Faith Comes by Hearing

God's Word

Now, for New Year's I was entertaining the idea of going to a bar and having one beer to celebrate. I figured nobody would mind and it wouldn't hurt me any.

Then I missed my bus the other day and had to wait for the next one. Sometimes God has reasons for delays. While I was waiting a few college age guys showed up and started talking about the various bars they visited. The one said he didn't drink only to get a buzz. What's the point of that? He drinks to get soused. Then they described their various misadventures and the women they were with when they got drunk.

I got to thinking, yeah, I have one beer, and then the next question will be what's the point of just one, have another. Later I tuned in the radio preacher who illustrated a series of: I'll just do this one thing just this once, and where it leads.

I decided to stay home after all.

Saturday morning I went to this breakfast at an Eastern Orthodox church. I was really impressed by the architecture, the onion dome. It created a reverent attitude. The building was a relatively new construction. I told one of the fellows in line that it's better than what was there before. He asked me what that was, and I told him he didn't want to know--believe me.

As I was enjoying the ambiance of the courtyard, a woman leaning on a cane in front of me was smoking a cigarette. When she was done she crushed out her butt on the flagstone. That just didn't look right to see a cigarette butt out there like that, but I could hardly ask the (handicapped) woman to take care of it. Oh well, we're supposed to be servants anyway, so I picked it up and deposited it in the dumpster. She thanked me for that, and I just mentioned I was doing it for the sake of a clean area, implying that I wasn't at this time criticizing her smoking.

I felt that honoring the sanctity of the house of God took precedence over perhaps making the woman look bad by drawing attention to her smoking habit. I base that on Paul's instruction about it being a shame for women to speak in church. Much has been made about that being a cultural situation, and criticism of Paul--undeserved, in my opinion--for his hatred of women, but I think there's a valid message that preserving the decorum of the house of God takes precedence over being cautious not to offend women by restraining them in some ways consistent with culture.

I understand that my preacher would "go to the mat" rather than cooperate with some homosexual agenda (bravo!), but there has been a strong lesbian influence on the women's lib movements, and to try to appease them in our verbiage does not take precedence over the decorum in God's house, whatever Paul's secret feelings towards women or their cultural games hidden in the mist of time.

At the breakfast the women of the church were all modestly dressed--quite a change from the previous establishment. Their conversation was edifying, and one played her guitar and talked about the "blessedness of music." It made me feel like honoring womanhood. Even the dialect she spoke seemed somewhat sanctified like the KJV dialect, not the same but similar in effect. A KJV type dialect is a nice touch like the modest attire.

I ran into a friend at the breakfast, and since I wasn't doing anything else, I accompanied him to his AA meeting. Man, after listening to some of the testimonials, I got a real good idea of the road these guys have gone down. I mean, if the Pope himself showed up on my doorstep offering me a special dispensation to go to a bar for one beer, I'd tell him I was fine, go give it to someone who needs it more than I do. I'll take a good night's sleep and a clear conscience any day.

I was looking at my certificate of achievement for listening to the NT. I didn't like the expression, FAITH COMES BY HEARING, so I modified it to FAITH COMETH BY HEARING. That seemed better. Now I've thought through the reasons.

There was a well known movie (Mel Gibson?) about a farmer in Kansas who builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield so that ghosts of famous baseball players will play there. The vision he had told him, "If you build it, they will come." I'd liken that to faith coming by hearing the word of God. Sure you can have the faith of great men of God residing in your heart, but they aren't going to come to some obscure cornfield for nothing. You have to actually build the diamond, read (hear) the word of God. See my analogy?

Well, I later went to a movie that was a spoof on other movies. In this spoof a guy meets this woman, I think at a bar, and he gets a voice in revelation, "If you f___ her she will come." If there were a lot of that, I would have left the movie. Sometimes words get twisted in their meaning by perverted people trying to sound cute.

But when I was in college, my whole conversation consisted of double entendres trying to be cute in a dirty way. My speech has cleaned up since I've been a Christian, and the KJV really elevates it. Nevertheless, I think some of it is below the surface in the subconscious or something because I instinctively changed the certificate saying to the honorable KJV. Upon reflection I see the double entendre in "Faith comes by hearing" as a woman named Faith who gets off on phone sex. I know I wasn't meant to think it, but don't the sayings on our walls influence the subconscious, and besides, who knows who from my past will ever visit my room with such a saying displayed? "Faith cometh by hearing" is clearer in this regard.

That demonstrates the truth of:

    It was this Rabbi Bag Huna who offered the famous definition of a Talmudic scholar: "He should be able to concentrate so thoroughly upon the Torah that a seventeen-year-old girl could pass his desk completely naked without distracting him." To which Rabbi Asher said, "I fear not many would pass that test."
    Rabbi Asher made three comments upon the Torah: "Get old and get gray, get tired and get toothless, but get Torah." "The law is like a jar filled with honey. If you pour in water, the honey will run out and after a while you will have cheapened the mixture until there is no honey left." "At the gate of the shop a man has many friends. But at the gate of Torah he has God."
--James A. Michner, The Source458

I'm sure that the early church members did not bring their personal scrolls to the meetings, so that in fact they must have heard the scriptures read publicly, as is Jewish custom to this day. And yet I don't think we're supposed to be satisfied with just what we hear in church.
Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

As for hearing it with our ears, I think reading only by sight is more a modern invention than ancient custom.


§ 3. Mode of reading among the ancients: ancient habits of thought.459

The Oriental nations, whose manuscripts resemble those of the ancients in wanting capitals, italics and punctuation, are leisurely readers, and as they follow the writing with the eye, they very frequently articulate the words, or at least move the lips, as we are apt to do in deciphering a difficult chirography. Indeed, such is the difficulty of reading manuscript so penned, that in cases where etiquette or other reasons require a written instead of a verbal message, the letter is sometimes accompanied by a reader to explain its purport to the recipient. A curious passage in the 'Confessions' of St. Augustine seems to imply that the ancients usually articulated the words in their private reading; for it is remarked as a noteworthy particular in the habits of St. Ambrose, that he read by the eye alone, when engaged in private study.
    "When Ambrose was reading," says Augustine, "his eye passed over the page, and his mind searched out the sense of his author, but his organs of speech were silent. We often saw him studying in this inaudible way, and never otherwise, and we supposed that he feared, that if he read aloud, he should be interrupted by those who heard him with questions about the meaning of obscure passages; or, perhaps, the desire of sparing his voice, which was easily fatigued, was still a better reason for this silent study."460

I can't help but wonder if those who accuse us of "worshipping the Book" aren't themselves not so much distracted by it from worshipping God as they are from their daily affairs that they don't want to diminish. "At the gate of the shop a man has many friends. But at the gate of Torah he has God."

Anyway, just a basic reading of Proverbs tells me: (Prov. 7:1-4) "My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman:" it seems to me that God wants his sons to keep the scriptures very very close like the sisters they worship--not in an idolatrous sense but in ultimate respect--so as to avoid pitfalls. In our culture family relationships often lack the closeness they once had, so we may miss the import of that proverb, so let's try a more familiar example. Here we'd more likely see a guy sticking close to his "girlfriend," so let's take that as an example if we want to get the import of the proverb without feeling too bound up with "the Book" version. I mean this in the sense of Jesus using evil fathers to illustrate God's generosity, and hard hearted judges the efficacy of prayer, that there are all kinds of examples of guys sticking close to a girlfriend that we sure wouldn't ever use as a good example of male-female relations, but would make dandy metaphors for closely reading our Bible from whence cometh wisdom.


But in a little while it was almost like the old days again. Conor learned that along with all the Pumo difficulties, Tim now had to deal with the exciting new complications caused by Maggie being nearly twenty years younger and not only as crazy as he was, but smarter besides. When she moved in with him, Tim began feeling "too much pressure." This much was absolutely typical. What was different about Maggie was that after a few months she disappeared. Now she was out-Pumoing Pumo. Maggie called him on the telephone, but refused to tell him where she was staying. Sometimes she placed coded messages for him on the back page of the Village Voice.
    "Do you know what it's like to read the back page of every issue of the Voice when you're forty-one?" Pumo asked.
    Conor had never read any page of any issue of the Village Voice. He shook his head.
    "Every mistake you ever made with a woman is right there in cold hard print. Falling for someone's looks--'Beautiful blonde girl in Virginia Woolf T-shirt at Sedutto's, we almost talked and now I'm kicking myself. I know we could be special. Please call man with backpack. 581-4901.' Romantic idealization--'Suki. You are my shooting star. Cannot live without you. Bill.' Romantic despair--'I haven't stopped hurting since you left. Forlorn in Yorkville.' Masochism--'Bruiser--No guilt necessary, I forgive you. Puffball.' Cuteness---'Twinky-poo. Twiddles wuvs yum-yum.' Indecision--'Mesquite. Still thinking. Margarita.' Of course there's a lot of other stuff, too. Prayers to St. Jude. Numbers you can call if you want to get off coke. Baldness cures. Lots of Strip-O-Grams. And Jews For Jesus, every single week. But mainly its all these broken hearts, this terrible early-twenties agony. Conor, I have to pore over this back page like it was the Rosetta stone. I get the [darn] paper as soon as it hits the stands on Wednesday morning. I read the page over four or five times because it's easy to miss the clues the first couple times. See, I have to figure out which messages are hers. Sometimes she calls herself 'Type A'--that's Taipei, where she was born--but other times she's 'Leather Lady.' Or 'Half Moon'--that was for a tattoo she got last year.
    "Where?" Conor asked. He didn't feel so bad now, only a little drunk. At least he wasn't as f___ed up as Pomo. "On her ass?"
    "Just a little below her navel," Tim said. He looked as though he was sorry he had brought up the subject of his girlfriend's tattoo.
    "Maggie has a half moon tattooed on her pussy?" Conor asked. He wished he had been in the tattoo parlor when that was going on. Even if Chinese girls weren't Conor's thing--they reminded him of the Dragon Lady in "Terry and the Pirates"--he had to admit that Maggie was more than normally good-looking. Everything about Maggie seemed round. She somehow managed to make it seem normal to walk around in chopped-up punk hair and clothes you bought already ripped.
    "No, I told you," Pumo said, looking irritated, "just a little below her navel. The bottom of a bikini covers most of it."
    "It's almost on her pussy!" Conor said. "Is any of it in her hair? Were you there when the guy did it? Did she cry or anything?"
    "You bet I was there. I wanted to make sure he didn't let his attention wander." Pumo took a sip of his drink. "Maggie didn't even blink."
    "How big is it?" Conor asked. "About half dollar size?"
    "If you're so curious, ask her to show it to you."
    "Oh, sure," Conor said. "I can really see me doing that."

That's about what it's like to "worship the book." "Do you know what it's like to read the [Bible] when you're forty-one?" Contrary to what we hear it's not the youth that has trouble picking up a new sacred terminology, but those of middle age. A person's vocabulary is pretty well finished being formed by the time he's 22, and now he's got to develop new terms and concepts. "Get old and get gray, get tired and get toothless, but get Torah."

But you'll find that "Every mistake you ever made ... is right there in cold hard print." Those who cannot be bothered to delve into the scripture are still prone to the same mistakes, they just don't see them spelled out in sacred script.

"Of course there's a lot of other stuff, too. Prayers to St. Jude." Yes, a lot of various prayers in the Bible that you'll be unfamiliar with if you don't "worship the Book." "Numbers you can call ..." Yes, tedious genealogies in places like the book of Numbers. "Baldness cures." A lot of arcane rules on diet and hygiene. "Lots of Strip-O- Grams." The Bible lays bare so many affairs. "And Jews For Jesus, every single week." God's marvelous grand plan unfolding. I'd say these are good analogies.

"But mainly its all these broken hearts, this terrible early-twenties agony." Mainly the Bible contains a lot of agonizing failures, from Adam and Eve's sin to the infighting of Abraham's line to the Hebrews in bondage, to their deliverance and wanting to go back, to the prophets trying to correct their descendants, to the lack of faith in Jesus' generation, to the problems in the early churches: if you're reading the Bible, you're getting a lot of that.

And then you have to be diligent about reading it. "I have to pore over this back page like it was the Rosetta stone. I get the [darn] paper as soon as it hits the stands on Wednesday morning. I read the page over four or five times because it's easy to miss the clues the first couple times." I read my Bible first thing in the morning, sometimes going back over the same passages trying to decipher the clues.

Pumo's problem was figuring out the signature, and one problem Bible students have is figuring out the third person pronoun: sometimes it's thee, sometimes thou, sometimes ye, etc. It's the uninitiated and the nonscholar who make a big deal out of it. To us readers it's pretty straightforward: thou is singular subject, thee is singular object, ye is plural subject and you is plural object. Even if we can't diagram it, we can pretty much tell which one goes where in the reading. It's knowing the details of the dialect like knowing your girlfriend's tattoo. Those not familiar with the English Bible get altogether too distracted by this issue. "A Talmudic scholar should be able to concentrate so thoroughly upon the Torah that a seventeen-year-old girl could pass his desk completely naked without distracting him."

So the other morning I am tuning across the AM dial when I come across a preacher going over the story of Amnon and Tamar. Oh good, it's a poignant example of foolish action and its result, one we should hear in this "liberal" age. I had just tuned in at the middle of the story, right about where the preacher gets to the place of quoting, (II Sam. 13:13b) "... Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee." It's a pertinent enough lesson that God isn't against sexual relations--He created them--, He just wants it to be between one man and one woman in a sanctified marriage, as our sermons also indicate.

But instead of hearing the quote I expected, the preacher read from another [NKJV?] translation which said, "... the king ... will not withhold me from you." You is plural, at least in the Bible dialect I am expecting to hear. And the context is, (II Sam. 13:9b) "... And Amnon said, Have out all men from me. And they went out every man from him." So I am hearing Tamar telling Amnon that it would be foolish for him to take her like this himself, but a gang bang would be OK.

I turned my radio off in disgust. That is exactly the kind of reasoning I got from my cronies in college, that while ordinarily it would be "bad" for a guy to screw a girl, yet if she is participating in a gang bang, she is considered such a "bad" girl herself that the guys aren't going to be held accountable for any trouble that ensues. That's actually the reasoning my college cronies spouted, and as a Christian I am to reorient my thinking according to the Bible which I don't want to hear retranslated into that sorry old line. It has to do with our common dialect using you for both singular and plural while the KJV dialect uses it for plural (object) alone, which is not completely forgotten when hearing scripture quoted in modern versions.

Words, just as individual thoughts, are shaped and may be repressed by communal usage; in such cases their meanings may be partly or totally forgotten, yet they remain unconscious latent powers beneath dictionary definitions.
--J.T. Fraser, Of Time, Passion, and Knowledge462

A modern version wants to use the pronoun you for singular cases as well, according to contemporary usage, but in a work with a well established plural usage only, that word retains "latent powers beneath [modern] dictionary definitions." It was just too close to past influences (I'd rather leave in the past) for me to ignore.

    A Sensible Proposition.463 --So here is one of the first problems connected with the training of children at home. It is better to use the terms which scientific usage has agreed upon clearly than it is to get along with the popular substitutes.

Formation of our English Sacred dialect.464
    Such is the general history and character of the received version. But what are its relations, past and present, to the language of which it is the purest and most beautiful example? I have said its diction was not the colloquial or literary dialect of any period of the English language. It is even now scarcely further removed from the current phraseology of life and of books than it was two hundred years since. The subsequent movement of the English speech has not been in a right line of recession from the scriptural dialect. It has been rather a curve of revolution around it. Were it not carrying the metaphor too far, I would say it is an elliptical curve, and that the speech of England has now been brought by it much nearer to that great solar centre, that focus of genial warmth and cheerful light, than it was a century ago, when hundreds of words in its vocabulary, now as familiar as the alphabet, were complained of as strange or obsolete.465 In fact the English Bible sustains, and always has sustained to the general English tongue, the position of a treatise upon a special knowledge requiring, like any branch of science, a special nomenclature and phraseology. The language of the law, for example, in both vocabulary and structure, differs widely from that of unprofessional life; the language of medicine, of metaphysics, of astronomy, of chemistry, of mechanical art, all these have their appropriate idioms, very diverse from the speech which is the common heritage of all. Why, then, should theology, the highest of knowledges, alone be required to file her tongue to the vulgar utterance, when every other human interest has its own appropriate expression, which no man thinks of conforming to a standard that, because it is too common, can hardly be other than unclean?

A friend who is a Baptist minister was telling me of the problems faced by one young man. Seems he had participated in a gang bang of about twenty fellows with one young girl. The girl was underage, and so were all the other fellows except he who was barely of age. He was being prosecuted for having sex with a minor, and it seems that under Oregon's mandatory sentencing structure for sex offenses, he would get the full penalty along with a sex offense record. The minister seemed to feel that was a bit harsh and there should be some leeway, and I can see his point. It's not like he seduced a young virgin. And yet he did commit a crime, it seems, and he would have to pay.

I told my friend of my experience where I had gone out with a girl from North Carolina a few years younger than me. I perceived that she had allowed herself to be mistreated by men somewhere along the way, so I decided to pray for her. I didn't know who those awful men were, as I had never been to North Carolina, but I would see what I could do.

As I got to praying I got to remembering my college days when I participated in a lot of foolish talk concerning women. But that had nothing to do with this girl. Then I got to thinking about one roommate who was a year behind me, how I sure was not a good influence on him at the time. I conveyed to him a lot of my wrong ideas. Then I remembered how he did his co-op job (training to be an engineer) in Huntsville, Alabama. Yes, but that's not North Carolina. But I remembered that on his co-op job he moonlighted as a late night disk jockey. So I looked at my map and saw that the station's nighttime coverage would get into North Carolina, no problem. So my foolish ideas got passed to my roommate who broadcast them somehow on the air from Huntsville where they were heard by the boys in North Carolina who acted accordingly with the girl I am praying for. I didn't have to look far to find one of those awful men who messed her up.

Sure, the Living Bible and the NIV paraphrase the saying of Tamar so that it doesn't sound bad, but that's like me feeling I got off Scott free in college. The switching to a singular usage of the pronoun you by the NIV is a contributory influence on its acceptance and use in all modern versions and so a partner in the crime. I mean, if we as individuals have to watch our words which can have a far reaching effect, how much more should we in the books we use as Bibles?

I overheard a guy talking on his cell phone on campus the other day. He was relating his experience where he was in the men's room taking a leak when a woman he knows walked in naked. He saw her and said, "What's wrong with you? Why are you in here?"

She replied, "I don't know." She wanted to make out, so he made out with her a little and then left. He wondered where his girlfriend was, and found her out by the car. She told him she was waiting for him by the men's room door and when she saw the naked woman go inside, she didn't know what was going on so she came out to the car. He explained it to her.

Later he learned that it was some kind of sorority prank or something that girl and another girl did--I wasn't listening too closely--which explained it. Isn't it weird how something completely off the wall is acceptable when done by a group? Gang bangs, sorority pranks, even messed up translations of the Bible which an individual could never get away with, when it's in print and read and used by enough people, it becomes acceptable.

I could kind of relate to that guy's experience. He had to pee, so it wasn't his fault for being in the men's room. I'm required by Hebrews to go to church so I've got to be there. The naked woman and the modern version walked in; well, we didn't invite them. We are still loyal to the girlfriend or the Bible. It's not the old KJV as one sermon stated no more than it is his old girlfriend in the sense of being a past one, but more like one that has been around a while and we still want to keep. He had to look her up, and I have to look up sermon references in my Bible in order to actually be loyal. I appreciate the references being displayed on the wall as it helps me do it.

What's a nuisance anyway, in a rest room or church service? FCC v. Pacifica Foundation,466 "As Mr. Justice Sutherland wrote, a 'nuisance may be merely a right thing in the wrong place----like a pig in the parlor instead of the barnyard.' Euclid v. Amber Realty Co., 272 U.S. 465, 388." A naked woman in the women's room, no problem. Just not in the men's room.

If we've got new converts who have never even heard a Bible quoted before, and the preacher reads to them from modern versions in a contemporary service, that wouldn't be so bad. But in a traditional service where we can expect most or all or some of the members to be familiar with the sacred dialect of the KJV, then using modern versions is a nuisance to them. Even if it's made easy to look up verses in the KJV--to go look up his girlfriend out by the car--, if the same new version is used week after week, that regular girlfriend, explanations notwithstanding, is going to wonder about her guy's loyalty when that naked woman goes into the bathroom with him every time. What does the fellow do when he can't get the girl to stop her prank? Eventually he calls the cops, or he sues the publisher of the NIV. He has to in order to be loyal.

I think the relevant passage is, (I Peter 5:5) "Likewise ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." There is a primary obligation for the younger to submit to the elder, in this instance, among us English speakers, to learn to use the sacred Bible dialect that has been passed down and still used through generations. But all of us should be humble, and submitted to each other. That would be fulfilled by allowing, say, the NKJV to be read in a contemporary service. Although certain preachers have been emphasizing the NIV, they don't find it always has what they want to teach. But "The law is like a jar filled with honey. If you pour in water, the honey will run out and after a while you will have cheapened the mixture until there is no honey left." One preacher seems to have been putting the KJV in the past tense--"old King James Version"--and on the list of Bible cassettes/CD's to order in the "Faith Comes by Hearing" program, the NIV is on top where the KJV should be, even should we allow other versions to be read. If the bottom is on the top, then who's on first?

I think we're losing the sense of the Bible as a special treatise when we try to put it into ordinary day to day language.

    "You see the Village Voice?"
    Harry shook his head. He realized that he had unconsciously pushed his hands into his pockets to hide their shaking. Jimmy searched around behind the bar until he found the paper in a stack of menus beside the cash register and slid it across the bar with the back page up. VOICE BULLETIN BOARD, read the headline above three dense columns of personals in varying type sizes. Harry saw that two of the ads had been circled.
    The first message read: Foodcat. Missing damned you. Will be Mike Todd Room 10 Wed. The Wanderer. The second message was in caps. JUST DECIDED UNABLE TO DECIDE. MAY BE MIKE TODD, MAYBE NOT. LA-LA.
    "See what I mean?" Jimmy asked. He began grabbing glasses from below the bar and vigorously swirling them around in a sink.
    "Your sister placed both these ads?"
    "Sure," Jimmy said. "Whole family's crazy."
    "I feel sorry for Tim."467

We get contradictory messages in the Bible too. In one place it will say we are chosen and predestinated. In another it is all a matter of free will. Yes. So can a translator put this special treatise into modern language to eliminate the seeming contradiction? Or:

    The next day was Wednesday, and after getting Vinh off to the markets and Helen to school, Tim set out to buy a copy of the Village Voice at the newsstand on the corner of Eighth Street and Sixth Avenue. Many newsstands were closer, but Eighth Street and Sixth Avenue was only a few blocks from La Groceria, a café where Pumo could sit in pale sunlight streaming in through long windows, sip two cups of cappuccino while pretty waitresses with white morning faces yawned and stretched like ballerinas and read every word of the VOICE BULLETIN BOARD.
    He found a message from Maggie right above the drawing in the center of the page: Namcat. Try again same place, same time? You should fly East with the others, taking Type A with. Her brother must have heard about their trip from Harry and then told her.468

It's in the nature of a special treatise--such as the Bible--to require rereading of the same passages. Can the translators put it into such familiar English that we can read it but once and get it all? Then why pretend?

I think we want to elevate the word of God above day to day discourse which finds all kinds of perversions to mess with our minds. The single problems we find from time to time in the modern versions--like the time one preacher couldn't use the NIV in a sermon on prayer--should cause us to set them aside as we do when we disqualify a bishop on just a few points, or even one, or as I refused to go to a bar for one drink as it represented a whole lifestyle which I didn't want to embrace. Then there was the time I needed to ask a neighbor for a favor, which was within my rights, but he wouldn't necessarily agree to it. It turned out he did, just barely, against his wife's opposition.

I know that the story is not the highest application, but it works as an illustration. I was experiencing some interference on my ham radio which was coming from the neighbors, and it was hard to tell from which one without going into their home and actually turning off devices. I had my first suspect whom I had never even met, and how was I to present my case? Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I just went over there one evening to talk to him.

As luck would have it, his wife was away somewhere that evening and he was having a sort of guys' night out cooking steaks at his house for the fellows he had over, and then I showed up. He invited me in and right away offered me a beer from the fridge. Now, I know to be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit, but we are talking here about one beer and my need to establish a camaraderie that would enable me to ask a favor, even though I had some rights in the matter. It wasn't as if I would be driving home--I lived right across the street--, and I wasn't doing anything that required exceptionally keen judgment.

As it turned out I didn't even have to finish the beer, just drink enough to be one of the guys. It turned out the interference problem didn't originate with him but I later found another one that did, and I got his cooperation to resolve it.

I think you understand my liberty in Christ, to drink part of a beer in moderation, in order to be one of the guys, all things to all men, to serve a higher purpose. But if I started hanging out in bars every week, it might be seen as something different. Sure, if on occasion one were to use a modern translation to fit a need of a modern speech quotation of a single verse for someone who needs to hear it that way, I'd grant it as a case of liberty to serve a purpose, but when every (most every) Sunday, we get the same NIV when my KJV is perfectly intelligible in the verses the preacher quotes, I start to see it as a poor choice of version.

Let's look at a couple of very wise Solomon's 3,000 proverbs: (Prov. 3:17, 23) "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. ... Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble." I'd say hearing the NT read on tape per our earlier "Faith Comes[eth] by Hearing" program was a "way of pleasantness, and a path of peace." A very good experience.

Now, if I'd heard it read in some modern version, particularly the NIV, it would have rankled me to no end hearing instead of the sacred dialect I'm accustomed to, a worldly one in which I'm accustomed to hearing all kinds of grievous sentiments expressed throughout the week. Week after week in this world. But that is the version my preacher usually preaches from, the one that changes "faith cometh by hearing" into the sexual proclivities of a woman named Faith. Yuck! Week after week, sermon after sermon, yuck! (And they are otherwise good sermons.)

As for, "thou shalt walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble," I'd relate that to having enough wisdom to not go to a bar for a drink to celebrate the new year. First, that drink would mess up my judgment with its preliminary buzz, which could in fact lead to more drinks one after another on a long sorry road, to drunken misadventures of one kind or another, aided by the company I'd find in the bar. Better to stay home and get a good night's sleep.

Same goes for our Bibles. There is that first big mistake; I encountered it in how the NIV paraphrases whom a widow is allowed to marry which flies against the teaching of Paul. Others may have encountered it when the modern versions neglect certain basic teachings on prayer. That first encountered mistake is bad enough like that first drink. But there is a whole series of grievous fundamental mistakes these modern versions make which is brought out in available literature on the subject, and I've also examined a few more myself. Taking a modern version as an authority on a verse is like going to a bar for one drink: yes but there are shelves full of drinks one could well end up swallowing.

There are all kinds of misadventures one may have as a result and while the KJV translators are the utmost best company and the received text a most reliable one, Westcott and Horte--whose minority texts and inferior older ones are used in virtually all the modern English versions--are corrupted to no end.

God's word The question is, why would I ever want to go to a bar for a new year's drink in the first place? Popularity. Same reason a preacher might use a modern version, although, granted, there are times when Christian liberty would allow us to do something for a higher purpose, but I think we are being needlessly overwhelmed by these modern versions, in a traditional service no less.

I'm starting the dicey task of documenting an alternate meaning to the expression:

                                         Faith Comes
                                         By Hearing
which graced the certificate I was sent.

A Sunday sermon included the differentiation between money and Money, the second being capitalized to denote a personified Greek entity. Similarly, faith can be capitalized Faith to denote a proper name, the most familiar being, (Rev. 19:11b) "... and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True," although usually just Faith being a woman's name.

I quickly find myself in a position of being unable to find edifying documentation of the verb to come meaning to have a sexual orgasm; dictionaries won't touch it, so I'll offer with apology, "Henry Miller's example of the ejaculatory process:"469

I was in such a cold-blooded state of control that as she went through her spasms I poked it around inside her like a demon, up, sideways, down, in, out again, plunging, rearing, jabbing, snorting, and absolutely certain that I wouldn't come until I was damned good and ready.

For Faith (capitalized) to come might mean for her to have an orgasm. The third part, to come by hearing, also presents difficulty finding edifying documentation, but at least I've found one not so prurient:

    Daniel feels that he could keep going for another twenty minutes, but the chime of the grandfather clock in the hall reminds him that they are supposed to meet friends for brunch, and that they had better start moving in that direction. At this point, Daniel decides to have his second orgasm. This time, he will ejaculate.
--Barbara Keesling, Ph.D., How to Make Love All Night470
Here Daniel ejaculated by hearing the chime of the grandfather clock. There are a lot more prurient sounds to come by:
    "You run pay-per-call numbers out of here," Boldt said, indicating the flyer in his hand. "Area code nine hundred numbers." He wanted the man on his heels, wanted him thinking in the wrong direction. "Stroke lines?"
    "Adult entertainment. All perfectly legal."
    "I don't see any phone banks."
    "The beauty of technology, Lieutenant. Our sales representatives operate out of their own homes for the most part. Through a computerized switching terminal we receive and reroute all calls."
    "College coeds?" Boldt asked.
    "Housewives, mostly." He waited for Boldt's shock to register. "The woman moaning on the other end of the phone is doing her ironing in front of the television half the time. Cooking dinner. Playing solitaire on the computer. It's all about role playing, Lieutenant. The men call to be turned on, and to hear what they don't hear at home."
    "At eight dollars a minute," Boldt pointed out.
    "Supply and demand."
--Ridley Pearson, Middle of Nowhere471
Okay, but you might think that nobody in the congregation could possibly take a "Faith Comes By Hearing" certificate to indicate a woman named Faith being turned on to the point of orgasm by some sensual sounds. Not necessarily a good assumption. The radio preacher Dr. Gene Scott told of a guest preacher, I think in the 1800's, giving an alter call with the impassioned plea of a woman saying to her husband, "Why won't you come? Why, oh why, won't you come?" which produced an amount of subdued tittering from the congregation. Perhaps there could be a better choice of words.

What makes it worse was to call it a "Certificate of Achievement" as the expression: "to achieve orgasm" is practically idiomatic.

I had told my friend of my experience where I had gone out with a girl from North Carolina a few years younger than me. I perceived that she had allowed herself to be mistreated by men somewhere along the way, so I decided to pray for her and ended up recalling my past foolish ideas having got passed to my roommate who broadcast them somehow on the air from Huntsville where they were heard by the boys in North Carolina who acted accordingly with the girl I am praying for. I didn't have to look far to find one of those awful men responsible for having messed her up.

I felt bad about that, but then I considered that I had been forgiven by the Lord for that and many other sins, and that at least I had returned to my college to tell my old roommate about Christ. But sometimes if we wonder where all the cruddy ideas get propagated from, we need look no further than ourselves. Some of us are concerned about the portrayal of sexual messages everywhere one looks. Who is responsible for that? Well, we might look to ourselves. Those certificates were sent to people who will post them on their walls to be viewed by whoever comes by, in whatever frame of mind. We did have the KJV on the reading list. Its statement, "Faith cometh by hearing" wouldn't lend itself to misinterpretation. Why couldn't we use the KJV on it?

Instead, we used the NKJV's, "Faith comes by hearing," which is along the lines of the accustomed NIV's, "Faith comes from hearing," which has the same innuendo. The purpose of actually hearing the word of God spoken out loud was explained to us. Then the NKJV/NIV's expression was put on the document as, I suppose, what version we should be hearing. Then in a sermon the preacher went over the difference between, not the KJV's mammon and money, but the NIV's Money and money. But there is no way to hear the difference between Money and money from the spoken word, so the preacher had us visualize the capital letters on the one but not the other.

I mean, take the words Polish and polish, same spellings but different words depending on whether it is capitalized or not. But they are not pronounced the same, so we can hear which one the speaker is using by ear alone. Not so with Money and money. They are pronounced exactly the same, so we can't tell which one someone's speaking unless he has us visualize the capital letter. But the NIV was written in modern English not the "old" English of the KJV.

Okay, let's look at the KJV obsolete word, one that we can actually hear the difference from it and money. Mammon. Let's look it up in the dictionary. Here I am using a high school dictionary472, printed by Webster for the express purpose of helping high school students understand words they might come across.
mammon n, often cap [ LL mammona, from Gk mamona, from Aramaic mamona riches] : an often personified devotion to material possessions; also : WEALTH
That's pretty much what the preacher was talking about.

Now let's look at how mammon is used in contemporary literature that a high school student might come across and then consult his dictionary to improve his vocabulary. The following quote is from a book written by a banker, not a theologian, discussing the pitfalls of buying on credit.

Debt and Discontentment473
    Closely connected with discontentment lies the love of money or mammon. People who desire the things of this world and the riches it provides bring upon themselves many griefs and sorrows. ...
    In his commentary474 on the book of Hebrews, John MacArthur offers Christians six ways of reaching contentment. ...
    Fifth, "we should continually remind ourselves what true riches are." The riches of Christ are unsearchable (Eph. 3:8). A wealthy young man was instructed to sell his possessions that he might obtain heavenly treasures (Mark 10:21) and the LORD instructed His followers to store up treasures in heaven and not on earth (Matt. 6:19-21). ...
    Finally, we must realize that "contentment comes from communion with God." The LORD taught us the impossibility of serving two masters. The reason is obvious. Eventually we will learn to love one master above the other and become devoted to him. We cannot serve both God and mammon (riches) for the two are in opposition (Matt. 6:24). True devotion to God will avoid the entanglements of worldly riches.

That goes right along with the sermon using the word mammon which is interchangeable with WEALTH--dictionary--" ... love of money or mammon" ... "We cannot serve both God and mammon (riches)." If contemporary man is reading literature employing the word mammon whose meaning is found in a contemporary dictionary, why do we have to skip the respectable KJV to go to the NIV with its Money/money that can't even be distinguished by speech alone? It would get worse if the preacher'd gone to a truly contemporary expression in his sermon, "The Jesus people have freed themselves from living lives which were held captive to the future and have lived for the moment but in the process have found that, although man does not live by bread alone, he does need bread."475 What, do we also have small bread and cap. Bread to differentiate the two concepts? The preacher took the time in his sermon to explain the Greek derivation of "Money." Since he explained it anyway, why not use the contemporary word mammon?

We might do well to look an excerpt from the poem:

The Latest Decalogue476
No graven images may be
Worshipped, except the currency:

Mammon relates to money the way an idol relates to a graven image. Some scripture passages switch back and forth between the two because they are intertwined. People with idols commonly have graven images although sometimes only idols in their imagination. One is a physical manifestation of the other. Money itself is not evil, but the love of money is. For people serving mammon it is sometimes necessary for them to dispose of the graven image of cash in order to be free. It's more than just changing the capital letter of Money to the small spelling money as that sermon I heard would seem to indicate.

Nonce Symbols477

    A nonce symbol is a symbol that the writer invents "for the nonce"--that is, for a particular occasion. Nonce symbols occur mainly in poems written during the last century and a half. Before that time poets and other writers drew their symbols from the large body of traditional symbolism, especially from the symbolism of Christianity and the rituals of the Christian churches. But with the decline of universally accepted religious beliefs and rituals, poets, including Christian poets, began to invent private symbols.
Nonce-word478 Strictly, a word used but once so far as existing writing shows; a word coined for the occasion and not attaining general use. Un-black in the following sentence would be called a nonce-word"
     She liked black coffee, black cigarettes, black Italian
     shawls, which was interesting, since she was so
     distinctly un-black herself, but all creamy and pale
     gold in the white Capri sun.
--Wilber Daniel Steele, "Bubbles," p. 95.

The word Money with a capital M is a nonce word coined by the NIV translators for a particular occasion which doesn't use more contemporary English here, because such capitalized Money just isn't in the English dictionaries, hasn't come into general use as has mammon. The idea here, I suppose, was to communicate with people not familiar with traditional Christian terminology which they found easier to do by making up a word than finding a contemporary one to suit their purpose. For that reason it doesn't seem a fitting translation to use in a traditional service as I've mentioned before, and here the NIV makes it too easy for money-loving Christians to get out of disposing of excess cash by merely changing to lower case the word money.

There's also the matter of the parable of the unfaithful steward which evidently was addressed to the Essenes with their prohibition on the use of "unrighteous mammon" (their term), the coin of the realm. The NIV translators also didn't understand that parable (who does?), and by not familiarizing ourselves with the term mammon in Matthew 6, we are that much further away from understanding the parable once we encounter it.

Besides all that, the NIV's Money has no different pronunciation than money, which works against the plan to get faith by hearing God's word spoken audibly (in sermon). And then we pull ourselves down to a low level of possible innuendo in using the NKJV/NIV type terminology on the certificate. Rather than us descending to such a low level, why not have the attender lift himself up to a better understanding of English? which the preacher could have done for him well enough as he explained the Greek derivation of mammon anyway--he just didn't use the term.


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Earl Gosnell
1950 Franklin Bv., Box 15
Eugene, OR 97403


Copyright © 2004, Earl S. Gosnell III

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

Permission is hereby granted to use the portions original to this paper--with credit given, of course--in intellectually honest non-profit educational material. The material I myself have quoted has its own copyright in most cases, which I cannot speak for but have used here under the fair use doctrine.

I have used material from a number of sources for teaching, comment and illustration in this nonprofit teaching endeavor. The sources are included in a notes file. Such uses must be judged on individual merit, of course, so I cannot say how other uses of the same material might fare.

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Scripture quotations marked NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION or NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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