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Concerning Slaves

July 20, 2019

       Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm, I Timothy 1:7.

 

       A quick rule of thumb for anyone trying to discern the accuracy of anything written about bible doctrine is to look to see if the commentator was able to express what he believes without changing a King James Bible.  Years ago, when I was struggling over a particular heresy that someone was trying to feed me, I ran across this gem from Dr. Peter Ruckman.  "If a person changes something in your King James Bible it is because he is saying something that the bible does not say."  

     In my previous post, Servant or Slave (A Side Note to Basics)  I illustrated how that the word "slave" is only used in your King James Bible twice.  I explained the difference between servants and slaves.  Almost immediately, a friend sent me a link by Kent Brandenburg in which he uses the Greek word "doulos" to state categorically that all Christians are slaves to Jesus Christ.    

       Slavery is actually a big part of the Bible. In the New Testament, the noun form of "slave" (doulos) occurs 127 times, and its verb form occurs 25. Scripture doesn't hide the fact of slavery. It's right there again and again.  Later, in that same July 3, 2019 post from his blog What is Truth, he makes all Christians to be slaves to God; "The Bible teaches slavery. Believers are slaves of Jesus Christ. Every person is a slave to something or someone. Paul said you were either a slave of sin or a slave of righteousness -- you are either one or the other and not both at the same time."

       Why did he have to translate that word differently than the King James translators?  They translate it as "servant".  He had to change it because he believes something that the King James Bible doesn't say.  Remember, we are translating the bible into English.  Slave has a specific meaning in English.  As was quoted in the last post, the Oxford English Dictionary defines slavery as it has been defined in English for centuries as: One who is the property of, and entirely subject to, another person, whether by capture, purchase, or birth; a servant completely divested of freedom and personal rights.

       When a person is saved, does that person become divested of all freedom and personal rights?  No, God grants a large amount of latitude to his believers that no slave would ever be given.  Read where Paul states that he still hasn't decided how to answer Nero; For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not, Philippians 1:21,22.  That doesn't sound to me like a man divested of all rights.  He is not a slave as understood in the English Language. 

        At no point in the New Testament does any believer so lose his personal freedom or rights so that the believer becomes God's slave.  Regardless of any person's belief in the free will of a lost person, a regenerated believer has free will and can exercise it at will.  The King James translators understood that.  I don't know what training Mr. Brandenburg has in the Greek Language but I doubt that he could sit and discuss the ancient Greek classics in the Greek tongue with the King James Translators as they most certainly could.  

    Many years ago, Dr. D.A. Waite was kind enough to allow me to interview him on the telephone.  Regardless of whether or not Dr. Waite would agree with the focus of this blog, he was courteous and showed me no lack of respect while I interviewed him and I have tried to show that same respect when mentioning him.  In that interview I had discussed a level of knowing Greek that the King James translators had achieved.  If they had been listening to a sermon with a non English-Speaking guest from the continent, they could have acted as interpreters for him by rendering that service in Greek.  Dr. Waite quickly concurred that those men could certainly have done that and that that was far above his level of skill in Greek. 

       I mention this because Dr. Waite is recognized by both friends and foes as one of the foremost experts in Bible Greek still living.  I am going to going out on a limb here and suggest that Mr. Brandenburg has not attained more Greek skill than that.  Why is that important?  Because the King James translators had been reading writing and conversing in the Greek Language since their primary days in school.  Before they were ever allowed to enter college they had to show a mastery in Greek.  These are men who had read not just the Greek New Testament, but had read all extant Greek writings.  

      I am fairly certain that Mr. Brandenburg has not read Plato, Sophocles, Aesop, Pericles, Thucydides, Parmenides, Pythagoras, Gorgias, and whatsoever other Greek writers in their original tongues.  You can be sure that the King James translators had and that they could have discussed the varied uses of the word "doulos" as the word was used throughout the centuries of Greek dominance in Literature.  They could have discussed the varying and often subtle rules that locked a person in servitude throughout the various Greek City States, the Greek colonies and eventually the Roman Empire.  They could have discussed it in Greek.  

       The King James translators lived in a society that had varying degrees of servitude from out right slavery to indentured servitude to domestic hired servants.  When those men saw the Greek word "doulos"  in its New Testament context as opposed to the Greek word "soma" which they translated as slave in the Book of Revelation, they could have discussed those words' usages through the centuries and discuss the varying laws that were in force in each century wherein they were used.  Every one of those men unanimously agreed that when the Apostle Paul used the word "doulos", he was speaking of a servant and not a slave.         When a word is used in any language, the entire context of the passage in which it is found is far more important than having a dictionary on hand.  To run up to one of the King James Translators with Strong's Greek Dictionary would be a little boy wearing Bob the Builder underpants swinging his plastic hammer and criticizing a work crew building a sky scraper.    

      I don't know Mr. Brandenburg and perhaps if I met him I would meet a better Christian than I could ever be.  I just know that in his widely read blog post that he disagreed with my bible and with about 48 men who each in their individual capacities could have read, spoken and written in the Greek Language far better.         

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