Challenges To God’s Deity

Death and Judgment


A WORD needs to be said concerning both definitive usage and etymology. “Etymology,” or the study of a word’s origin, is not central but strictly peripheral in determining word meaning. Even the meaning of a word’s elements is not determinative of the word’s own meaning. Definitive context alone determines meaning. We have a definitive context not when a certain idea can fit but when it alone can fit.

Many passages simply are not definitive, even if they are otherwise very important passages. It is impossible for a word actually to have two or more meanings, however varied its usages may be. Communication would be impossible were we consistently to adapt the policy that words may have more than one meaning, or, to say the same thing, that they have primary meaning, secondary meaning, tertiary meaning, and so forth. Meaning, or essence, is a singular concept. The existence of a plurality of lexical definitions, even as of homonymical forms, does not change this fact.

Through the passage of time, in the case of any certain word, many specialized usages may well develop, whether figurative or literal. These are the “definitions” found in our dictionaries. Of course most may not realize that these usages, both literal and figurative ones, all stem from a common basic meaning. We have called some of these “faded figures,” since, through the passage of time, the original essential meaning of such terms may no longer be widely recognized.

Because in certain passages a particular idea may seem more plausible to us than that which the definitive evidence appearing elsewhere reveals a word’s true meaning to be, we must not imagine that such a word actually has an entirely different meaning in one passage than in another. This is true at all times, whether we are simply reading in our own language or are making a translation from one language to another. “False” never means “true”; “good” never means “bad”; “happy” never means “sad”; “black” never means “white,” and so forth.

Due to idiomatic differences between the original and the receptor language (especially the scope of usage or idiomatic range), in translation, it is often necessary to use a number of synonyms to translate a single word in the original. These synonyms may be quite different from each other in certain obvious respects, but, being synonyms, they share a common central idea. It is this common underlying concept which they share that allows them to serve well in the translation of a single word in the original. The fact that in a translation good diction often requires the use of synonyms is certainly no proof that any particular word in the original text has a plurality of meanings.

In certain indefinitive passages, a term in question in the Original may seem to be more correctly represented in English by some other expression than that which appears in the Concordant Version, even by a word that is of a radically different significance. This, however, does not make such suggested renderings correct, regardless of the zeal and persuasiveness of those advocating such revisions. Such suggestions can only be correct if they accord with the definitive evidence found elsewhere in definitive passages.

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No doubt the Concordant Version will always stand in need of improvement, but mere change is not often progress. Over the years many true improvements have been made. Humble and constructive suggestions for improvement continue to be welcome. Most proposed revisions, however, are simply incorrect and evince a lack of understanding of basic principles of translation. Others, while offering some advantages, in fact, introduce new problems, ones that outweigh their advantages and reveal their overall impracticality.

The question of grammatical form as it relates to the issue of essential word meaning should also be mentioned. Part of speech has no bearing whatever on the question of word meaning. If a term only appears definitively as, for example, a verb or an adjective, we can be just as certain nonetheless of its significance as an adverb or noun as we would be were we to have an adverbial or nounal definitive usage of it as well.

Since most are more than hazy concerning what is meant by a word’s “definition,” and fail to discriminate between meaning and usage, between actual, root words and mere homonyms, and between literal and figurative, what ought to be a straightforward subject has become a matter of great confusion.

Words are generally classified into eight parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections (or exclamations). Part of speech is determined by usage. Each part, or “word-class,” is determined (and originally named) according to the purpose it serves. Due to their nature, and subordinate functions, a consideration of pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections is not relevant to our question concerning the essential meaning of grammatical derivatives. We are, however, interested in the significance of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. A noun names; a verb shows physical action or serves to link sentence parts (substantive verbs, e.g., “is,” and mental action verbs); an adjective limits a noun or makes it more exact; an adverb describes a verb or an adjective (or even another adverb).

Consider the following examples: “My term paper is due this week” (noun). “This is my weekly theme” (adjective). “My teacher assigns themes weekly” (adverb). “I ran the printing press” (verb). “The press run is now completed” (noun). “I live in America [noun], and am glad to be an American [adjective] citizen.” Regardless of usage or part of speech, the essential idea of all of the forms remains the same in all cases.

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Our standard for arnion is LAMBkin. This standard was assigned, not to reflect its grammatically diminutive ending—much less to indicate a small lamb!—but in order to distinguish arnion from an entirely separate word, amnos, LAMB (that is, a young sheep). Morphological diminution (smallness of form) may be employed simply as a matter of idiom, due to custom, or as a synonymical variant. The presence of this form, in itself, is not indicative of such thoughts as endearment or preciousness, much less of literal reduction in size.

Daimonion (TEACH-diminutive) surely does not mean “little demon” (or “demonette”) in contrast with daimon which some, therefore, might suppose to mean “big demon”!

Literally, arnion (“lambkin”) in the Concordant Version is used in reference to a lamb of sufficient maturity to have already formed horns (Rev.13:11). The word simply means a lamb, by no means necessarily an especially young (or small) one.

Amnos is a young sheep; arnion is simply a lamb, whatever its age or size. If idiom would bear the rendering “young sheep” in each place that amnos appears (including its references to Christ), then we could translate arnion simply as “lamb.” In itself, this would be ideal. Yet since idiom will not permit us to say, “Lo! the Young Sheep of God Which is taking away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29), and requires us to call Him “the Lamb of God,” in order to distinguish amnos from arnion in the Version, the rendering “lambkin” was chosen to represent the latter word.

Since the primary English definition of this word is “a little lamb” (even though this is not the meaning of arnion), the rendering is not ideal, even if it seems to be the best solution overall. The word has no reference whatever to any smallness in size. Its grammatically diminutive ending is irrelevant to any such consideration and is entirely beside the point.

The reader is not to base the meaning of the Greek words in the Original text upon the ordinary dictionary definitions for the words which appear in any version, including the Concordant Version. Instead, where necessary, the English words in the Version are to be attuned by the reader in such a way that they are brought into accord with the Greek. Therefore, where “lamb” appears in the Version, we should think of a “young sheep”; where “lambkin” appears, we should mentally substitute merely the word “lamb.”

Figuratively, arnion (LAMBkin, the word which simply means “lamb”) is used in reference to the Lord’s own, His chosen ones. He instructed Peter, saying, “Graze My lambkins [i.e., My lambs]!” (John 21:15). These are termed “lambs” (or, in the Version, “lambkins”) to point us to their helplessness. This idea is expressed through the apt likeness of the disciples to such creatures, for they, like ourselves, were mere flesh, and, “the flesh is not benefiting anything” (John 6:63). The grammatical diminution inherent in the Greek form arnion is beside the point.

The remainder of the usages of this word are also figurative and only appear in the book of Revelation. They are all in reference to Christ with a view toward His harmlessness and innocence when, as the great Sacrificial Offering, He was given up unto death. John the baptist, however, called Him “the Amnos [LAMB, or “Young Sheep”] of God Which is taking away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29,36).

The word for “scroll,” biblion, its diminutive ending notwithstanding, simply does not mean “little scroll.” Let us recall, as we mentioned before, that it is used of the entire scroll of Isaiah, which is by no means a “little scroll” (Luke 4:17,20). Indeed, the other form, biblos is also used in reference to the scroll of Isaiah (Luke 3:4).

Biblion (the diminutive form), as well, is used in reference to the extensive written account of John (John 20:30), and even of the vast number of “written scrolls” which would have been necessary—so many that the world itself would not contain them—were all the things to have been recorded which Jesus did (John 21:24,25).

Word meaning can only be discovered through definitive usage, not mere form. In the case under consideration, concerning the word biblion, the evidence (as found in the definitive passages in Luke) is entirely against the idea that this word signifies a “little scroll,” and, certainly, against the supposition that the other form, biblos (which appears less frequently), must, by way of contrast, mean a “great, large scroll.”

It is true that our Concordant translation (not our concordance) does not make a distinction when it comes to the word “scroll” as it does with the word “lamb.” But this is only because, concerning the various “lamb” and “lambkin” renderings, the Version seeks to inform the reader of the presence of two distinct words, the former in reference to a young sheep, the latter in reference to a lamb.

In the case of the two forms for “scroll,” however, since the definitive evidence in Luke made it clear that the diminutive form does not convey a special meaning distinct from the non-diminutive form, there was no reason to represent one form in a different way than the other in our Version. Yet the KEYWORD CONCORDANCE, for the sake of the student, lists all the entries for each of these forms under their own respective headings, thus making this information readily accessible to all who desire it.

Our English standard for biblion, however, SCROLLet (which only appears in the Concordance), might be confusing. While the sense is the same, for consistency, it should be SCROLL-diminutive, as is the case with the parallel standard for “demon, “TEACH-diminutive.

Our rendering “Lambkin” has certainly been misunderstood and misused by some who hold opposing views. While it is not ideal, we have not found a better solution. An idiomatic version is bound to have its limitations. Yet certain of its renderings should not be summarily condemned, and other of its renderings used against it by those who have merely made unwarranted assumptions about what they suppose to be true with regard to morphology and concordancy while alleging that our “discordant” renderings are a clear index of our bias and unbelief.

The Concordant Version rendering “lambkin” simply does not refer to a little or very young lamb in contrast to other larger or older lambs who will soon become sheep! Nonetheless, from this very notion, similar inferences have been made about “scrollets” and then joined together with a large measure of confidence in the flesh in order to conclude that only a relative few unusually uncooperative rebels will ever enter the second death, most having saved themselves from such a fate through the judicious use of their free wills.

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It is important to realize that “new light” may not truly be new light. Many are not sympathetic to our work. Before others, they freely criticize a wide variety of things, often doing so in the presence of those who are easily swayed by their persuasiveness. Those who would not be misled must not be moved by mere assertive claims. Instead, they must seek to get the facts, even as to be impartial. It is important to be friendly and attentive even to those who stand for established teaching, not merely to the critics and detractors of such ones. As Paul declares, “Little children mine, with whom I am travailing again until Christ may be formed in you!” (Gal.4:19).

Let us rejoice even in the midst of these many winds of teaching and attendant confusion. However distressing, such challenges to God’s deity all have their place; all are for good—both for our good and for that of those who are misled by them. It is not as if self-reliance and pride was not already the order of the day, and stood in need of aid from these special doctrines. If grace were already recognized and appreciated, these sundry notions would never find a receptive audience. Such opposing views are actually useful to the cause of truth, and, at least in some cases, are not so readily accepted as we might fear.

“Let love be unfeigned. Abhorring that which is wicked, clinging to good, let us have fond affection for one another with brotherly fondness, in honor deeming one another first” (Rom.12:9,10). Let us be friendly and gracious toward all, certainly toward those who may have actually instructed us faithfully, even though we may not have realized this or fully understood their teaching. It may be that ones less esteemed in our eyes are actually more correct than those whom we favor. “Do not come to pass for prudent with yourselves” (Rom. 12:16).

“Let each one be fully assured in his own mind” (cp Rom.14:5b). Yet let each one do so while recognizing (not merely nominally acknowledging) his own personal need to become qualified as to the faith, “an unashamed worker, correctly cutting the word of truth” (2 Tim.2:15; cp 2 Tim.2:2).

By His grace, let us become “kind,” even “tenderly compassionate” (Eph.4:32), toward those very ones to whom, in ourselves, we may be least inclined to be so disposed. “Yet now are remaining faith, expectation, love, these three. Yet the greatest of these is love. Be pursuing love” (1 Cor.13:13; 14:1a).

We have obtained God’s spirit—and we cannot boast in this any more than in anything else (1 Cor.4:7)—“that we may be perceiving that which is being graciously given to us by God, which we are speaking also, not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by the spirit, matching spiritual blessings with spiritual words” (1 Cor.2:12,13). “Now may it not be mine to be boasting, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal.6:14).

May we be mindful that the entire ecclesia is growing in “the growth of God” (Col.2:19). This is so, even if it is not always the growth which, in itself, we may delight to perceive. God is working all together for our good (Rom.8:28). In our efforts to serve others, we are bound to be misunderstood and unappreciated. So above all, let us be walking in love and humility. These attributes are appreciated by all, and are as vital to faithful service as truth itself.

James Coram

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