Friday, May 2, 2008

The Devil, you say!

An e-mail correspondent who wishes to be identified as Seeker raises an interesting question:

"What do you or your readers make of Jesus' references to 'the ruler of the world' - Satan as mentioned in John 14:30 and other places? These references leave me with the feeling that Jesus is in fear of Satan even though he states 'he has no power over me.' I hear about avoiding sin during Sunday homilies, but I hear little about avoiding Satan, as if he doesn't exist or no one seems to have a good grasp on who/what he is."

Jesus said his kingdom is not of this world, so saying that Satan rules this world yet "has no power over me" is like me saying that Raul Castro rules Cuba yet has no power over me.

As you say, this gets into the whole issue of who or what Satan is. I've held different views on this over the years, but now I essentially believe that Satan is a psychologically useful personification of the evil within us that pulls us away from God. Why useful? Because it's easier to resist something that is seen as an outside force than to wrestle with the darkness within yourself -- or even to admit that it exists.

The problem with externalizing this evil, though, is that it makes it all too easy to see it only in other people rather than wrestling with it in your own heart.

Evil is real. It is destructive. It is the opposite of love. It separates us from God and one another. How you picture it (personally, I love C.S. Lewis' depiction of Satanic plotting in "The Screwtape Letters") is far less important than whether you resist it.


eggs said...

Simple logic shows that if God is omni-benevolent, than someone else is responsible for all the bad in the world (Satan). But the logic falls apart if we are also to believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient. If God had these qualities, than he would be ultimately responsible for Satan's activities.

One easy solution to this problem is to accept that the concept of Satan is a crude man-made attempt to explain evil in the world without blaming God (which is a crude man-made attempt to explain the good things in the world).

Anonymous said...

Amen on Screwtape's missives to Wormword, et al, and I can't tell you how many times I have told people fixated on the Devil that we don't need Satan to do evil. We are messed up on the inside, utterly. That's why Heaven on earth is impossible, no matter the social constructs.

Only Jesus can fix us. That's why he came and died for our sins.

But, I think the New Testament teaches that Satan exists, and the best explanation of it I have ever read is in C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity.

John said...


God, like most of us, wants to be loved. But, that love is of little value unless we have the choice not to! Therefore, he gives us free will.

Unfortunately, a logical consequence of that free will is that we don't always do the good things that God would have us do. Therefore, those wrong choices have consequences... God doesn't "allow" them, he just gives us a choice.

This is part of the problem with the "humanist" approach to life, we look at a brutal criminal and blame everything and everybody BUT the criminal... and he is the one who made the choices.

Bad things happen for two reasons: because God gives us the freedom to cause them, and also to make us stronger by overcoming them.

I cannot look at the wonder of creation, and doubt that there is God.

I cannot look at the inhumanity of man, and doubt that there is Satan.

goodevil said...

Interesting. So into which of your categories would painful, terminal child illnesses fall?

John said...


Most, if not all, probably come from our wanton abuse of the environment. Add in, parental drug and alcohol use, unsafe sex, lead paint, etc...

So to answer your question, both... our poor choices in trashing our environment cause the illnesses but God then uses them to teach us how to live. Google "Randy Pausch" and check out his "last lecture" to see an example of someone using a terminal illness to teach others to live.

Another thought:
As the Screwtape letters pointed out, Satan doesn't have to convince us that there is no God... only that there is no devil.

eggs said...


If we lived in a world with some kind of limited or modified free will, one could say "But if God gave us total free will, people would be killing each other, and there would be wars, psycho-rapsist, child-molesting priests,etc." So the world we live in and this make-up world both have their pros and cons. I like that those around me have unlimited free will - I can handle it - but then again, I'm not a 13-year old sex slave in Thailand.

And as the other commenter pointed out, we have other non man-made evils in the world, like tsunamis and diseases that kills babies. Again, does God cause these, or does he let Satan autonomously run this department? Either way, God comes off bad.

Lastly, as for your dig at humanism, there is no reason why a hunmanist would not hold a brutal criminal responsible for his actions. Humanists believe that human beings are in control of their behaviors. So if I raped a schoolboy, it would be my fault and not God/Satans. Likewise, if I discovered the cure for AIDS, it would be my accomplishment, not Gods.

But on the other hand, yes - the issue of the "insanity defense" is indeed a thorny one, one that challenges both humanists and religious folks - you bring up a good point. Does God truly give everyone free will? A schizophrenic who hallucinates a scene where he is being instructed by God to kill -- does this person truly have free will? I would say maybe - but at best,they have a false sense of reality that impairs their judgement. So God has put them behind the 8-ball and has made their free will a danger to everyone else. So God comes off bad here again. Did he need to combine free will with schiuzophrenia? Couldn't he have worked out thank kink?

Have a great weekend, hope I made you think!

Anonymous said...

Good comments eggs.

LBE said...

The Bible does indeed talk about Satan as a "murderer from the beginning" and a "liar and the father of lies". The devil's work is to originate sin and tempt others to sin and to oppose and try to destroy every work of God. However, the Bible clearly teaches that Satan is limited by God's Sovereignty and he has limited power. There is no duality between God and Satan like the yin and yang. Satan can only do what God allows him to do. In the book of James we are told to "resist the devil" and he will flee from us.

The New Testament epistles make occasional reference to the schemes of Satan that indicate that they had an awareness of Satan's work in opposition to them, however, they never gave Satan more credit than he was due. The apostle Paul spent much more time describing the sin nature of man and describing the battle against sin. The sin nature was where the apostles put their emphasis and I believe that's where we are better served to put our emphasis. There is a great book by Kris Lundgaard called "The Enemy Within" which is about the sin nature and applying the doctrine of sin to our own lives that we might grow in love for God and holiness toward God and toward one another. It's a dumbed-down version of the Puritan John Owen's "Sin and Temptation" that was written in the 1600's. I recommend both, but Lundgaard's book is much easier to read.

Lastly, I want to communicate that there's hope in the struggle against sin! The Bible tells us that the grace of God trains us to overcome ungodliness and worldly passions through the Gospel. Because of the Gospel, we're not bound by our past sins, confined to sinful patterns of behavior and it does not determine our future. The Bible tells us that God is eager to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Sometimes change seems slow and laborious and sometimes it may seem as though we are making no progress at all, but we have God's promise that He will complete the work that He began in us. God's Word is full of hope for the sinner. May our hearts be filled with joy as we seek to grow in our sanctification. He will do in us what we can't do on our own. What a Glorious God and a powerful Savior!

Anonymous said...

LBE made my day.

Nick said...

The devil appeared first in the Garden of Eden. God had given Adam and Eve a choice to live via the Tree of Life or the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. (Life, taken from its treatment throughout the Bible, is the life of God.) The choice was to live in relationship to God or independently of Him.

The devil didn't tempt Adam and Eve with lust, or murder, or drunkenness - but to live according to their own knowledge of good and evil and not in relationship to God.

They willingly accepted his offer and severed their relationship with God. Because they were our first parents, this inherent sin nature (i.e., independence from God) was passed on to every person.

The Bible says that when man fell (really, he jumped, he didn't fall) that the rest of creation fell with him.

Evil comes from man living out of direct relationship with God. Doesn't everybody know that murder is wrong? And a lot of other things, too. But that knowledge alone doesn't stop people from doing those things.

God had given Adam and Eve dominion over His creation, but they willingly gave that dominion to Satan. For that reason he is the ruler of this world. But God sent His Son who willingly obeyed God in everything and lived totally dependent on God and in relationship with Him. Where Adam and Eve lost it all in the garden, Jesus overcame it all in the wilderness.

Jesus took on Himself the sin nature of Adam and carried it to the tree, where it was put to death. Now, He extends the offer to any who choose to receive a new nature, His own, that is dependent on God.

The reason for evil in the world, both man-made and natural, is man's independence of God and refusal to come to Him.

Am I saying that those who choose to name the Name of Christ are perfect and without sin? Certainly not. The inherent sinful nature of man is a great obstacle to be overcome. But it's never too late to start.

Anonymous said...

The devil or SATAN is nothing more than man without Gods guidence ; Lets face it the DEVIL in JUDISM means MAN; This is a heartless no conscience man and no beast with a pitch fork and tail and hooves. The Bible refers to the Beast as the DRAGON and nothing else. Who is the Dragon symbol China, Britian or Italy that used the dragon a century ago , take your pick many use the Dragon as a symbol.

Anonymous said...

Evil, sin and Satan don't exist.

Anonymous said...

Amen Nick

Wonderfully stated.

Anonymous said...

I've seen some people argue against the Omnigod based on the existence of evil, but I don't see the point. If a true omni, the Omnigod could do as he damn well pleased and cover his tracks so that no one would be the wiser.

The Omnigod could be both good and evil at the same time and how would we ever know?

Sure, you can point to the Jewish fairy tale stories about this Omnigod, but they could all be lies or a crude attempt to make sense of it all.

After all, with the Omnigod "all things are possible".

So I just don't find "evil" much to be concerned about outside the behavior of people. I don't find it in tsunamis, disease, etc., but in the way that people choose to treat each other.

I haven't seen where the absence or presence of religious beliefs makes a lot of difference except that evil religious people tend to go a bit overboard when they are convinced their god is on their side.

I guess I could be one of those oft-maligned "humanists" because I am convinced that humans ultimately make the rules.

That includes the rules they attribute to their favorite Omnigod, whether he be Shamash, Ahura Mazda, Jehovah, or Allah.

The Omnigod was just there to legitimize the rules as has been done for millennia by kings, pharaohs, and whoever else desired to tell people how to live.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah, just because I think humans make the rules doesn't mean I think that criminals should be coddled.

I don't have a problem
letting the criminal be responsible for their own actions.

At this point, many of our laws have been examined and re-examined from many angles and I don't see a big problem with the death penalty, for example.

eggs said...

Wouldn't the omni-God be omni-benevolent? If so, and he is responsible for unecessary evil, he is CANNOT possess all of the 3 omni-qualities: omni-benevolence, omniscience, and omnipotence.

And to John, I want to add that the idea that God gives us free will so we can choose to love him- thats silly. That would mean that God is allowing the inevitability of murder, rape, etc., just so that when we praise him, its more meaningful. In other words- all those child sex-slaves in Thailand (for instance) are sacrificed so people like John can pad God's self-esteem. If God was truly like this, and needed to be loved so badly that he allowed murder, rape, etc., - than God would not be omni-benevolent. He'd be selfish.

Anonymous said...

Well, of course the Omnigod has problems just being himself. Even omnipotence and omniscience are hard to do at the same time.

If you can't do something that you don't know you're going to do you aren't omnipotent, are you? But if you can do something you don't know you're going to do, you aren't omniscient.

And if you can't do nothing bad due to your omnibenevolence, you aren't omnipotent either.

It's a tough gig being the Omnigod.

Anonymous said...

"And if you can't do nothing bad due to your omnibenevolence, you aren't omnipotent either."

Hey, it may sound like a double negative, but the Omnigod could do it, I'm sure.

eggs said...

To lbe,

Your explanation of Satan suggests that God lets him autonomously run his department of sin and sin promotion (although God has veto power should he choose to use it). If God is truly loving and benevolent, he would not promote sin either on his own, or by outsourcing it to an independent contractor (satan).

Anonymous said...

eggs cetera

God gets to be God.

I suspect this process we call life is necessary for us to become heavenly creatures capable of being sons of God that can inherit eternal life.

Read CS Lewis's Mere Christianity, esp the part that compares us to toy soldiers.

And Paul Harvey's "Birds" short story.

Regardless, God gets to be God and this IS the process. If we choose to let God be God, we can inherit eternal life.

The wages of the sin of our being our own God, is death.

Anonymous said...


You are right. Someone who allows terrible things to happen in order to feel loved is selfish. And someone who threatens us with eternal agony if we don't love him isn't loveable.

Gamecock's answer is, "God gets to be God."

The Christian God (the god I think Gamecock is letting be God) doesn't exist. But if it did, I wouldn't let it be God. I'd vote it out of office. If it refused to leave I'd conspire against it. But really, nobody is there. There isn't eternal agony. We are free.

Anonymous said...

What of a God that "lets" good things, happiness, happen?

Ever think that thought anyone, as you play God?

Anonymous said...

Hey, smut learner

Go play God with some ants and squish the bad ones, or, become an ant, and show them the way. Save them if you can.

When you get past step one we can discuss your hypothetical.

Anonymous said...


great comments, btw

Your informed and studied logic and reason beats eggs' "simple (il)logic" all day long.

Anonymous said...


Life has much happiness, as well as sadness, without God.

Ants don't need God or salvation anymore than people do.

Ok, I have a couple of thoughts about if there were a God, how we could free ourselves from his rule. Since he wants to be King, he's not going to leave by us voting him out. But he obviously is much weaker and ignorant than his followers tell us; here I am conspiring, healthy and free. He does leave me alone, for now. But what of his threat of torture after life? We use his own words to free ourselves--According to our faith! Whatsoever we believe it will be done! I don't believe Hell exists, therefore it doesn't. I don't believe God is Lord, therefore he isn't. We are free!

Anonymous said...

filth examiner

Your first two paragraphs make reading any further quite unecessary.

Anonymous said...

Pornstudent, some of us handle freedom better than others. I don't think freedom as we think of it would work for everyone.

Most of the world lives under dictatorships not just because dictators are ruthless, but because people feel safer with someone else in control.

For those who can't handle it, it's probably best that they have a very rigid set of rules to follow that they are terrified to disobey.

I read in the paper where Saudi Arabia just had their first public performance of Mozart in which both men and women could attend.

They are starting to open up a little.

The Saudi's have been "thinking" about letting women drive, but people are saying that with so many women in public, they are afraid what their oversexed men will do.

By having had such rigid rules to follow for centuries, they have set themselves up for a life of pure hell once they loosen up a little.

Personally, I don't trust people who are that way, but they probably don't trust me, either.

Iztok said...

"Most of the world lives under dictatorships not just because dictators are ruthless, but because people feel safer with someone else in control."

You are right. Either earthly or celestial dictatorship. But you nailed down the reasoning pretty well.

North Korea is good example. They have necrocracy with Great and Dear Leader. They are one short of trinity. People live in worship of their leader(s) and feel compelled to be thankful for what they receive. Lucky at least one can die and get out of North Korea. With celestial dictatorship fun only begins when one dies.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Anonymous, you're right.

Jane said, "I essentially believe that Satan is a psychologically useful personification...." It's useful because it helps us to not do evil.

God is also a useful personification if it keeps those inclined to rape and murder from doing so.

Danbo59 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danbo59 said...

Satan is not a "personification." Satan is a reality -- the former Archangel Lucifer (light-bringer) who suffered the sin of pride and thought himself equal to or greater than God the Creator. Defeated in battle by Michael and his armies, Satan preferred rule outside the love of God to existence within the love of God.

God created life -- including Lucifer's. God does not destroy life. Free will! Lucifer and his followers eternally removed themselves from God's grace when they made that fateful decision.

Satan and his followers actively prowl this world in search of the ruin of souls. The best way to defeat an enemy is to know the enemy. Denying Satan's existence -- his reality -- plays right into Satan's hands.

God "allows" the evil of Satan so that man may exercise his own free will and be the better for it! If God "prevented" evil, man would be no more than a robot. Where is the "life" in that kind of existence?

One of my greatest joys is the joy of knowing that I love God of my own free will -- that He trusted me and billions of others enough to give us that choice. And the fruition, the apex, of that love was God sending His own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ to us as a man (yet still God). In His humanity, God Himself showed us how we could defeat Satan (and, therfore, sin) forever.

We have a choice, just as Luciffer did. Choose God's love or reject it. God does not "reject" anyone -- He wills all men (mankind) be saved.

eggs said...


it seems to me that your statement that "god does not destroy life" is kind of contradicted by the bible.

"Behold, this evil is of the Lord."
2 Kings 6:33

"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."
Isaiah 45:7

"Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?"
Amos 3:6

eggs said...

I should add that of course there are probably plenty verses that contradict the verses I just posted, so at best, we can say that the Bible is contradictory on the subject.

Danbo59 said...

Out of context quoting of Scripture, eggs! Typical ploy.

"While Elisha was still speaking, the king came down to him and said, "This evil is from the LORD. Why should I trust in the LORD any longer?" 2 Kings 6:33

The king -- not Elisha the prophet -- makes this supposition. The king tries to blame God for the evil that has befallen him, instead of blaiming himself.

"I form the light, and create the darkness, I make well-being and create woe; I, the LORD, do all these things." Isaiah 45:7

Light as in "daytime." Darkness as in "nighttime." Woe does not equal evil. Woe is "just punishment," not evil.

"Do two walk together unless they have agreed? Does a lion roar in the forest when it has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from its den unless it has seized something? Is a bird brought to earth by a snare when there is no lure for it? Does a snare spring up from the ground without catching anything? If the trumpet sounds in a city, will the people not be frightened? If evil befalls a city, has not the LORD caused it?" -- Amos 3: 3-6

The answer to the last question here is the same as all the preceding -- "No."

Next time you want to try to prove a point, don't quote out of context.

Iztok said...

Isiah 45:7 (KJV): "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."

So danbo, are you saying that KJV Bible is wrong? I don't mind, I have no stake in it. I never claimed that Bible is inerrant.

Danbo59 said...

Iztok stirs the pot again and asks, "So danbo, are you saying that KJV Bible is wrong?"

Absolutely, it is wrong. It is a product of the Reformation, a product of a man who became his own pope, so to speak (Martin Luther). Although there are many other "changes" that were made to the Protestant Bible, Luther blatantly removed seven books from the Old Testament (Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus and Baruch). We won't even start to go into the instances of Luther adding in words willy-nilly where he felt like it.

Iztok said...


care to tell me which particular English translation is absolutely right in each and every aspect?

D.J. Williams said...

Danbo said...
"Absolutely, it is wrong. It is a product of the Reformation, a product of a man who became his own pope, so to speak (Martin Luther)."

Actually, it was the product of a self-serving English monarch. Luther was long dead when the KJV was written. As to Luther taking away books - of course, the Hebrew Bible never contained these books to begin with, Jerome rejected their canonicity, and even Cardinal Cajetan (Luther's chief opponent at Worms) wrote that they aren't canonical in the same sense as the rest of Scripture (all of this I've brought up before, without a response). So I hardly think that's a fair description. As for him adding words in - show me an example of him doing that (and not Romans 3:28, where your alleged added "alone" does not appear in any English translation I've ever seen because it's already implicit in the meaning of the phrase - once again, I discussed this before with no response).

To answer your question per translations: none is perfect. Some translations do some things better than others - as a student of mulitple languages, you should be keenly aware of this reality. I recommend using multiple translations in one's own study, though I use the ESV as my primary, since I think it's the most consistently useful out there. However, the best option is to learn the original languages.

Soli Deo Gloria

eggs said...


duly noted! i did not know the context to those quotes, and I am willing to concede that my biblical scholarship consisted of a quick internet search. Maybe the bible does not blame god for any evil at all, you make a good case for it.

BUT I'll take issue with other things you said. For instance - you said god allows satan to operate so "that man may exercise his own free will and be the better for it! If God "prevented" evil, man would be no more than a robot."

If God is all powerful, he need not choose between the extremes of no free will at all or total free will.

If you had free will in all aspects of life, except say, raping kids, would you consider yourself a robot? My life would be actually the same, since I have no urges to rape kids (and i assume you dont either). But other people sadly do. God, being all-powerful, could devise some kind of limited free will situation where you don't have people who have the urge to rape kids.

For those of us who have not raped a child, we can say we are better people since we avoided committing this crime even though we have free will. But whats more important? Having the free will to rape, choosing not to, and feeling good about ourselves - while forced child-prostitution flourishes elsewhere? Or sacrificing our free will in this respect, so we can live in a world where nobody even thinks of raping kids.

I think the latter scenario would be the product of a kinder god.

Danbo59 said...

DJ wrote, "Actually, it was the product of a self-serving English monarch."

...who based it on the "canonicity" of Luther's Bible. Or did King Jimmy come to the same conclusions as did Luther about the canonicity of the seven books?

As to their never being in the Hebrew Bible, that is not a given. The Dead Sea Scrolls (alone) point to a different conclusion, as they contain parts of these same texts.

Martin Luther, in his German translation of the Bible, specifically added the word "allein" (English 'alone') to Romans 3:28-a word that is not in the original Greek. Notice what Protestant scholars have admitted:

...Martin Luther would once again emphasize...that we are "justified by faith alone", apart from the works of the Law" (Rom. 3:28), adding the German word allein ("alone") in his translation of the Greek text.(Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 64-65).

He also made another change in Romans. Romans 4:15 states,

...because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.

Yet in his German translation, Martin Luther added the word 'only' before the term 'wrath' to Romans 4:15 (O'Hare PF, The Facts About Luther, 1916--1987 reprint ed., p. 201).

Martin Luther has also been charged with intentionally mistranslating Matthew 3:2, Acts 19:18, and many other scriptures (ibid, p. 200).

Matthew 3:2 states, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!".

Martin Luther, in his German translation, changed the word 'repent' to 'mend' or 'do better' (ibid, p. 201), presumably to justify his position that one does not need to obey God's laws through repentance.

Martin Luther, for example, taught,

Be a sinner, and sin boldly [now there's a Christian ethic for you], but believe more boldly still. Sin shall not drag us away from Him, even should we commit fornication or murder thousands and thousands of times a day (Luther, M. Letter of August 1, 1521 as quoted in Stoddard J., Rebuilding a Lost Faith 1922).

He seemed to overlook what the Book of Hebrews taught:

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries (Hebrews 10:26-27).

The Bible, in Acts 19:18, states,

"And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds..."

Yet Martin Luther rendered it, "they acknowledged the miracles of the Apostles" (O'Hare, p. 201).

There are several possible reasons why Martin Luther intentionally mistranslated Acts 19:18, but the point is to show that he did.

Iztok said...

DJ, so if no translations are perfect. How can anyone claim Bible is perfect? One would think that God would make sure people have a proper translation. Surely he doesn't expect everyone would learn the original language and do it for themselves would he? How would that go with the theme that he wants everyone to know the "truth"?

Further more, people swear on the Bible that you admitted are wrong (at least in one aspect of it). So why would anyone trust in something that you know is not true while you don't even know which parts are correct and which ones are not?

Granted, this makes perfect excuse why certain translation is wrong in this aspect and other in another... makes defending errors much easier. I guess that is why Christians keep them like it instead of writing one that is correct one. Easier to keep people guessing.

Anonymous said...


This protestant considers you a treasure. Good work my friend!

Anonymous said...

The Muslims neatly avoid the problems of translation by insisting that the Quran in Arabic is the only correct version.

It also helps in their quest to spread Arab civilization in the wake of Islam.

D.J. Williams said...

Danbo said…
“As to their never being in the Hebrew Bible, that is not a given. The Dead Sea Scrolls (alone) point to a different conclusion, as they contain parts of these same texts.”

The texts’ appearance at Qumran really doesn’t demonstrate their canonicity, since the early Jews did considered them to be useful guides (as I do), just not inspired and authoritative like the rest of Scripture. Then there’s the issue of Jerome and Cajatan’s comments, which you didn’t address.

Danbo said…
“Martin Luther, in his German translation of the Bible, specifically added the word "allein" (English 'alone') to Romans 3:28-a word that is not in the original Greek. Notice what Protestant scholars have admitted:

...Martin Luther would once again emphasize...that we are "justified by faith alone", apart from the works of the Law" (Rom. 3:28), adding the German word allein ("alone") in his translation of the Greek text.(Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 64-65).”

I think we’re talking here about a misunderstanding about the process of translation. Translation between languages is not a one-for-one process. Grammatical structure is different across languages, and koine Greek is very different from modern language – for instance, in ancient Greek both verbs and nouns have tense (past, present, perfect, etc.) and gender (masculine, feminine, neuter). Word order, on the other hand, means next to nothing. These factors have no equivalent in the English language, which means that translation is a difficult process of understanding the language and structure rather than simply substituting an English word for each Greek word. Let me illustrate with the verse you accuse Luther of doctoring…

The original Greek text has eight words in Romans 3:28 - “logisometha gar dikaiousthai pistei anthropon choris ergon nomou” (Apologies for the crude transliteration, but I don’t know how to get a Greek font in a comment)

The Latin Vulgate, however, has nine – “arbitramur enim iustificari hominem per fidem sine operibus legis

The NASB (the most wooden “word-for-word” of any English translation) has sixteen words! – “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”

So, did Jerome doctor the text as well? And the NASB translators must have absolutely butchered it! This kind of reasoning is nonsense to those who know the languages. Translation must keep in mind the dynamics of the source language and the destination language in order to preserve the original author’s intended meaning. Luther included the German for “alone” to communicate the meaning of the Greek word “choris,” which modifies “ergon nomou” (“works of the Law”). What does “choris” mean? It means “separate, apart, without any.” Paul is saying that one is justified apart from and without any works of the Law. I gave you a detailed description of this exegesis on a thread a while back, and got no response, so I’ll ask again. Given the Greek, what alternate translation would you offer, if Luther’s garbled the meaning so badly? Your accusations of translation tampering fall flat to one who has even an elementary knowledge of the Greek.

Danbo said…
“Martin Luther, in his German translation, changed the word 'repent' to 'mend' or 'do better' (ibid, p. 201), presumably to justify his position that one does not need to obey God's laws through repentance.”

Of course, to repent is to seek to do other, to do better, than one has in the past, and I’d have to see the lexical range of the Greek word and German word in question to really make an informed judgment on the translation. However, Luther can hardly be accused of being soft on repentance. It’s right there in the beginning of the 95 Theses

“1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.”

“3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.”

In fact, one of the main sparks that drove Luther’s arguments in the theses was the fact that repentance was being cheapened by the selling of indulgences!

Danbo said…
“Martin Luther, for example, taught,

Be a sinner, and sin boldly [now there's a Christian ethic for you], but believe more boldly still. Sin shall not drag us away from Him, even should we commit fornication or murder thousands and thousands of times a day (Luther, M. Letter of August 1, 1521 as quoted in Stoddard J., Rebuilding a Lost Faith 1922).”

Ah, I love that quote. It’s amazing what context will do for it.

“If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13), are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign.” - Letter 99, Paragraph 13. Erika Bullmann Flores, Tr. from: Dr. Martin Luther's Saemmtliche Schriften Dr. Johann Georg Walch Ed. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, N.D.), Vol. 15, cols. 2585-2590.

When we back up and actually look at Luther’s complete thought, we see the point he is making here rather clearly. Luther is telling his people that their Savior is only as big as their sin. If we pretend that we are holy of ourselves (are only “imaginary sinners”) we cheapen Christ, because we send the message that we really don’t need him. His death was mercy for sin, and if we aren’t sinners, then it was pointless. Luther is encouraging us not to sugarcoat ourselves as preachers – let people see us warts and all because then and only then will they see the true value of Christ and rejoice in his mercies as they ought.

I hope you’ll respond to the points I brought up about translation and offer me your alternative translation for Romans 3:28. If you don’t, I ask that you stop using this argument that Luther “added words willy-nilly.” It’s not an honest representation of the man or of the process of Bible translation.

Iztok said…
“Further more, people swear on the Bible that you admitted are wrong (at least in one aspect of it).”

I don’t really know what swearing on the Bible in court has to do will anything, but oh, well. Iztok, I honestly laughed when I read your re-characterization of my statements. Did you even listen, or were you just thinking of how you could recast what I said to fit the response that you were begging with your original question? How you could say that I said the Bible is wrong is just ludicrous to me. Let me say this with clarity - Our English translations are trustworthy as accurate representations of the original texts. The issues in translation I spoke about are due to the factors I expressed in my comments to Dan above. I would encourage you to read them, and to do so seriously. But frankly, Iztok, as a student of five languages, you ought to know better.

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

D.J. Williams,
I'm impressed by your knowledge of the Bible, its history and interpretations. What do you think the correct interpretation of Isaiah 45:7 is? Thanks.

D.J. Williams said...

pornstudent said…
"What do you think the correct interpretation of Isaiah 45:7 is? Thanks."

Isaiah chapter 45 is an oracle by Isaiah on the absolute sovereignty of God. God addresses Cyrus, a foreign king who does not know him, and tells him that Cyrus’s actions are ordered by God’s sovereign hand. Consider the message of verses 4-6,

“For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me.
I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.” – Isaiah 45:4-6

God is saying here that he is God of Cyrus, though Cyrus knows him not. Verse 4 emphasizes that God calls Cyrus by name, a clear indication of authority in ancient culture. I say emphasizes because of the use of parallelism, a common literary device for emphasis in Hebrew writing. In verse 5, God continues to declare that he and he alone is God, and it is he who has put Cyrus where he is, though Cyrus doesn’t even acknowledge God’s existence. In verse 6, God tells us that his purpose in doing this is that people would see his glory, that his purposes would be accomplished through all the earth. Thus, contextually, we establish that God’s total sovereignty is the focus and thrust of this passage. So, then, what does Isaiah 45:7 mean?

“I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.” – Isaiah 45:7

God here further emphasizes that nothing is outside of the bounds of his control. Even disaster (which I’m assuming is your main concern here) ultimately comes from him. Job proclaimed the same truth when he was afflicted…

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” – Job 1:20-21

I believe in a God who is in total control of all things (though let me also emphasize that I believe that human beings are morally responsible for the actions that we take – Scripture strongly emphasizes both of these realities, so to proclaim one to the detriment of the other is to do Scripture a disservice, even if we don’t fully comprehend how both are true simultaneously). “All things,” includes disaster as well as blessing. There are many reasons that God could bring disaster. Sometimes, we see it used for judgment (apostate Israel and Judah in 722 and 586 BC, respectively), sometimes we see it used for testing (Job), sometimes we see it used in order to proclaim the wonder of God’s love (Stephen and other Christian martyrs), and other times (much to the shagrin of Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell) we’re simply not told why. Consider Job – though we get the overarching perspective, Job never does, but he comes to a deeper trust in God by the end of his journey, even though he is never given answers to many of his questions.

I embrace this God, for I have seen him as trustworthy even though I don’t always understand his ways. As Caedmon’s Call, one of my favorite bands, sings, “There’s a time to live and a time to die, a time for wonder and to wonder why.” I trust his promise that he works all things together for good for those who are called according to his purpose in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:28). Yet, I know that to you this reasoning may likely seem insufficient. No amount of intellectual argument will ever convince you otherwise, friend, only the work of this God in your life. To that end, I simply hope I’ve been faithful in explaining who he is in such a way that his greatness is proclaimed. At the end of the day, if I communicate my knowledge to you, I’ve done you a disservice. I must communicate his greatness, ‘cause I’ve got jack crap to offer you in myself.

If you’re interested in understanding how the description of God I’ve offered is glorious to me, I’d invite you to read the following two articles by Dr. John Piper. They were written a few months ago after an eagerly anticipated grandchild was stillborn, and they communicate how we can glorify a sovereign God even when tragedy comes our way for reasons we don’t understand.

Soli Deo Gloria

Danbo59 said...

DJ said, "Greek is very different from modern language – for instance, in ancient Greek both verbs and nouns have tense (past, present, perfect, etc.) and gender (masculine, feminine, neuter)."

Yes, I know, as illustrated in the petra vs. petros discussion, further lending credence to the fact that jesus built His Church upon peter, the first Pope.

Danbo59 said...

Sorry, DJ, I remain uncovinced. I see no alternate meaning in Luther's quote about sinning boldly.

To repent means to seek forgiveness, not just to do better.

He added the word "allein." I disagree it was added for the reason you quote. If it were only added for that reason, it would not be one of the cornerstones of Protestantism whereby Protestants dismiss the need for good works as a response to faith (and grace) as necessary to achieve salvataion. To add words for translational clarity is quite diffrent than modifying the content of the entry by including the modifier "alone."

Your response has actually strengthened my knowledge of how badly Luther bastardized Christianity. As bad as a "cafeteria Catholic," he set himself up as his own personal Pope. His abuses are well-documented and well-substantiated. Jesus said it would have been better for a man like him (leading others astray) to have a millstone tied around his neck and have himself cast into the ocean.

The selling of indulgences was a travesty and an evil, for sure. It was, as is the Catholic Chrurch's Sex Scandal, the evil of persons, not Christ's Church. The Pope is only infallible in matters of faith and moral and when speaking ex Cathedra; that is, from the chair of Peter. Popes are not perfect and there have been Popes who have been less than ideal heirs to the legacy of Peter.

D.J. Williams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
D.J. Williams said...

danbo said...
"Sorry, DJ, I remain uncovinced. I see no alternate meaning in Luther's quote about sinning boldly."

Then you don't understand Luther. To say that he thought sin was good is to ignore everything the man said, did, and wrote.

danbo said...
"He added the word "allein." I disagree it was added for the reason you quote."

Then let's hear your alternate translation of the phrase, "choris ergon nomouto" to remove the declaration of faith apart from and without works. I made my case from the text itself - I ask you to do the same.

Soli Deo Gloria

D.J. Williams said...

Danbo said...
"To repent means to seek forgiveness, not just to do better."

Actually, the word in question, "metanoeo," means, and I quote from Strong's Greek Lexicon, "to change one's mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins." The lexical meaning of the word is focused on changing one's actions, not a plea for forgiveness. God promises forgiveness when we repent, but it is not inherent in the lexical meaning of the word. Luther's translation was valid.

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I asked about Isaiah 45:7 because I think what the Bible (ancient Israel) thought of "evil" would add to the discussion. I take it the ancient Jews sometimes used the word "evil" when talking about calamities? Or is the word "evil" in the KJV a complete mistranslation? Today we associate evil with the devil and with people doing (and thinking) abominable things, not with acts of nature and disease. I'm thinking the Jews in Isaiah's time believed God had more direction in things such as storms, harvest, calamities, etc.. Since God was more involved, calamities such as cyclones had a more spiritual, ie, evil, cause.

D.J. Williams said...


Ah, I see your point. I think the issue is more about the semantic range of the English word “evil.” One of the more obscure dictionary definitions is, “characterized or accompanied by misfortune or suffering; unfortunate; disastrous: to be fallen on evil days.” I think of Tolkien using the word in a similar way when his characters refer to “evil times.” This use of the word doesn’t necessary connote a moral component, just an expression of ill fortune. This meaning was more common in the early 1600s when the KJV was translated, so I don’t know that I’d call it a mistranslation. However, because of the evolution of language, it’s really not an accurate translation for a modern audience, since the word “evil” almost always carries a moral component in our minds and communication. Isaiah is certainly not attributing moral evil to God – that would be unthinkable for an 8th century BC Jew, much less a prophet. He’s saying that disaster and misfortune come from God’s hand just as surely as health and blessing – nothing is outside of his control. Your comment on their belief in God’s involvement in natural activities (storms, harvest, etc.) is quite correct – this is the God that is presented to us in the Scriptures. Yet, they wouldn’t have understood this as evil in a moral sense – I think that’s why the ESV’s translation of “calamity” is a much better reflection of authorial intent for a modern audience. Not that they didn’t ask the big “why” question (see the book of Habakkuk), but they understood that God had a purpose in his actions, and as Isaiah says in chapter 55, they accepted that these purposes would often ultimately be beyond their comprehension. Hope that helps to clarify what is admittedly a complex subject.

Soli Deo Gloria

Vickie said...

I am new to this particular forum, so please bear with me as I express a degree of confusion over some things that have been written.

I have read some outstanding responses, as well as some, extremely, ignorant ones. The outstanding responders have obviously spent much time and effort in the study of God's Word, and the ignorant ones have spent none, or so it would appear.

A couple of points that I would appreciate clarification on... How/why do you interpret scripture (specifically, Matthew 16:18) as being the basis that the Catholic Church uses to claim Peter as the first Pope?

I'm not trying to offend anyone, so please forgive me (in advance) if I do, but I just don't find that conclusion, at all. If you back up to verse 16, and even further, it seems obvious (to me) that Jesus is not saying that He is building His church on Peter (a man), but on the REVELATION KNOWLEDGE that Peter had just received, directly, from God.

He asked them all, WHO they thought He was. They all gave a guess, but only Peter had the correct answer. Jesus could not have made it any clearer that Peter received this knowledge, NOT as the result of any flesh and blood (human) knowledge or experience, but that God, Himself, had REVEALED it directly to him.

Then Jesus proceeded to change Peter's name, from Simon Bar-jona, to Peter (interpreted rock, or better yet, a piece of a rock). Name change was not an uncommon practice (in Bible days) as a man entered into a different phase of his life. Remember, Abram/Abraham? Jacob/Israel? Saul/Paul?

Isn't this, exactly, what had just happened to Peter? No one else had been able to receive this revelation from God, only Peter; so it must have been a big deal to Jesus. Big enough to reward Peter with a name change to document it? I think so.

First, let me ask one question of you folks who do know, and love, God and His Word: Why would Jesus Christ, build HIS church on any flesh and blood human being? There are so many references to the flesh and it's many shortcomings, why would He risk EVERYTHING that He was about to accomplish, on the frailties of humanity? Maybe a better question is... how could he?

What made Peter any different than Adam, who'd blown the whole deal in the garden? He was subject to the same weaknesses and temptations. We see a few of those in the chapters to come. AND, at the time of this exchange, Peter was not yet a new creation IN Christ. He was just a sin natured man like everyone else. Even after being born again, Peter showed human weakness. All MEN do!

I know this is a subject that is likely to be very sensitive to some, especially those of you who view The Pope as the highest ranking human, next to God, Himself, and again... my intention is not to offend anyone, but simply to offer my take on this particular subject, as *I* believe The Bible presents it.

I do not believe that Jesus ever intended that His church be built upon anyone, other than Himself! I simply cannot find any coordinating scripture (OT or NT) to support His doing that.

(Another thought to ponder, since the subject has veered over to the subject of Bible translations: We must always keep in mind that the original manuscripts were sans punctuation. The translators placed the punctuation marks where they THOUGHT they ought to go. We have no guarantee that these are all accurately placed, which, as we all know, can drastically change the meaning behind a sentence.)

I don't believe that Jesus could, or would, build His church on anything/anyone other than Himself, and The Word of God. My understanding of this scripture (when read in its proper context, and taken in the light of the entire Bible) is that the "rock" that Jesus was building His church on, was the firm and unmovable foundation of the REVELATION KNOWLEDGE of God’s Word, for without it, who can communicate with God? Sure... we can talk TO Him, but that does little good if we don’t have understanding, or can’t hear back FROM Him.

Anyway… that’s my take on the subject. If you can show me the error of my understanding, I am open to correction.

I will save my other comments (which is the topic of Satan being "the god of this world", and how that designation came to be) for a later posting, since this one ran so long.

Danbo59 said...

Vickie wrote, "...those of you who view The Pope as the highest ranking human, next to God, Himself,...."

As an opening reply I must point out that you have been subjected to propoganda and innuendo. As a Roman Catholic I can tell you that the Pope is no higher in ranking than anyone else on this planet. He is as unworthy of Salvation as is anyone else.

The Pope is simply the (a) Vicar of Christ (one of many, actually -- as Bishops are Vicars of Christ -- and the Pope is the Bishop of Rome). He is infallible only in matters of faith and morals and only when speaking ex Cathedra (from the Chair of Peter). He can sin and is as imperfect in his human frailty as is you or I.

Danbo59 said...

Vickie asked, "How/why do you interpret scripture (specifically, Matthew 16:18) as being the basis that the Catholic Church uses to claim Peter as the first Pope?"

Vickie, I could sit down and take a day or so to research various Biblical passages and Church teachings and writings of the original/early Church Fathers, but instead I will be up front and tell you that it is more time efficient to simply copy some salient points from Please see below --

The New Testament contains five different metaphors for the foundation of the Church (Matt. 16:18, 1 Cor. 3:11, Eph. 2:20, 1 Pet. 2:5–6, Rev. 21:14). One metaphor that has been disputed is Jesus Christ’s calling the apostle Peter "rock": "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).

Some have tried to argue that Jesus did not mean that his Church would be built on Peter but on something else.

Some argue that in this passage there is a minor difference between the Greek term for Peter (Petros) and the term for rock (petra), yet they ignore the obvious explanation: petra, a feminine noun, has simply been modifed to have a masculine ending, since one would not refer to a man (Peter) as feminine. The change in the gender is purely for stylistic reasons.

These critics also neglect the fact that Jesus spoke Aramaic, and, as John 1:42 tells us, in everyday life he actually referred to Peter as Kepha or Cephas (depending on how it is transliterated). It is that term which is then translated into Greek as petros. Thus, what Jesus actually said to Peter in Aramaic was: "You are Kepha and on this very kepha I will build my Church."

And note the following, also culled from --

There is ample evidence in the New Testament that Peter was first in authority among the apostles. Whenever they were named, Peter headed the list (Matt. 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13); sometimes the apostles were referred to as "Peter and those who were with him" (Luke 9:32). Peter was the one who generally spoke for the apostles (Matt. 18:21, Mark 8:29, Luke 12:41, John 6:68-69), and he figured in many of the most dramatic scenes (Matt. 14:28-32, Matt. 17:24-27, Mark 10:23-28). On Pentecost it was Peter who first preached to the crowds (Acts 2:14-40), and he worked the first healing in the Church age (Acts 3:6-7). It is Peter’s faith that will strengthen his brethren (Luke 22:32) and Peter is given Christ’s flock to shepherd (John 21:17). An angel was sent to announce the resurrection to Peter (Mark 16:7), and the risen Christ first appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34). He headed the meeting that elected Matthias to replace Judas (Acts 1:13-26), and he received the first converts (Acts 2:41). He inflicted the first punishment (Acts 5:1-11), and excommunicated the first heretic (Acts 8:18-23). He led the first council in Jerusalem (Acts 15), and announced the first dogmatic decision (Acts 15:7-11). It was to Peter that the revelation came that Gentiles were to be baptized and accepted as Christians (Acts 10:46-48).

Peter the Rock -- Peter’s preeminent position among the apostles was symbolized at the very beginning of his relationship with Christ. At their first meeting, Christ told Simon that his name would thereafter be Peter, which translates as "Rock" (John 1:42). The startling thing was that—aside from the single time that Abraham is called a "rock" (Hebrew: Tsur; Aramaic: Kepha) in Isaiah 51:1-2—in the Old Testament only God was called a rock. The word rock was not used as a proper name in the ancient world. If you were to turn to a companion and say, "From now on your name is Asparagus," people would wonder: Why Asparagus? What is the meaning of it? What does it signify? Indeed, why call Simon the fisherman "Rock"? Christ was not given to meaningless gestures, and neither were the Jews as a whole when it came to names. Giving a new name meant that the status of the person was changed, as when Abram’s name was changed to Abraham (Gen.17:5), Jacob’s to Israel (Gen. 32:28), Eliakim’s to Joakim (2 Kgs. 23:34), or the names of the four Hebrew youths—Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan. 1:6-7). But no Jew had ever been called "Rock." The Jews would give other names taken from nature, such as Deborah ("bee," Gen. 35:8), and Rachel ("ewe," Gen. 29:16), but never "Rock." In the New Testament James and John were nicknamed Boanerges, meaning "Sons of Thunder," by Christ, but that was never regularly used in place of their original names, and it certainly was not given as a new name. But in the case of Simon-bar-Jonah, his new name Kephas (Greek: Petros) definitely replaced the old.

Look at the scene -- Not only was there significance in Simon being given a new and unusual name, but the place where Jesus solemnly conferred it upon Peter was also important. It happened when "Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi" (Matt. 16:13), a city that Philip the Tetrarch built and named in honor of Caesar Augustus, who had died in A.D. 14. The city lay near cascades in the Jordan River and near a gigantic wall of rock, a wall about 200 feet high and 500 feet long, which is part of the southern foothills of Mount Hermon. The city no longer exists, but its ruins are near the small Arab town of Banias; and at the base of the rock wall may be found what is left of one of the springs that fed the Jordan. It was here that Jesus pointed to Simon and said, "You are Peter" (Matt. 16:18).

The significance of the event must have been clear to the other apostles. As devout Jews they knew at once that the location was meant to emphasize the importance of what was being done. None complained of Simon being singled out for this honor; and in the rest of the New Testament he is called by his new name, while James and John remain just James and John, not Boanerges.

Promises to Peter -- When he first saw Simon, "Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter)’" (John 1:42). The word Cephas is merely the transliteration of the Aramaic Kepha into Greek. Later, after Peter and the other disciples had been with Christ for some time, they went to Caesarea Philippi, where Peter made his profession of faith: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). Jesus told him that this truth was specially revealed to him, and then he solemnly reiterated: "And I tell you, you are Peter" (Matt. 16:18). To this was added the promise that the Church would be founded, in some way, on Peter (Matt. 16:18).

Then two important things were told the apostle. "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:19). Here Peter was singled out for the authority that provides for the forgiveness of sins and the making of disciplinary rules. Later the apostles as a whole would be given similar power [Matt.18:18], but here Peter received it in a special sense.

Peter alone was promised something else also: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 16:19). In ancient times, keys were the hallmark of authority. A walled city might have one great gate; and that gate had one great lock, worked by one great key. To be given the key to the city—an honor that exists even today, though its import is lost—meant to be given free access to and authority over the city. The city to which Peter was given the keys was the heavenly city itself. This symbolism for authority is used elsewhere in the Bible (Is. 22:22, Rev. 1:18).

Finally, after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and asked Peter three times, "Do you love me?" (John 21:15-17). In repentance for his threefold denial, Peter gave a threefold affirmation of love. Then Christ, the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14), gave Peter the authority he earlier had promised: "Feed my sheep" (John 21:17). This specifically included the other apostles, since Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me more than these?" (John 21:15), the word "these" referring to the other apostles who were present (John 21:2). Thus was completed the prediction made just before Jesus and his followers went for the last time to the Mount of Olives.

Immediately before his denials were predicted, Peter was told, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again [after the denials], strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:31-32). It was Peter who Christ prayed would have faith that would not fail and that would be a guide for the others; and his prayer, being perfectly efficacious, was sure to be fulfilled.

Who is the rock? -- Now take a closer look at the key verse: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church" (Matt. 16:18). Disputes about this passage have always been related to the meaning of the term "rock." To whom, or to what, does it refer? Since Simon’s new name of Peter itself means rock, the sentence could be rewritten as: "You are Rock and upon this rock I will build my Church." The play on words seems obvious, but commentators wishing to avoid what follows from this—namely the establishment of the papacy—have suggested that the word rock could not refer to Peter but must refer to his profession of faith or to Christ.

From the grammatical point of view, the phrase "this rock" must relate back to the closest noun. Peter’s profession of faith ("You are the Christ, the Son of the living God") is two verses earlier, while his name, a proper noun, is in the immediately preceding clause.

As an analogy, consider this artificial sentence: "I have a car and a truck, and it is blue." Which is blue? The truck, because that is the noun closest to the pronoun "it." This is all the more clear if the reference to the car is two sentences earlier, as the reference to Peter’s profession is two sentences earlier than the term rock.

Another alternative -- The previous argument also settles the question of whether the word refers to Christ himself, since he is mentioned within the profession of faith. The fact that he is elsewhere, by a different metaphor, called the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20, 1 Pet. 2:4-8) does not disprove that here Peter is the foundation. Christ is naturally the principal and, since he will be returning to heaven, the invisible foundation of the Church that he will establish; but Peter is named by him as the secondary and, because he and his successors will remain on earth, the visible foundation. Peter can be a foundation only because Christ is the cornerstone.

In fact, the New Testament contains five different metaphors for the foundation of the Church (Matt. 16:18, 1 Cor. 3:11, Eph. 2:20, 1 Pet. 2:5-6, Rev. 21:14). One cannot take a single metaphor from a single passage and use it to twist the plain meaning of other passages. Rather, one must respect and harmonize the different passages, for the Church can be described as having different foundations since the word foundation can be used in different senses.

Look at the Aramaic -- Opponents of the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16:18 sometimes argue that in the Greek text the name of the apostle is Petros, while "rock" is rendered as petra. They claim that the former refers to a small stone, while the latter refers to a massive rock; so, if Peter was meant to be the massive rock, why isn’t his name Petra?

Note that Christ did not speak to the disciples in Greek. He spoke Aramaic, the common language of Palestine at that time. In that language the word for rock is kepha, which is what Jesus called him in everyday speech (note that in John 1:42 he was told, "You will be called Cephas"). What Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 was: "You are Kepha, and upon this kepha I will build my Church."

When Matthew’s Gospel was translated from the original Aramaic to Greek, there arose a problem which did not confront the evangelist when he first composed his account of Christ’s life. In Aramaic the word kepha has the same ending whether it refers to a rock or is used as a man’s name. In Greek, though, the word for rock, petra, is feminine in gender. The translator could use it for the second appearance of kepha in the sentence, but not for the first because it would be inappropriate to give a man a feminine name. So he put a masculine ending on it, and hence Peter became Petros.

Furthermore, the premise of the argument against Peter being the rock is simply false. In first century Greek the words petros and petra were synonyms. They had previously possessed the meanings of "small stone" and "large rock" in some early Greek poetry, but by the first century this distinction was gone, as Protestant Bible scholars admit (see D. A. Carson’s remarks on this passage in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Books]).

Some of the effect of Christ’s play on words was lost when his statement was translated from the Aramaic into Greek, but that was the best that could be done in Greek. In English, like Aramaic, there is no problem with endings; so an English rendition could read: "You are Rock, and upon this rock I will build my church."

Consider another point: If the rock really did refer to Christ (as some claim, based on 1 Cor. 10:4, "and the Rock was Christ" though the rock there was a literal, physical rock), why did Matthew leave the passage as it was? In the original Aramaic, and in the English which is a closer parallel to it than is the Greek, the passage is clear enough. Matthew must have realized that his readers would conclude the obvious from "Rock . . . rock."

If he meant Christ to be understood as the rock, why didn’t he say so? Why did he take a chance and leave it up to Paul to write a clarifying text? This presumes, of course, that 1 Corinthians was written after Matthew’s Gospel; if it came first, it could not have been written to clarify it.

The reason, of course, is that Matthew knew full well that what the sentence seemed to say was just what it really was saying. It was Simon, weak as he was, who was chosen to become the rock and thus the first link in the chain of the papacy.

All in all, I consider this kepha-solid (sorry for the pun) proof that Jesus built His earthly Church upon Peter and his successors.

Obviously, Christ is the foundation and the head of the Divine Heavenly Church itself. Without Christ -- no Church.

I invite anyone who is truly interested in what Catholics believe (and why) to -- instead of listening to hearsay, bigotry, hatred and the uninformed -- go to and take a look around. At least, in that way, if you find yourself in disagreement it will be a disagreement with what we believe, not what you were told we believe.

The most common misconception I get is that we pray to statues. When I explain why that is not true I am sometimes told, "You may think you don't pray to statues, but you do," to which I respond, "Oh, I see -- you know betetr what I believe and do, do you?"

Like I said, I invite you to learn the truth about what we believe, why we beleive it and then form your own opinions. :)

God bless you, Vickie!

Vickie said...


Thank you very much for taking the time to respond, and... in such detail. I look forward to reading the whole of the information that you have provided.

In the meantime... could you further explain what this means?

{He is infallible only in matters of faith and morals and only when speaking ex Cathedra (from the Chair of Peter). He can sin and is as imperfect in his human frailty as is you or I.}

I don't understand what this means. In one instance it appears he (the pope) is acknowledged as being infallible, but then, that he is subject to the same human frailties and imperfections, as the rest of us.

What is this "chair of Peter", and what makes him infallible when he is speaking from it? Is this a literal chair, or symbolic?

Please, pardon my ignorance. :~)

Danbo59 said...

Speaking ex Cathedra is just a way of saying that it is an "offical declaration" of the Church. The Pope delivers such statements -- and they are rare -- only after much prayer, research and consultation with his College of Cardinals; mostly prayer. This is part of our faith -- that God guides Him in these decisions.

We don't see a problem with acknowledging a human fallible Pope who is infallible in matters of morals and faith ex Cathedra. Like I said, it is a matter of faith -- a mystery.

Remember -- ex Cathedra statements are very rare. For example, I am currently reading the book "Jesus of Nazareth" by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Doubleday 2007. The Pope is quite clear in his Foreword that his book is not a product of The Magisterium and not dogma/canon. It is his narrative of his personal experience of Jesus of Nazareth as seen in the Gospels.

Also remember that private revelations (such as Fatima, Lourdes, etc.) are subject to the individual's interpretation -- the Church has never taught that such visions/revelations are required belief.

Danbo59 said...

All: Vickie brings up a very important piece of misinformation that anti-Catholics are all too happy to disseminate to the uninformed -- that the Pope is considered infallible by Catholics.

Nothing can be more untrue. Catholics believe that there was only one person ever born who was "infallible" --- Jesus Christ.

To assign the Pope universal infalliblity would be to elevate him to a deity. No, the Pope is a human being -- as fallible as is you or I. The difference is, that when he is led by the Holy Spirit to speak on behalf of the Church in matters of faith and morals, he is believed to be infallible by Catholics. These rare "ex Cathedra" statements are the product of countless hours of prayer, research and discussion with the College of Cardinals. Each of these (prayer, research, and discussion with the CoC) is a manner in which the Holy Spirit speaks to the Holy Father here on Earth.

Danbo59 said...

Vickie wrote, "Please, pardon my ignorance. :~)"

I say, "The only ignorance is that which asks no questions."


Anonymous said...


Would you accept and obey every "ex Cathedra" statement? What if it was, "Everyone is going to Heaven whether they are Christian or not." I guess your first response to me would be that the Pope would never say this; but there are possible ways this could happen, eg, brain damage, brain wash, too much wine, coup at the Vatican, a gradual change in Catholic theology, epiphany.

Do you trust the Pope's "ex Cathedra" judgment more than your own? no matter what it is?

Danbo59 said...

Sorry, pornstudent, I'm no longer playing your game.

Anonymous said...

It's a game millions of Catholics have been playing. From Time Magazine:

"Last week [in August, 1968] Pope Paul VI formally promulgated his encyclical on birth control, which condemns all methods of contraception, except rhythm, as against the will of God. The pronouncement caused perhaps the most serious outburst of dissent the Catholic Church has experienced in centuries. Innumerable Catholics made clear that they would refuse to heed the words of a reigning Pontiff. Theologians defied his authority to insist that the encyclical was not binding on married Catholics who have good reasons to practice birth control—and it was obvious that millions will continue to do so."

Danbo59 said...

Pornstudent said, "[Ignoring the authority of the Church is] a game millions of Catholics have been playing."

Those Catholics do so at the risk of their immortal souls.

Anonymous said...

Many believe more in what is True than in what they are told to fear.

Danbo59 said...

God is Truth.

What too many people believe are lies, perpetrated by the Father of Lies, Satan.

Anonymous said...

The billions of Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Moslems, Hindus, atheists and agnostics using birth control aren't afraid of your make believe Satan. They don't believe the lie that birth control is a sin.

Anonymous said...

If Satan exists, the Pope is his spokesman. The spread of such misinformation that contributes to starvation and the spread of AIDs is "evil."

Danbo59 said...

pornstudent says, "The billions of Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Moslems, Hindus, atheists and agnostics using birth control aren't afraid of your make believe Satan. They don't believe the lie that birth control is a sin."

Therein is the tragedy. Not believing in Satan plays right into his hands. Artificial birth control for birth controls sake is interfering with the natural plan of procreation; interfering with God.

From -- Ignoring the mountain of evidence, some maintain that the Church considers the use of contraception a matter for each married couple to decide according to their "individual conscience." Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. The Church has always maintained the historic Christian teaching that deliberate acts of contraception are always gravely sinful, which means that it is mortally sinful if done with full knowledge and deliberate consent (CCC 1857). This teaching cannot be changed and has been taught by the Church infallibly.

There is no way to deny the fact that the Church has always and everywhere condemned artificial contraception. The matter has already been infallibly decided. The so-called "individual conscience" argument amounts to "individual disobedience."

The Church acknowledges that mortal sin requires 1) a grave (serious) matter [contraception qualifies], 2) that the sinner is fully aware that the act (or omission) is both a sin and a grave matter [this releases those who are not aware of the Church's teaching] and 3) that the sinner performs the act (or omission) with fully deliberate consent.

A person who dies in a state of mortal sin is denied Salvation.

Danbo59 said...
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Danbo59 said...
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Danbo59 said...

pornstudent rants, "If Satan exists, the Pope is his spokesman. The spread of such misinformation that contributes to starvation and the spread of AIDs is "evil.""

Pornstudent, one who is as deeply entrenched in sin as are you [given your penchant for the study of pornography and publishing of pornographic links on your blog site] would, naturally, espouse the virtues of man defining his own good and evil as opposed to God's defining the same.

Your soul has suffered greatly, no doubt, but there is still a chance if you'd only confess your sins to God and turn back toward Him. As the prodigal son discovered, there is no end to God's forgiveness so long as we seek it.

The Church teaches that sex outside the institution of mariage is another grave sin, in and of itself. The Church also teaches that if a spouse contacts an STD by sexual contact outdide of marriage that abstinence (or medication to control the disease) is the only recourse to the couple that wants to contain the disease.

It is prudent to point out here that if sexual activity were confined to within the institution of marriage that STDs would be reduced to near-zero proportions.

As for population control [re: starvation], if your supposition was correct then starvation could be abated by 1) self-control and 2) natural family planning. But, it is not overpopulation that leads to starvation in the majority of instances -- it is the corrupt governments that impose starvation and poverty on their people. This, contraception can not and will not change.

As you can see from the paragraphs above, the misinformation is coming from you, pornstudent. By your own definition, it is you who are Satan's spokesman.

Let go of your hatred and return to God. His Graces are boundless.

Anonymous said...

Danbo - "Pornstudent, one who is as deeply entrenched in sin as are you (given your penchant for the study of pornography and publishing of pornographic links on your blog site) would, naturally, espouse the virtues of man defining his own good and evil as opposed to God's defining the same."

Thanks. I like the part, "Pornstudent... would naturally espouse the virtues of man defining his own good and evil." Right on.

I don't think porn is a bad, though. Porn saves lives. Did you ever read my post about how masturbating helps prevent prostate cancer?

Vickie said...


Just for the sake of clarification, I will give you a brief summary of my own background (as related to spiritual matters).

As a child, I was raised in a denominational church. I will leave the specific denomination unnamed, so that I don't chance offending anyone. In my early adulthood I did not attend church at all. I never stopped believing, I just stop going. It was the people who represented God, and never God, Himself, that tarnished my view of the church.

When I did return, I wanted more than what (I believed) the denomination that I grew up in had to offer. I can only categorize it (from my own perspective) as preaching a "limited gospel". I had learned about, and purposely, sought out a non-denominational church. Many refer to this type of church as "full gospel", although I have heard it called by many other names... some nicer than others. :~)

Once I started going again, I attended the same church for 18 years, and was taught much about the Bible and the principles of kingdom living. I won't go into detail (here and now) about why I left that church, but suffice it to say... things changed. NO... I must correct that and say... PEOPLE changed. God was, and always is... the same!

I left that church as an extremely wounded bird... hurt to the core by some things that had happened. It was not an easy decision to make. I had 18 years invested, in the church itself, and the church family that I had grown to love, dearly. (Maybe we can get into a discussion about offenses, and a pastor's role, at another time and place). But... it was a decision that I felt lead to make, as difficult as it was.

Afterwards, it took two full years before I had the courage to set foot inside of an organized church service again. I so feared being hurt again. During this time, I never stopped believing, praying or studying The Word. It was people who had hurt me, not God! Second only to the death of my son, this was the most painful experience of my life.

Finally, the pain waned enough that I could return to full fellowship with other believers... needless to say, at a different church. I still wanted to core belief system, and teachings, that the "full gospel" churches had to offer. Several friends--who had also left the old church--directed me to a new one, and it's wonderful! That's where I am now.

Now, about my ignorance of The Catholic Church, and its beliefs and practices... Unfortunately, I have heard many negative things over the years, about those beliefs and practices, but I have always looked at it this way...

If we have the same belief in the basics... That salvation is attainable through Jesus, ALONE... That Jesus is the ONLY way to The Father... The Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit... The Bible is The inspired Word of God, and in its original form, is without error... that God is a GOOD God, Who IS Love... that good and evil do exist and opposed to one another, and yes, that Satan--and the hell that was created for HIM--IS real... Of course there is more, but these are a few of the basics. It has always been my belief that, if we agree on these basics, we ARE all brothers and sisters in The Body of Christ, regardless of how our particular religious services are carried out.

I will readily admit that I don't understand some of the ceremonial practices of The Catholic Church, but in fairness, I have only been exposed to them from a great distance. And, with no intention to offend, I will also say that many of the practices that I have seen and/or heard of, seemed to be more "man made", than Biblical requirements. I didn't see Biblical examples for them, but maybe you can direct me. REGARDLESS... that takes me back to our common belief in the basics of Christianity.

Of course, I have heard those who say that The Catholic religion is a cult. I have never believed that to be true. That seems to be the common accusation that some make when they don't understand the religious practices of another.

No doubt, cults do exist and the fuel that feeds them is the desire for power. I think that is why some apply this label to The Catholic Church, some--such as the Pope and others in positions of leadership--seem to have been given more power and authority over the congregants, than most people are comfortable with.

Obviously, there's a lot that I don't understand about The Catholic Church, and its beliefs and practices. Maybe you can help me understand more about WHAT you believe, and WHY you believe it, and--if you're interested, I'll share the same about my own beliefs.

Thanks for taking the time to share, and thanks for doing it so graciously. :~)


Vickie said...


{No, the Pope is a human being -- as fallible as is you or I. The difference is, that when he is led by the Holy Spirit to speak on behalf of the Church in matters of faith and morals,}

This, actually, doesn't sound so different than what a full gospel church believes. We also believe that The Holy Spirit inspires a pastor to deliver certain (specific) messages to the congregation... giving direction, instruction, even correction, when needed. However, we also believe that every believer can hear, and be lead by, The Holy Spirit, if they are willing to be. Actually, we believe that they not only 'can', but 'should'... that every believer should live their daily life according to the guidance of The Spirit of God.

Is this different for you? Do you believe that this gift is available to EVERY believer, or only those in positions of leadership?

Thanks again...

Danbo59 said...


I'd like some time to formulate a response to what you've written as it is quite interesting, but I can quickly tell you that we do believe, indeed, that the Graces of the Holy Spirit are available to each and every one of us and that this gift bears fruit in each and every one of us.

We do believe; however, that these fruits (not the gift itself, mind you -- the gift we believe is distributed to all who seek it) vary in strength and effectiveness based upon the recipient's receptiveness to them.

We believe a Sacrament is received in a moment in time while Grace is received eternally; but we can "stifle" the fruits of the Grace given us if we so choose (who in their right mind would refuse, I wonder).

So, the Graces of the Holy Spirit do "shepherd" our clerics' words and actions as they do ours, but probably to a different degree due to the extraordinary call to which our clerics answered; that being the call to Holy Orders.

Vickie, you can also read my fledgling blog at if you'd like an "converse" with me there.

God bless!