John 3:36 - "he that believeth not" vs "he that does not obey"
John 3:36 KJB - "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and HE THAT BELIEVETH NOT the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
ESV (NASB 1995 edition, RSV, ASV, Jehovah Witness NWT, Catholic St. Joseph New American bible 1970) - "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever DOES NOT OBEY the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him."
There is a site that criticizes the King James Bible for how it translates John 3:36. Their article is titled “Were the King James Version Translators Biased Toward the “Faith-Only” Doctrine?”
They tell us: “Compare the KJV with the ASV in John 3:36. The former renders apeitheo by “believeth not,” while the ASV translators correctly render the term as “obeyeth not.” The KJV OBSCURES the truth that belief is more than a mere mental process; rather, it entails OBEDIENCE.
Professor J. Carl Laney has written: “This text indicates clearly that belief is not a matter of passive opinion, but decisive and obedient action”
But such a rendition is not consistent with the “faith-only” position. Hence, some scholars believe that the KJV translators revealed something of their “faith-only” bias by translating apeitheo as “believeth not,” instead of “obeyeth not.” [End of their criticism]
Do the people who wrote this article believe that ANY Bible is the inerrant words of God? Of course not. They tell us that ANY and ALL translations have “weaknesses”, and further reading of their site shows they favor the ever changing Vatican supervised Critical Greek text.
The King James Bible translators were not ignorant of the translation "OBEYS NOT the Son" because it was in the Geneva Bible of 1587 and in Beza's 1599 New Testament; but they deliberately and consciously rejected it.
"But he that BELIEVETH NOT the Son shall not see life"
This is the reading of the KJB, Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 1549 - "and he that beleueth not þe sonne shall not se life: but þe wrath of God abydeth on him.", the Bishops' Bible 1568, Douay-Rheims 1582, The Bill Bible 1671, Whiston's N.T. 1745, Thomas Haweis N.T. 1795, The Clarke N.T. 1795, The Revised Translation 1815, Webster's 1833, The Longman Version 1841, the Hewett New Testament 1850, The Commonly Received Version 1851, The Boothroyd Bible 1853, the Sawyer N.T. 1858, The Kendrick N.T. 1862, The Revised New Testament 1862, The Anderson N.T. 1865, the Alford N.T. 1868, The Ainslie New Testament 1869, The Davidson N.T. 1876, The Smith Bible 1876, The Revised English Bible 1877, The Dillard New Testament 1885, Youngs 1898, W. Godbey N.T. 1902, Worrell N.T. 1904, The Clarke N.T. 1913, the Bible in Basic English 1961, and the NKJV 1982.
Other English Bibles that read "But he that BELIEVETH NOT the Son shall not see life" are Green's MKJV, The Word of Yah 1993, the KJV 21st Century version 1994, The Revised Webster Bible 1995, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, the Worldwide English New Testament 1998, God's First Truth 1999, The Evidence Bible 2003, Bond Slave Version 2009, English Majority Text Version 2009, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, Conservative Bible 2011, the Common English Bible of 2011, Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011, The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011 and The Holy Bible, the 2012 Natural Israelite Bible, Modern English Version 2014 - “He who DOES NOT BELIEVE the Son shall not see life” and the New International Reader's Version 2014 - "Anyone who does NOT BELIEVE IN the Son will not have life. God's anger remains on them."
Foreign Language Bibles
Many foreign language versions have translated the phrase as “believe not" or "refuse to believe". Among these are Luther’s German Bible 1545 and the German Schlachter bible 2000 - "Wer an den Sohn glaubt, der hat das ewige Leben. Wer dem Sohn nicht glaubt", the French Louis Segond 1910, the Louis Segond 21 of 2007 -celui qui ne croit pas au Fils, the French La Bible du Semeur 1999, the Spanish Sagradas Escrituras 1549 - "mas el que al Hijo es incrédulo, no verá la vida" = "but he who is UNBELIEVING", Reina Valera 1960 -1995 (he who refuses to believe - el que rehúsa creer en el Hijo no verá la vida); the Italian Diodati 1649 - ma chi non crede al Figliuolo" = "he who DOES NOT BELIEVE", and La Parola e Vita 1997, the Nuova Riveduta of 2006, and the Portuguese O Livro 2000 -os que não crêem." = "he who DOES NOT BELIEVE" and the 1681 Portuguese Almeida - "masaquele que näo crê no Filho näo verá a vida, mas a ira de Deus sobre ele permanece." = "he who DOES NOT BELIEVE".
The Holman Standard of 2009 and J.B. Phillips N.T. 1962 both say: "the one who REFUSES TO BELIEVE in the Son will not see life".
The Newcome New Testament 1796, The Thompson Bible 1808, The Improved New Testament 1809, The Kneeland N.T. 1823, The New Covenant N.T. 1836, The Pickering N.T. 1840, The Morgan N.T. 1848, The Improved Bible 1913, The Riverside N.T. 1923 all say: "He that DISBELIEVETH the Son shall not see life."
The New Dispensation New Testament 1897 says: "he that IS WITHOUT FAITH IN THE SON shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."
However in John 3:36 instead of saying "but he that BELIEVETH NOT the Son shall not see life", the NASB 1995, RSV, ESV say: "but HE WHO DOES NOT OBEY the Son, shall not see life but the wrath of God abides on him."
This is much like the Catholic St. Joseph New American Bible of 1970 which reads: "Whoever DISOBEYS the Son will not see life, but must endure the wrath of God."
The Jehovah Witness New World Translation 1961 and the 2013 Revision both read this way too. They say: "He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life, HE THAT DISOBEYS the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him."
The Last Days Bible 1999 says: "But the person who REFUSES TO LIVE IN OBEDIENCE to the Son will never see life."
The Living Oracles 1835, The Twentieth Century N.T. 1904, The Contemporary English Version 1995, the NIV 2011, God's Word Translation 1995, The Positive Infinitive N.T. 2005, the 2011 Names of God Bible and The Translators Bible 2014 are not nearly as bad as the NASB, ESV, St. Joseph and Jehovah Witness versions here but read: "whoever REJECTS the Son will not see life".
Dan Wallace's NET version 2006 also reads like the NIV - "The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who REJECTS 69 the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him.” Then he footnotes: “Or, refuses to believe,” or “disobeys.”
J.B. Phillips New Testament 1962 reads: "The man who REFUSES TO BELIEVE in the Son will not see life; he lives under the anger of God."
The Fenton Bible 1966 - "Whoever DISREGARDS the Son will not see life"
The New Life Version 1969 has: “He who PUTS HIS TRUST IN the Son has life that lasts forever. He who DOES NOT PUT HIS TRUST IN the Son will not have life, but the anger of God is on him.”
The New International Reader’s Version 1998 has: “Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life. Anyone WHO SAYS NO TO THE SON will not have life. God’s anger remains on him.”
The Apostolic Polyglott Bible 2003 - “The one trusting in the son has life eternal; but the one RESISTING the son shall not see life, but the anger of God remains upon him."
The Concordant Version 2012 - "yet he WHO IS STUBBORN AS TO THE SON shall not be seeing life, but the indignation of God is remaining on him."
The Resurrection Life New Testament 2005 (Vince Garcia) has: “He who PLACES FAITH IN the Son has everlasting life, but he who DOES NOT PLACE FAITH IN the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God will remain upon him!
On one of the Christian internet forums I was asked: “Since you guys seem to hold that the KJV is the best English version then perhaps you could explain the following for me. Why two different words are rendered believeth in the KJV?"
He then quotes the King James Bible, and then by way of contrast he quotes the present NASB which says: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who OBEYS NOT the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
I mention the “present NASB” because the NASB keeps on changing its text every few years. It has now gone through 10 different copyrighted editions and every time it changes its own text. The 1995 edition NASB omitted just short of 8000 words that were in the previous 1977 NASB.
Right here in my study I have a copy of the 1963 NASB New Testament. The 1963 NASB says in John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who DISBELIEVES the Son shall not see life...”
It wasn't till some years later that the "scholars" behind the ever changing NASB decided to change this to now read "he who OBEYS NOT THE SON." But even now the present NASBs still retain a marginal note about this Greek word which says "OR, BELIEVES."
The Catholic Connection
As usual, the Catholic versions are all over the board. The 1582 Douai-Rheims read like the KJB with: “but he that BELIEVETH NOT the Son shall not see life”
Then the 1950 Douay had “he who IS UNBELIEVING TOWARD THE SON shall not see life.” The 1968 Jerusalem has: “but anyone who REFUSES TO BELIEVE in the Son will never see life”.
Then the 1970 St. Joseph NAB goes all the ways and says: “WHOEVER DISOBEYS the Son will not see life”. But now the 1995 New Jerusalem has gone back to: “but anyone who REFUSES TO BELIEVE in the Son will never see life.”
Words have different meanings depending on the context. For example, in Hebrew the same word can mean either to "curse" or to "bless". In the book of Job the same word is translated as "blessed" in Job 1:10 and 21 where God blessed Job and Job blessed the name of the LORD. Yet the same word is translated as "to curse" in Job 1:5, 11; 2:5 and 9 where Satan said Job would curse God to His face and Job's wife told him to curse God and die.
Another Hebrew word #2617 is usually translated as "mercy", "goodness", "kindness", yet only once is this same word rendered as "reproach" in Proverbs 14:34 "sin is a reproach to any people".
The same Hebrew word, # 3117 yohm, can mean either "a year" or "a day". Context determines its meaning. For example, in Exodus 13 we read about the feast of unleavened bread. In 13:6 we read: "Seven DAYS thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh DAY shall be a feast to the LORD." The Hebrew word is # 3117 yohm. Yet in 13:10 it says: "Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from YEAR to YEAR." Again, it is the same Hebrew word - yohm.
The NASB complete concordance shows that they have translated this same Hebrew word #3117 yohm as "day or days, daily or today" a total of 1,971 times, and the same word as "year, years, yearly" some 28 times.
The NASB has also translated this same Hebrew word as "age, battle, birthday, each, eternity, fate, first, forever, full, holiday, life, lifetime, midday, long, once, period, now, perpetually, present, recently, reigns, ripe, short-lived, time, usual, very old, when, whenever, while, and yesterday"!
Likewise the word used in John 3:36 and translated as "believeth not" has several meanings depending on the context and sound theology. The word is apeitheo and can mean "to be unbelieving", "to believe not", "to not be persuaded", and "to be disobedient".
Even the 1995 NASB has translated this word as "disbelieved" in Acts 14:2 "the Jews who DISBELIEVED...", and the NIV renders it as "REFUSED TO BELIEVE" in Acts 14:2; as "UNBELIEVERS" in Romans 15:31, and as "HE WHO IS UNBELIEVING" in 1 Peter 3:1. So we see they too have adopted the meaning of "believe not" in other passages.
The 2001 ESV has also translated this same Greek word as "the UNBELIEVING Jews" in Acts 14:2; "continued in UNBELIEF" in Acts 19:19 and as "THE UNBELIEVERS" in Romans 15:31.
The Greek lexicons also tell us that the word apeitheo has several meanings, one of which is "to not believe".
Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich's Greek Lexicon tells us on page 83 "since, in the view of the early Christians, the supreme disobedience was a refusal to believe their gospel, apeitheo may be restricted in some passages to the meaning of DISBELIEVE, BE AN UNBELIEVER. THIS SENSE SEEMS MOST PROBABLE IN John 3:36, Acts 14:2; 19:9, Romans 15:31."
Likewise Thayer's Greek Lexicon (page 55) and Liddell and Scott's Lexicon (page 182) both list one of the meanings of this verb as "TO REFUSE OR WITHHOLD BELIEF", "UNBELIEVING".
Let's examine for a moment the NASB, ESV, Catholic St. Joseph version reading of "he who does NOT OBEY the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
According to the NASB, it is not enough that we only believe in Christ as our Saviour but we must also OBEY Him or else the wrath of God awaits us. It does not say "TRY to obey" or "WANT to obey" or "obey 90% of the time" but OBEY.
Do we obey - not just TRY to obey - much of anything the Lord told us to do? Do we love all Christians and even our enemies more than ourselves? Are we sometimes critical of others, judgmental, proud, selfish, or unkind? Do we have lustful thoughts? Do we give up all our possessions to feed the poor? If we think we are always obeying the Lord, I don't think we know our own hearts very well.
Bible versions that translate the second half of John 3:36 as "he who does not OBEY the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." easily lend themselves to false doctrine because of a misunderstanding of what the verse is talking about.
Those who do not believe in the Son ARE disobedient. This is true. Their mind and will and heart are set against God. There is none that doeth good; there is none that seeketh after God. The command has gone forth to all to Repent and Believe the gospel, and those who do NOT believe and who reject the Son, are indeed being disobedient. But the verse is referring to those who are not "obedient to the faith" and thus, to those who do not believe the gospel of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
But notice that the verse STILL says even in the versions that get the second part wrong, that he that BELIEVETH IN THE SON HAS everlasting life.
This is the testimony of a multitude of verses in the Bible. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (1 John 5:2), "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." (John 1:12), "through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things" (Acts 13:38-39)
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31) "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) "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." (John 3:18
Praise God for His grace and unconditional love to us His people. May He awaken within us a greater desire to please and obey Him. But this holy desire will spring out of a motive of love for our Saviour and not out of a fear of His wrath if we do not perfectly obey Him, which neither you nor I can do in this life.
Other Verses - Believe Not versus Obey Not
Other verses that have been changed are found in the book of Hebrews chapters 3 through 4. There we read of the history of the children of Israel in the wilderness to whom the gospel was preached but it was "not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest" (Hebrews 4:2-3). "And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that BELIEVED NOT? So we see that they could not enter in because of UNBELIEF." (3:18,19)
"Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of UNBELIEF"..."Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of UNBELIEF." (4:6,11)
In all these verses not only does the KJB say "believed not" and "unbelief" but so also do Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, the Great Bible, Matthew's Bible, the Bishops' Bible, Wesley's N.T., Worsley Version, Douay, Youngs, Godbey, Spanish Antigua Versión, Italian Diodati, Webster's 1833, Green's MKJV, The Word of Yah 1993, KJV 21st Century 1994, Third Millennium Bible 1998, God's First Truth 1999, The Evidence Bible 2003, Bond Slave Version 2009, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, Conservative Bible 2011, The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011 and the Interlinear Hebrew-Greek Scriptures 2012 (Mebust).
However the NKJV, NIV, NASB and many other modern versions change the meaning in these four verses by saying: "He sware they would not enter His rest to those who did not OBEY"..."did not enter because of DISOBEDIENCE"..."be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of DISOBEDIENCE." Is it faith and believing God that allow us to enter the land of rest in Christ, or our obedience?
Agreeing with the correct theology of faith or unbelief as seen in the KJB is the Old Testament itself.
In Numbers 14:11, when the children of Israel feared to go in to take possession of the land of promise, God says: "How long will it be ere they BELIEVE ME, for all the signs which I have shewed among them."
Deuteronomy rehearses the history of Israel before entering the land and God says he "bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went until ye came unto this place. Yet in this thing YE DID NOT BELIEVE the LORD your God"...and the Lord sware surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers, save Caleb...and Joshua" Deut. 1:31-35.
One more clear verse showing it was unbelief that prevented them from entering the land of rest is Deut. 9:23 "Likewise when the LORD sent you from Kadeshbarnea, saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you; then ye rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and YE BELIEVED HIM NOT, nor hearkened unto his voice."
Is it true, as the NASB, ESV, Jehovah Witness NWT and the Catholic St. Joseph teach in John 3:36, that "he who does not OBEY the Son, the wrath of God abides on him"?
Consider the first disciples themselves. Instead of taking up the cross, denying themselves, forsaking all to follow Jesus, Peter denied the Lord three times with cursing and an oath and "all the disciples forsook him and fled" Matthew 26:56.
In 2 Peter chapter one we are exhorted to add various virtues to our faith and told that IF these things are in us we will not be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord. "But HE THAT LACKETH THESE THINGS is blind, and cannot see afar off, and HATH FORGOTTEN THAT HE WAS PURGED FROM HIS OLD SINS." (2 Peter 1:9)
The person referred to here who lacks these virtues is still a blood bought child of God, who has been purged from his old sins. He is then told to make his calling and election sure - not to God, for He knows already, but to himself. This person may lose all personal assurance that he is a child of God, but he has been purged of his sins in the blood of Christ and is forever secure in the grace of God.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 we read: "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, (watch or don't watch - same word as "watch" in verse 6) we should live together with him."
My faithfulness in watching or sleeping spiritually is not the ground of my assurance. It is the fact that Christ died for me and nothing else.
Psalm 119 ends with this verse: "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek THY SERVANT, for I do not forget thy commandments."
Even though he has gone astray, he is still God's servant. The disciples who forsook the Lord are still called disciples; the Christian who doesn't watch will still live with Christ; and the man that lacks the virtues listed in 2 Peter has still been purged from his sins.
What may confuse some saints is that there are frequent verses in the Bible that speak of "obeying the gospel", but a closer look at these verses shows that to "obey" is equivalent to "believe".
Romans 10:16 "...but they have not all OBEYED the gospel, For Esaias saith, Lord, who HATH BELIEVED our report?" Notice that to obey the gospel is to believe the report.
Acts 6:7 "...and a great company of the priests WERE OBEDIENT TO THE FAITH"; in other words, they believed the gospel of Christ.
Romans 6:17 "...but ye have OBEYED from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you."
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that OBEY NOT THE GOSPEL of our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Peter 1:1,22 "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto OBEDIENCE and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ...seeing ye have purified your souls in OBEYING the truth through the Spirit..."
And in Romans 16:26 we read of the mystery of the gospel which is now "made known to all nations for THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH." Faith itself IS the obedience to the command to believe the gospel.
The doctrines of the free grace of God and salvation by faith plus nothing are much more clearly set forth in the King James Bible than in the confusing and contradictory multitude of modern versions.
Don't let the legalists, the Bible Rummagers and Bible critics who have NO inerrant Bible to give you, and other false teachers lead you astray into taking your eyes off of the Son of God who redeemed His people at the cross and set us free from "the law of sin and death".
We are clothed in His perfect righteousness, and God Himself "hath made us accepted in the Beloved, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." Ephesians 1:6-7
All of grace, believing in the finished, redemptive work of the Son of God, and believing the King James Bible that tells me of these wonderful truths.
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