Does Jesus Own Slaves?

In John MacArthur’s sermon on the subject of his new book, he announced an amazing discovery: English translators of the Bible, going back to the authors of the King James Version have perpetrated a massive fraud on the reading public.

The Greek word δοῦλος (doulos) means slave, not servant.  Jesus doesn’t have servants, he only has slaves.  We, as slaves of Jesus have no rights at all.

Disclaimer: Since I haven’t read the book yet, I will admit it may be more nuanced.  I am here responding to a thirty-minute sermon.  You can see his You Tube introduction here where he claims “I uncovered a distortion of truth . . .”  He even calls it a “conspiracy.”

I am teaching a class on “Interpretation” this semester.  The class deals with the proper linguistic, historical, and theological interpretation of the Bible.  We use a textbook that is well accepted by evangelical Christians: Grasping God’s Word by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays (Zondervan).

Here are three points from the book, which could be illustrated in any textbook on the subject.

1.  Words do not have one inflexible meaning, but a range of meanings depending on context.  It is not possible to translate a Greek or Hebrew word always with the same English word.  (Think of the English word “pass” in these contexts: at the dinner table, on the football field, when driving a car, and when taking an exam.)

2.  We have to understand words and passages in the Bible against their historical, cultural, and social context.  We have to take a journey back into the ancient and strange world of the Bible and understand the text in its own world before we can understand its meaning for us.

3.  We have to read the Bible theologically, in light of the bigger picture of what it says about God and his ways and purposes and our relationship to God.  In particular, when understanding metaphorical language we have to compare various metaphors to get a total picture.

(updated 3/16/2011)

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