Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; 1 John 3:8-10, 5:18 (6/3/13)
So far most of what we’ve learned about Satan and the Devil has shown that what we already knew is completely correct or almost correct. For example, we learned that Satan = the Devil, but we also learned that satan
about half the time in the Old Testament, and that once in a while in the New Testament, satanas Satan
or diabolos devil
can refer to a person acting like the Devil. But from here on out, practically everything we thought we knew turns out to be wrong some of the time or most of the time – or all of the time! – or at best, uncertain.
Let’s start with “the Evil One.” In English, good
are adjectives that can also be used as nouns (that is, the name of a person, place, or thing). We can say, “Some of those men or things are good, some are bad, and some are ugly.” Or we can say, “They are the good, the bad, and the ugly.” Greek does exactly the same thing. When a Greek adjective is used with “the,” it acts like a noun.
The Greek word poneros evil, wicked
is an adjective sometimes used as a noun. Poneros
occurs 76 times in the New Testament of the manuscripts used for the King James Version. In the scriptures we read today – as well as in Matthew’s version of The Sower, which we read a couple of weeks ago – the poneros Evil One
is definitely the Devil. In Matthew, there’s a story to go along with the word, and Jesus says that the Evil One who sowed the bad seed is the Devil.
In 1 John 3, John is talking about the Devil and says that people who sin are children of the Devil. Then in verse 12, he says that Cain was from the Evil One. We can tell from context that the Evil One here is the Devil. In 1 John 5:18, the noun poneros
is definitely masculine, so it means the Evil One
, that is, the Devil. These three cases – The Sower in Matthew and today’s two scriptures – are the only places I could find in the New Testament where the poneros Evil One
is absolutely positively the Devil.
From the Bible in Basic English:
Matthew 13:24-27 And he gave them another story, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like a man who put good seed in his field: But while men were sleeping, one who had hate for him came and put weeds among the grain, and went away. But when the green stem came up and gave fruit, the weeds were seen at the same time. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, Sir, did you not put good seed in your field? how then has it weeds?
Luke 6:43-45; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Here the Evil One is not the Devil (6/4/13)
28-29 And he said, Someone has done this in hate. And the servants say to him, Is it your pleasure that we go and take them up? But he says, No, for fear that by chance while you take up the weeds, you may be rooting up the grain with them. Let them come up together till the getting in of the grain; and then I will say to the workers, Take up first the weeds, and put them together for burning: but put the grain into my store-house.
Matthew 13:36 Then he went away from the people, and went into the house; and his disciples came to him, saying, Make clear to us the story of the weeds in the field.
37-39 And he made answer and said, He who puts the good seed in the earth is the Son of man; And the field is the world; and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom; and the weeds are the sons of the poneros Evil One; And he who put them in the earth is diabolos the Devil; and the getting in of the grain is the end of the world; and those who get it in are the angels.
1 John 3:8 The sinner is a child of the diabolos Devil; for the diabolos Devil has been a sinner from the first. And the Son of God was seen on earth so that he might put an end to the works of the diabolos Devil.
9 Anyone who is a child of God does no sin, because he still has God's seed in him; he is not able to be a sinner, because God is his Father.
10 In this way it is clear who are the children of God and who are the children of the diabolos Devil; anyone who does not do righteousness or who has no love for his brother, is not a child of God.
11 This is the message that you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
12 Do not be like Cain, who was from the poneros Evil One and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because what he was doing was evil and his brother's actions were righteous.
1 John 5:18 We are certain that one who is a child of God will do no sin, but the Son of God keeps him so that the poneros Evil One does not touch him.
A while back I talked about “gender” in Greek. If you need a refresher, go here
and read the section called “The Linguistic Issue.” The bottom line is that the Greek language has three genders, masculine, feminine, and neuter. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell from the Greek
, let alone from the English, whether the gender is masculine or neuter. This is because in some cases the masculine and neuter have exactly the same form, ponerou
, which can mean either of the evil man/one
or of the evil thing
. If poneros
is referring to the Devil, it should be masculine and singular. The question we are considering is this: Does every masculine, singular noun occurrence of poneros
in the New Testament mean “The Evil One,” i.e., the Devil?
The answer is: No.
Here’s why. I found five and only five absolutely clear examples in the New Testament where the poneros
is masculine and singular and clearly refers to a “person,” as opposed to a “thing.” The contexts show that three of these refer to the Devil, and we talked about those yesterday. Two others, which we read today, refer to an ordinary human being. Luke 6:45 and 1 Corinthians 5:13 prove that “the evil one” is not always the Devil.
The reason we care about this is that our translators have to decide whether they are going to say “the evil man” or “the Evil One” or just plain “evil” in English. The text is talking about one or the other, but it’s impossible to tell which. The translators decide what they think – quite honestly, I’m not criticizing – and that’s what they put. But another translation may have something different. The rest of this week, we’ll look at some examples. Let’s just avoid all
evil, and not worry about whether it’s the Devil or a fellow human or just generalized evil!
From the Bible in Basic English:
Luke 6:43-44 For no good tree gives bad fruit, and no bad tree gives good fruit. For every tree is judged by its fruit. Men do not get figs from thorns, or grapes from blackberry plants.
Matthew 5:37-39; Matthew 6:13; John 17:9-17, Hard to tell who or what is the Evil One (6/5/13)
45 The good man, out of the good store of his heart, gives good things; and the poneros evil man, out of his ponerou evil store, gives poneros evil: for out of the full store of the heart come the words of the mouth.
1 Corinthians 5:9-10 In my letter I said to you that you were not to keep company with those who go after the desires of the flesh; But I had not in mind the sinners who are outside the church, or those who have a desire for and take the property of others, or those who give worship to images; for it is not possible to keep away from such people without going out of the world completely:
11 But the sense of my letter was that if a brother had the name of being one who went after the desires of the flesh, or had the desire for other people's property, or was in the way of using violent language, or being the worse for drink, or took by force what was not his, you might not keep company with such a one, or take food with him.
12-13 For it is no business of mine to be judging those who are outside; but it is yours to be judging those who are among you; As for those who are outside, God is their judge. So put away the poneros evil man from among you.
Very often, as in the scriptures we read today, it’s impossible to tell for sure from the Greek whether the topic is The Evil One, an evil person, an evil thing, or just generalized evil. Be aware that sometimes when your translators say one way or the other, it’s their best guess.
Take particular notice of how three different translations treat ponerou
, which if you really must know are the genitive and dative cases of poneros
. In the genitive and dative cases, the masculine and neuter forms are identical. The Bible in Basic English uses Evil One
or evil man
. The King James Version uses evil
. And the Contemporary English can’t make up its mind, using devil, evil, evil one,
and a person who has done something to you
From the Bible in Basic English, with selections from the King James and Contemporary English Versions:
Matthew 5:37 But let your words be simply, Yes or No: and whatever is more than these is of the ponerou Evil One.
Ephesians 6:14-16; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 (6/6/13)
King James Version: from evil.
Contemporary English Version: from the devil.
38-39 You have knowledge that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say to you, Do not make use of force against an ponero evil man; but to him who gives you a blow on the right side of your face let the left be turned.
King James Version: evil.
Contemporary English Version: a person who has done something to you
Matthew 6:13 And let us not be put to the test, but keep us safe from the ponerou Evil One.
King James Version: from evil.
Contemporary English Version: from evil
John 17:9-10 My prayer is for them: my prayer is not for the world, but for those whom you have given to me, because they are yours All mine are yours, and yours are mine and I have glory in them.
11-12 And now I will be no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I come to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name which you have given to me, so that they may be one even as we are one. While I was with them I kept them safe in your name which you have given to me: I took care of them and not one of them has come to destruction, but only the son of destruction, so that the Writings might come true.
13-14 And now I come to you; and these things I say in the world so that they may have my joy complete in them. I have given your word to them; and they are hated by the world, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
15 My prayer is not that you will take them out of the world, but that you will keep them from the ponerou Evil One.
King James Version: from the evil.
Contemporary English Version: from the evil one.
16-17 They are not of the world any more than I am of the world. Make them holy by the true word: your word is the true word.
We see again today that in some cases, you can’t tell exactly how a certain form of poneros
– that is, ponerou
– should be translated. In Eph. 6:16, King James thinks it’s a person, but Bible in Basic English and Contemporary English think it’s the Devil. Then in 2 Thessalonians 3:3, exactly the same word
in Greek is given as “generalized evil” by all three translations.
(You wouldn’t be able to tell from the form in 2 Thessalonians 3:2 either, except that the Greek actually follows “evil” with “people.” Naturally all the translations agree on that one.)
The biggest lesson we should be learning from this is that we should never, never base our whole theology on one word in one translation. And we should never, never argue about one word in one translation. If you are going to go door to door and tell people something about the Devil (someone actually came to my door a couple weeks ago to tell my husband something about the Devil), you need to make absolutely positively sure that the Greek text, and not just your translation, is talking about the Devil. Very often there’s no way to tell, so please don’t be too dogmatic about it.
From the Bible in Basic English, with selections from other translations:
Ephesians 6:14-15 Take your place, then, having your body clothed with the true word, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness; Be ready with the good news of peace as shoes on your feet;
1 John 2:13-14, 3:12, 5:19 (6/7/13)
16 And most of all, using faith as a cover to keep off all the flaming arrows of the ponerou Evil One.
King James Version: of the wicked.
Contemporary English Version: of the evil one.
2 Thessalonians 3:1 For the rest, my brothers, let there be prayer for us that the word of the Lord may go forward with increasing glory, even as it does with you;
2 And that we may be made free from foolish and poneron evil men; for not all have faith.
3 But the Lord is true, who will give you strength and keep you safe from ponerou evil.
King James Version: from evil.
Contemporary English Version: from harm.
4-5 And we have faith in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things about which we give you orders. And may your hearts be guided by the Lord into the love of God and quiet waiting for Christ.
OK, maybe I should have included 1 John 2:13-14 in the cases where we can tell for sure from the Greek that poneros
is singular and masculine, and therefore equals the Devil. But in 1 John 3 and 1 John 5, we can’t tell for sure.
In 1 John 3:12, most translations agree that Cain is “of the Devil,” which makes it kind of odd that in Genesis 4 God talks to Cain personally and protects him from people who would harm him, don’t you think? And in 1 John 5, the translations are divided between the Devil and generalized evil.
So what does your church say in the Lord’s Prayer? “Deliver us from evil,” or “deliver us from the Evil One”? We have seen in the past three days that there is no way to tell the difference
in Greek! Whichever way you think it should be is fine, so don’t let anybody browbeat you about it.
From the Bible in Basic English:
1 John 2:13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you have knowledge of him who was from the first. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the poneros Evil One. I have sent a letter to you, children, because you have knowledge of the Father.
More of The Big Lie
14 I have sent a letter to you, fathers, because you have knowledge of him who was from the first. I have sent a letter to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God is in you, and because you have overcome the poneros Evil One.
1 John 3:12 Not being of the ponerou Evil One like Cain, who put his brother to death.
King James Version: that wicked one
Contemporary English Version: the devil.
And why did he put him to death? Because his works were ponera evil and his brother's works were good.
1 John 5:19 We are certain that we are of God, but all the world is in the power of the ponero Evil One.
King James Version: wickedness
Contemporary English Version: the devil
The Son of God and the Father of Lies
The OT satan is always an adversary, but not always the Devil.
The Hebrew satan is translated various ways.
In the New Testament, both satanas and diabolos normally refer to the Devil.
Sometimes satanas and diabolos are used figuratively to refer to someone acting like the Devil.
Poneros – Evil in the New Testament
Demons cause sickness, not sin.
Sometimes Satan and demons cooperate with each other.
Neither Baalzebub nor Lucifer is a Biblical name for the Devil.
Belial means "worthless," and once it's used as a nickname for the Devil.
Satan's job description: Temptation and Lies
Our job description: Resist him!
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