Another King James Bible Believer

"Except ye BE CONVERTED" or "Unless YOU CHANGE"? Matthew 18:3 and other Scriptures

Matthew 18:3 KJB - “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except YE BE CONVERTED, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

ESV (ASV, RSV, NET, Jehovah Witness NWT)  - “and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless YOU TURN and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

NIV (NRSV, Catholic St. Joseph NAB, Catholic New Jerusalem) - “And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless YOU CHANGE and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” 


There is a big difference between "Decisionism" (so commonly taught and practiced in the professing Church today) and "Conversion".  

 

You may well "make a personal decision of your own free will to accept Christ", (None of which is found in the Bible) or you may "be converted", which IS Biblical and is something only God can do.  The difference between these two actions are extreme and eternal.

 

 

There are no significant textual variants for this verse. All texts read the same. But there is a significant theological and grammatical difference among the various translations.

 

Matthew 18:3 - και ειπεν αμην λεγω υμιν εαν μη στραφητε και γενησθε ως τα παιδια ου μη εισελθητε εις την βασιλειαν των ουρανων

The verb form used here is the same in all texts. The infinitive is strepho and this verb is an aorist PASSIVE verb - στραφητε -. 

The passive verb means that you are not doing the action yourself or in your own energy, but someone else is doing it to you and you are being acted upon by another. This Someone else is none other that God Himself.  Only God can convert a dead in his sins, rebellious and God hating sinner.  When God converts you, or turns you around, then you become converted. But it is God who does the converting; not you.

It is possible to translate active verbs as passive and passive verbs as active when translating from Greek to English or any other language. All translations occasionally do this. But significantly entering into the question of how to translate a particular phrase is sound and consistent theology.

Versions like the ESV, NIV and NET are clearly wrong, both from a grammatical standpoint and, more importantly, from a theological standpoint.

Agreeing with the King James Bible and the Greek text and translating Matthew 18:3  as a PASSIVE verb, such as “Except YE BE CONVERTED”  are the following Bible translations - Wycliffe 1395, Coverdale 1535, Geneva Bible 1587, the Beza N.T. 1599, Whiston’s N.T 1745, John Wesley 1755, Worsley 1770, Haweis N.T. 1795, Worrell N.T., Pickering N.T. 1840, The Longman Version 1841, The Commonly Received Version 1851, Julia Smith 1855,  The Revised N.T. 1862, The Alford N.T. 1870, Darby 1890, Youngs 1898,  The Clarke N.T. 1913, NKJV 1982, The Word of Yah Bible 1993,  KJV 21st Century 1994,  NASB 1995, Third Millennium Bible 1998, The Laurie Translation 1998, A Conservative Bible 2005, Holman Standard 2009, the Jubilee Bible 2010 - “BE CONVERTED”, Interlinear Greek N.T. 1997 (Larry Pierce), Updated Bible Version 2004, A Conservative Version 2005, Holman Standard 2009, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, Holy Scriptures VW Edition 2010, Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011 - “unless YOU ARE CONVERTED”, The Work of God's Children Bible 2011, Conservative Bible 2011 “unless YOU HAVE BEEN CONVERTED”, Modern English Version 2014.


Versions that got it wrong and make this verse teach that “UNLESS YOU CHANGE” or “ UNLESS YOU TURN” by your own will, power and ability are Tyndale, the ASV, NIV, ESV, RSV, NRSV, NET, ISV, The Voice, the Jehovah Witness New World Translation and the Catholic St. Joseph NAB and the Catholic New Jerusalem bible.  

Dan Wallace’s NET versions says: “I tell you the truth, UNLESS YOU TURN AROUND and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven!” 

The Critical Text Common English Bible 2011 goes so far as to say: “and said, “I assure you that IF YOU DON’T TURN YOUR LIVES AROUND  and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Every time the word “converted” is used in the King James Bible, it is always someone else who works upon other people to convert them, and this Someone is God Who uses His word of truth to bring this about.  If a man turns to the Lord, it is because it is God who turned him. 

“TURN THOU ME, AND I SHALL BE TURNED; for thou art the LORD my God. Surely AFTER THAT I WAS TURNED, I repented” Jeremiah 31:18-19

“TURN THOU US UNTO THEE, O LORD, AND WE SHALL BE TURNED; renew our days as of old.”  Lamentations 5:21

Psalm 51:13 “and sinners shall BE CONVERTED unto thee.”

Matthew 13:15 “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should BE CONVERTED, and I should heal them.”   

KJB, Wycliffe, Great Bible 1540, Douay-Rheims 1582, Mace N.T. 1729, Whiston N.T. 1745, Wesley 1755, Worsley Version 1770, Haweis N.T. 1795, Pickering N.T. 1840, The Commonly Received Version 1851,  The Revised N.T. 1862, Darby 1890, New Life Version 1969, Bible in Basic English 1961, The Word of Yah 1993, Green’s literal 2005, KJV 21st Century, Third Millennium Bible 1998, The Laurie Translation 1998, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, Conservative Bible 2011, The Work of God's Children Bible 2011,

Mark 4:12 “lest at any time they SHOULD BE CONVERTED, and their sins should be forgiven them.” 

Wycliffe 1395, Douay-Rheims 1582, Whiston 1745, Wesley 1755, Worsley 1770, Haweis N.T. 1795, Pickering N.T. 1840, The Longman Version 1841, The Commonly Received Version 1851,  The Revised N.T. 1862, Darby 1890,  The Clarke N.T. 1913, Bible in Basic English 1961, The Word of Yah 1993, KJV 21st Century 1994,The Laurie Translation 1998, Last Days Bible 1999, Bond Slave Version 2009, Jubilee Bible 2010, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, The Work of God's Children Bible 2011

Luke 22:32 “and when THOU ARE CONVERTED, strengthen thy brethren.” 

Wycliffe, Tyndale 1534, Coverdale 1535, Great Bible 1540, Matthew’s Bible 1549, Bishops’ Bible 1568, Douay-Rheims 1582, Geneva Bible 1587, the Beza N.T. 1599, Wesley’s N.T. 1755, Worsley 1770, Haweis N.T. 1795, The Commonly Received Version 1851,  The Revised N.T. 1862, The Alford N.T. 1870, Darby 1890, The Word of Yah 1993, KJV 21st Century 1994, Gpd's First Truth 1999, The Evidence Bible 2003, Bond Slave Version 2009, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, Jubilee Bible 2010, Conservative Bible 2011

John 12:39-40 “Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, AND BE CONVERTED, and I should heal them.” 

This is another PASSIVE verb here, meaning that they could not have been converted unless an outside force has worked on them to bring it about. 

KJB = Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, Great Bible, Matthew’s Bible, Bishops’ Bible, Douay-Rheims, Geneva Bible, the Beza N.T. 1599, Mace N.T. 1729, Wesley 1755, Haweis N.T. 1795, Webster 1833, Pickering N.T. 1840, The Longman Version 1841, The Commonly Received Version 1851, The Revised N.T. 1862, The Alford N.T. 1870, Darby 1890, Douay 1950, Bible in Basic English 1961, J.P. Green’s literal, Word of Yah 1993,  KJV 21st Century 1994, Interlinear Greek N.T. 1997 (Larry Pierce), The Laurie Translation 1998, God's First Truth 1999, Holman Standard 2009, Hebrew Transliteration Scripture 2010,  Jubilee Bible 2010, Holy Scriptures VW Edition 2010, Conservative Bible 2011.

However once again we see that the following versions have translated John 12:40 as “AND SHOULD TURN BACK” or “AND TURN” (as though they could have done this on their own strength, will and ability) - NKJV, RSV, NRSV, ESV, NIV, NET, Youngs.  

The Catholic St. Joseph 1970 says “or HAVE A CHANGE OF HEART”. while the Catholic New Jerusalem 1985 has “CHANGING THEIR WAYS”.

Acts 3:19 “Repent ye therefore, and BE CONVERTED, that your sins may be blotted out”

KJB = Wycliffe, Douay-Rheims 1582, Mace 1729, John Wesley 1755, Worsley Version 1770, Haweis N.T. 1795, Webster 1833, Pickering N.T. 1840, The Commonly Received Version 1851, The Revised N.T. 1862,  Darby 1890,  The Clarke N.T. 1913, Douay 1950,  Lamsa’s 1933 translation of Syriac Peshitta, Bible in Basic English 1961, NKJV 1982, Word of Yah 1993,  KJV 21st Century 1994, The Laurie Translation 1998, A Conservative Version 2005, Third Millennium Bible 1998, Jubilee Bible 2010, The New European Version 2010, The Work of God's Children Bible 2011

The Catholic St. Joseph NAB and the New Jerusalem 1985 both say: “Repent, and TURN TO GOD, so that your sins may be wiped out”, (even though there is no word for GOD in any text) and so do the NIV, The Voice and the Message. 

The Common English Bible 2011 has - “CHANGE YOUR HEARTS AND LIVES! TURN BACK TO GOD so that your sins may be wiped away.” 

Versions like the RSV, ESV, NET, NASB  have “Repent and TURN AGAIN, (or TURN BACK) that your sins may be blotted out.” 

The Geneva bible is pretty bad here, with: “ AMEND YOUR LIVES therefore, AND TURN, that your sins may be put away”

Acts 28:27 “For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and SHOULD BE CONVERTED, and I should heal them.”

KJB = Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1534, Coverdale 1535, Great Bible 1540, Matthew’s Bible 1549, Bishops’ Bible 1568, Douay-Rheims 1582, Mace N.T. 1729, John Wesley 1755, Worsley 1770, Pickering N.T. 1840, The Commonly Received Version 1851,  The Revised N.T. 1862, Darby 1890, Youngs 1898, Living Oracles,  Douay 1950, Bible in Basic English 1961, Word of Yah 1993, KJV 21st Century 1994, The Laurie Translation 1998, God's First Truth 1999, Holman Standard 2009, the Jubilee Bible 2010, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, Conservative Bible 2011, The Work of God's Children Bible 2011

Yet versions like the NKJV, RSV, NRSV, ESV, NIV, NASB, NET have this as “and TURN, so that I should heal them.” (NKJV 1982)

The 2014 International Standard Version (a rather presumptuous title) says: “and TURN AND LET ME HEAL THEM.” - i.e. thus teaching that they must turn themselves and then give God permission to do His work.

The Critical Text Common English Bible 2011 goes so far as to say: “AND CHANGE THEIR HEARTS AND LIVES that I may heal them.”  Well, if they had already changed their own hearts and lives, then why would God need to do anything else for them?

Finally, for a directly related verse dealing with sound theology, let’s take a look at 1Peter 2:25.  

In the King James Bible we read: “For ye were as sheep going astray; but ARE NOW RETURNED unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”

 ητε γαρ ως προβατα πλανωμενα αλλ επεστραφητε νυν επι τον ποιμενα και επισκοπον των ψυχων υμων

Once again, the verb “are now returned” is a PASSIVE verb - epistrepho - επεστραφητε. 

This means we did not do this on our own, but Another did it to us. It is God Himself who brings His wandering sheep back into the fold. 

 “And other sheep I HAVE (the elect among the Gentiles), which are not of this fold: (the Jews) them also I MUST BRING, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”  John 10:14

1 Peter 2:25 - "ye were as sheep going astray; but ARE NOW RETURNED unto the Shepherd"

 

Following the passive voice and correct theology that we ARE NOW RETURNED unto the Shepherd of our souls are Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1534, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew’s Bible 1549, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587, The Beza N.T. 1599, Whiston’s N.T. 1745, Wesley’s N.T. 1755, Worsley Version 1770, Haweis N.T. 1795, Webster’s translation 1833, Living Oracles 1835, Pickering N.T. 1840, The Longman Version 1841, Sawyer N.T. 1858, The Revised N.T. 1862, The Alford N.T. 1870, the Revised Version 1881, ASV 1901,  The Clarke N.T. 1913, The Word of Yah 1993, KJV 21st Century 1994, Third Millennium Bible 1998, God’s First Truth 1999, The Evidence Bible 2003, Faithful N.T. 2009, The New European Version 2010, TheHebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, the Conservative Bible 2011 =“YOU HAVE NOW BEEN RETURNED”, The Work of God's Children Bible 2011, Hebrew Names Version 2014,

Daniel Mace’s N.T. 1729 says: “but now YOU ARE BROUGHT BACK to the pastor and overseer of your souls. 

The Douay-Rheims of 1582 actually says: “but YOU ARE NOW CONVERTED to the shepherd and bishop of your souls.” and so does the 2010 Jubilee Bible.

 

The Modern English Version 2014 says: "YOU HAVE NOW BEEN RETURNED TO the Shepherd"

But after this the Catholic versions began to go downhill in this verse.  The 1950 Douay as well as the 1970 St. Joseph NAB and the 1985 New Jerusalem bible all have “but now YOU HAVE RETURNED to the Shepherd”, and so too do versions like Darby, Youngs, the RSV, NRSV, ESV, NET, NIV, NASB, NKJV and the 2011 Common English bible.

NKJV 1982 - “For you were like sheep going astray, but HAVE NOW RETURNED to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” = wrong translation and WRONG theology.

The King James Bible is always right.

All of grace, believing the Book,

Will Kinney

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