Lost in Translation – Are our English Bibles accurate?

While the Old Testament Scriptures and the New Testament Writings are most definitely inspired by God, the Translations we carry are not. Translation is an extremely hard task with so many variables, since it is done by human beings with their own thoughts, ideas, doctrines & biases. The mere fact that there are so many different English Translations should show us that there are issues with our translations that lead to erroneous doctrines and twisting of God’s Word. These additions, subtractions and changes whether done in purpose or not, effect how we read and perceive the Bible. It is of utter importance to look into these changes and be informed so that we get to know the unadulterated truth.

Foxe's_Book_of_Martyrs_-_Tyndale

We must all be thankful for the people who have spent their precious time, resources and sometimes done it under duress – so that we have a translation which we can read. In this sense, the following inspection is in no way an attempt to undermine the work of Translators but an undertaking, so that we are all informed of the less than perfect translations we are left with to learn from.

While this post will not provide an exhaustive list of all additions, subtractions and changes seen in our English Translations, I hope to provide some key flaws I have noted in my own personal study. You are most welcome to provide your findings – so that I can add them into this post!

Deu 4:2  Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Deu 12:32  What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
Pro 30:6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
Mat 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Rev 22:18,19 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

With dire warnings against Adding to and Subtracting from God’s Word, we should shudder about the fact that such additions, subtractions and changes still exist in our translations. These could be categorized under the below list:
1) God’s Name & Christ’s Name
2) Parenthesis
3) Additions & Changes
3) Mistranslation & Bias

1) God’s Name & Christ’s Name
The word “LORD” in capital letters can be seen in our English Translations over 6500 times, and each of those times the root Hebrew word is “יהוה” (Yod-Hay-Vav-Hay) or YHVH commonly known as the Tetragrammaton. While there is a Hebrew Word for the title “Lord” which is “אדני” Adonai, wherever our Bible Translations have “LORD” in CAPITALS, it is signifying God’s Divine name. In a few rare instances in the King James Version, God’s Divine Name is seen in it’s original form as “JEHOVAH” – a very close transliteration to the original Yehovah (Exo 6:3,Psa 83:18,Isa 12:2,Isa 26:4). Can God’s name, known as His Memorial Name(Hos 12:5), My Holy Name(Eze 39:7) & My Name(Isa 42:8, Jer 16:21) be substituted with a mere title such as Lord? One of the biggest changes seen in our translations is that all of them mask God’s one true name. (Read this article for further study)

But it does not stop there. It comes as a shock to many people to know that “Jesus” was not the name that Christ was addressed by, by any of His disciples or any contemporaries of His day. Even though the name Jesus is seen close to 1000 times in the New Testament translation, The Hebrew Name He was known by was “ישׁוּע” “Yeshua” the same name given to Moses’ aid commonly known as Joshua.  In two instances in the King James Version, Joshua is even referred to as Jesus (Acts 7:45, Heb 4:8) proving that the two names Jesus and Joshua are derived from the same name. But how did the name “Yeshua” end up being turned to “Jesus”? This is the cause of transliterations done from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to German to English. (Read this article for further study)

Almost all of the names we read in our English Translations are anglicized versions of the originals. Even though there are too many to point out, a few key names are mentioned below. Mary’s true name is “Miriam”(the same name as Moses’ Sister), John is “Yochanan”, Jude, Judas and Judah is “Yehudah”, James and Jacob is “Yaakov”, Matthew is “Mathityahu”, Simon is “Shi-mon”, Thomas is “Taome”, Saul is “Sha-ul”, Eve is “Chavah”, Isaac is “Yitzach”, Isaiah is “Yeshiyahu”, Solomon is “Sh-lomo” and so on. This begs the question – can we change or Anglicize names? If we can’t do it to our own names… how come we change Biblical names?

2) Parenthesis
Translators use words or phrases in certain instances to help readers understand verses. But many of these additions marked by bracket marks or italicized letters are thought by readers to be part of the original text. Thus the translators make certain decisions in the interpretation of Scripture which has a profound impact on readers perception and understanding which may not be accurate at certain times.
A) Mark 7:19 –  (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
One of the biggest cases against God’s Food Laws, is based on Mark 7:19 in which Christ is making a statement about the question in context – “Does one become unclean by eating with unwashed hands?”. The translators add “(Thus he declared all foods clean.)”, thereby making Christ an advocate of breaking God’s Food Laws. This insertion seen in translations such as ESV, NIV, NLT, NASB, NET, etc., gives a wrong understanding to the lay reader. (Read this article for further study)
B) Heb 8:7, Heb 8:13, Heb 9:1 – Covenant
The Word “Covenant” appears in the Letter to the Hebrews a number of times. But the translators have inserted this all important word in 3 places thereby changing the whole context of the Letter. The main question addressed in this Letter is the “Priesthood”(8:1), and not the Covenant. By inserting the word to where it does not exist, the translators thereby change the context of the priesthood towards the covenant, which has led to “Hebrews” being used as a proof text to say that “Old Covenant” is done away. There is no argument that when a certain line speaks about the first (as in priesthood), inserting the word “covenant”, changes the context to a completely different path. (Read this article for further study)

3) Additions & Changes
In some instances two sets of Manuscripts may have vast differences, which are carried to different English translations, making different versions of translations carry completely different verses. While some of these are rectified in newer editions, some ideas which were not communicated by the writers may end up and remain in our translations to this day.
A) Rev 22:14 – “Blessed are those doing His Commands” or “Blessed are those who wash their robes”

H.B. Swete's The Apocalypse of St. John... (3rd edn; Macmillan, 1911), p. 307.

Difference between Rev 22:14 – “Blessed are those doing His Commands” or “Blessed are those who wash their robes “H.B. Swete’s The Apocalypse of St. John… (3rd edn; Macmillan, 1911), p. 307.

In the conclusion of Revelation written by John, some of our translations (NIV, NLT, ESV, NASB, ISV, NET, ASV) say “Blessed are those who wash their robes”  while other translations (KJV, YLT) carry “Blessed are those doing His Commands”. The change comes from two different sets of Manuscripts. While the Greek text of the two versions (as seen above) have minor differences, the messages that the two different versions give out are vastly contrasting. Long before the books were compiled to form “The New Testament,” Rev. 22:14 was quoted, as “Blessed are those doing His Commands”, by Tertullian (CE 208) and by Cyprian (CE 251).

B) 1John 5:7 – “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” or “For there are three that testify”
In some of our translations (NIV, NLT, ESV, NASB, ISV, NET, ASV) this verse says “For there are three that testify” while other translations (KJV, YLT) carry “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” The longer form that is central to Trinitarian Doctrine, is thought to have been added by Desiderius Erasmus in 1522, while they were absent from the first modern Greek critical text published by him in 1516.

C) Mark 16:9-20 – Missing from the oldest Greek Manuscripts
Even though the vast majority of later Greek Manuscripts carry verses 9-20 in the Gospel of Mark, two of the oldest and most respected manuscripts, the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, end at verse 8. While there is scholarly consensus on this addition, the question remains why it is still part of our translations. At the least there should be a note accompanied in our translations on this fact.

D) Mattew 28:19 – Missing from the Hebrew Manuscripts of Matthew
It is a known fact that Matthew wrote the Gospel in Hebrew as mentioned by Irenaeus of Lyons in “Against Heresies 3:1:1” written in 180AD. These Hebrew Manuscripts have survived to this day, which was translated by George Howard – Professor of Religion, University of Georgia in 1995. These manuscripts do not contain the words “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” which is found in verse 19 of our Bible Translations. Instead the Hebrew Manuscripts merely go on from verse 18 to 20 saying “Go, Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” The command to baptize using a trinitarian creed seems to be missing in the Hebrew Manuscripts. This agrees with the Book of Acts where everyone is baptized in the name of Christ, whilst the trinitarian baptism creed is not mentioned anywhere(Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, 19:5, 22:16). (Read this article for further study)

4) Mistranslation & Bias
There are many occurrences where a translator or set of translators have translated the same word in the Original Greek/Hebrew to different English Words. While this maybe helpful at times, it can also cause quite a lot of confusion, especially when the translation is changing the text to fit a certain idea/doctrine. While there certainly are hundreds if not thousands of such instances, I will point out the main ones I have noticed which makes a vast difference in understanding what we read. I invite you to add any other instances which you have found, so that this article gets improved.

A. H4150 – mô‛êd – Appointed time/place
Gen 1:14  And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
Lev 23:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.
The Words highlighted in Red above are the same in the Original Hebrew Manuscripts. The fact is that Gen 1:14 should have been translated as “appointed time/Feast” and not “seasons”, which gives the idea of Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter. God’s Appointed Times or Feasts depend on the Sun & Moon, and it is fitting for this reason that God created the lights for the calculating of His appointments. (Read this article for further study)

B. H8577 – tannı̂ym – Sea Creatures, Whales, Dragons or Serpants
Gen 1:21  And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
Exo 7:9  When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent.
Deu 32:33  Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.
The Words highlighted in Red above are the same in the Original Hebrew Manuscripts. Gen 1:21 should not be translated as Whales in any case, as the same word is translated Serpent and as Dragon. Vastly different to the idea which is given in our English translations pertaining the Creation account.

C. Lucifer or Heylel
We are all familiar with the name Lucifer, by which Satan is known in popular culture. But oddly enough the name “Lucifer” does not originate from the Hebrew Text, but from Latin. The Hebrew Haylel (meaning “Shining One”) seen in the Hebrew Manuscripts can only be seen in Isa 14:12. The using of Lucifer here in our translations makes a false claim that this is the name of the Adversary, when there is no mention of such in the Original Manuscripts.  (Read this article for further study)

D. H7585 – she’ôl – Hell or Grave
In some instances “she’ôl” is translated as Hell instead of Grave, when it is very clear that the correct translation should be Grave as in the Ground in burial, rather than a fiery place as communicated in popular media. (Read this article for further study)

E. Luke 23:43 and the placing of the Comma
We are all familiar with the famous words Christ spoke to the thief who believed on the cross. These words are also a central part of the theology that people go to heaven immediately when they die. Most Christians would not know that there are no punctuation marks in the Greek Manuscripts. So the placing of the Comma (marked in red) makes a vast difference to the meaning of the verse. If you place it in between “I say to you” and “today you will be with me”, it could lead us to believe that the thief will be in paradise the same day. Alternatively, if you place the comma in between “I say to you today” and “you will be with me”, it could lead us to believe that Christ is merely proclaiming that the thief will be in paradise. The placement of the comma in our English translations make a vast difference to the message derived from it. See both version below. Whichever version is right, it certainly shows the power of a simple punctuation mark.
• Luk 23:43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
• Luk 23:43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

F. Acts 12:4 – Passover or Easter
In the King James Version the word “pascha-G3957” is translated as “Easter” in Acts 12:4 – a word which is translated “Passover” everywhere else. The word “Easter” is a clear insertion which is foreign to the Greek text, and is not present in any other translation or passage of the Bible.

G. G4864 – sunagōgē – Synagogue
Jas 2:2 (KJV, NET, ESV, ISV) For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
Jas 2:2 (NIV) Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.
Jas 2:2 (YLT, ASV) For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing;
The Words highlighted in Red above are the same in the Original Greek Manuscripts. The fact that the believers that James is writing to are attending Synagogue is skewed by some of the translations by replacing the word with “assembly”/”meeting”. While this particular verse is changed, the 50 odd other times “sunagōgē” is seen in the Greek text it has been left translated as “Synagogue”. It begs the question why the translators left the same word in Rev 2:9 & 3:9 as “Synagoge” when it was speaking of a “Synagogue of Satan”. Should it not have been translated as Assembly of Satan or Meeting of Satan to keep it consistent?

H. G5515 – chlōros – Pale Horse or Green Horse
The Famous verse in Revelations where Death comes riding a Pale Horse(6:8) might be not a Pale Horse, but a Green Horse – as the word used there is “chloros” seen translated as Green in Mar 6:39, Rev 8:7, 9:4. You may think what does it matter whether it is “Pale” or “Green”… but could it mean that Death comes through the Green Trees, Fruit, etc food that are eaten? This is why accurate translation is of such importance.

Conclusion
Don’t agree with any of the above? Found out something that you would like to share? Please do let us know, so that we may also learn. There are many things wrong with our translations, but let us also be happy that we are fortunate enough to have a copy of the Bible in our own languages, so that we can read it for ourselves. Let us be thankful to God and ask Him to show us His Truth that we may seek Him alone!

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21 thoughts on “Lost in Translation – Are our English Bibles accurate?

  1. Terry Buddrow

    No, I do not believe the translations today are accurate by any means. The only scriptures that were perfect no mistakes were the original manuscripts! The original manuscripts are long gone all we have left is copies of copies of copies and the translators did make mistakes when translating scripture.
    If we go by the premise that we are indeed in the last days right before his return to set up his Kingdom, then we have to agree with all the prophecy about deception, false teachers, false prophets, doctrines of devils, etc running amuck. Satan is working overtime to water down, corrupt, make void the scriptures.
    We as followers can not set on our hands, we have to do our diligence in research, study of the word to find out what is correct and what has been changed whether those changes are done deliberately or thru ignorance. We can not afford the position that one translation is correct and the others are not, they are all corrupt to some degree or other because of the translator’s agenda of making his translation agree with his beliefs.
    Messiah warned his disciples and the multitude “take heed how you hear”, which is excellent warning if you don’t have scripture in your hand to read and have to rely on hearing the word which most people in the 1st century had to do: hear the word not actually read it! Today, that warning applies when people go out to these mega-churches and large seminars and prophecy conferences to hear the teachers of today teach and preach their agenda.
    We have the scriptures in our home, it is quite easy for any individual here in the USA to find and read the scriptures, we are blessed with over abundance of scripture.
    Today we can view Messiah’s warning not only as, “take heed how you hear” but also “take heed how you read”
    Serious business, we better make sure we get it right and not be snookered, bamboozled, hoodwinked, lead astray, and that takes diligent study, research, digging deep down to find the truth and not just skim the surface.

    Reply
  2. James Snapp, Jr.

    Surely any discussion about Mark 16:9-20 that mentions the testimony of two manuscripts from the 300’s should also mention the testimony of Justin, Tatian, and Irenaeus in the 100’s.
    Irenaeus, for example, specifically quoted Mark 16:19 from Mark’s account, in Against Heresies Book 3, in the late 170’s or early 180’s. More than 40 patristic references from before the fall of the Roman Empire support Mark 16:9-20 in one way or another. (Plus over 99.9% of the Greek manuscripts, but thanks to the deliberate vagueness of some commentators one would think that it was a close contest.)

    Reply
    1. rameshdesilva Post author

      Dear James,
      Thank you for sharing the facts about the early church fathers. My point was not to disregard their testimony, but to indicate that the two most reliable Manuscripts (Especially for the Gospels – Sinaiticus & Vaticanus) does not contain the verses in question.

      Be a blessing to everyone around you

      Reply
  3. michaelajfarrilm

    I really appreciate your research here! I am in the process of learning the Hebrew and Greek. I was particularly impressed by your comment about the Hebrew word “mo’ed” being translated in the King James Version as “seasons” when it should be translated something like what you suggested, that is, “appointed times”.

    I have to ask, though. What do you say to someone who says that this is evidence that YHWH created the Zodiac so that we can determine future events as an interpretation that YHWH created the stars as “signs and appointed times”, especially in light of the magoi in Matthew chapter 2 who used the stars, or at least one star, to guide them to find where Yeshua was born? In particular, I believe that the magoi were actually priests or holy men of some description in the Zoroastrian religion and part of their function was to “read” the stars to know what would happen in the future and hence their reading in the stars the birth of a Jewish king takes on a deeper meaning.

    Mind you, I personally don’t believe in astrology but this reading of these verses in the original languages in a way suggests that this is plausible.

    Reply
    1. rameshdesilva Post author

      Dear Michael,
      I believe that YHVH created the stars and the heavenly entities to display His signs. What we must do is to separate Astrology from Biblical Astronomy. While Astrology is a means of knowing your own future… Astronomy points at God’s Appointed Times… they show God’s times and plans in the stars. So I believe in having a fairly good knowledge about the stars while never using it for your own gain.
      About the Magi – I believe these could have been Wise Men from Babylon. Remember that Daniel was the Head of the Court 500 years before Christ. As the prophet who spoke of the coming Messiah, it makes sense that he kept riches for the king along with a message for the wise men of the court to deliver it in the set time. I do not think Christians need to be scared of these constellations (even mentioned in the book of Job), we need to use them for the glory of God rather than mysticism or using them to predict your own destiny… which is not the reason they were created for.

      Be a blessing!

      Reply
  4. michaelajfarrilm

    Hi Ramesh,

    With regards to the magoi, they were, at least from what I have read, the priests of the Zoroastrian religion. Unfortunately, the book in which I read this, called The Zoroastrians (but I can’t remember the author) I no longer have so I would have to brush up on my knowledge to confirm this and can do so if you wish. In the Zoroastrian religion, the priests used the stars to understand what was going to occur in the future. You mentioned that the magoi could have been wise men from Babylon and when we read about ancient Babylon, the Babylonians also delved in astrology of some sort. But the magoi came from this region and a read of the history of this area will come up with the idea that the magoi made a practice of stargazing for predictions of some sort. I say “of some sort” because I don’t know if the magoi practised astrology in the same way as the type we see written in popular newspapers and magazines.

    As an aside, like in what you said in your research, there are various words that haven’t been translated accurately, and the English use of “wise men” in Matthew 2:1 is actually from the Greek magoi, the plural of magos, which we often see in its Latinised form as Magus (e.g. Simon Magus). So the whole idea that the magoi followed a star to see where the King of the Jews was born to me sounds like the use of the stars to predict the future. Mind you, like you, I don’t endorse astrology, but I have heard some people say that if YHVH protected the magoi who were astrologers, this provides at least a biblical appreciation of using the stars to predict the future and hence gives a further dimension to the interpretation of “mo’ed” being “appointed times” which could be understood as a prediction of future events that we can read in the stars. Although I find this a rather weak argument, only because I can’t recall anywhere else in the Bible where YHVH endorses using the stars to see into the future, I can see how someone who believes the Bible to be the Word of God could put up somewhat of an argument to support the use of astrology of some description.

    As for YHVH creating the stars for “mo’ed”, that is, appointed times, this raises for me another question and I would like to know your thoughts. First of all, one of the problems going from the Old Testament to the New Testament is that the Old Testament is in Hebrew and the New Testament is in Greek and hence it’s not always easy to match up the exact meanings of words. In the Septuagint, the Hebrew word “mo’ed” is translated into the Greek word “kairos” which has a similar meaning to “mo’ed”. The Torah shows that there are certain holy days that need to be observed and obviously at the time the Torah was written, the way to know when these holy days occurred was using the stars. So, it makes sense that YHVH created the stars as a sort of clock/calendar for this purpose. However, in Galatians, St Paul gets angry at the Galatians because the Galatians wanted to follow the Torah and in his anger he writes, “You observe days, and months, and times, and years” (Galatians 4:10), the word “times” being in Greek from “kairos”, the same word which is translated from “mo’ed” in the Hebrew, Paul’s whole argument being that now that Christ has come, Christians are no longer required to follow the Torah, including these holy days that occur at appointed times.

    Hence, someone who reads Paul’s letter to the Galatians and then reads Genesis chapter 1 and the reason for the creation of the stars, it raises the question, at least for me, as to why YHVH created the stars to be “mo’ed/kairos” but through Yeshua Moshiakh following “mo’ed/kairos” is no longer necessary, which means the night sky is now filled with unnecessary “time appointers”.

    Reply
    1. rameshdesilva Post author

      Dear Michael,
      Moed as you well know, means an appointed time. This is a general term used throughout the Scriptures, which is not exclusive to God’s appointed times. For example in Gen 17:21 it speaks of Isaac being born at the set time/appointed time (moed). This does not mean that he is born on a “Feast Day” of God. Kairos is used here in the septuagint as well. So we can conclude that the both moed/kairos can stand for any set time/appointed time. On Galatians 4:10, I believe that the Galatians were observing days, months, times and years which they observed before they came to be believers… I think Gal 4:8,9 are quite clear on this. If Paul is in fact saying that the “Appointed days of God” which are part of God’s Word is “Weak and Beggarly Elements” – then he is speaking against God’s Word… which i think were rumours and misunderstandings as we see in Acts 21:21-24.

      Additionally, we must also see his words in 1Thes 5:1 where he uses the same word to speak of Appointments which are yet to happen – ie – coming of the Lord.

      So in conclusion I would advise that we keep “mo’ed/Kairos” of God… but against any other pagan “mo’ed/Kairos”.
      Be a blessing to everyone around you

      Reply
  5. michaelajfarrilm

    Hi Ramesh,

    I really enjoy discussing with you because we can actually discuss using the actual words from the original languages, both the Hebrew and the Greek. I understand that there are those who have gone to the effort of translating the Bible into different languages so that everyone has access to what is written within but I can see that you, like me, see a greater appreciation when we discuss using the original languages.

    Thanks for the reference to Genesis 17:21 which uses the words “mo’ed/kairos” in the Hebrew and Greek respectively and I see what you are saying that in this case that Isaac would be born at a “set time”. This doesn’t mean Isaac was born on a Feast Day but rather at an “appointed time”. You seem to understand the Hebrew “mo’ed” and the Greek “kairos” a little better than I do but from the pattern that appears to be emerging, “mo’ed/kairos” has a meaning something like an established time. The best modern similarity I can make of this is that “mo’ed/kairos” is something like writing a date for an appointment in our diaries or planners. Hence, when the stars were created for “mo’edim”, again, to me, and from what you discussed, this means that YHVH created the stars to be like a calendar or diary of sorts. What I understand from what you wrote, the timing of when to celebrate the set feasts are therefore “written in the stars” so to speak.

    As for making an argument that therefore astrology is endorsed by what is written in the Genesis account, although I personally don’t advocate this, I do appreciate believers in the Bible staking an argument to justify the use of astrology from this interpretation of “mo’ed”. Even if we don’t call it “astrology”, I can understand believers in the Bible saying that because YHVH created the stars to be for “mo’edim”, this means that if we read what is written in the stars carefully, we can know what is going to occur at specific times, once again, with reference to the magoi using the stars to know the “mo’ed” for the birth of the King of the Jews, i.e., the Moshiakh.

    As I said, I am not advocating this, but I have had believers in the Bible tell me this. So I’m wondering if you are able to explain definitively that where it is written that YHVH created the stars “lemo’edim” it is impossible to mean that YHVH created the stars in order for us to read in them future occurrences.

    As for your explanation of Galatians 4:10 meaning that the Galatians wanted to go back to observing “days, and months, and times, and years” and this means they wanted to return to pagan observances, I don’t see this. On the contrary, what I understand St Paul is saying is this. Initially, the Galatians, when they were pagans, they observed “days, and months, and times, and years” of their pagan worship. Then they became Christians through Paul and hence no longer needed to observe any particular days, months, times or years. But then disciples from James, which sounds like those of a rival version of Christianity, came along and told the Galatians that they had to observe days, and months, and times, and years, but this time, not the pagans’ “days, and months, and times, and years” but those recorded in the Mosaic Law, so the Galatians wanted to go back to following “days, and months, and times, and years”, even though they weren’t the pagan versions but they were still observing specific times nonetheless. After all, Paul’s whole argument throughout Galatians has nothing to do with the Galatians wanting to return to pagan worship but rather to show that it is no longer necessary to observe the Mosaic Law, and this includes the observance of the Sabbath and the Feast Days of Passover, Sukkoth, Day of Atonement and so on. Paul calls this observance of “days, and months, and times, and years” base elements or in Greek stoikheia. And we know that this includes the special days of the Mosaic Law because right at the beginning of Galatians 4, Paul writes in verse 3 that “we…were in bondage under the stoikheia of the world”. Paul was Jewish and not pagan, and hence the stoikheia he must be talking about is the works of the Law of Moses which he sees as stoikheia of the world as much as the pagan rites. Of course, he wasn’t being irreverent to the Law of Moses when he wrote this which is quite clear throughout Galatians but rather he argues that the Law of Moses had a purpose as a paidagogos, or “tutor”, until the coming of Moshiakh. As for the “we”, Paul is including both him and the Galatians, and hence he is lumping the observances of set times, or in Greek kairous, both from the Mosaic Law and those of the pagans together. So when we get to verse 9 when Paul asks the Galatians why they want to return to the “weak and beggarly stoikheia” where they observe “days, and months, and times, and years”, I understand that what Paul is saying is that any observance of days, and months, and times, and years, be it Jewish or pagan, are all lumped together as stoikheia and Paul is saying that none of this is necessary now that the Moshiakh has come.

    I mean, throughout this letter, it is quite clear that Paul is telling the Galatians that Christians no longer need to follow the Law of Moses. As Paul writes in Galatians 2:16 “for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” and that “if righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal 2:21). Observing the Sabbath and the Jewish Feast Days constitute part of the Mosaic Law, hence no-one will be justified by observing these special days, and if righteousness did come by observing the Law, including these special days, then Moshiakh died in vain.

    Further, Paul asks the Galatians in Galatians 3:2 the rhetorical question, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?” In fact, throughout much of Galatians chapter 3, Paul shows that God planned to justify all nations, not just the Jews, through the faith Abraham had in YHVH and, as a result, even the Law, which was to come “four hundred and thirty years after” Abraham (Galatians 3:17), can’t change the promise that YHVH would justify all nations through faith and not by the works of the Law – which again includes the observances of Jewish Feast Days. Paul then explains that “no man is justified by the law in the sight of God” (Galatians 3:11) which means that observances of the Mosaic Feast Days and the Sabbath which constitute part of the Law of Moses do nothing to justify us, hence they are not necessary to observe. (As an aside, this doesn’t mean it is wrong to do so. Rather, it is simply no longer necessary to do so, as Paul himself later writes and which I will show below).

    In Galatians 4, Paul asks the question to the Galatians in verse 21, “Tell me, you that desire to be under the Law, don’t you hear the Law?” and then his argument is that those who follow the Law, again remembering that the Sabbath and the Feast Days constitute part of the Mosaic Law, are under bondage as Hagar the slave woman was under bondage.

    So, the issue Paul has with the Galatians has nothing to do with pagan rites from their past but with Jewish rites, viz., the Mosaic Law, including observances of “mo’ed/kairos” that emissaries from James were now compelling the Galatians to observe.

    Although his words are pretty strong in Galatians, Paul appears a lot gentler in his approach in his letter to the Romans where he writes, “one man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). In other words, if you want to follow the special days of the Mosaic Law, that’s up to you, but if you don’t, that’s also up to you. There’s no compulsion.

    Again, in Colossians 2:16, Paul writes, “Don’t let anyone judge you…in respect of a holy day…or of the Sabbath” which means that if someone wishes to observe the Feast Days and the Sabbath, that’s fine, but if someone doesn’t, that’s fine, too. Those who observe the Sabbath and the Jewish Feast Days aren’t to judge those who don’t and those who don’t aren’t to judge those who do.

    Mind you, I’d like to say that I really appreciated the effort you went into creating the calendar that we can download which shows when the Jewish Feast Days and the Sabbath occur and I will keep a copy for myself. And it was a wonderful worthwhile effort on your part. For those of us who do not belong to a group of people who observe these Festival Days, we can still be aware of when these days occur and at the same time not feel guilty if we are unable to explicitly observe them.

    PS. Galatians 4:16

    Reply
    1. rameshdesilva Post author

      Dear Michael,
      On your questions regarding the book of Galatians, I see it a bit differently –
      I don’t see these as Jewish Feasts/Appointed days… rather YHVH’s Appointments as per Lev 23:2,4,37,44.
      I think Paul is misunderstood to be saying “we don’t need the Mosaic Law” when actually he was only saying “we are not justified through the Law”. Salvation is a free gift of God and cannot be attained by obeying God’s Law. God’s Law is only there for us to know what sin is – as the transgression of the Law is Sin.

      I have tried to explain my view on Galatians in the below study
      https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/examining-pauls-letter-to-the-galatians/

      On Romans 14:
      https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/food-laws-or-fasting-misunderstandings-regarding-romans-14/

      On Colossians: Read Q6 on:
      https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/is-sabbath-saturday-sunday-or-everyday-defining-the-biblical-sabbath-day-part-iii/

      Additional reading (if you have the time)
      https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/what-did-christ-his-disciples-paul-consider-as-scripture/

      https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2015/08/01/paul-falsely-accused-of-breaking-gods-law/

      https://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/paul-the-misunderstood-apostle/

      Be a blessing to everyone around you!

      Reply
      1. michaelajfarrilm

        Hi Ramesh,

        Thanks for your feedback. I had a read through about your analysis of the letter to the Galatians. I still don’t quite see things from your perspective even though I’m trying very hard to do so. What you’ve written is quite dense so I will need to read it a few times to get my head around it. Once I do, I’ll ask you more questions regarding it.

        I’ll start with what you commented earlier in your message back to me that it doesn’t say we don’t need the Mosaic Law but rather we are not justified through the Law. What do you understand by being “justified”? I know the etymology of this word and that in the Greek the word is dikaiothentes (it’s great I’m writing to someone who knows the Greek! I find it helpful!). I understand it to mean that you are made sinless. This also comes from a saying in my church that “justify” means that YHVH sees me “just if I had never sinned”. So, if I am made sinless or righteous, I will have eternal life. Is that how you understand this?

      2. rameshdesilva Post author

        Dear Michael,
        I know it’s a bit of a hard thing to wrap your head around, as we have been told otherwise our whole life. I know this first hand, as I went through the same wrestling when I first encountered this idea. Could Paul have adhered to the Law and never spoken against it? It took me many months to come to my conclusions, so I do not expect you to blindly believe me. 🙂 In fact I invite criticism because it helps me learn more.

        Justification as you said, is being made sinless or righteous as you rightly pointed out. I am sure you understand the main issue Paul is tackling with the letter to the Galatians – “circumcision to be saved”. This was the very thing which was argued amongst the disciples in Acts 15. What I understood is that Paul says no one can attain salvation/sinlessness/righteousness through doing any part of the Law. Meaning if we could attain salvation Christ died in vain. This does not mean he is speaking against the Law. Only against Legality. Against people that are saying that the Galatians must be circumcised to be saved. Which means you are trying to be justified through the Law – by your own strength. I believe that we have misunderstood this to mean that Paul is saying let’s get rid of the baby with the bathwater. Keep searching. Keep reading.

        Be a blessing to everyone around you!

      3. michaelajfarrilm

        Hi Ramesh,

        It’s actually not from what other people have told me at all but from my own personal reading of the texts which made me come up with my exposition of Galatians earlier on. But again, I will read your explanation and see if I can see things from your angle.

        So, going on what you said above, no-one can attain salvation/sinless/righteousness doing any part of the Law. So, say for example, I go to a remote village in central Africa, or central Brazil, or central Australia, and I meet a tribe of people who have never, ever had any contact with the outside world, never heard anything called The Bible, and I manage to communicate with them and one of them immediately becomes convinced that he needs to have faith in Yeshua and he declares this (and assuming he means it in his heart), has he attained salvation/sinlessless/righteousness? And let’s say that within only moments of me getting that little bit of information out about the need for faith in Yeshua, an eagle carrying a tortoise flies by and drops the tortoise on his head (I’m borrowing the account of the death of Aeschylus here as you probably well know with your knowledge of the classical Greeks) and kills him instantly, this unfortunate tribesman will still have attained salvation/sinlessless/righteousness?

      4. rameshdesilva Post author

        Dear Michael,

        🙂
        Interesting way to die. But I believe He would have been deemed righteous, as we all are. Again I look back to Acts 15 as the standard of what is required from a new believer.
        Be a blessing

      5. michaelajfarrilm

        Hi Ramesh,

        :)! Yeah, I wanted to lighten the otherwise heavy topic of death!

        Now, in my example, this man having come from a remote tribe who had never heard of the Bible and only had time to hear about Yeshua, he knew nothing about the Law of Moses. Yet, you and I agree that according to the Bible, his belief in Yeshua alone made him righteous, and further, was enough to deem him righteous. So, doesn’t this mean that at least in this particular case, there was no need for the Law of Moses at all?

      6. rameshdesilva Post author

        Hi Michael,
        You are absolutely correct. An example from the New Testament itself would be the thief on the cross. He did not need the Law, as he had no time to live or practice obedience to God’s ways (God’s Law).
        Be a blessing to everyone around you!

      7. michaelajfarrilm

        Hi Ramesh,

        Do you mean in Romans 2:14, 15 where it says, “For when the Gentiles which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which show the works of the law written in their hearts”?

        So, can I take a step back a bit then and ask this. Let’s say a missionary went to this remote tribe – let’s say they live in central Australia to make it easier to discuss – and this missionary is the only person they have ever seen before outside their tribe, and just as he arrived, before he had even the time to say to these tribespeople, “Greetings!” let alone start talking about Yeshua or the Law of Moses or anything, and suddenly a great whirlwind comes along and kills him and everyone in the tribe, does that mean that the missionary along with all these tribespeople will all be saved even though the tribespeople did not have the opportunity to hear anything about Yeshua?

      8. rameshdesilva Post author

        Hi Michael,
        That will be in the hands of the Righteous judge. I think Paul is making an interesting point which in itself could have some connections to the writings of Aristotle.
        Be a blessing!

  6. michaelajfarrilm

    Hi Ramesh,

    Yes, I see the connection here.

    Then, what happens if, after this tribesman has faith in Yeshua but soon after, instead of the tribesman, the eagle drops the tortoise on my head and I die, and the tribesman lives for another 40 years with absolutely no contact from the outside world, hence continues to have no knowledge of anything else from the Bible except having faith in Yeshua, then he dies, is he still made righteous after 40 years even though he has not practiced obedience to God’s Law?

    Reply
    1. rameshdesilva Post author

      Hi Michael,
      I think Romans 2 tackles a similar question. Sometimes unbelievers live better lives than believers, as their conscience directs them towards right and wrong. God is the judge, and I am sure He will look at the Tribesman favorably, as he had no way to know what God deems right/wrong.
      🙂

      Reply
  7. michaelajfarrilm

    Hi Ramesh,

    My and your last comment doesn’t seem to appear here but I am replying to the last comment you made. I’m amazed at your extensive knowledge! You mentioned that you see a connection between the verse I quoted from Romans 2 and Aristotle. Do you know exactly where in Aristotle’s writings you see the connection so I can look it up myself and read for myself what you mean?

    I appreciate that in the end it’s up to the Righteous Judge. But is that how you understand Romans 2:14 and 15, and my analysis of these verses, that if a missionary goes to a remote Australian tribe of people which have never had any contact with the outside world, but just before making it, the missionary and all the tribespeople are killed in a terrible natural disaster of some kind, like a tornado, because the tribespeople had never heard of Yeshua they along with the missionary will be saved?

    Reply
    1. rameshdesilva Post author

      Dear Michael,
      Please see below link… an interesting read…
      https://www.google.lk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiQ85rp9t7RAhXJQo8KHSNTDoEQFggbMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.marketsandmorality.com%2Findex.php%2Fmandm%2Farticle%2Fdownload%2F112%2F106&usg=AFQjCNEcPw8vFAu-_g6DEpI36CcjoV6mHA&sig2=z2bdMbt8xjiApONFAkRymw&bvm=bv.145063293,d.c2I

      On your question, it depends on the morality of the tribe and whether God sees it as just depending on the fact that they never received the Good News. I cannot give a definitive answer, as I said before… it is upto the Righteous Judge. But I do know that there are people from other faiths(who may have never been exposed to the Bible) who are Just, even more than professed Christians…. Again… not upto me to judge anyone.

      Reply

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