Category Archives: BIBLE VERSIONS AND MANUSCRIPTS

Does “not” belong in Isaiah 9:3?

DOES “NOT” BELONG IN ISAIAH 9:3?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Isaiah 9:3 says in the King James Bible: “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” Does the word “not” belong here?

Even though Dr. C. I. Scofield faithfully circulated basic dispensational truths in his eponymous study Bible (1909 and 1917), he was not without error concerning his center-column notes and footnotes. He walked in the spiritual light he had, and we are quite grateful (!) for his labor. However, he had his blind spots and we would do well to notice and avoid them. This is a case in point. The dear Brother actually recommended “not” be omitted from Isaiah 9:3, thereby removing the authority from the Bible! (Most textual critics today still agree with him.) In this brief study, we will lay out why we hold to the unaltered King James reading of Isaiah 9:3.

  • Reading #1, with “not:” “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” (This is the King James Bible wording.)
  • Reading #2, without “not:” “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and… increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” (The ellipsis […] is where the “not” appears in the KJB.)

Like the majority of modern translators today, Dr. Scofield preferred Reading #2. Reading #1 (the King James Bible) is said to be incorrect. Scan the two readings again. You will see why Reading #2 makes more sense to them. Reading #1 appears to be antithetical toward itself. So we can better see this discrepancy, we paraphrase both readings:

  • Reading #1: God has multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before him…. (KJB verse speaks of no increased joy as well as joy—which is it then, joy or no joy?)
  • Reading #2: God has multiplied the nation, and increased the joy: they joy before him…. (altered KJB verse speaks of increased joy and joy—joy and joy are harmonious here)

The negation makes the King James Bible unpopular in Isaiah 9:3. Textual critics eagerly pounce on it. They will not submit to a Book, as they (sinful man) want to be the authority. Here is the problem. Usually, when people speak of a “King James error,” they look at the word or verse superficially. They do not investigate in-depth, only accuse. They have a limited understanding of a word or its definition. Therefore, if the King James Bible disagrees with their preconceived idea, the Bible (they claim) is wrong. They do not define the words according to Scripture; rather, they define the words according to their theology. When the Bible says otherwise, their theology takes precedence. They do not have enough experience in the Bible—for if they did, they would not go around correcting it. Instead of the Bible adjusting their view, they adjust the Bible to fit their view. We cannot agree to this mentality. Either the Bible is the foundation of our faith, or it is not. Either it is the final authority, or it is not. There is no middle ground!!

Reading #1 is correct, and we need not change the King James Bible by removing the word “not.” “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” There was a time when God did multiply the nation Israel. They prospered in the centuries leading up to Isaiah’s ministry. Then, God did not increase the joy. Finally, they do joy before Him. We must approach the verse dispensationally if we are to make sense of it. The whole verse is not applicable all at once. Part of the verse is true at one point on the Bible timeline and the other part of the verse is true at another point on the timeline. There is not joy throughout the verse; there is not uninterrupted joy as commonly assumed. There is sadness and then joy. In other words, the doleful Assyrian Captivity is followed by the glorious Millennium. Note that the colon ( : ) between the first “joy” and the “they” spans more than 2,000 years.

Look at the closing verse of the previous chapter (8:22). Then start at the beginning of the chapter we are investigating (9:1-2), reading all the way through to verse 7. There is judgment then restoration, captivity then kingdom. There is spiritual darkness followed by spiritual light. Messiah (Jesus) comes to bring light at His First Coming, to usher in God’s righteous earthly kingdom at His Second Coming. Compare these verses with Matthew 4:13-16. Look at Christ conquering Israel’s enemies and causing war to cease in Isaiah 9:4-5. (Connect that victory with the closing of verse 3.)

See Messiah’s birth and reign in Isaiah 9:6-7 (which itself is another timeline passage, not fulfilled all at once). Certainly, this timeline (8:22–9:7) spans from before the cross all the way to beyond the Second Coming. Isaiah 8:22 and 9:1 is Israel before Messiah’s birth; the next verses (9:2 and following) pick up from His birth onward. There is scene switching, of course, verses looping back to earlier ones. However, there is no mistake in the King James Bible. The “not” belongs in Isaiah 9:3, for that time of no increased joy (Captivity) is there to contrast with the time when God will increase their joy (yet future from us, when Christ returns to set His earthly kingdom and deliver Israel from their enemies and Captivity).

Read Isaiah 9:3 in that light now: “Thou hast multiplied the nation [pre-Captivity], and not increased the joy [Captivity]: [2,000-plus years later, Captivity lifted, Israel now in Kingdom] they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.”

By the way, nearly all modern English translations eliminate “not” from Isaiah 9:3: American Standard Version, Amplified Bible, Contemporary English Version, English Standard Version, Good News Bible, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Living Bible, The Message, New American Standard Bible, New Century Version, New English Translation, New International Version, New Living Translation, New Revised Standard Version, New World Translation [Jehovah’s Witness “bible”], Revised Standard Version, The Voice). Please note that the NKJV departs from the KJB here, and is not a King James Bible at all!!

We often hear, “All versions say the same thing. The modern versions are no different from the King James Bible.” To say this is to do nothing but advertise Bible ignorance. Whoever says that has not done enough research to comment. No honest person could say that “not increased the joy” is the same as “increased the joy.” There is willful ignorance if someone cannot differentiate between a simple positive statement and a simple negative statement. “Yes” and “no” are not the same—unless you really do not care about facts and just want to vilify the (Protestant) King James Bible so you can promote some modern English translation (a Roman Catholic reading!).

Also see:
» Is “excellent” a King James “mistranslation” in Philippians 1:10?
» Is the King James word “borrow” a “mistranslation” in Exodus 3:22?
» Which belongs in Romans 8:16 and Romans 8:26 in the King James Bible—“the Spirit itself” or “the Spirit Himself?”

Were the King James translators justified in adding the word “quarters” in Acts 9:32?

WERE THE KING JAMES TRANSLATORS JUSTIFIED IN ADDING “QUARTERS” IN ACTS 9:32?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Acts 9:32 says, “And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.” If you look in a printed King James Bible, the term “quarters” is italicized, meaning there is no corresponding Greek term to that English word. To signify this, the 1611 scholars placed the word in italics. They are often vilified for adding such words, yet (strangely) the people who criticize italicized words usually add or remove words from the English Bible themselves. Indeed, there is quite a difference between a translator adding a word to complete the thought in the new language, and a teacher assuming his job involves questioning and changing the Bible because he has limited insight. The former is the King James Bible translator; the latter is the King James Bible critic.

The Greek Textus Receptus reads thus in Acts 9:32: “Egeneto_de Petron dierchomenon dia panton, katelthein kai pros tous agious tous katoikountas Luddan.” As even the layman could likely discern, “dia panton” is “throughout all.” The word “katelthein” is “came down.” There is indeed no Greek word for “quarters.” Unless that English word is added, the verse would read, “And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all, he came down….” This could read smoother. Peter visited “all” what? Well, our 1611 translators elected to insert “quarters” to clarify the sense—“all quarters.” While they are no longer here for us to ask why they chose that of all English words (as opposed to “regions” or “territories,” for example), we can study the rest of their work to arrive at the simplest—and therefore, most likely—explanation.

Here are other occurrences of the term “quarters” in the Authorized Version:

  • Jeremiah 49:36: “And upon Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and will scatter them toward all those winds; and there shall be no nation whither the outcasts of Elam shall not come.”
  • Revelation 20:8: “And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.”

Similar terminology is found elsewhere in the King James Scriptures:

  • Isaiah 11:12: “And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”
  • Ezekiel 7:2: “Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land.”
  • Revelation 7:1: “And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.”

Why did the King James scholars insert “quarters” in Acts 9:32 even though there is no corresponding Greek? It was to make the resultant translation read clearer. Furthermore, they likely picked that particular word so as to indicate the four cardinal directions—north, south, west, and east. “Regions,” “territories,” and “lands,” would not have been descriptive enough. The word “quarters” prompts the reader to think of four regions or quadrants, not any one particular direction but all directions. From where does Peter’s ministry radiate though? It is Jerusalem (the last place where he was seen before arriving in Lydda—Acts 8:25). Peter is going north, south, west, and east of Jerusalem, but he always eventually returns to Jerusalem (read Acts chapters 1–12, 15). Lydda is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northwest of Jerusalem. After Peter visited it, he went on to Joppa (northwest) and Caesarea (northeast), before ultimately heading south to go back to Jerusalem (Acts 11:2).

If we just give the King James Bible the benefit of the doubt, we understand that it does not contain mistakes. Rather than deriding it and attempting to correct it (as a Roman Catholic is taught to criticize this the Protestant Bible), we should study it to see why it says what it does. Conditioned by the modern-version sales pitches, we have been trained to quickly pounce on the Authorized Version and falsely accuse it of so-called “numerous errors” and “inferior translations.” It is far better to let the Holy Bible be the authority than endeavor to change it. Simply put, the word “quarters” in Acts 9:32 is likely being used to refer to the four primary directions. The text reads clearer with it. Leave it there and just believe it!

Saints, please remember us in your monthly giving—these websites do cost money to run! 🙂 You can donate securely here: https://www.paypal.me/ShawnBrasseaux, or email me at arcministries@gmail.com. Do not forget about Bible Q&A booklets for sale at https://arcgraceministries.org/in-print/booklets-bible-q-a/. Thanks to all who give to and pray for us! By the way, ministry emails have really been backed up this year. I am handling them as much as humanly possible. Thanks for your patience. 🙂

Also see:
» Is there a geographical error in 2 Kings 2:2?
» Is “excellent” a King James “mistranslation” in Philippians 1:10?
» Which belongs in Romans 8:16 and Romans 8:26 in the King James Bible—“the Spirit itself” or “the Spirit Himself?”

Why does the King James Bible say “nephews” instead of “grandchildren” in 1 Timothy 5:4?

WHY DOES THE KING JAMES BIBLE SAY “NEPHEWS” INSTEAD OF “GRANDCHILDREN” IN 1 TIMOTHY 5:4?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Does the Authorized Version contain an error in 1 Timothy 5:4? “But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.” All modern English versions—including the New King James Version—unite in replacing “nephews” with “grandchildren.” Why should we leave the Authorized Version as it stands?

It is the strangest phenomenon, dear friends. You would think preachers and commentators would respect the 400-year-old Authorized Version. Alas, they have been trained to pick it apart—deliberately or inadvertently holding virulent Roman Catholic sentiment toward the Protestant Bible! Such wicked thoughts produce all sorts of vilifying remarks, including, “Our clumsy 1611 translators totally missed the original language here! How unfortunate they did not have the manuscript evidence and expertise we have! This word should be this, or that, or whatever you like. Well, we may disagree on which is the correct word, we all agree that Authorized Version is wrong!” This absurd position—believe it or not—dominates “Christian” thinking in pulpit and pew alike. No wonder few believe the Holy Bible!

Deuteronomy chapter 25 is a valuable passage to settle the abstruseness in 1 Timothy 5:4. We turn to it now: “[5] If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. [6] And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. [7] And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother. [8] Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her; [9] Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house. [10] And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.”

This “levirate marriage” is prominently illustrated in the Book of Ruth. If a Jewish man died childless, his brother (next of kin) was to marry his bereaved wife and have children with her. Those children were to be raised in the name and land of that deceased brother. Why? It was a way of redeeming the dead man’s estate as well preserving his tribe’s bloodline. The male children born to the bereaved woman would be her former (now deceased) husband’s nephews. After all, her husband’s brother had fathered her children. That brother, and the resulting children or “nephews,” were to bear the financial burdens she or their family had—remember what Boaz did to Ruth. Such nephews (King James Bible) would be closer kin to her than her grandchildren (modern versions).

The Christian widows, Gentiles, of 1 Timothy chapter 5 are experiencing economic difficulties. Similar to (though not exactly synonymous with) the principle the LORD God laid out for Israel in Deuteronomy, the widow’s financial support was to come from her children (“children”) or the sons of her husband’s siblings (“nephews”). The children were first in line of kinship, followed by the nephews. In the absence of her children, these nephews could redeem their “brother’s” (loose term) estate from financial ruin. It is reminiscent of how Boaz fulfilled his duty in the Book of Ruth, although there are differences because no Gentile women (1 Timothy chapter 5) were following Israel’s levirate instructions of having children with their in-laws.

If the Christian widow lacked children and nephews, the local church was to then step in and help alleviate her monetary struggles. Remember, there was no governmental welfare system as we in the United States have today. Therefore, the local assembly of Christians was to meet the needs of the truly destitute believing widows who had no surviving family members to come to their aid. See 1 Timothy 5:3-16 for all the details.

Unfortunately for the King James Bible critics, “nephews” is not an error in 1 Timothy 5:4. If the text is altered to read “grandchildren” (as in modern versions), then we lose the connection to Deuteronomy. The passage thus becomes obscure because there is no self-interpretation anymore. Nephews, not grandchildren, are the widow’s next-of-kin after her children. Grandchildren are not in view in 1 Timothy 5:4!

Also see:
» Which belongs in Romans 8:16 and Romans 8:26 in the King James Bible—“the Spirit itself” or “the Spirit Himself?”
» What does “under colour” mean in Acts 27:30?
» Is the King James word “borrow” a “mistranslation” in Exodus 3:22?

Should “church” be changed to “called-out assembly” in Acts 7:38 in the King James Bible?

SHOULD “CHURCH” BE CHANGED TO “CALLED-OUT ASSEMBLY” IN ACTS 7:38 IN THE KING JAMES BIBLE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Since people often have such an inadequate understanding of Scripture, they change the Bible text to make it fit what they believe to be the truth, what they assume it should teach or presume it to teach. Friends, this is backwards. The Bible should correct us—we should not be correcting it!! (That goes for any and all words!) One of the most misconstrued Bible words is “church.” As we will see in this study, it is important to approach the word dispensationally, just like we do the Bible as a whole. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

The Greek word “ekklesia” (also “ecclesia”) is derived from the root “kale” (“call”) thereby compounded with the prefix “ek”/“ec” (“out of”). This is translated “church”in our New Testament Scriptures. Our English term “church” finds its origin in the Greek “kuriakon (doma),” meaning “Lord’s (house);” “kurios” translates to “master, lord.” In other words, “church” means “belonging to the Lord.” No matter what the dispensation, regardless of where we are on the Bible timeline, God always has a people reserved for Himself. It could be a man, a family, a nation, a group of nations, et cetera. However, we have been misled to believe “church” always means us, the Church the Body of Christ.

If “church” is found in a context that does not fit the assumption that “church” is always the Body of Christ, the Bible verse is changed to make it support the conjecture. For example, Acts 7:38 is the favorite verse to disparage King James Scripture in this regard: “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:….”

Here the critic remarks, “Israel was certainly not the Body of Christ, so it is inappropriate to call it a ‘church.’ The word ‘church’ here is better translated as ‘called-out assembly.’” Such a commentator, who is one of many (although hopefully sincere!), has been trained to believe “Bible teaching” means critiquing the textbook and making himself the authority instead of expounding and elevating the Book he claims to “believe, love, and defend.” He only appeals to the Bible when it fits his preconceived ideas—and, when faced with the choice, he is more willing to change the verse than relinquish his perverted theology. It is sad, but it is true. That is the result of unbelievers dominating our seminaries and Bible colleges with their empty human viewpoint!

HOW THE WORD “CHURCH” IS USED IN THE KING JAMES BIBLE

As noted earlier, the Greek is “ekklesia” (“called-out assembly”). The idea here is God calling out a people for His name. That agrees nicely with the English term “church,” meaning “belonging to the Lord.” Israel is a “church” (English) in that they belong to JEHOVAH God. Moreover, they can be labeled an “ekklesia” (Greek) because He called them from out of Egyptian bondage. Hosea 11:1 is a classic verse to this point: “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” The LORD God “called” Israel in that He sent Moses to lead them from that land of slavery into a new land—the Promised Land. We could thus call Israel here “the Mosaic Church.”

The Apostle Peter speaks of a second “church” in Scripture. First Peter chapter 2: “[9] But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; [10] Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” This is the “Messianic Church,” those in Israel who believed on Jesus as Messiah/Christ beginning with John the Baptist’s ministry onward until early Acts. Note Matthew chapter 16: “[16] And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. [17] And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. [18] And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

It was said of John the Baptist in Luke chapter 1: “[16] And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. [17] And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” From John’s ministry onward, through the preaching of “the Gospel of the Kingdom” (Matthew 9:35), God called out a believing remnant from among Israel (the rest of the nation was apostate, in spiritual darkness and idolatry). So, with Moses, God called out a group, the nation Israel, from Egypt. Starting with John the Baptist, He called out a group from within Israel. That crowd of believers is “the Little Flock,” the heirs of God’s earthly kingdom (Luke 12:32). This “church” also appears in Hebrews 2:11-13, where these Messianic Jews are called Christ’s “brethren” and “the children which God hath given [Him].”

There is a third “church” in Scripture—the “Mystery Church,” a secret God kept to Himself until the appropriate time to manifest it. The risen, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ revealed it directly to and through the Apostle Paul. Ephesians chapter 3: “[1] For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, [2] If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: [3] How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, [4] Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) [5] Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; [6] That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:….” This church, the Body of Christ, is called out from Jews and Gentiles without distinction, without Judaism, without prophecy involved at all. See also 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Ephesians 1:22-23, Ephesians 2:11-22, Colossians 1:23-28, Colossians 3:11, for example.

In Acts 15:14, the Apostle James says, “Simeon [Simon Peter] hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.” Through Paul’s testimony, and Peter’s experience in chapter 10 to validate it, the Lord Jesus is calling out a people for His name from among the Gentiles. This involves the preaching of Paul’s Gospel—“Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). As long as this Gospel of Grace is preached through Paul’s ministry (Acts 20:24), the Church the Body of Christ is forming and the Messianic Church is paused. The Messianic Church will resume after the Body of Christ has ended (see Romans 11:25-29).

CONCLUSION

“Church” is a generic word simply meaning, “belonging to the Lord.” “Ekklesia” is also general, and just equates to “called-out assembly.” These terms must be further defined according to a context. Who is the church? National Israel? The Little Flock? The Body of Christ? (All three are such.) Out of what are they called? Egypt? National Israel? The world of Jews and Gentiles? (Any of these three could be applicable.) See, there is no mistake and no confusion—provided we let the surrounding verses speak. We keep the general definitions in mind and modify them as the context demands. However, we do not modify the King James Bible text (otherwise we are the authority and we lose clarity that would have else came)!!

By the way, the Bible teacher would be most wise to teach the Bible and explainthe Bible rather than criticize the Bible and change the Bible. If a difficult word or concept is encountered, his job is to study, research, and explain it instead of taking the lazy route of explaining it away. Eliminating the word and/or ignoring the text will notchange what the Bible originally said! It takes work to study and elucidate, but it will prove useful in eternity—infinitesimally more beneficial than “wresting” or distorting God’s Word to make it fit our preconceived (misconceived) notions.

SUPPLEMENTAL: THE WORD “CHURCH” IN SCRIPTURE NEVER APPLIES TO A BUILDING!

It should also be noted that not only is “church” often assumed to always refer to the Body of Christ (wrong), “church” is often used to apply to a building (equally wrong). Christians are the church; they meet at the church building. Never once does the Bible refer to a structure of stone, wood, or metal as “the church.” This is nothing more than religious tradition. Be sure to keep that straight, dear friends, or you will never get the full impact of the word as it appears in Scripture!!

Also see:
» Do we live in the “Church Age?”
» What do you mean—“the prophetic program” and “the mystery program?”
» Which belongs in Romans 8:16 and Romans 8:26 in the King James Bible—“the Spirit itself” or “the Spirit Himself?”

What does “under colour” mean in Acts 27:30?

WHAT DOES “UNDER COLOUR” MEAN IN ACTS 27:30?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Acts 27:30 includes a bizarre “King James expression:” “And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship,….” What should we make of “under colour?” We have no need to grow angry at, vilify, or throw out the Authorized Version. All we need to do is a little study to learn something about our English Bible and our English language!

The Greek word rendered “under colour” is prophasis, appearing a total of seven times in the King James Greek New Testament. Notice the other six occurrences, how our 1611 scholars translated the term other ways:

  • Matthew 23:14: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence [prophasis] make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.”
  • Mark 12:40: “Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence [prophasis] make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.”
  • Luke 20:47: “Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew [prophasis] make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.”
  • John 15:22: “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke [prophasis] for their sin.”
  • Philippians 1:18: “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence [prophasis], or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:5: “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke [prophasis] of covetousness; God is witness:….”

The tenor of all these passages is someone appearing to behave uprightly while in reality accomplishing a sinister goal. In other words, they put on a nice show to cover or mask their real intentions. But, what does “colour” have to do with all this? (The King James scholars were British, so they would insist we use “colour” as opposed to “color”—we will happily oblige!). 🙂

“Colour” can be used in the sense of “the hue of the light reflected (bouncing) off an object”—as in yellow, purple, green, blue, red, and so on. This meaning is absurd in the context of Acts 27:30. We should totally disregard that sense in this passage. A less common definition is “an outward often deceptive appearance.” Yet another, but related, sense is “an appearance of authenticity.” These concepts not only best agree with Acts 27:30, they also correspond to how the word appears elsewhere in the King James English Bible and King James Greek Bible.

All that said, we return to Acts 27:30 to define the word with some light commentary: “And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour [pretense—or as the King James scholars prefer, “pretence!”] as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship,….” These men pretended as if they were throwing out anchors from the front of the ship, so as to stabilize and “brake” the ship before ran aground (become stranded on shore). In actuality, they were attempting to release the dinghy or lifeboat so as to escape from the larger vessel!

“[27] But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country; [28] And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms. [29] Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day. [30] And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, [31] Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. [32] Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.”

Also see:
» What about “fetch a compass?”
» Why does the King James Bible say, “pisseth against the wall?”
» “The Spirit itself” or “the Spirit Himself?”

“Thou shalt not kill?” or “Thou shalt not murder?”

IS THE KING JAMES BIBLE IN ERROR—“THOU SHALT NOT KILL?” SHOULD THAT BE “THOU SHALT NOT MURDER” INSTEAD?

by Shawn Brasseaux

NO! … and NO!

Strangely, we find critics of the King James Bible in the most unexpected places— supposed “Christian” institutions! Ironically, they who “love and believe the Scriptures” viciously deride and pick them apart after professing to find “mistakes.” We cannot grasp the absurdity of these who proclaim to not be interested in opinions—all the while expressing their opinions as to which Bible words could be “better translated.” These preachers and teachers are allegedly “not the final authority,” but then they disparage and “correct” the Book they claim is their final authority. How they censure the unsaved for mocking and refusing to trust the Scriptures, but they themselves, touting “textual improvements,” are equally guilty of unbelief. They ridicule Bible doubters and then proceed to erode people’s faith in the Bible! Behold, the madness of sinful men!

What of the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill?” This brief study will demonstrate (once again) how the protests of the King James Bible critics are unwarranted and, quite frankly, rooted in ignorance. Before speaking evil of something they know not, they should study the English language much more than they have already—if they studied it at all. Unless they have first examined the evidence, they are not qualified to make any authoritative analyses or offer any “corrections.”

Notice the sixth of the 10 Commandments: “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). That word “kill” greatly troubles some people. It bothers them nonstop. Desperate to take a swipe at the King James Bible, they cannot help but complain that the word “murder” is more acceptable. The following modern English translations use “murder” here—Amplified Bible, English Standard Version, Good News Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Living Bible, The Message, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, New King James Version, New Living Translation, New Revised Standard Version, New World Translation (Jehovah’s Witness “bible”), and The Voice.

In fact, people will argue that this verse is one reason to justify throwing out the “erroneous” King James Bible and using the “more accurate” modern versions. Were our 1611 (King James) translators mistaken in utilizing “kill” instead of “murder” in Exodus 20:13? Is that a correct evaluation of the verse?

The reason why the King James Bible says “Thou shalt not kill” is that God forbids all instances of any human taking the life of another person. “Kill” is generic but “murder” is specific. Contrary to what we hear and/or believe, they are not interchangeable! All murder is killing, but not all killing is murder. Murder is the intentional, premeditated killing of another; it involves planning, malicious thoughts beforehand. Killing, however, can be deliberate or accidental. (If you want to see how God distinguishes between murder and manslaughter, see Deuteronomy 19:4-10.) Almighty God does not condone anyone taking the life of another human (whether deliberate or accidental). Consequently, He uses that word “kill” in His Book—“Thou shalt not kill.” This prohibition goes beyond murder. (If the modern versions stand in Exodus 20:13, we can say that it is acceptable to accidentally kill another!!)

The Hebrew word (Strong’s #H7523) translated “kill” in Exodus 20:13 is “ratsach” (pronounced “raw-tsakh’”). It means “to dash in pieces, i.e. kill (a human being), especially to murder:—put to death, kill, (man-) slay(-er), murder(-er).” The word appears 47 times in 40 verses, and our King James scholars rendered it as follows: “slayer” (16 times), “murderer” (14 times), “kill” (5 times), “murder” (3 times), “slain” (3 times), “manslayer” (2 times), “killing” (1 time), “slayer” (with H310) (1 time), “slayeth” (1 time), “death” (1 time). It was rendered “kill” not only in Exodus 20:13, but (four other times) here too:

  • “And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill [ratsach] the slayer [ratsach]; he shall not be guilty of blood:…” (Numbers 35:27).
  • “That the slayer [ratsach] might flee thither, which should kill [ratsach] his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in times past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live:…” (Deuteronomy 4:42).
  • “Thou shalt not kill [ratsach]” (Deuteronomy 5:17).
  • “And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed [ratsach], and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine” (1 Kings 21:19).

CONCLUSION

Friend, our 1611 King James translators were fully competent in the Bible languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek). They were also quite knowledgeable in English. “Kill,” not “murder,” is the better word in the context of Exodus 20:13. This is the position that faith takes: the Bible is correct 100 percent of the time, and we are wrong whenever we disagree with it. The prideful, sinful human heart is offended, but so what!

SUPPLEMENTAL: WHAT ABOUT THE DEATH PENALTY?

The death penalty was something God instructed to be carried out by government rather than individuals (except in the case of avenging the death of a relative—see Numbers 35:27 above, for example). The Sixth Commandment forbids individuals taking the lives of others, so that does not detract from capital punishment (governmental involvement). See our related study linked below.

Also see:
» Should Christians support the death penalty?
» Which belongs in the King James Bible—“the Spirit itself” or “the Spirit Himself?”
» Is “excellent” a King James mistranslation in Philippians 1:10?

What about snake-handling?

WHAT ABOUT SNAKE-HANDLING?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:18).

Friend, have you ever heard of handling venomous serpents in religious services? As you read in the above verse, the Holy Bible indeed mentions such a practice. Yet, should we participate in it? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Situated mostly in the “Appalachian” (eastern) and southeastern United States, roughly 100 snake-handling churches exist today on the North American continent. They are usually small assemblies with a Pentecostal or Charismatic background. A special room is maintained to keep the snakes until such “ceremonies.” Some practitioners say that snake-handling demonstrates one’s faith and salvation. Others believe it is necessary for salvation. Whatever the case, they all believe the “Holy Ghost” has come upon them and is now manifesting Himself. They supposedly express their faith in a literal interpretation of the Bible by picking up serpents. (Later, we will treat the Scripture verses to which they appeal.)

Obviously, such endeavors involve great risks. “Worshippers” will pet venomous vipers, hold them, let them slither across their bodies as they dance, sing, roll on the floor, jump, and perhaps “speak in tongues.” There are dozens upon dozens of documented reports of people dying from snakebites in such religious ceremonies. These injuries do not have to be fatal, as medical treatment can be sought. However, that treatment is often refused. They believe God will get them through the pain and help them survive, or He will take their life if it is their time to go. It is better to “do the will of God,” they say, than go to a hospital and receive anti-venom. One such minister, who died some years ago, was bitten nine times before a venomous snakebite killed him. He never once received any medical help and actually lost a part of a finger—then he ultimately lost his life!

SHOULD WE FOLLOW THE BIBLE LITERALLY?

Snake-handling religionists say that they “take the Bible literally.” At first glance, it seems they are correct. But, do they really follow the Bible literally? In the ensuing pages, we aim to evaluate that claim by examining the two passages they quote to defend their practice.

Their primary proof text, of course, is Mark chapter 16: “[16] He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. [17] And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; [18] They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

Indeed, the Bible does say that the above miracles “shall” result. Notice the certainty—it is not “might” or “may,” as in maybe so and maybe not. These supernatural abilities “shall” (not “may” but “shall”) be given to “them that believe.” There is a 100% probability—no question!—that these events will occur. If we take the Bible literally, it does endorse casting out devils (evil spirits). If we interpret the Bible at face value, it does sanction speaking with new tongues (languages never formally learned). If we take the Bible at face value, giving it the literal meaning, it says people will take pick up snakes and not be harmed. If we take the Bible literally, people will drink “any deadly thing” (poison) and they should have no fear of dying. If we are believers in a literal Bible text, we know people will “lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (rather than die). What are we to do, then? Should we practice these things?

Friend, here is what we cannot do. We cannot deny the Word of God. The Bible speaks of exorcism in Mark chapter 16. It mentions speaking with “new tongues.” God’s Word says to “take up serpents.” It speaks of “drink any deadly thing” and “it shall not hurt them.” It supports physical healing—laying lands on the sick and them being cured. By this point, friend, you may find the Bible revolting. You might even want to throw it away completely! Would it surprise you then that some, to sidestep this most vexing passage, have actually argued (because they firmly believed) that Mark 16:9-20 does not belong in the Bible text? Indeed, such people exist… more than you and I realize!!

FAULTY BIBLE TEXT? OR FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS?

It is a sad commentary, but people have been trained to discard any Bible verses they do not understand. Here is an excellent case in point. Textual critics have influenced many to believe and claim that Mark 16:9-20 is not (!) inspired of God because it is “not in the two oldest and most reliable manuscripts.” Of the 600-plus surviving manuscripts that contain Mark, only two omit the passage in question—Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. How can two manuscripts overrule the testimony of 600-plus others? “Scholars” argue that those two are “the most ancient” manuscripts, preferred because they are assumed to be closer to the original writings of the Apostles. This, of course, is a faulty assumption for two reasons.

Firstly, the notion that “minority is best” is silly. If God’s intention was to use two manuscripts to preserve His Word, then why did the saints of old bother to make all the thousands of copies we presently have? Why do textual critics scrutinize 5,500-plus New Testament manuscripts when all they “need” (claim to need) are Vaticanus and Sinaiticus? By their own admission, those two manuscripts have tainted and divergent texts—and the blemishes and discrepancies are “settled” by appealing to other manuscripts. Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are not as reliable as they declare!!

Secondly, “oldest is best” means that alterations to the Bible text occurred long after it was written rather than immediately after. Such a claim is utterly foolish. False prophets and false teachers were conducting “ministries” while Jesus’ Apostles preached in the first century! It would be downright absurd to assume no one corrupted the Bible text until centuries later… especially since we have verses to prove there were Bible corrupters during the days of the Apostles!

Second Thessalonians 2:2 says, “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” Here is a false letter—someone forged it and pretended like Paul wrote it! Paul himself reminded us in 2 Corinthians 2:17, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” Finally, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: “[13] For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. [14] And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. [15] Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”

IF MARK 16:9-20 BELONGS IN THE BIBLE TEXT, THEN SHOULD WE PRACTICE IT? (PART I)

At this point, you sense that this author is advocating the retention (rather than the deletion) of Mark 16:9-20. We should not throw it away simply because two faulty manuscripts eliminate it. The Bible shows us that God the Holy Spirit will preserve His Word through a multiplicity of manuscript copies (Deuteronomy 17:18-20; Psalm 12:6-7; Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; et cetera). We do not “re-construct” a “lost” Bible text using a few ancient manuscripts. This is where the textual critics are in their thinking, and it is nothing but human viewpoint. It is not how God views His Word, and it is not how we should understand it either.

Dear reader, maybe you think of this author as a “kook” or “nut” for claiming the bizarre passage of Mark 16:9-20 as inspired of God, genuine, and worthy of our faith as the rest of Scripture. If we keep it in the Bible, does that mean we have to practice its baptism for salvation, casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, taking up serpents, drinking any deadly thing, and laying hands on the sick for them to recover?

Let it be known that this passage is actually a “Bible buffet” like none other—a “pick-and-choose” frenzy!!! You will never find someone doing all of verses 16-18, but only snippets. Most Protestants reject the baptism for salvation, but Roman Catholics and Catholic-sympathizing Protestants enjoy verse 16. Some people like to cast out devils and speak in gibberish today in religious services (verse 17). As noted earlier, an even smaller group of church members will pick up snakes (verse 18). Who drinks the poison and survives (verse 18)? Of course, a great number will grab the end of verse 18—lay hands on the sick to heal them. Mark 16:16-20 is not this either/or situation that Christendom has made it out to be. One or two sections of the passage should not be seized; all of it goes together, and all must be taken. All of it is valid at once and it all works exactly as the verses say.

If you have been following thus far, another question has been surely prompted. “Brother Shawn, if these verses are true, then why do people die while joining in ‘faith healing,’ why do they perish from snakebites, why do they lose their lives after drinking poison? Is this not contradictory to the Bible’s declarations? Does God not care to keep His people from such evils? Did He not promise to protect believers in Jesus Christ?” Dear friend, these are wonderful questions. As Bible believers, we have no need for embarrassment or disappointment. God’s Word has the answers. If we are truly willing to look in His Book with open hearts and minds, sincere in our quest, we will be inundated with a flood of illumination. Watch and see!

“NO FAITH?”

Whenever the verses do not work like they say they will, religionists dismiss the activity and dispel the awkwardness by declaring, “The sick person died because of a lack of faith! If he had faith in God, the snakebite would not have been fatal! She should have drunk that poison believing the Lord would protect her! It was just that person’s ‘time to go!’” As you can imagine, friend, these comments are but little comfort to grieving loved ones. Furthermore, such excuses draw the mockery and ire of Bible-haters and Christ-rejecters everywhere. Their response runs along the lines of: “Look at those ignorant hillbillies believing in their book of fairytales! We are people of logic and not blind superstition! Organized religion is the enemy of progress in our society! I abandoned the Bible years ago because of such nonsense! No thank you, I can do without that ‘Jesus’ they praise and worship with snakes and poison!”

How can the average Christian respond? Other than silence, there is a weak answer. They adopt the aforementioned view of the textual critics: “That passage of Mark 16:9-20 is not inspired of God, so it was not backed by the power of God anyway.” This position, while often assumed to be the “safe” one, just undermines the authority of the Bible. It further confuses the minds of the lost people mocking the Book they already hate! To take a negative view of Holy Scripture is to agree with them. As they see it, if Mark 16:9-20 is not of God, why bother to believe ANY of the Bible is? We want to be careful here, friends. Be quite careful here. The Gospel of Grace is in jeopardy.

Mark 16:9-20 belongs in the Bible text, but that still leaves us with a problem. Suppose you take the verse of snake-handling as your own, and you have full confidence in God’s Word—“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them…” (Mark 16:18). So, you take up a rattlesnake, you let it slither on your body, and then it strikes you, sinking its fangs deep into your skin. As you collapse to the floor, the venom coursing through your veins, you cry out with your last breath, “Oh, God, You said nothing would happen! I trusted Your Word and you failed me!” You die.

Any Bible skeptics observing the above situation have all the “proof” they need (they believe) to show “God” is nothing but a figment of our imagination. Snickering, they shake their heads. “Me? Believe the Bible? Never in a million years!” For the rest of their lives, they carry the memory of this appalling experience with them. They venture out on a perpetual crusade, shouting at every Bible-believer, “Go away! What foolishness your Christianity is! Let me tell you about that snake-handling episode I witnessed….” What is saddest of all is that they have been just as deceived as the snake-handlers—confusing Christianity with religion—and now they go around confusing millions of others. More and more people grow opposed to Scripture, all because of misunderstandings.

IF MARK 16:9-20 BELONGS IN THE BIBLE TEXT, THEN SHOULD WE PRACTICE IT? (PART II)

Does the existence of a passage in God’s Word automatically necessitate that we follow it as though it is applicable to us? To wit, can we be Scriptural (follow the Bible) and not do God’s will? Indeed, friend, we can. How dangerous it is to mishandle God’s Word! If we isolate Mark 16:18, we can say, “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Yes, that is what the Bible says, so now let us go do that! Hold on just a second. There is another verse we should look at first.

“Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch” (Genesis 6:14). Friend, God says to go and build a giant boat of gopher wood. Man did not say that—GOD said it! When are you going to follow the Bible as it reads here? If you have any common sense at all, you would say, “Brother Shawn, God did not tell me to built that boat. God told Noah to build it.” You would be right, my friend. How silly of this author to grab a verse out of context! Maybe he should have read verse 13 first? “And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” Yes, you are correct. This author was wrong. A Bible verse is not necessarily written to us to follow.

You ask any snake handler, faith healer, or poison drinker if they follow Genesis 6:14 and they will laugh at you. They would be justified in finding levity in the matter, too. However, they are manifesting inconsistency. They refuse to take Noah’s verse as their own but they will steal Israel’s verse! They laugh at one instance of folly yet claim another for themselves! Such is the madness of religion, dear friend, the subtlety of Satan’s policy of evil and the deception of human emotions. Not only must we use the Bible, we must also rightly divide the Bible. It is most hazardous to be Scriptural and not also be dispensational.

Whether you recognized it or not, friend, you just rightly divided the Word of Truth! Instead of trying to follow Genesis 6:14, you knew God was speaking to Noah. You understood God was not addressing you. The LORD God gave Noah some information to believe and act in accordance with, but that was God’s Word to Noah. This is a simple illustration of the heart of dispensational Bible study. Second Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” When we “rightly divide” the Bible, we recognize distinctions God has made in His Word. It is important to see that God says different things to different people at different times in history. The Bible is a progression revelation; more information is disclosed as time passes.

The most fundamental right division that God has made in His Word—and we would do extremely well to recognize it—is between prophecy and mystery. We need to compare two verses to begin to comprehend how God has set up the Holy Bible. We will look at Acts 3:21 and Romans 16:25.

Acts 3:19-21: “[19] Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. [20] And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: [21] Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

This is the Apostle Peter preaching to the nation Israel. It is what the Bible calls “prophecy”—defined as that “which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” When God created man and commissioned him to function on the Earth, Adam was given revelation as pertaining to God’s earthly purpose. Notice Matthew 25:34: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:….” Since man’s creation, God has endeavored to establish His kingdom on the Earth. When Adam sinned, sided with Satan (the Devil), mankind became God’s enemy. Once the nations rebelled against God at the Tower of Babel, He responded by forming the nation Israel (Genesis chapter 12). Israel is the means whereby God will have an earthly people, individuals who can then accomplish His will on the Earth.

Now, we will look at another passage of Scripture. Turning to Romans 16:25-26, we read: “[25] Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, [26] But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:….”

In addition to prophecy, we have something in Scripture called “the mystery.” While God was unveiling prophetic information, He was simultaneously withholding mystery information. He never told anyone that secret until a certain point in time in the Bible. In Acts chapter 9, He began to show that secret to man. This event was the salvation and commission of the Apostle Paul. Paul thus wrote Romans 16:25-26—“the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now [as in Paul’s ministry] is made manifest.”

As we already discussed, God instituted the prophetic program to concentrate on establishing His earthly kingdom. However, what about Heaven? After all, Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” There is more to creation than Earth, so what is God’s method for establishing His kingdom in the heavenly places? We know nothing about that until we come to Paul’s apostleship. In Pauline doctrine, God reveals the secret of His will—how He will gather all governmental authority in His Son Jesus Christ, not just on Earth (prophecy), but also in the Heavenly Places (mystery). Paul’s books, Romans through Philemon, speak of God’s heavenly people. This group is called the Church the Body of Christ. We would do well to read summary verses.

Ephesians 1:9-10: “[9] [Father God] Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: [10] That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:….”

Colossians 1:16-20: “[16] For by him [Jesus Christ] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: [17] And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. [19] For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; [20] And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”

As Peter addressed the nation Israel (Acts 3:19-21), so Paul addressed the Gentiles or all nations. Romans 11:13 says, “For I [Paul] speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:….” What happened to God’s earthly program with Israel? Will He ever bring it to fulfillment? Is it abrogated forever because Israel crucified Christ? Have we replaced Israel? What is God doing today? Paul’s ministry and writings, Romans through Philemon, provide detailed answers. We have no reason to be ignorant, and yet that is exactly where most church members are today. They have not used the Bible rightly divided, and thus split off into thousands of opposing sects, denominations, factions. Immense spiritual darkness covers their hearts and minds. It is like they have no Bible, no revelation from God, at all!

Now, let us return to our previous comments about God’s earthly kingdom. The Bible says, “the Jews require a sign” (1 Corinthians 1:22). In other words, God uses miraculous demonstrations—signs and wonders—to teach Israel various and sundry lessons (doctrine). When the Lord Jesus Christ showed up in the Books of Matthew through John, His earthly ministry, He had come to convert idolatrous, deceived Israel to Father God. Jesus was Israel’s long-promised King, so the good news God had for Israel was aptly termed “the Gospel of the Kingdom.”

Matthew 3:1-2: “[1] In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, [2] And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 9:35: “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”

Matthew 10:5-8: “[5] These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: [6] But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. [8] Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” Luke 8:1: “And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,….”

The common theme in the above verses is, obviously, “the Gospel of the Kingdom,” but also miracles that confirm that message being preached. To demonstrate that God’s earthly kingdom was within Israel’s grasp, the signs of that kingdom were unmistakably evident. There would be no devil possession in the earthly kingdom of God (Zechariah 13:1-2); therefore, Jesus and His Apostles cast out evil spirits. There would be no bodily illness in the earthly kingdom of God (Isaiah 35:3-6); consequently, Jesus and His Apostles performed healing miracles. These were “the powers of the world to come,” Hebrews 6:5 remarks. Such “gifts of the Holy Ghost” signified that God’s earthly kingdom, “the world to come,” was near (Hebrews 2:3-5). Israel could have entered by faith in Jesus Christ!

All this was said—and yes, this author understands, it is a lot—simply to bring us back to Mark 16:16-20. The background has been painstakingly laid (thank you for your patience, dear reader), so now we can notice and better understand the context of the passage under consideration. Verse 15 is the context, so we need to begin there. Jumping in at verse 16, 17, or 18 is completely unwise!!

Mark 16:15-20: “[15] And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. [16] He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. [17] And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; [18] They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. [19] So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. [20] And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.”

Verse 15 introduces this whole section as involving the preaching of “the gospel.” What is that Gospel message? Is it the Gospel of Grace that we preach today, as commonly assumed? No! Just days earlier, the Lord Jesus spoke of this gospel of the kingdom” in Matthew 24:14—“this” is a highly important word. The signs and wonders of Mark chapter 16 do not apply to our Gospel. It applies to “the gospel of the kingdom”—if, if, and I know that is a big if!!!—we believe the Bible instead of blindly following religious tradition. Look at the close of Mark chapter 16: “[20] And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” Does this not sound like what we were just discussing about validating the Gospel of the Kingdom? Indeed, it does! Do you see, friend, how the Bible just flows together so beautifully when we rightly divide it, comparing Scripture with Scripture, and keep religious tomfoolery and church tradition out of it?

Some argue that there is not one instance of snake-handling in Scripture (this, other than their “oldest is best” textual argument previously mentioned, is their “strongest” reason for rejecting Mark 16:18). While it is true that no Apostles ever took up venomous serpents to “worship God,” there is an interesting account in the Bible of a deadly viper attacking Paul and it not harming him. This is the second proof text of today’s snake-handling crowd, so it behooves us to examine it now.

Acts chapter 28: “[1] And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. [2] And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. [3] And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. [4] And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. [5] And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. [6] Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.”

It may help if you re-read that lengthy excerpt, dear friend. What was Paul doing? Was he handling snakes while singing hymns and dancing around that campfire? Of course not! He was gathering wood for the fire, and, without warning, a snake lashed out at him and bit him. This is certainly not like the serpent-handling of modern religion. Paul was not playing around with snakes to “praise God.” He was not seeking injury or deliberately attempting to put himself in harm’s way as fools do in religion today. Now, that may sound harsh, but it must be said. Today’s snake-handling is just plain foolishness.

There is no one operating in faith with snake-handling today. It is not the God of the Bible working. The Spirit of God will only do what the Word of God says, and the Word of God says the Holy Spirit is not doing this today. Such abilities have no relation to us the Church the Body of Christ. We are not waiting for the earthly kingdom of God. We are not looking for the signs of the coming kingdom on Earth. We are not preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. Hence, we never read in Paul’s epistles (Romans through Philemon) about laying hands on the sick, casting out devils, and picking up venomous serpents. They are signs of Israel’s kingdom program, and that program is temporarily suspended while God is dealing with us in the Dispensation of Grace. Read Romans chapters 9-11 for all the details. Also see our “Can you explain Paul’s ‘Acts’ ministry?” article linked at the end of this study.)

So, you probably want to ask another question: “Brother Shawn, what is the explanation for what snake-handlers are doing today? If it is not God the Holy Spirit, then who or what is behind such a practice?” Such people feel an adrenaline rush, an emotional high, and they misinterpret it as the Holy Spirit of God coming upon them. “His presence” is actually nothing but deceptive emotions completely out of control! We naturally fear wild and dangerous creatures, and our bodies react by producing adrenaline (which “stirs us up” to fight or take flight!). Moreover, religion can have an extremely powerful influence over our hearts and minds, just as alcoholic beverages (Revelation 17:2). Therefore, we have to constantly (daily) stay in the Bible rightly divided. It guards our minds and hearts against Satan’s policy of evil. Do not forget, you can follow God’s Word and be completely out of God’s will. Not only do we use and quote the Bible, we use and quote the Bible rightly divided!

In addition, here is something else to consider about Acts chapter 28. Notice how the Holy Spirit is careful to write in verse 6 that there was not so much as swelling on Paul’s body. Not only did he not die, there was absolutely no indication he was even bitten!! He did not cry out in pain or fall to the ground. You look at snake-handling religionists’ bodies today, friend, and you see various scars. Some have permanent bodily impairment—missing or deformed fingers, limited hand dexterity, and so on. (And, of course, you can find them in the cemetery as well!!) They speak of suffering “excruciating” pain. One such minister claimed he hoped to never die in such a horrible manner. He eventually died from… of all things… a fatal snakebite!

Okay, so we understand that Mark chapter 16 is indeed God’s Word, but it is not God’s Word to or about us. What do we do now? Is there any hope in understanding this mysterious passage as it relates to Israel’s program? Will anyone ever successfully/safely practice the snake-handling passage of the Bible? Yes! (Just not us, and just not today!)

IF MARK 16:9-20 BELONGS IN ISRAEL’S PROGRAM, THEN WHAT PURPOSE IS THERE OF SNAKE-HANDLING?

The operating system of Israel’s program is the Mosaic Law (also called the Old Covenant). If Israel disobeyed God’s Word, she would be punished. He would use hardship to try to correct her misbehavior. Leviticus chapter 26 details those curses or chastisements. Notice: “[21] And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. [22] I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate. [23] And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; [24] Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.”

Did you catch verse 22? What will the LORD God do to rebellious Israel? Will He not send wild animals to attack and kill them? Yes, He will. As an illustration, read 2 Kings chapter 2: “[23] And he [Elisha the Prophet] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. [24] And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. [25] And he went from thence to mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.” These young people mocked JEHOVAH God’s messenger, and so the LORD God introduced a new phase of intensified judgment (the chastisement phase described in Leviticus 26:22).

Numbers chapter 21 speaks of God judging Israel for her unbelief and wickedness: “[5] And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. [6] And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. [7] Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. [8] And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. [9] And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Paul’s commentary in 1 Corinthians 10:9 summarizes—“Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.”)

Before the Lord Jesus Christ ever spoke of those serpents in Mark chapter 16, God had already judged Israel with wild beasts—including venomous snakes. He used His creation, the animal kingdom, to punish the faithless, idolatrous Jews. Notice now Jeremiah 8:17: “For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the LORD.” Remember, God sent literal snakes to kill rebels amongst the Jews in Moses’ day, and Jeremiah says it will happen once more.

As we look beyond our Dispensation of Grace, friend, to when Israel’s program resumes, God must finish Israel’s stages of punishment. The curses of Leviticus chapter 26 and Deuteronomy chapter 28 will be brought to the full, and then God will cause all these times of suffering to disappear with the Second Coming of Christ. Israel, believing Israel, will be blessed of God as they enter His earthly kingdom. Unbelievers will be consumed in His wrath, but Israel’s believing remnant will survive!

The Apostle John provides the final piece of the “snake-handling” puzzle. We read in chapter 6 of the Book of the Revelation, yet future from us: “[7] And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. [8] And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” Notice the wild beasts are consuming humans like never before. Unbelievers will perish. However, believing Israel will physically survive because God has promised them victory over serpents (and, by extension, all harmful creatures). Mark 16:15-20 is part of the Divine commission that Israel will follow in the end-times. Friend, it has nothing to do with us! Remember, dispensational Bible study! Notice the audience of the passage before you claim the passage as your own!! This is taking the Bible literally!

By the way, before we summarize and conclude, let us listen to Exodus chapter 4: “[1] And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee. [2] And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. [3] And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. [4] And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: [5] That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.”

Snake-handling was one of the signs the LORD God gave Moses the ability to perform to convince unbelieving Israel. If you continue reading the passage, the second was the miracle of physical healing (verses 6-7—another Israeli kingdom sign, remember!!). Snake-handling symbolizes spiritual deliverance, exorcism (casting out devils—Satan is a snake or deceitful being in character, as Genesis 3:1, 2 Corinthians 11:3, and Revelation 20:2 show). No matter what Satan would do, God would ultimately deliver Israel from Satan’s grip. This was the purpose of Moses’ snake swallowing up the snakes Egypt’s satanic magicians had “conjured” (Exodus 7:10-13). Israel will have similar victory in the end-times, freedom from Satan’s control. The snake will harm the unbelievers, but Israel’s believing remnant will survive!

CONCLUSION

Particularly in the southeastern United States, one will discover small religious groups that participate in snake-handling ceremonies. Why this extreme behavior? Is it Scriptural to handle venomous vipers with the understanding that they will not harm us? What are we to believe if deadly snakes do strike and kill Christians?

If you follow religious news, you will occasionally find an article about an individual who has died at church because of a snakebite. This person was said to be “weak in faith.” Had he or she believed God when holding the snake, the snake would not have bitten. While we should certainly take the Bible literally—as we do any book, right?—there is a second key to keep in mind when approaching the Scriptures. We have to be very careful to look at contexts. If we take the Bible literally when it endorses snake-handling, should we not also take it literally when it says such a practice is not given to or about us members of the Church the Body of Christ?! We cannot claim a passage in “faith” when faith is also believing the passage when it says we are not its audience! Mark 16:15-20 is all about the Gospel of the Kingdom; it has absolutely nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with Israel during the end-times.

First Corinthians chapter 14: “[37] If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. [38] But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” In snake-handling circles, “the Holy Ghost takes control of them.” It is all about “feelings.” Yet, if the Holy Spirit were truly leading them, they would listen to these verses that the Holy Spirit penned! Paul is our apostle (Romans 11:13), and God through him commands us no such things about handling snakes, drinking poison, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out devils, water baptizing, and so on.

The test for spirituality today in this the Dispensation of Grace is not whether or not one handles venomous snakes, speaks in tongues, drinks poison, heals the sick, raises the dead, or even keeps the Saturday Sabbath. According to the Holy Spirit (see verses above), spirituality today is measured according to whether or not an individual pays attention to Pauline revelation. The Lord Jesus Christ committed to Paul the Dispensation of Grace (Ephesians 3:1-2), so it naturally follows that the Spirit of God would lead us to listen to the words He spoke to us in the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon. Again, there is nothing in Pauline revelation about taking up venomous snakes. Such instructions have a special place on the Bible timeline (future from us). When we “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we recognize that those directions do not apply to our time. Friend, right division is literally a life-or-death situation in this case. Playing with harmful snakes may be fatal… and we will die such a painful death while quoting Scripture!!

Also see:
» Does Mark 16:18 teach that chemotherapy will not harm us?
» Should I speak in tongues?
» Can you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?