Resist Not Evil

The fact of evil in the world may constitute the greatest proof of God’s existence; we recognize people doing wrong and we’re moved by moral instinct to condemn and resist evil behavior. Yet without God there can be no such thing as evil.

Recognizing and responding to evil is fundamental to both our spiritual nature and our entire legal code, so we must be very careful when Christ says, “Resist not evil.” (Mt 5:39a) Taking this out of context sets us up for failure.

This is not about being passive as someone is abusing us, or inviting random acts of violence, or even being persecuted for our faith, but a civil context where we’re found guilty of harming another and justice requires similar harm be imposed on us, the offender (38). In other words, the context is where we already have a moral obligation to endure a given level of inconvenience or punishment (evil) in resolving an injustice. (Le 24:19-20) In such cases, mere justice is insufficient for the follower of Christ: we must go beyond the letter of the law in making things right. (Php 2:15)

This is most clearly seen in Christ’s second example, in the immediate context of how we’re to voluntarily offer to suffer more than we already have: we’ve been sued in court and found guilty, and the penalty is that our coat is being taken from us and awarded to the plaintiff. (40) When our community has found us guilty (implying we resisted resolving the offense out of court (Mt 5:25), and the offended party had to take us to court to find justice), it’s certainly appropriate for children of light (Ep 5:8-10) to go above and beyond what the law requires and voluntarily offer more if our adversary wants it. (1Co 6:7b) In other words, we’re to go out of our way to make things right once we’re shown by due process to be in the wrong. (Mt 5:16)

Christ’s third example is similar; one is compelling us to carry their burden a mile. (41) In other words, we have a moral obligation to comply with their request, as when Roman soldiers conscripted subjects into short-term manual labor to assist with military duties. (Mt 27:32) When one with such authority lawfully engages us to do something most people would resent, we show our integrity by willingly and cheerfully going well beyond what is required.

There’s a sense of resolving injustice even in Christ’s first example: someone strikes us on our right cheek. (39b) This would either be done with the left hand or with the back of the right hand, and would therefore be a formal insult. Presuming it is deserved, and lawfully dealt, Christ is telling us to submit to more harm than required to ensure any and all wrong on our part is fully resolved.

We see then by repeated examples in the immediate context that Christ is not teaching us to be passive in the face of wanton malevolence, but to voluntarily accept additional suffering (evil) as needed to fully resolve our offenses and fulfill our civic duties. He is calling us to live above reproach. (Tit 2:8)

It’s important then to consider how others might abuse this concept and teach us that it’s inappropriate to resist evil people, to defend ourselves and others, that we’re never to confront and challenge those who would wrongfully and maliciously harm us.

Yet Christ Himself does not do this, passively stand by as others harm Him contrary to the Law; He does not turn the other check when He is slapped; He publicly resists such abuse by pointing it out as unlawful and challenging it. (Jn 18:22-23) The Apostle Paul acts similarly, even cursing his perpetrator. (Ac 23:3)

So, when Christ’s teaching here is understood as a general requirement to defer to evil people in their malice, rather than simply accepting additional harm in resolving a civil dispute, suggesting we ought to voluntarily submit to arbitrary wickedness and not defend ourselves (NASB, NIV, RSV, ASV, ESV), we must be very careful; the examples Christ gives don’t appear to support such a conclusion.

It may very well be that one is being malicious and evil in taking advantage of our willingness to go the extra mile in resolving a dispute, yet we ought to maintain a spirit of generosity and love toward them regardless (Mt 5:44), just as we would towards all people. (42) This is the spirit of our Father, who is benevolent toward the evil as well as the good. (45)

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Cannot Be Broken

Debates about which Bible version is best generally focus on peripheral concepts: archaic language, the age of certain Greek manuscripts, or theological clarity. The primary evidence is often overlooked: the consistency of the Majority Text proves it’s the most reliable — random copying errors don’t account for it, as KJV critics claim.

To illustrate, suppose 127 college students transmit a 1000-word short story, where the 1st student makes 2 hand copies from the original and gives the copies to 2 more students; those 2 students each make 2 more hand copies of their copy and pass those 4 copies on to 4 more students, who each make 2 more copies, etc. Seven copy generations yields 254 new manuscripts to compare with the original.

Assuming unintentional, random copying errors, one may easily note that the earlier in the transcription process a mistake is made the more prevalent the error will be in the total set of manuscripts. Additionally, it’s virtually impossible for any particular error to occur in more than half the manuscripts; the only probable way for any single error to be prevalent in the majority is for the very first student to deliberately introduce the same error into both of their copies, violating randomness.

This fact proves the Majority text, which is generally consistent within itself concerning supposed errors, has a single original source: the general consistency of the manuscripts can only be rightly accounted for in this way.

Carefully consider: there are only two possible sources for the Majority text — the autographs themselves, or another set of manuscripts deliberately constructed to supplant the autographs. This fact forced the revisers of 1881 to propose the myth of the Syrian Recension to justify their preference for the Alexandrian Text.

The patent absurdity of the Syrian Recension proves the Majority Text represents the autographs, and therefore that most modern translations are based on a corrupt manuscript witness. This is the only proper foundation for a KJV debate.

Arguments focused on archaisms in the KJV miss the forest for the trees. After a 3-minute tutorial on thee, thou and basic verb tenses, only a very small percentage (0.16%, or 1-2 per 1000) of the words in the KJV are archaic. Learning new words from time to time is a given for anyone pursuing truth; it’s why we have dictionaries.

Debating which version better supports orthodox theology is irrational: theology depends upon scripture, not vice versa — we may not rightly argue for the validity of scripture based on how it supports our beliefs. This debate is about which words were in the autographs, not the doctrines implied by them.

And diminishing the value of the KJV by claiming certain verses are incorrectly translated, when the reasoning of its translators is no longer available, is subjective at best and does more harm than good. No imperfection in the KJV causes us to believe or act improperly as we trust and obey it (unlike most newer translations – e.g. His Virgin). This should be the whole of the matter … it’s the very reason we have the Word of God. What’s left to discuss?

God inspired His Word in written form to accomplish a purpose, which is unfulfilled merely by the autographs: to enable His elect, in many ages and nations and languages, to be mature and complete, thoroughly and completely equipped unto all good works. (2Ti 3:16-17)

God didn’t inspire His Word in vain: He says the scripture cannot be broken. (Jn 10:35) We can be sure He has preserved His Word across time, and across languages, sufficiently to achieve His purpose. That’s exactly what God does — faithfully keep His promises. So, find His Word in a language you can understand today; trust it, memorize it, and obey it as the very Word of God.

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