Every Man a Liar
When discussing traditional Christianity, the most common objection I’ve heard usually goes something like this: “How can a supposedly loving God send people to Hell?” The Lord answers this question at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Unfortunately, His words are often mis-translated.
The passage in question is Matthew 7:24-27, in which Jesus talks about the wise man who builds his house on solid rock, while the foolish man builds his house on sand. I’ll quote the King James Version, for starters:
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
I highlighted the pertinent phrases, which I checked against the Septuagint and found maintained in the New King James Version. They show a fundamental difference between wisdom and foolishness:
- The Lord will find wisdom where He will.
- Foolishness exposes itself, with no effort from the Lord.
This is perfectly in line with what St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 9:2) Then we trust the Lord to speak correctly, and we demonstrate that trust with our actions: “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20)
Without trust in Him and His words, we are fools, simpletons, whose works are of no heavenly value. Only His grace towards us changes that. If we reject His grace, He needs to do nothing more; we condemn ourselves to Hell.
So why do the Revised Standard Version and the New International Version gloss over this? The NIV says simply, “is like a wise man” and “is like a foolish man,” and the RSV similarly says “will be like” instead of “is like.”
It’s one thing to adjust a wording, to be suitable to modern language; it’s quite another to change the Lord’s words from His own mouth. Whatever purpose the NIV and RSV editors were trying to accomplish, their end results were fraudulent.