Punctuation & Truth

July 6, 2010

Though the knowledge of God comes to us via various translations of the Bible. Much that is human comes with those translations as well. From what I have been able to gather, the first person to designate verses in the New Testament was a 15th Century Italian Dominican biblical scholar named Santi Pagnini. Though his system was never really accepted or used. A man named Robert Estienne did it again in his 1551 edition of the Greek New Testament. The first New Testament in English to use verses was a 1557 translation by William Whittingham. The Geneva Bible published in 1560 was the first English Bible to use chapters and verses in both the Old and New Testaments, and these divisions have been used ever since. Up to the second century, even the term “Old Covenant” was used by the Greeks when referring to the Hebrew Bible. The term “testament” came about from a transliteration into English from the Latin Vulgate, which designated the Hebrew Bible as “Vetus Testamentum.” The designation of the New Testament came about as a way of distinguishing between the Hebrew Bible, and the later writings. Neither of these designations or names is divine in its origin. These were the work of the translators over the centuries.

Even the names and order of the books varies from manuscript to manuscript, with the exception of the seven Church Epistles of Paul. The names and order of the books of the Old Testament, as they appear in English Bibles today, originated in the Third Century with the translation of the old Hebrew Bible into Greek, known as the Septuagint. For instance the words “Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus” are Greek words, not Hebrew. In the Hebrew Bible the book of Genesis is actually titled ‘Bereshith,’ or ‘In the Beginning.’ In English Bibles, the first verse of Genesis appears as “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” In the Hebrew Bible however, the words “in the beginning” are actually the title of the book, with the first word of the first statement of the scriptures being “God.” “God created the heavens and the earth.”

Chapters, verses, chapter headings, marginal notes, center references, paragraph markings are all of human origin. They are not of divine origin, and while they may be good for reference, they are absolutely devoid of any and all authority when it comes to divinely inspired truth. The Word of God must be read for accuracy and logic and thought content, rather than the insertions and additions of man.

Punctuation is another critical example, and perhaps one of the most important to recognize and understand, because punctuation can dramatically alter the text of scripture, thereby changing its intended meaning, and seriously skew the truth of God. Punctuation of the texts was added over the centuries by the many different translators, editors, and revisers of the Biblical manuscripts, and all of them are even in disagreement with one another as to the punctuation.

The truth of the matter is that a person can make the Bible say anything they want it to by just punctuating it in just the right way, in order to substantiate their theology. One such example is found in the book of Acts.

Acts 21:14
“And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.”

The way that verse is punctuated in the King James Bible, it is saying that the person it is speaking of could not be persuaded, so they ceased trying, and said, “the will of the Lord be done.” We will need to closely examine this record, the context of this verse, the circumstances surrounding it, to see if the will of the Lord was done.

Acts 19:21
“After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”

There are different usages of the Greek word pneuma, translated ‘spirit’ in this verse, in the Bible. Sometimes it is used speaking of God, who is Spirit. Sometimes it is speaking of His gift of holy spirit. Other times it is speaking of the spirit of man, or the soul of a man, his ‘heart’ (the seat of his personal life). Thus it is here in this verse, for it says that Paul purposed, he decided, it was in his heart to go to Jerusalem for the upcoming feast. He was after all of the stock of Israel, and of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews (Philippians 3:5). He loved Israel. He purposed to go. It does not say that the Lord spoke to him, or an angel spoke to him, or that there was any kind of revelation from God for him to go. Let’s keep reading.

Acts 20:22
“And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there.”

To be bound is not to be free. It is just the opposite. Paul was bound in the spirit. He was spiritually not free to go. Something was amiss about his going to Jerusalem, but he was determined to go. He had purposed in himself that he was going to go.

Acts 21:4
“And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.”

Now we see clearly the revelation manifestations of “word of knowledge” and “word of wisdom” (I Corinthians 12:8) in operation. These believers said to Paul through the spirit that he should not go to Jerusalem. They did not purpose this within themselves as Paul had, but they said this to Paul through the spirit, by revelation.

Acts 21:9
“And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophecy.”

While it does not say specifically what these believing women prophesied about, it is in the context of Paul going to Jerusalem, against God’s will.

Acts 21:10-13
“And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.”

God now sends a prophet down to Caesarea, all the way from Judea, to warn Paul, by revelation yet again, not to go to Jerusalem. Look at everything God is doing to stop Paul from going to Jerusalem.

Acts 21:13
“Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Can’t you just hear Paul? “You’re breaking my heart.” “Please stop telling me what to do.” “I know what I’m doing.” “I’m willing to die for this thing.” I’ll bet he even got mad at people. Was he sure of himself? Absolutely! Was he sincere? You bet! Was he right? Absolutely to the contrary, he was dead wrong!

Paul was bound in the spirit about going. Disciples, by revelation, warned him not to go. He likely heard in the prophesying of Philip’s daughters to not go. God even sent a prophet, a man who had a gift ministry, to warn him again by revelation not to go. The believers begged him, everybody tried to get through to him. God did everything he could, but Paul had made up his mind as to what he was going to do. His perception was skewed, and he was in error. He was as sincere as a person can possibly be though. He did go to Jerusalem, and was almost killed, and as a result spent the rest of his life imprisoned under house arrest. He thought he was absolutely right in what he was doing, the course on which he had set, and, although he continued to receive tremendous revelation from God after he was imprisoned, the outreach of the Word of God in his life and ministry thereafter suffered because of his error.

After all the clear evidence of the scripture, was the will of the Lord done (as verse fourteen is punctuated)? Absolutely not! The translators, either not seeing the truth of God in the record, or out of a sincere but false sense of duty to cover for Paul, punctuated the fourteenth verse in such a way as to alter the truth of the Word of God. Since punctuation is not part of the divine origins of the scripture, we can change the punctuation of verse fourteen to properly demonstrate the truth of God that is clearly seen in this wonderful record.

Acts 21:14
“And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased saying the will of the Lord be done.” (Commas removed)

They gave up. Paul was set on what he wanted to do, what he purposed in his spirit to do. Their voices fell on deaf ears. Paul had made up his mind. So, they quit trying to convince Paul to do the will of the Lord, and they “ceased saying the will of the Lord be done.”

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