Just how true is the Concordant Literal Version to the original languages? Does it demonstrate consistent scholarly integrity, or was it translated in such a manner so as to accommodate unorthodox doctrines, such as we see with the New World Translation of the Jehovah Witnesses?
Many who believe that God’s punishments are temporal and corrective, resulting in the final restoration of all, have enthusiastically recommended it, seeing that it correctly translates olam, aión and aionios as eon and eonian, rather than, everlasting and eternal, as most other translations do. I demonstrate that these words express temporal duration, rather than perpetuity, in my blog, The Duration of Punishment. Other widely accepted literal translations, besides the Concordant Literal Version, also correctly render these time-words, such as Young’s Literal Translation and Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible. While there is no indication that either Young or Rotherham ever believed in the final restoration of all, they were nevertheless faithful to the actual meaning of the text.
Since I prefer using the NKJV hand-in-hand with the Greek and Hebrew text, I never gave close attention to the literal versions. However, knowing that many are unfamiliar with the original languages, I have recommended them to others and often cited from them, including the Concordant Literal Version. However, as time passed, I began to come across more and more renderings in the CLV which were incongruous with the original text. That in turn led me to investigate the background and beliefs of A. E. Knoch and his Concordant Publishing Concern which compiled and published the CLV. As I read his writings to see his justifications for his unique renderings, it became evident to me that his primary motive in making his own translation was in order to have a Bible which would substantiate his own particular doctrinal beliefs, just as the Jehovah Witnesses did with their New World Translation.
Among other things, He denied the Trinity and taught that the Son of God was a created being, rather than being co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Being a contemporary of Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah Witnesses, and sharing many beliefs in common with him, they corresponded, but couldn’t agree on the subject of ultimate reconciliation. The Watchtower Society did not yet have their own translation of the Bible and they were going to distribute copies of the CLV but later announced in 1921 that they had decided against it, primarily because of the issue of Universal Salvation. [i]
Another major unorthodox belief held by Knoch was that, according to him, God created evil in the beginning, even creating Satan as the Adversary and a sinner, rather than him having been created perfect and subsequently becoming a sinner, independently of God. He also taught the hyperdispensational two-gospel doctrine, also known as Bullingerism, because it first originated with E. W. Bullinger (1837 to 1913). I consider the fallacies of the two-gospel doctrine in a series of four blogs, Are there Two Different Gospels in the New Testament?
For a time, Knoch was a leading member of a Plymouth Brethren congregation in Los Angeles California. However, he began to teach his new doctrines which were contrary to those of the Brethren of that congregation. In his zeal, and with his characteristically uncharitable spirit towards those who differ with him evident throughout his writings, he persisted in promoting his contrary doctrines, even after having been removed from his teaching position in the church. This resulted in him eventually being disfellowshipped. [ii]
In this blog, I will briefly point out a few clear examples of the many instances where he intentionally altered the proper rendering of the original text in order to accommodate his own doctrinal bias.
The Alteration of Passages related to the Origin of Evil
(NKJV) “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace (shalom) and create calamity (ra’) I, the LORD, do (present) all these things.”
(CLV) “Former of light and Creator of darkness, Maker of good and Creator of evil. I, Yahweh Elohim, made all of these things.”
In spite of the fact that shalom never means “good” in all of its 235 occurrences in the Old Testament, Knoch renders shalom as “good” and ra’ as “evil” in order to make it refer to the tree of the knowledge of “good and evil” in Eden. However, there are two primary factors which militate against this rendering.
In the first place, in Genesis the word rendered “good” is towb which always means “good” and is elsewhere even distinguished from shalom (Deut 23:6). While I didn’t take the time to look at all 235 instances of shalom, I looked at his rendering of numerous verses and didn’t find any other place where he translated shalom as “good” instead of “peace.” [iii]
Furthermore, it is significant that the translators of the Greek Septuagint, or LXX, (which were the Scriptures Paul and others would have been using among the Greek speaking world of that time), rendered towb in Isaiah 45:7 as εἰρήνη (eirene) which means “peace,” and not καλός (kalos) which means “good.” In similar manner, they rendered the phrase “good and evil” in Genesis 2:9 as του καλού και του κακού, using καλός (good), rather than eirene (peace), as it appears in Isaiah 45:7. These are the same two words used in the New Testament in Hebrews 5:14 for good and evil when the author said that we need to have our senses trained to discern both “good and evil.” Even here, Knoch, in his typical nonconformist manner, translates kalos and kakos as “the ideal and the evil,” adding the definite articles.
While it is true that God created good – indeed, all that He created was very good, it is not true that He created evil, as Knoch insists. It is a logical impossibility for Him to have created everything very good if indeed evil in any form was a part of His original creation.
However, according to Knoch’s reasoning, creating evil is good as long as the end result is good. In response to those who say that it would have been morally wrong for God to have directly created evil and created Satan as a sinner and the Adversary, he begins by limiting the definition of sin to simply missing the mark. From there he reasons that God would have only been sinning if He had created Satan, sin and evil and missed the mark, failing His objective in creating Satan and evil. Reading his logic, I couldn’t help but think of what the Lord said through Isaiah when He said:
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isa 5:20-21)
Using this type of logic, a bank robber could argue that he didn’t sin because he obtained his objective, successfully robbing the bank. Hitler would have been justified in all his atrocities if only he had achieved his original goal of a global Third Reich. Sin in Scripture is not merely missing the mark, but a moral missing the mark or lawlessness (1Jn 3:4). It is a failure to live according to God’s government.
God did not create evil in any form, be it moral evil or natural evil. In the first place, considering the fact that the contrast in Isaiah 45:7 is between peace (shalom) and ra’, which can mean either moral or natural evil, it is obvious that it is natural evil which is being referred to, or more specifically wartime calamity, since the contrast is not between that which is good or evil, as Knoch tries to argue, but between peace and the absence thereof. In our fallen condition, God brings calamity and hardship in judgment for correction, but God does not create moral evil.
If it were not sufficient that he replaced the word peace for good in order to make God out to be the one who originated evil, he also changes the tense of the verbs in Isaiah 45:7 from present tense to past tense in order to make it refer to the original creation. [iv] Here again, in the Septuagint, over seventy Greek and Hebrew scholars rendered it in the present tense ο ποιών ειρήνην και κτίζων κακόν “I make peace and create evil or bad.” I consider the nature of evil and the sense in which God creates evil in my blog, The What of Evil.
(NKJV) “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.”
(CLV) “Perfect are (aorist in LXX “were”) you in your ways, From the day of your being produced (Heb. bara, κτίζω LXX same as Gen 1:1), Till perversity has been found (past perfect) in you.”
In his determination to make Ezekiel out to be exclusively addressing the king of Tyre who was alive at the time of writing, he supplied “are” instead of “were.” The main problem with that is that God continues, saying “from the day you were created till iniquity was found in you.” The personage that God is here addressing was perfect from the moment of his creation, until iniquity was found in him. The Septuagint uses aorist verbs throughout this verse, as does every other translation I consulted. This is a deliberate manipulation of the text, albeit inconsistent. [v]
Knoch also changes “from the day you were created,” to “from the day of your being produced,” in an attempt to make it refer to the king of Tyre rather than to Lucifer who was created. However, bara never refers to procreation, but rather to God’s original creation. Again, he is inconsistent, since nowhere else does he translate bara as “produced,” being that it so obviously means “to create.” [vi]
(NKJV) “How you are fallen from heaven, o Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!”
(CLV) “How you have fallen from the heavens! Howl, son of the dawn! You are hacked down to the earth, defeater of all nations!”
Since the Hebrew word helel, rendered Lucifer, only occurs here in Scripture, there is some debate as to its etymology. A very few, in their attempt to deny that Isaiah 14 has any reference to the fall of Satan, argue that the root word for helel is yalal, which means “the howler.” Even if that meaning were the correct one, Knoch is incorrect in converting a substantive into an imperative verb, making it read “howl” instead of “the howler.” However, since it wouldn’t make sense to say, “the howler, son of the dawn,” he takes the liberty to change the noun into a verb.
Nearly all scholars believe that the root word for helel is halal, which can have either a positive or a negative meaning, depending upon the context in which it appears. If it is used in the negative sense, it would read, “how you are fallen from heaven, o arrogant bragger, son of the morning.” However, if it is to be understood in a positive sense, it would read, “how are you fallen from heaven, o shining one, son of the morning.” Lucifer in Latin means “shining one,” and for that reason, many translations retain that name.
That it is used in the positive sense in this passage is evident, considering that it is a dirge or song of lamentation in which God is lamenting Lucifer’s fall. These are not words of reproach or condemnation but rather an expression of sorrow for one who was once His shining one, the son of the morning, only to afterwards fall because of pride and selfish ambition. I haven’t been able to find even one translation of the Bible which understands helel negatively as “arrogant bragger,” much less seeing it as related to yalal, and going even farther, taking the liberty to change the noun, “the howler,” into an imperative verb!
It is significant that the Greek Septuagint rendered helel as phosphoros, (ὁ ἑωσφόρος), which means “the shining one,” or in Latin, Lucifer. To me, it is much more likely that the 72 Greek speaking Hebrew scholars who reverently compiled the Septuagint in the 3rd century B.C., had a better idea of what helel meant than a single individual in the 20th century, determined to demonstrate that God created evil.
The Alteration of Passages Affirming the Deity of Christ
(NKJV) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.”
(CLV) “In the beginning was the word, and the word was toward God, and God was the word. 2 This (autos, ‘He’) was in the beginning toward God. 3 All came into being through it (αυτου, ‘Him’), and apart from it (αυτου, ‘Him’) not even one thing came into being which has come into being. 4 In it (αυτω ‘Him’) was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light is appearing in the darkness, and the darkness grasped it not. 6 There came to be a man, commissioned by God. His name was John. 7 This one came for a testimony, that he should be testifying concerning the light, that all should be believing through it (αυτου, ‘Him’). 8 Not he was the light, but he came that he should be testifying concerning the light. 9 It was the true light (ην το φως το αληθινον, ‘He was the true light’) - which is enlightening every man - coming into the world. 10 In the world He was (εν τω κοσμω ην, ‘in the world He was’), and the world came into being through Him, and the world knew Him (αυτον, ‘Him’) not.”
Any sect denying the deity of Christ must somehow alter the wording of John 1. The Jehovah Witnesses have verse 1 say that the Word was “a god,” and instead of saying, “in Him was life” in verse 4, they make it read, “by means of him was life.” I won’t take the time to point out the fallacies of these renderings, but any first-year Greek student could easily point them out.
Knoch uses a different and more radical approach, turning the alteration of the text up a notch. First, he renders the masculine personal pronouns referring to the Word as “it” instead of “He” or “Him,” until he gets to verse 10, where he then correctly renders the masculine pronoun as “Him.” I have noticed that he often is not even consistent in his mistranslations. [vii]
He then translates the connective preposition pros in verse 1 as “toward” instead of “with.” He argues that the idea expressed by pros here is not the nearness of the Word to God, but rather the function of directing others towards God. However, in verse 2, it says that in the beginning, before anything had been created, He was with (pros) God. In what sense could the Word be said to have directed others towards God in eternity before there was anyone for the Word to direct towards Him?
Whenever pros is used to speak of nearness or association between persons, it always means “with.” Knoch himself follows this rule in every other instance, except when it would imply Christ’s deity. The following are examples from the CLV, showing his inconsistency in rendering pros here in John 1:1 as toward instead of with: “And I came to be with (pros) you in weakness” (1 Cor 2:3); “I am expecting to stay some time with (pros) you” (1 Cor 16:7); he should be with (pros) you fearlessly” (1 Cor 16:10); “And, being present with (pros) you and in want” (2 Cor 11:9); “I stay (aorist, ‘stayed’) with (pros) him fifteen days” (Gal 1:18); “not only in my presence with (pros) you” (Gal 4:18); “Yet I wanted to be present with (pros) you just now” (Gal 4:20) and, “Do you not remember that, still being with (pros) you” (2 Thess 2:5).
The only other place where he switches back to rendering pros as “toward” instead of “with” in the context of relationships is 1 John 1:2, which again speaks of the preincarnate Son’s relationship with the Father. He makes it read, “the life eonian which was toward the Father.” Even the Jehovah Witnesses translate it correctly as “with the Father.”
Knoch also inverts the word order in the third and final clause of John 1:1, making it read “and God was the word,” instead of “the Word was God.” It is understandable how someone without any real knowledge of Greek syntax could commit this error, since that is the actual word order in the phrase (και θεος ην ο λογος). However, Greek syntax is not according to word order, but according to the form of each word. In this instance, θεος (God) is the predicate nominative and ο λογος is the subject.
In my Greek studies in the 1970s one of the courses I found very helpful was a course in sentence diagramming, based upon John chapter 1. Sentence diagramming enables the student to properly arrange the Greek words in grammatical order for English readers. The third phrase in John 1:1 is diagrammed in the following manner:
This passage clearly teaches the eternality of the Word, since in the beginning of creation the Word already was (ην). If “was” had been in the aorist form, it would have meant “came to be.” However, it is in the imperfect which means “was continually existing.” Those who deny the eternality of the Word would say that he was created prior to this creation. However, it is said of the Son of God that Melchizedek was a type of Him in that he had “neither beginning of days nor end of life” (Heb 7:1-3). The Son of God is co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, verses 2 and 3 continue saying, “He was (ην) in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” That makes the Word the eternal uncreated Creator of all things.
Additionally, εν αρχη (in beginning) is anarthrous. In Greek, there is no indefinite article. In the absence of an article, it doesn’t necessarily make it indefinite, but rather emphasizes quality or characteristics. Taken together, εν αρχη ην ο λογος (In beginning was the Word) is saying, “In anything having the quality of a beginning the Word was existing.” I demonstrate the eternality of the Son in more detail from Scripture in my blog, Jesus Christ – the Eternal I AM. Also, I demonstrate that Jesus was Yahweh of the Old Testament in my blogs, Jesus is the Yahweh Elohim of the Old Testament, and The Christophanies of the Old Testament.
I can find no scholarly justification for Knoch’s deliberate alteration of the text of John 1 in his attempt to diminish and depersonalize the eternal Son of God. There are numerous passages affirming the full deity of Christ which he likewise alters, but space here won’t allow for more examples.
The Alteration of Passages affirming the Trinity
(NKJV) “However, when He (ἐκεῖνος masc.), the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”
(CLV) “Yet whenever that (ἐκεῖνος masc. ‘He’) may be coming - the spirit of truth -it (ἐκεῖνος masc.‘He’) will be guiding you into all the truth, for it will not be speaking from itself (ἑαυτού, masc. ‘Himself’) but whatsoever it (He) should be hearing will it be speaking, and of what is coming will it (He) be informing you. 14 That (He) will be glorifying Me, seeing that of Mine will it (He) be getting, and informing you."
15 All, whatever the Father has, is Mine. Therefore I said to you that of Mine is it (He) getting, and will be informing you.”
In his attempt to depersonalize the Holy Spirit, Knoch renders all of the masculine personal pronouns in this passage, translating them all as if they were neuter. Not even the Jehovah Witness’ New World Translation takes such liberties. Even they must have realized that all the activities which are here attributed to the Holy Spirit are only applicable to a person. Apart from computers that are programmed by a person, an “it” cannot guide, and it cannot speak. These are not the only attributes the Holy Spirit possesses which only apply to a person. The Holy Spirit has emotions and therefore can be grieved (Eph 4:30). We can enjoy communion with Him (2Cor 13:14). He jealously yearns for us (James 4:5). Because He has intellect, He can teach, speak, convince us and remind us. We can lie to Him, something one can only do to another person (Acts 5:3-4).
Once we see that the Son of God, the eternal Word, is a distinct person who is eternally with God and yet also God; and once we acknowledge that the Holy Spirit (also called God in Acts 5:3-4) is also a person whom the Father sent to glorify the Son, the many passages alluding to God as Triune make the doctrine of the Trinity an undeniable conclusion. That is why the Early Fathers affirmed the Triune nature of God well before the Nicene creed.
There are many more passages which Knoch altered in order to deny the Trinity, but space here will not allow me to give more examples. All considered, I can no longer in good conscience recommend the CLV, in spite of some of its good points. If one decides to use it anyway, it should be used along-side of other more scholarly translations, or better yet, comparing it with the texts in their original languages. For a more extensive defense of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, I recommend reading my blog, The Triunity of God, and The Ante-Nicene Fathers and the Trinity.
[iii] A representative of the Concordant Publishing Concern informed me that there is a footnote in the CLV indicating that “good” was selected because that was how it reads in the 1QIsaa, which is the most complete of the 20 copies of Isaiah found in the Qumran caves. I do not possess a version of the CLV with footnotes, so I was unaware of their justification for this rendering. However, it is highly unlikely that the original text would have read “good” instead of “peace” since the LXX, which was translated by Greek speaking Hebrew scholars during the same time period as the 1QIsaa, rendered it as “peace,” just as we find in the Masoretic text.
[iv] I was encouraged when their representative informed me that the updated CLV corrected this error, translating it in the present tense, “make,” instead of “made.” Unfortunately, my copy of the CLV, as well as all those I found on the internet, still read “made,” giving the impression that God created evil in the beginning.
[v] According to the representative of the Concordant Publishing Concern, the updated CVOT corrected this as well, changing it from the present, “Perfect are you,” to a past tense paraphrase, “You walked flawless.”
[vi] I was informed that the updated CLV has been corrected to read, “day of your creation,” instead of “day of your being produced.”
[vii] The representative of the CLV here correctly pointed out that feminine and masculine nouns often refer to something inanimate, and in such cases should be rendered “it.” Conversely, we even see that neuter nouns, when clearly referring to a person, should be rendered as “he,” such as “the Lamb of God,” or “the Holy Spirit,” both of which are masculine, even though they are neuter nouns. However, here in John 1, the context clearly indicates that the Word is a person who was with God in the beginning. Furthermore, Knoch is inconsistent when he changes the masculine pronoun for “Word” from “it,” correctly rendering it as “Him,” beginning in verse 10