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Question: I have read twice now in your writings that the words "all" and "world" are the 2 most misunderstood words in the New Testament. If that is so, how can we trust our Bibles? Please explain yourself!
Answer: Thank you for asking this question so I can "'splain" myself. Here is the "long answer":
God had His New Testament written during a period of time when Alexander the Great ruled the whole known world and forced every country in his Greek Empire to speak his Greek language as a second language. The "world language" of Alexander the Great became known as "Koine" ("coin-a") Greek, meaning "common Greek", the "street language" of the whole known world, during the time of Christ!
When the writers of the New Testament penned their New Testament Books, THE WHOLE WORLD COULD READ THEM IN THE KOINE GREEK, and they knew what the Greek words and "figures of speech" meant in the New Testament.
We must study the Greek New Testament to have the same understanding that the first century Christians had.
During the last century, the Christian Church has paid less and less attention to the use of the general Greek words like "pas" and "kosmos", for example, C.H. Spurgeon, in his 1858 sermon on "Particular Redemption", (recommended reading) stated: " the whole world has gone after him" Did all the world go after Christ? "then went all Judea, and were baptized of him in Jordan." Was all Judea, or all Jerusalem, baptized in Jordan? "Ye are of God, little children, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one". Does the whole world there mean everybody? The words "world" and "all" are used in some seven or eight senses in Scripture, and it is very rarely the "all" means all persons, taken individually. The words are generally used to signify that Christ has redeemed some of all sorts --some Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, and has not restricted His redemption to either Jew or Gentile".
Let's start with the English word "all" in the New Testament:
We can look in our "Strong's Exhaustive Concordance", or Bible PC program (I use the free "Onlinebible", downloaded from OnLineBible.net) and search for the English word "all", and I find 15 different Greek words translated "all" in the New Testament, each having a different "shade of meaning".
Most of these Greek words translated "all" in the KJV are well defined by their "context" and come through correctly to the English reader.
Among these 15 different Greek words, there are Greek words meaning "absolutely all", in the New Testament, such as the Greek words "hapas", Strong's number "537", and "holos", Strong's number "3650".
Matt 24:39 All (Hopas, <537> absolutely all, 100%) the evil inhabitants of the earth were swept away by the flood. (Only Noah and his family were left alive).
Matt 24:14, "this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all ("holos", "3650", consisting of all its "parts") the world.
The misunderstandings come from the Greek word "pas" and its forms. "Pas", Strong's number "3956", is used by the New Testament writers 1,243 times, and "pas" means "all sorts", all kinds of", "all manner of", and cannot be "forced" to mean "100% all".
The problem is that the English reader tends to read the passages containing "pas" as a 100% "all". Branches of Theology, and different Christian "Denominations", and even systems of false teaching, have been formed by reading passages containing "pas" as a 100% all!
Here are some examples where "pas" is translated correctly in the KJV:
Mt 4:23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all <3956> manner of sickness and all <3956> manner of disease among the people.
Mt 5:11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner <3956> of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Mt 10:1 And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner <3956> of sickness and all manner <3956> of disease.
Mt 12:31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of <3956> sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
Mt 13:47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind <3956>:
Lu 11:42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner <3956> of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
Ac 10:12 Wherein were all manner <3956> of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
Re 21:19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of <3956> precious stones.
Then we find obvious examples of how we cannot "force" "pas" to mean 100% all:
Mt 3:5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all <3956> Judaea, and all <3956> the region round about Jordan, (100%, Really?)
Mt 8:34 And, behold, the whole <3956> city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts (100%, Really?)
Mt 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all <3956> men for my nameís sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. (100% all men hate the Jews?)
Mt 12:23 And all <3956> the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? (100%, Really?)
Mt 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things <3956> are possible. ("all kinds of things" - can God lie? Can He change the plan He has decreed?)
Mt 21:10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all <3956> the city was moved, saying, Who is this? ("ALL the city"?)
Mt 21:26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all <3956> hold John as a prophet. (Did 100% of "all" the people think John was a prophet?)
Mr 1:37 And when they had found him, they said unto him, All <3956> men seek for thee. (100%, Really?)
Mr 13:13 And ye shall be hated of all <3956> men for my nameís sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (100% of the people in the world hate the Jews?)
Mr 14:36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things <3956> are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. (100% "all" things? Again, God cannot lie. There are many, many things that God's character will not allow Him to do.)
Lu 2:31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all <3956> people; ("all" people where? Can't be every human being)
Lu 3:15 And as the people were in expectation, and all men <3956> mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; (100% every human being?)
Lu 4:15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all (<3956> "all types"). (Everyone that heard him glorified him? 100%?)
Lu 11:41 But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things <3956> are clean unto you. ("All kinds of things", we don't have to think very hard to come up with lots of things that are not clean)
Lu 20:6 But and if we say, Of men; all <3956> the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet. (100% all - Really?)
Lu 21:38 And all <3956> the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him. (All the people in the world?, In Israel?, In Jerusalem? Can't be a 100% all, any way you want to twist it)
Jn. 3:26 "All" (<3956> pas, types or kinds of) people coming to Jesus and His disciples for baptism. Notice in verses 23 & 23, John and his disciples were baptizing people also!!! (So, not "all" were going to Jesus! It should be "all kinds of people". John's disciples meant "a whole bunch of people are starting to go and be baptized by the disciples of Jesus, so what are we going to do?)
Jn 8:2 All the people (<3956> All kinds of people) came to be taught.
Ac 3:9 And all <3956> the people saw him walking and praising God: (100% "all the people"? (Don't we think it means "all kinds of, meaning a whole bunch?)
Ac 3:11 And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all <3956> the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomonís, greatly wondering. (100% "all"? Don't we think it means "all kinds of, meaning a whole bunch?)
Ac 21:27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all <3956> the people, and laid hands on him, (100% "all"?)
Ac 21:28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all <3956> men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. (100% of "all" the people everywhere? So, every human being in the world?)
Ac 22:15 For thou shalt be his witness unto all <3956> men of what thou hast seen and heard. (everybody in the world?)
Ro 14:2 For one believeth that he may eat all things <3956>: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. (eat 100% "all" things? All "types" of things, speaking of O.T. dietary law)
Ro 14:20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things <3956> indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. (100% "all" things are "pure"? All "types" of things, speaking of O.T. dietary law)
Ro 16:19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all <3956> men. (So, everybody in the world?)
1 Cor 2:15 But he that is spiritual judgeth (discerns) all things <3956>, yet he himself is judged of no man. (Really? Quantum physics too?)
1 Cor 3:21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things <3956> are yours; 22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all <3956> are yours; (Really? I'll order a new house and a Cadillac then! Don't we think it means "all kinds of things"?)
1 Cor 6:12 All things <3956> are lawful unto me, but all things <3956> are not expedient: all things <3956> are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (Can't be a 100% all! How about murder?)
1 Cor 15:22 For as in Adam all <3956> die, even so in Christ shall all <3956> be made alive. (All types "in Adam" die, all types of those "in Christ" shall be made alive)
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things <3956> are become new. (Can't be a 100% all, we still have an old sin nature)
Php 4:13 I can do all things <3956> through Christ which strengtheneth me. (All kinds of things - check the context - Paul is enduring all kinds of things. Should we try jumping off of a 10 story building to test this "all"?)
1 Ti 4:4 For every <3956> creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: (100%? Really? Try a tree frog that has red eyes and let me know how it works out!)
1 Ti 4:10 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all <3956> men, specially of those that believe. (All types of men, especially the type that is presently believing)
1 Ti 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all <3956> evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (Root of 100% all evil? Rape?, Pedophilia? It's not hard to think of lots of "evil" that has nothing to do with the love of money)
Tit 1:15 Unto the pure all things <3956> are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. (100% "all"?)
Heb 2:17 Wherefore in all things <3956> it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. (Not a 100% "all" here either - "All types of things that pertain to humanity. For example, Jesus did not have a "sin nature" from Adam.)
1 Jo 2:20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things <3956>. (Rocket science?)
3 Jo 1:12 Demetrius hath good report of all <3956> men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true. (Do we think "all men" have ever even heard of Demetrius?)
Re 21:5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things <3956> new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (100%? Is He going to make Satan "new"? All "types" of things in the New heavens and New earth.)
The Greek word "pas" MAY mean a 100% all, but, I haven't found one. If we do take "pas" to be a 100% all, the context must be considered and the rest of the Scriptures must back it up!
Here are some often misunderstood passages where the use of the general Greek word "pas" must be understood as "all kinds", all types", "all sorts", "all manner of", etc:
Acts 17:30 God "now commandeth all <3956> men every where to repent". How could God "command" some men to do something they cannot do? Answer, God commands "All" (TYPES) of men everywhere, "Jew, Gentile, male, female, rich, poor, educated, uneducated" to repent.Note: The early church, for approximately 8 years, from Acts chapter 2 through chapter 10, was all converted Jews, as far as we know, and the Jewish Christians thought for those 8 years that only Jews were saved by the death of Jesus on the Cross. This is why God's Word uses "pas" to say "all types of men", Jew, Gentile, from every nation, are commanded to repent. When it was time for the Gospel to be sent to the first Gentile, the Roman Centurion Cornelius, in Acts Chapter 10, God told the Apostle Peter, three times, to "eat the unclean animals", and Peter said "Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean." Peter had to be told "What God hath cleansed, (Gentiles) that call not thou common". It was a huge deal for the Jews to accept Gentiles into the Body of Christ - some 8 years after the Cross. This is why there are so many statements in the New Testament about salvation being for "All TYPES", and "all SORTS" of people, Jew and Gentile, male and female, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, etc.
2 Cor 5:14 Jesus died for ALL ("PAS", all TYPES OF) men.
1 Ti 2:4 and 6, and 4:10 Who will have all <3956> men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Ti 2:6 Who gave himself a ransom for all <3956>, to be testified in due time. (Many "types" of men are listed in the context)(God cannot desire that 100% all men be saved, because we see men ordained to condemnation, men whose names were not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world and never will be, and "brute beasts made to be taken and destroyed", and the elect chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and God stating that He will have mercy on who He will and who He will He hardeneth, and "blinding" some men! God, who works all things after the council of His OWN WILL, will have "all types" of men to be saved. No "type", or "sort" of person is left out)
2 Pet 3:9 God is long suffering to US-WARD AND is not willing that any (OF US) should perish, but that "ALL TYPES" of US should come to repentance.
We know that it is not God's will to "save 100% all men" because we have His declarations to the contrary:
Jn 17:2, Jesus has power over all flesh that He should give eternal life to as many as the Father "has given" (Greek perfect active indicative - already permanently given) Him. (Jesus has power over all flesh and CAN give eternal life to 100% all flesh, but He does not)
Jn 17:9 Jesus is not praying for the world, but for those that the Father "has given" (Greek perfect active indicative - already permanently given) Him.
In Acts 13:41, we find men who will not believe: "Behold ye despisers and perish, for I work a work in your days which you in no wise will believe, though a man declare it unto you".
In Rom 9:13 We find "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated".
In Rom 9:18 We find that God "hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth".
In Rom 9:21-23 Paul says "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory".
In 1 Pet 2:8 we see men "appointed to stumble" at the Word: "And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, [even to them] which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed".
In 2 Pet 2:12 we find false teachers who are described as "natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed".
In Jude 4, we see Ungodly men, before of old ordained to condemnation.
And, in Rev 13:8 & 17:8 We find men whose names were NOT Written in the Lamb's Book Of Life from the foundation of the earth and never will be - Greek perfect tenses.
Even in the Old Testament, in Prov 16:4, we find that "God hath made all things for Himself, yea even the wicked for the day of evil".
EVERY time we translate "pas" we must make sure the rest of Scripture backs up our translation!
The Bible student must check to see what Greek word is underneath the English word "all", in order to be assured of the correct translation.
A "WORLD" (kosmos) of WHAT?
When we see the Greek word "KOSMOS", Strong's number "2889" in the New Testament, we must ask "a world of WHAT?", and we must determine it's meaning from the immediate context.
"Kosmos" is a very general word, and, as Thayer's Greek Lexicon states, it is an "apt and harmonious arrangement", and can be "any aggregate or general collection of particulars of any sort", from our "world", the universe, a harmonious arrangement of stars and planets, to a "world of iniquity", as in Jas. 3:36.
I do not find a single context where "Kosmos" is a specific word for "all the human beings on the earth". There ARE specific Greek words for "DIRT", "CONTINENTS", "COUNTRIES", "ALL MANKIND", "male human beings", "female human beings", etc., but they are not used in our most misunderstood passages.
Even our English word "world" has many meanings and must be defined by its context: Cloth World, Insurance World, Music World, Motorcycle World, "you're in a world of trouble", etc..
I find that every occurrence of "Kosmos" in the Greek New Testament is a "collection of like items" and a "collection of what" must be determined by its CONTEXT.
We contend with the same problem daily, as we use the English language. Illustration:
What does BARK mean? How many meanings can you think of?
A tree covering, an Indian canoe and later a type of sailing ship, the sound of a dog, to hurt your shin, to give loud verbal orders, etc.. We automatically depend on the IMMEDIATE CONTEXT to determine the meaning of the word "bark".
"Bark" can even be a NOUN OR A VERB! "The dog "barks", the boss "barks orders"! Context, context, context!
We have exactly the same problem with "Kosmos", usually translated "world" in the New Testament:
In the New Testament, we find a "world" consisting of only unbelievers in John 14:17, John 15:19, John 17:9 and 14, 2 Pet 2:5, 1 Jn 3:13.
We find a "world" consisting of only believers in John 3:16, 2 Cor 5:19, 1 Jn 2:2, 1 Jn 4:14.
We find the "world" of the ungodly: 2 Pet 2:5.
As the Pharisees stated, in Jn 12:19, "The WORLD (kosmos) is going after Jesus". Was every human being going after Jesus? Of course not, the Pharisees who made the statement wanted to kill Jesus, and it was just an embarrassingly large group of people in Palestine, who were going after Jesus, that is what the Pharisees are concerned about. They were concerned about the "world" of those who were "going after", or "tending to follow" Jesus.
In John 14:17, Jesus stated that the "world" (kosmos) cannot receive the Holy Spirit. The Elect of God obviously do. So this must be the "world" of those who reject Jesus, who cannot receive the Holy Spirit.
John 3:16 is often quoted to "PROVE" that Jesus Loves everybody and God wants everyone "saved".
"For God so loved the world (<2889> "kosmos"), that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth (Present tense", is presently believing) in him should not perish, but have (present tense, "keep on having") everlasting life.
John 3:16 in the Greek, is a WONDERFUL "PROMISE", ONLY TO THOSE WHO ARE "PRESENTLY BELIEVING" that they are "PRESENTLY POSSESSING ETERNAL LIFE", and "eternal life" never ends. "Kosmos", "world" here points to the "world of those who are presently believing"!
To illustrate how incorrect it is to take John 3:16 to mean that God loves everybody and wants everybody to be saved, look at John 3:18, the words of Jesus just two sentences later:
John 3:18 "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
It is amazing to me, that we are very familiar with words that have multiple meanings, and must be defined by the context, but we tend to force one particular meaning, that we LIKE, on Bible words like "world" and "all". Our interpretation of EVERY verse in the New Testament must harmonize with, and cannot contradict, the teaching of the whole New Testament.
We cannot force the Greek words "pas" and "kosmos", translated "all", and "world", to mean "every human being", if we do, we cause the Scriptures to contradict themselves.
As Jesus stated in Jn 8:24, "if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins". So, if we try to make ANY passage teach that Jesus died and paid for for the sins of every human being, we contradict Jesus.
Jesus prayed in John 17:9 "I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine". How could Jesus state that "God so loved the world" in John 3:16, and then turn around and state that He was "not praying for the world"? John 3:16 speaks of the "world" of those who are "presently believing", and, in John 17:9, Jesus speaks of the "world" of "those who will reject Him" and will not believe in Him.
There cannot be contradictions in the Scriptures. Where we see "apparent" contradictions, it is because of our misunderstandings. As Jesus stated in Jn 10:35 "the Scripture cannot be broken". When we think we see a "contradiction", it is because we do not understand what is being stated. Usually, in passages where there are "apparent contradictions", we find great truths!
I sincerely hope that this answers your question,
Students together "in Christ",