting--the Jehovah's Witness NWT is an example and Joseph Smith's so-called translation is another--but most are okay. By the way, which version do you prefer? I like the NASB the best, and also the ESV. For sheer beauty, nothing beats the KJV. Just wondering.

Oh, they invited you to come to CARM and debate but I said you don't have time with all your teaching duties, plus you have your own website to run. I did say they could write to you at questions2@ichthys.com, but I doubt anyone will. One guy said he would, be he's a bad speller and he said that makes him look ignorant. I told him not to worry about that. He's one of the worst, the one who said you made Jesus to be a false prophet, but be warned in case a few do show up and write to you.

Thanks again.

Response #9:   

Perhaps I missed it, but we should consider that if correspondent wishes to defy grammar and meaning and take A and B to mean significantly different things, then should he not at the very least be able to tell us what A really means and just how it is so terribly different from B? This is close to being a hendiadys (i.e., a double-stack combination of adjectives or nouns which are in the context essentially synonymous). Other synonymous combination of adjective examples from English include: null and void, each and all, far and wide, wild and woolly (nouns: doom and gloom, sound and fury).

Clearly, just as with "unclean", Peter means "common" here as a negative characteristic of some sort in regard to food. It would be up to correspondent to demonstrate that the obvious conclusion in this passage to the effect that this "commonness" essentially means uncleanness is somehow misguided, but to do so he would as a start have to provide a translation which makes sense in the context. Because, obviously, eating something "common" is not wrong unless by "common" Peter means "unclean". And if Peter merely means "something which we all have in common", then how can he say he has never eaten anything in such a category (it would then mean the same as saying he had never eaten at all)?

And, after all, Peter does use both koinos and akathartos together here at Acts 10:14 to refer to the same thing. The preceding adjective pan ("anything") must, because of the word order, go with both adjectives: "anything-A-and-B". Therefore, since because of the pan, both A and B have to belong to the same set, the most that can be reasonably claimed is that B adds an extra flavoring to A (not that it is fundamentally different from A). Even without verse 15, this would be a needle too difficult to thread reasonably, and with verse 15 where God equates the two the point is rendered moot. For this reason I saw no need to address Romans 14, but there too correspondent misses the point entirely. I have no problem rendering koinos "common" if by "common" we understand "something unclean in God's eyes". For that is clearly what Paul is talking about in Romans 14. Some new Christians were reluctant to eat what they considered "common" – not because we all share these things in common but because these "common" things were "polluted" in their view and therefore spiritually unhealthy (and no different in any meaningful way from something akathartos). Calling them "unclean" would merely be using a synonym for the same idea: i.e., "something of which God disapproves". Focusing upon the precise English word used to translate without regard to what we mean by that word only obfuscates the discussion.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill--Sorry to bother you again so soon, but if I had a concordance at the back of our Septuagint, I wouldn't have to bother you...anyway, you know in Eph. 2:13-15, where Paul says how the gentiles were once strangers to the covenants and promises to Israel, and how they had now been brought near from afar off? And how Jesus is our peace, who made both groups into one, and "broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace..." (NASB)

Anyway, a Torah-observant Messianic on CARM has tried to tell me that I don't know how to read these verses properly and the "ordinances" Paul talked about that Christ abolished in His flesh were the Rabbinic Laws. I told him that breaking such laws didn't lead to spiritual death and why would Jesus need to go to the cross to suffer and die to save us from those? And the word "commandment" IS in there, plus "nomos" here has the article, which, when it has that, usually means "THE" Law, Law of Moses, doesn't it, in the New Testament? This Messianic has challenged me to find the word "dogmasin" used in conjunction with God's Laws anywhere in the New Testament and the Septuagint. As I wrote, our Septuagint doesn't have a concordance in it, so I can't see where this word is used in conjunction with God's Laws. I thought Psalm 119 might have some, in the first 8 verses, where it talks about "precepts", but if I am reading it correctly, it's not "dogmasin."

Would you have any way of knowing where "dogmasin" is used in the Septuagint in reference to God's decrees? I don't want to make extra work for you, but if you know off-hand any, I would greatly appreciate your letting me know where they are, in the Old Testament.

Thanks and God bless you.

Response #10: 

Always a pleasure. The first thing to point out is that this comes from the Greek word dogma (in the dative plural: dogmasin) and that dogma in Greek means something significantly different from what it has come to mean as a theological loan-word in English. Today "dogma" is an article of faith (often now with an absolutist connotation), but in the Greek of Paul's day it was it was an "opinion" – and the key question is always "whose opinion?" Since we are talking about God here, it is a correct opinion, that is, the reality of "what is right" that lies behind the symbols, shadows, and regulations of the Law.

In the context, there are three "operative" words relating to the Law here: nomos "Law", entole "commandment", and dogma "regulation" or "God's true opinion" – and His "true opinion" in regard to sin is that it is sinful and must be atoned for. All three words are inextricably grammatically connected in the context so that I find the quibble unintelligible. At any rate, here is how I translate the verse in context:

(14) For He Himself is our peace, for He has made both [Jews and gentiles] one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition, that is, the enmity between us, (15) by discharging the Law (nomon) of the commandments (entolas) and its requirements (dogmasin) in His [own] flesh, so that He might re-create the two into one new Man by making [this] peace, (16) and might reconcile both in one Body to God through His cross, having by means of it abolished the enmity [between God and mankind].
Ephesians 2:14-16

One of the issues in translating this paragraph is that the traditional division between verses 14 and 15 was put in an infelicitous place (by Robert Estienne, aka Stephanus, when the NT was first divided into verses in the mid 16th century). The phrase "in His [own] flesh" goes with what follows in verse 15 (as translated above) and not with the rest of verse 14. Paul uses the prepositional phrase as a marker for the Greek reader to understand the structure, namely, that this phrase and all that follows up until the next circumstantial participle (i.e., katargesas = "by discharging") must go together. Greek is very much a phrase-based language so that only by reading it aloud do these sorts of distinctions become clear (i.e., mentally placing "in His [own] flesh" earlier is an "eye mistake", not an "ear mistake"). Thus, the Greek text is actually much more explicit and less prone to misunderstanding in this regard, for it is actually "the Law of commandments with its requirements" that Christ abolished/discharged "in His [own] flesh". As you rightly conclude, this can only refer to Jesus' bearing of our sins on the cross. The spiritual death of our Lord in actually bearing our sins, the "blood of Christ" as scripture calls it, is a very much misunderstood doctrine, and that misunderstanding seems to be at the root of your correspondent's confusion (or obfuscation). Please see the links in Bible Basics 4A: Christology, "The Blood of Christ", and "The Spiritual Death of Christ".

As to the vocabulary, yes, nomos is the Law, entolai are the Commandments, and dogmata are the true underlying "requirements" of the Law and the Commandments – for God demands genuine rather than legalistic perfection or a perfect atonement for failure to live up to His perfect standard. The Pharisees – ancient and modern – try to limit sin to their own interpretations of the Law and Commandments; but as our Lord was ever pointing out, falling short of the perfect standard of grace, mercy and love in any way was a proof of sinfulness. As Paul says in Romans, "through the law we become conscious of sin." (Rom.3:20 NIV). Paul adds the phrase "along with its requirements" here in order to refute the idea that only literal violations and interpreted violations of the Law and Commandments were or needed to be atoned for – which I believe is exactly the opposite of what your correspondent is claiming. All sin had to be "discharged in His [own] flesh" for salvation to be provided, not just what the legalists saw/see as being sin. After all, "death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command" – i.e., even though there was as yet no Law (Rom.5:14 NIV). All sin is sinful and needed to be paid for in order for us to be saved, regardless of the perverse opinions of those who wrongly the interpret the Law.

Is dogma ever used in conjunction with the Law? It is used in conjunction with the Law and Commandments right here: "the Law (ton nomon) of the commandments (tōn entolōn) and its requirements (en dogmasin)". Paul also uses the word dogma in this sense of what the Law really requires (i.e., sinlessness) in Colossians 2:14, the companion passage to what we have here in Ephesians: "[God] has erased the charge against us along with its particulars (tois dogmasin)":

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances (tois dogmasin) that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.
Colossians 2:14 KJV

The versions, as the KJV shows, miss the connection. The dogmata are the on the one hand what the Law and Commandments really require; i.e., perfection; as in Ephesians 2:14-16. And on the other side of the coin they form the "particulars" of the charges against us; i.e., every instance where we have not been perfect in living up to what "in God's perfect opinion" we ought to do; as in Colossians 2:14. But in both cases the apostle connects this idea of dogmata to the Law: it represents what is really behind the Law as opposed to how it is often superficially interpreted and taught.

We find a somewhat different usage at Acts 16:4 where Paul and his party encourage the new Christians to "keep (phylasso – the "Law keeping" verb) the requirements/particulars (dogmata) which have been decided upon by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem". This is a clear reference to the apostolic counsel which laid down for the gentiles their freedom from the Law in most regards but specified some things from which gentiles should refrain which were contained within the Law; these dogmata they were to "keep". The critical points for our purposes here are that 1) the usage really is comparable to the other Pauline passages (because it represents what was really important as opposed to superficial Law-keeping), and 2) the connection with the Law is the entire reason for using the word dogma in the first place.

Thus the Greek word dogma represents an actual versus a mere legal requirement of the Law. This distinction is mainly absent from the Old Testament, and as a result there is no corresponding need to use this word to translate Hebrew terms. Ideally, those to whom Moses first gave the Law would have been given to understand what it really meant. But Pharisaical legalism belongs to post-exilic Judaism, not to the time when the OT was written. In those days, idolatry was the problem, and outright violation of the Law and its Commandments was what characterized apostasy. It wasn't until after the OT canon was closed that the nice distinctions between the spirit and the letter began to be made. It is this distinction against which our Lord Jesus inveighs, and which Paul's use of dogma in Ephesians 2:15 is meant to address.

For these reasons, the word is not much used in the Septuagint. It does occur, however, in a couple of interesting places which are "Law related": Aquila uses it to render "fiery Law" in Deut. 33:2, and it means the ancestral "traditions" [of the Law] in 3 Maccabees 1:3.

I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to write me back about any of it.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi--I put what you wrote down below on the Messianic board, and it got criticized, of course...here are the complaints against what you wrote; they say you are in error:

No need to split it. He shows that he is wrong as usual right in this part. It says the law of commands IN decrees. He ignores the Greek word en (1722) entirely and makes the dative dogma into a genitive (of). Check out the http://www.scripture4all.

org/OnlineInterlinear/NTpdf/eph2.pdf. You will see for yourself. And blue letter bible .org will show you what "en" means.

You didn't write "of" but "and its". I guess she missed that. Here is what this other guy, wrote about what YOU wrote:

Luginbill demonstrates his error by contradicting his own parsing of the key terms when he tries to turn them into a readable translation--he changes tenses and adds conjunctive terms that are simply not in the original text. Then, he appeals to fallacious understandings of other Pauline texts to justify his erroneous interpretation. It is all pretty sorry work, really. But it is all one has, if one works under the mandate of claiming Paul declared the death of the Torah in his letters. It is like the atheists and liberals who declared "God is Dead" decades ago. I have written about the translation of this passage several times, in articles dealing with different aspects of the subject.

He couldn't put down the address to his home page; it's against the board rules. This second guy is the one who claims that Jesus abolished only the Rabbinic Laws, which is absurd. No one was under those to begin with or had to be. There was no curse attached to them, for us to be saved from. Anyway, please let me know what you think, when you get the time. I also told these two that if they disagreed with you and thought you so much in error that by golly, they should sit themselves down and write to you and I gave them your ichthys address. And told them to be sure to include where they got their "expertise" in Greek. I also said that when you gave your own translation, it wasn't meant to be word for word, but what you thought Paul was trying to convey.

Thanks. Take care. God bless.

Response #11:   

This reminds me of the following:

They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: " 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.' "
Luke 7:32 NIV

Your correspondents complain that the passage is mistranslated and misunderstood, then they complain when someone provides an effective translation and explains it. It seems that what they really desire is for the text to remain "mysterious" so that it can only mean what they intimate it means without being bound by any sort of accountability by providing an understandable translation themselves.

Correspondent #1: Apart from the ad hominem attack, the only complaint of [apparent] substance is the assertion that the preposition en "means 'in'". It is fallaciously assumed by correspondent #1 that en can "only mean 'in'" and that an online interlinear translation and the Blue Letter Bible are the ultimate authorities on this point. In fact, of course, were this person to consult any reputable Greek lexicon or grammar, he/she would find that en has a wide variety of possible meanings. In fact, it admits of even more flexible translation possibilities in the New Testament than in secular Greek because it is often used as the equivalent of the Hebrew preposition be- (which has an even larger semantic scope than en). Robertson writes:

"In the N.T., en is so frequent (2689 instances) that it is still the most common preposition. Indeed Moulton thinks that its ultimate disappearance [in later Greek] is due to the fact that it had become too vague as 'a maid of all work'" [GGNT p.586]

What this means is that no one could ever dream of adopting a single translation for en that would work in all cases – and no one has ever tried. That is simple not, of course, how the process of translation works. Good translations must accurately convey meaning which can actually be understood. Pursuant to the above, "the law of commands in decrees" is a meaningless and confusing phrase in English. Perhaps that is why no serious translator or translation team has ever gone this route. Even the KJV inserts "[contained]" before "in decrees" – and that is clearly an interpretation since the word "contained" is certainly not present anywhere in the text (this is what the brackets or italics mean in the KJV). The NIV says "the law with its commandments and regulations", and that is the way I would prefer to go for the reason previously explained, namely the use of en here is to express accompaniment = "with" rather than "in", and there is precious little difference between "commands with their requirements" and "commands and requirements" – except that the latter is better in that it gives "requirements" the full semantic weight that it possesses in the Greek text (while the former makes the word seem of secondary importance even though it is the basis for the whole point of what Paul is saying here in using it: the underlying substance matters as well as the strict letter of the Law). Defending the validity of an accurate, effective and understandable translation to those whose experience in translation is limited to clicking hyper-links in the Blue Letter Bible (and who assume an air of authority because of their prowess with the mouse) is perhaps a waste of time, but we do what we can.

Correspondent #2: This response is composed almost entirely of ad hominem attacks for which no reply is necessary. As to substance, there is really nothing at all to this attack (which reads more like a smokescreen employed in order to cover ignorance). This individual betrays a lack of basic understanding of appropriate grammatical terminology to the point of rendering anything he/she might say suspect. The word "parse" technically applies to verbs, not nouns or adjectives. I would let that go as a colloquialism except for what follows: "he changes tenses". Now unless I am mistaken, we are discussing the noun phrase I translate as "the Law of the commandments and its requirements". There are no verbs in this phrase; therefore there are no tenses. In my first year Greek classes I frequently have very smart students who, despite 12+ years of English, do not understand basic grammatical terminology – because this simply is not taught any more. However, anyone who has any sort of formal training in Greek on even the most rudimentary level would know that nouns and adjectives do not have tense (they have case, gender and number, but not tense, voice, mood or person). If, on the other hand, correspondent #2 is referring to my rendering of the aorist participle katargesas as "by discharging", then the situation is little improved. Notwithstanding the fact that "having discharged" brings no essential change of meaning to the verse (only a heaviness of diction that makes reception more difficult), it is a well-known fact (well-known, that is, to anyone with at least a year of Greek), that aorist participles are often aspectual rather than temporal in nature. That is to say, they often express a general rather than a time-based relationship to the clause they modify. Since the main idea of the participle here is instrumental (i.e., expressing the means by which Christ abolished the Law), the general usage is to be preferred; the temporal rendering ("having [first] abolished") gives a false weight to the time factor which obscures the instrumental thrust in the process.

As to the charges that by presenting a reasonable and defensible interpretation of this passage 1) I have a "fallacious understanding" of Paul's letters, or 2) I am claiming that "Paul declared the death of the Torah", or 3) that I am "an atheist", I would require at least a minimal amount of evidence or argumentation to feel the need to respond. After all, these huge logical leaps are a little like saying that because someone posts something on the internet they must necessarily have some qualifications.

Thanks for all your good words!

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in whom we have eternal life through faith alone,

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Hello Doctor--Sorry to bother you again, so soon after the last time, but could you look at this and see what you think:

[Colossians 2:16-19]16Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. 18Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Paul is telling us that these things......the Sabbaths and Feast Days are a shadow of coming things. The Greek word "MELLO" is used here meaning to come. Its in it's present active participle form and is pointing to events yet in the future. MELLO actually means "Something impending.....about to happen. It signifies the certainty of something about to happen....something about to take place. Paul says the Sabbaths that the Colossians are celebrating had been given to Israel to foreshadow future events. God told us about these celebrations in [Leviticus 23] and each and every event that was foreshadowed was yet in the future. Even in this day and age most of these foreshadowed things have yet to happen. Passover and Unleavened Bread was the Exodus, but also foreshadowed Our Savior's crucifixion. Pentecost, the giving of the Law at Sinai....and also pointing ahead to the giving of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the Church Age. These observances always point to The Lord's intervening in human affairs and the fulfillment of his plan for mankind's salvation through Our Messiah. The themes of these things.....the Sabbaths, New Moon observances and the Feast Days therefore are totally Christian throughout their symbolisms. This is what Paul was teaching. There exists a major mistranslation in these verses and it is in verse 17. Here is the King James: 17Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. The underlined, highlighted, italicized word "IS does not appear in the Greek....so the verse should read, "But the body of Christ"! Your Bible will probably have this word, "IS"....italicized also....meaning it is spurious. We must now ask ourselves.....the body of Christ....what? The King James folks were attempting....again to give this passage THEIR meaning. When you read properly, without the inserted "IS" it makes more sense. Paul is telling the new Christians of Colossae not to pay any attention to any criticism from their neighbors regarding their new found freedom in Christ and the joy of participating in God's holy celebrations.....but the "Body of Christ"....the church. Only Christians can criticize Christians and Paul says not to pay attention to anyone else! Read verses 16 and 17 together without the inserted "IS' and you'll get the proper meaning.

This is written by a guy calling himself "____". He isn't Messianic--or so he says, plus he says he doesn't affiliate himself with any church body, but he IS into the "Hebrew roots" movement. I told him that not having the verb "is" in the sentence is pretty common in Greek; understood words are frequently left out, as you have told me. I also said I thought it was the "vocative" tense, but not sure. Anyway, I told him Paul was contrasting the "shadows" of the new moons, festivals, and Sabbaths with Christ, the body--hence, the "but" between these two phrases. Paul wasn't saying using the term "body" here to mean the church, as he sometimes does elsewhere and I thought it was foolish to assume he did all the time he did write "body."

Anyway, could you give me your opinion on this "translation"? Oh, this is the same guy who thought God was giving Noah et. al. reptile eggs to eat, after they got off the ark. :-)

Take care. Thanks and God bless you.

Response #12:   

I have heard the first argument before; the second one is a "oner" – maybe because it is too ridiculous to be repeated. Here is my translation of these verses:

So don't let anyone judge you in regard to food or drink, or in the category of festival observances, be it of new moons or Sabbaths. All these things are shadows of what was to come, but the reality has to do with Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17

The NIV also has "things that were to come", and that is perfectly defensible translation. Participles in Greek have relative time, not absolute time. The participle mellonton (μελλόντων) is technically a present participle but the verb itself has a future meaning (so that it acts as a future participle, practically speaking). Paul is using this participle to express the future from the standpoint of when these festivals were instituted and practiced – in the past: "things which were at that prior time shadows of things which were future at that prior time but now have been fulfilled". To use the over technical analysis given by your correspondent, this phrase would then have to mean that while the rituals are shadows "now" of things that "will be" from our present time, they could not for the same reasons advocated have been shadows in the past. Clearly, however, Paul is calling the rituals shadows of the past and Christ the reality of the present; that is his consistent message throughout the epistles and in Hebrews in particular. Nothing in the tense or essential meaning of the verb requires the false translation assigned to it by this rather popular misinterpretation.

It is important to note, however, that even if we were to concede the point (which on purely linguistic grounds we should not do, regardless of our doctrinal stance – the passage clearly does mean what I and others have translated it to mean), that even so the passage would still find Paul condemning continued participation in these rituals. For he clearly says in verse 16 "don't let anyone judge you in regard to food or drink, or in the category of festival observances", and in verse 18, "Let no one gain control over your life" (i.e., by dragging you back into them), and in verse 20 in the lead up to our passage "why are you letting yourselves be [wrongly] indoctrinated" (i.e., by being led to follow these and other aspects of the now replaced Law). So what we have in correspondent's artful translation is a nothing more than a smokescreen. Reading the entire passage, regardless of how one takes this participle, the meaning is clear: the ritual of the Law has now been replaced by the reality of grace, and Christians should resist those who try to use such things to enslave them (exactly as the people who try to twist this passage are no doubt attempting to do).

As to "is", you are certainly correct. When the tense would be present, the verb "to be" is absent as much as it is actually used in Greek, generally only being used for emphasis and/or when it is a case of trying to avoid ambiguity. There is no ambiguity here so it can be left out (pace your correspondent's failure to understand). The fact that the "alternative" reading makes no sense is telling. I note also that correspondent does not go to any lengths to try and make it make sense, preferring instead just to hop to his self-serving conclusion.

You are correct that Paul uses "body" here as meaning "reality": "but the reality has to do with Christ". This is a fairly typical opposition (cf. 1Cor.5:3; Eph.4:4), and is not to be divorced here from the idea of the Body of Christ, both the reality of Him sacrificed for us (v.14) and of our participation in Him as one Body (v.19). That, after all, is the underlying "reality" which how now replaced the shadows which pointed and alluded to it: Jesus Christ now having come in the body and bearing our sins in His body that we might be one Body with Him forever. Jesus is our reality, whose Body we are.

Going back to the old is not just traditionalism; since the shadows have been fulfilled; going back is saying Christ never came and/or His work was ineffective. We can study and appreciate the Law and all its wonderful shadows, festivals included. To bring them back, however, is turn our back on the reality of Christ and His work.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Hi doctor--the last argument--you mean this one?

"Paul is telling the new Christians of Colossae not to pay any attention to any criticism from their neighbors regarding their new found freedom in Christ and the joy of participating in God's holy celebrations.....but the "Body of Christ"....the church. Only Christians can criticize Christians and Paul says not to pay attention to anyone else!"

If so, it's not a "oner" for me. I have seen this argument before, with Messianics who insist on keeping Torah and saying everyone else should keep it, too. I find it ridiculous, but they don't. It's the only way they can read this verse, to justify their Judaizing.

This "tense" thing with the verb--could you say it is an idiom, or is it just something intrinsic in the verb itself?

Thanks for the analysis. Oh, this ____ says flatly that you are wrong. He said you aren't the last word in Greek translation. I said that I never said you were. But I kinda have to take the word of a guy who studied it for 11 years and teaches it, vs. a wannabee who just uses lexicons and concordances. .There is a whole lot more to translation than THAT.

I also told him to write to you to tell you how wrong you are, and gave him your questions2 address, so if you get some guy telling you how wrong you are about this verse, then you can blame it on me.

Response #13: 

Yes, I've never heard the "but the Body [is] of Christ" interpreted to mean "Paul is telling the new Christians of Colossae not to pay any attention to any criticism from their neighbors". I don't see the connection at all, frankly; even if you buy into the grammatical interpretation, I don't see how you could get from A to B. If you have seen this before, my guess is that correspondent is merely parroting something he has read; i.e., it's not the sort of thing two people would ever come up with independently, even if they share similar misconceptions (and even if their logical ability is equally challenged).

On the verb, its an ad sensum tense construction common to most languages (all the ones with which I am familiar, at any rate). If you are talking about something from the past and you want attribute an action to that past item, it is a natural short hand just to add a participle and let the context guide the reader (the alternative being to go to unnatural and unnecessary lengths for clarity's sake then losing clarity in the process). If in English we say something like "The candidates discussed the founding fathers' intentions for the laws [that were] going to be governing the country", it would hardly pass the sniff test to say that since "going" is a present participle, it cannot refer to the past; the past time-frame is brought out by the obvious point that the founding fathers' day is in the past. Similarly, the elements of the Law established by Moses in the distant past serve a similar role in anchoring the participle "going to be" in the past, so we translate "what was to come".

I haven't checked all the versions, but the NIV has "were to come", so it's not as if I'm out on an island here. Also, as noted before, even "are to come" doesn't really change the argument since in that case they were shadows and remain shadows – but that does not recommend our reversion to them (which notion Paul unequivocally condemns is the context). That is the critical point I would wish to emphasize here. This argument is a smokescreen. Regardless of how one takes the tense of the participle, and whether or not the shadows are being described as ordained in the past or still just shadows in the present, it is incontrovertible that in the context that Paul is in either case cautioning the Colossians against getting involved in the shadows of legalism, not recommending the practice! His whole argument is designed to focus them on the present reality of Christ and to help them avoid being drawn back into the displaced shadow worship of the Law. No manipulation of the tense of a single participle can change that.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Dear Doctor--Oh, I see...no, I haven't seen that before, either. The closest was in John 2:19, when Jesus said "destroy this temple and in three days, I will raise it up"....but He meant the temple of his BODY. I've had Jehovah's Witnesses try to tell me (to deny that Jesus still existed after death, since they believe we cease to exist at death and Jehovah has to recreate us) that "body" here means the church. One even managed to find an obscure Trinitarian commentary in which the commentator agreed with them on this. However, this fell flat when I asked them when did the church die--when Jesus said the gates of hell would NEVER prevail against it--and when did it rise again, three days later? So no, I have never heard of "body" in this Colossians verse being the church. I think it is absurd.

I don't know if you know how insidious the Hebrew Roots movement is. I see, on your website, that you debated back and forth with a guy who is into this, but I don't remember his name. A friend of mine from CARM got on your website and said how much she appreciated your patience in dealing with this guy, even when he got nasty. So, keep up the good fight of faith and not let Judaizers try to enslave us with the Law.

Response #14:   

A friend of mine recently opined that we Christians who are determined to "look intently into the perfect law of liberty", that is, the scriptures, find ourselves today under assault from all quarters. I very much appreciate your encouragement – and all of your good work for the Lord.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.


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