Acts 7:59 KJB - "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon GOD, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Acts 7:59 ESV - "And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Acts 7:59 NASB - "They went on stoning Stephen as he called on THE LORD and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
In Acts 7:59 we see one of the many verses in the King James Bible that clearly testifies to the full Deity and Godhood of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible critics tell us the King James Bible is wrong here, because the literal word "God" does not occur in the Greek manuscripts, and therefore cannot be correct.
So, is there any validity to this argument or is the King James Bible's English text correct? I fully believe the King James Bible, and many other translations as well, (as we shall soon see) is absolutely correct for "adding" the word God to the text, and there are several reasons why this is so.
If you read through Stephen's preaching throughout this whole chapter, we see that the one he refers to as LORD is also GOD, and the Lord Jesus IS God Himself. Compare Acts 7:30-33 where the angel of the Lord appears to Moses, and the voice of the LORD says "I am the GOD of thy fathers, the GOD of Abraham, and the GOD of Isaac, and the GOD of Jacob." And yet again it is the LORD in verse 33 who tells him to put off his shoes from his feet.
The words "Lord" and "God" and "the angel of the Lord" are interchangeable, and they all refer to Deity. The reading of Acts 7:59 in the King James Bible, and others, is affirming that this same LORD Jesus is none other than GOD Himself.
The Greek language is often elliptical. That is to say, it sometimes leaves out nouns, verbs, adjectives, direct objects and indirect objects from the "literal" Greek, but they are implied in the Greek construction. In this particular verse, the Greek construction of the verb "calling upon" cries out for a direct object. "Calling upon"... Who and saying, Lord Jesus?
Many modern versions, the very ones being used by these Bible critics, also supply a direct object telling us Whom Stephen called upon. But instead of supplying the word GOD they put in the word LORD.
Examples of the elliptical Greek language can be seen in Acts 10:36 where we read: "The word which GOD sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ..."
The word GOD is not literally there, and yet versions like the NIV 1984, NKJV, Wycliffe, Great Bible, Matthew's Bible, Coverdale, Bishops' Bible, Geneva Bible, Lamsa's translation of the Syriac, Whiston's N.T., Webster's, Twentieth Century N.T., Expanded Bible 2011, Names of God Bible 2011, New International Version 2011, New International Readers Version 1998, Worldwide N.T. 1998, New Century Version 2005, and the Natural Israelite Bible 2012 all put the word in the text.
Again in Acts 26:7 we read: "Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving GOD day and night, hope to come."
Even though the literal word GOD is not in the Greek text, yet versions like the NIV, NKJV, Dan Wallace's NET version, the Revised Version, ASV 1901, Tyndale, Coverdale, Matthew's Bible, the Bishops' Bible, Geneva Bible, Noyes Translation 1869, Goodspeed 1923, J.B. Phillips 1962, New Life Bible 1969, New Living Bible 2007, New Century Version 2005, Expanded Bible 2011 and the Natural Israelite Bible 2012 all put the word in their English translations.
Many other modern versions say "serving HIM", but neither is there a Greek word here for "him" in the text. It often comes down to a translator's choice.
Examples of “God not being in the text” are found in the NASB FOUR times in Acts 7:4, Acts 13:43; and Acts 17:4 and 17. In Acts 7:4 we read in all texts "he removed him into this land wherein ye now dwell."
In Acts 13:43 the KJB, as well as the NKJV, RV, ASV, and even the NIV read: “many of the Jews and RELIGIOUS (or devout) proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas”.
The word is sebomai and there is nothing literally about God in the word at all. Even the NASB in this same chapter verse 50 the word is simply translated as “devout” However in Acts 13:43, 17:4 and 17 the NASB reads “GOD-fearing”, with no literal “God” in any Greek text. The NIV too switches gears and in both Acts 17:4 and 17 likewise “adds” the word God just like the NASB, but not so the KJB, NKJV, RV or ASV.
The NASB and other modern versions often add the words Jesus, God and Lord to their translations, when these words are not found in the Hebrew and Greek texts. The NASB adds the word "Jesus" in Mark 1:45; Luke 22:63, and Acts 3:16; Acts 9:22.
It also adds the word "God" in 1 Samuel 16:7, adds "God" in Job 20:23 (as well as the RV, ASV, RSV, NRSV, ESV, NKJV, NIV, NET and Holman Standard) and 21:17 (as well as the NIV, NKJV, RV, ASV, NET, RSV, NRSV and ESV), "God" in Isaiah 37:20 (from Dead Sea Scrolls, but not from Hebrew Masoretic text), Nehemiah 6:9 (along with the RV, ASV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, ESV, etc.), Matthew 15:5, 16:22, Acts 3:19, Acts 7:4, Acts 13:43, Acts 19:26, Acts 26:7 - "serving GOD" (along with the NIV, NKJV, NET) Romans 11:28, 1 Peter 2:9; and "Lord" in Exodus 33:9, Exodus 34:10, 2 Kings 23:19, Job 21:19, 2 Chronicles 32:24, 2 Chronicles 33:19 add "God" (NASB, NIV, RSV, NRSV, ESV, NET, NKJV, RV, ASV and Holman Standard too) Hosea 1:6, 9, and 10:2.
In fact, right here in this same chapter of Acts 7 versions like the ESV, NIV, NASB, NET, Holman Standard all add the word "God" to Acts 7:4. The KJB says: "...and from thence, when his father was dead, HE removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell." There is no literal "God" in any text. Yet all these versions add it to their texts.
Back to Acts 7:59
"And they stoned Stephen, calling upon GOD, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." - The Greek text has no major variants in this verse. It reads:
Acts 7:59 - και ελιθοβολουν τον στεφανον επικαλουμενον και λεγοντα κυριε ιησου δεξαι το πνευμα μου = "And they stoned Stephen calling upon and saying Lord Jesus receive my spirit."
Some modern versions change the meaning of the verb epikaleomai, which means "to call upon" (Acts 2:21 "whosoever shall CALL UPON the name of the Lord"; Acts 9:14 "all that CALL ON thy name"; Acts 22:16 "CALLING ON the name of the Lord") and they do not translate the second verb "and saying - και λεγοντα", and paraphrase it as "Stephen PRAYED, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (NIV, NET) or as "CALLED OUT, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (ESV)
Something needs to be supplied here - calling upon Who or what? In fact, John Wesley's 1755 translation actually reads: "calling upon..., and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." I have a hard copy of it, and this is how the hard copy reads.
Several Bible commentators specifically mention "calling upon Whom?" It is a translational choice how you deal with this.
Many modern versions have chosen to give a different meaning to the verb "to call upon" επικαλουμενον, and instead mistranslate it as "prayed" (NIV) or "called out" (ESV) and then omit the words "and saying" και λεγοντα (NIV, ESV)
Many translators chose to insert the word LORD
Many modern versions supply the word "Lord" and end up saying "calling upon THE LORD and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Among these are the Revised Version 1881, ASV 1901, Moffatt translation, The New Berkeley Version in Modern English 1969, Good News Translation 1992, NASB 1963-1995 - "They went on stoning Stephen as he called on THE LORD and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!", The Positive Infinity N.T. 2005, The Easy English Version -"he prayed to the LORD, "Lord Jesus", he said, "Please accept my spirit.", the New European Version 2010 - "they stoned Stephen as he called upon THE LORD, saying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
The Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011 has: "And they went on stoning Stefanos as he called upon HASHEM, saying, "Adoneinu, receive my neshamah."
Here they added the word HASHEM, which comes out to "he called upon THE NAME". You see, the verb "to call upon" requires Stephen to be calling UPON someone or something.
Others like the Disciple’s Literal New Testament 2011 add the word JESUS and say: “And they were stoning Stephen while he was calling-upon JESUS and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”.
But the KJB translators and many others apparently decided to recognize the full Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so wrote "CALLING UPON GOD and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
In Acts 7:59 not only does the King James Bible say "calling upon GOD and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." but so too do the following Bible translations:
Wycliffe Bible 1395 - "And thei stonyden Steuene, that clepide GOD to help, seiynge, Lord Jhesu, resseyue my spirit.", the Geneva Bible 1587 "And they stoned Steuen, who called on GOD, and said, Lord Iesus, receiue my spirit.", the Beza New Testament 1599, The Bill Bible 1671, Mace N.T. 1729, Worsley Version 1770 "calling upon GOD, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.", The Revised Translation 1815, Webster's 1833 translation, The Hussey N.T. 1845, The Commonly Received Version 1851, The Dillard N.T. 1885, The Clarke N.T. 1913 - "calling upon GOD, and saying, Lord Jesus", Bible in Basic English 1961 - "And Stephen, while he was being stoned, made prayer to GOD, saying, Lord Jesus, take my spirit.", J.B. Phillips Translation 1962 -"So they stoned Stephen while he called upon GOD, and said, “Jesus, Lord, receive my spirit!”, the NKJV 1982, The Word of Yah 1993, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, The Revised Webster Bible 1995, the Complete Jewish Bible 1998 " As they were stoning him, Stephen called out to GOD, “Lord Yeshua! Receive my spirit!”, The Tomson N.T. 2002, The Resurrection Life New Testament 2005 (Vince Garcia), the Complete Apostle's Bible 2005 "Stephen as he was calling on GOD and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.", J.P. Green's literal Translation 2005, The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, Bond Slave Version 2009, Jubilee Bible 2010, the Third Millennium Bible 1998 -"And they stoned Stephen as he called upon GOD and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!", the Complete Apostle's Bible 2005, the Jubilee Bible 2010 - "calling upon GOD and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.", the Conservative Version 2011, the BRG Bible 2012, and the Natural Israelite Bible 2012 - "And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on YAHWEH and saying, "Lord Yahweh, receive my spirit." and the Modern English Version 2014 - "
The Worldwide English New Testament 1998 reads: " They kept on throwing stones at Stephen. He SPOKE TO GOD AND SAID, OH, LORD JESUS, RECEIVE MY SPIRIT."
The Conservative Bible 2010 reads: "They stoned Stephen while he declared TO GOD, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
The 2010 Hebraic Transliteration Scripture says: "And they stoned Stephenos, calling upon [Elohim (אלהים)], and saying, Adonay Yeshua (ישוע), receive my spirit."
The Hammond New Testament 1845 reads: "he continued in prayer TO GOD, and at the last concluded in these words, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Foreign language Bibles that "add" the word God to the phrase where Stephen calls upon the Lord Jesus are the Spanish Cipriano de Valera 1602 - " Y apedrearon a Esteban, invocando él A DIOS y diciendo: Señor Jesús, recibe mi espíritu." = "calling upon GOD and saying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.", the Reina Valera Gómez Bible 2010, the Russian Synodal Version 1876 - " который молился и говорил: Господи Иисусе! приимидух мой." = calling upon GOD and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
The Tagalog Ang Slaita ng Diyos Bible 1998 - “Habang pinagbabato nila si Esteban tumawag siya sa Diyos at nagsabi: Panginoong Jesus, tanggapin mo ang aking espiritu.” = “They stoned Stephen as he CALLED ON GOD and saying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
The 2014 Romanian Fidela Bible - “Și l-au împroşcat cu pietre pe Ștefan, care chema pe Dumnezeu şi spunea: Doamne Isuse, primeşte duhul meu.” = “…calling UPON GOD and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
John Gill - "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus receive my Spirit; from whence we learn, that the spirit or soul of man sleeps not, nor dies with the body, but remains after death; that Jesus Christ is a fit person to commit and commend the care of the soul unto immediately upon its separation; AND THAT HE MUST BE TRULY AND PROPERLY GOD; not only because he is equal to such a charge, which none but God is, but because DIVINE WORSHIP AND ADORATION ARE HERE GIVEN HIM."
Thomas Coke Commentary on the Whole Bible (1801-1803)- "They stoned Stephen, CALLING UPON GOD; though cast out from earth, as unworthy to live, he had a sure interest in heaven, saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit; and, now ready to expire, he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, expressive of the vehemence of his desire, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge, copying closely his divine Master's example...In a dying hour, we cannot be better employed than in commending our souls into the arms of Jesus. JESUS IS VERY GOD, the object of his people's adoration; and as it is only by faith in him that we can live comfortably, so only by an eye to him, as the resurrection and the life, can we die happily."
Ellicott’s Commentary - “The words are memorable as an instance of direct prayer addressed, to use the words of Pliny in reporting what he had learned of the worship of Christians, “to Christ as God” (Epist x. 97). Stephen could not think of Him whom he saw at the right hand of God, but as of One sharing the glory of the Father, hearing and answering prayer… The word “God,” in the sentence “calling upon God,” it should be noted, is, as the italics show, AN INSERTION TO COMPLETE THE SENSE."
John Dummelow's Commentary - "Calling upon GOD, RV 'calling upon the Lord' (i.e. Jesus). Receive my spirit. A direct prayer to Jesus, and, therefore, a proof that the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus was already established in the Church."
Matthew Henry - “Stephen offered up two short prayers in his dying moments. OUR LORD JESUS IS GOD, to whom we are to seek, and in whom we are to trust and comfort ourselves, living and dying.”
David Guzik's Commentary - "They stoned Stephen as he was calling on GOD and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." His life ended in the same way it had been lived: In complete trust in God, believing that Jesus would take care of him in the life to come."
The King James Bible exalts the Lord Jesus Christ as both our Saviour and GOD more often and in more ways than any modern bible version does. Nobody seriously believes any modern version like the ESV, NIV, NKJV, NASB, or Holman is the inerrant words of God.
But thousands of blood bought saints of God DO believe the King James Bible is God's perfect and infallible Book. Now which Bible do you think Satan would criticize and attack and try to discredit more than any other?
"He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Luke 8:8
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