BALANCING THE NEW AND THE OLD

alternate textI was involved in an email conversation this week with someone who was concerned about the fact that Woord en Getuienis has left out a complete verse from the text of Matthew chapter 18. The verse in question is verse 11 and it reads: “For the Son of man (Son of Adam) is come to save that which was lost.” The verse appears in the King James version and some of the older translations (including The Scriptures) but not in translations like the NIV, CEV, ESV, NASV, NJB, NWT, RSV, TEV, NET, NAV and others. The person who sent me the email was concerned that Woord en Getuienis was just following the modern tendency to drop that which is old and good and adapt that which is new and (often) false or watered down. Notice the letter “N” for “New” in many of these abbreviations. I had to explain to this man that I was perhaps even more concerned than he was, about the tendency of dropping the old for the new. I pointed out that in this case, the old version (or the oldest available manuscripts), in fact, did NOT contain those words at all. It is today almost universally believed by authorities in the field of ancient texts that some scribe who thought that he was smart and clever, “borrowed” these words from Luke 19:10 and added them to the text of Matt. 18, at a much later stage. I consulted more than 30 commentaries on Matthew, written between 1880 and 2013, and not a single one of these authors denied the fact that in the oldest manuscripts containing the text of Matt. 18, there was no trace of the words “For the Son of man came to save that which is lost”.

Does that mean that we deny the truth that Y’shua came for the lost people of this world? No, we don’t, not for one minute. This truth is clearly taught in Scriptures, not only in Luke 19:10, but also in other verses like Mat 9:13; Mat 10:6; Mat 15:24; Luk 9:56; John 3:16,17 and 1 Tim 1:15. I was glad for this conversation, for it made me realize how important it was to balance the old and the new. On the one hand, we need to return to the old paths. We need to take heed of the words of Mishleh (Prov) 22:28: “Remove not the ancient landmark which your fathers have set” and the warning contained in Yermeyahu (Jer) 18:15 “they have stumbled from their ways, from the ancient paths, to walk in bypaths and not on a highway.” We need to return to the roots of our belief. We need to get rid of the false claim that Y’shua came to do away with the old, including the Old Testament and the “old” Torah. We need to understand that certain ways of doing and certain truths and certain principles in Scriptures are beyond “old” – they are, in fact, eternal and unchangeable and nonnegotiable. They were never meant to be replaced by something new or something “better”.

On the other hand – and this is equally essential – we also need to distinguish between old truths and old traditions, and even between old truths and old lies. It would be a disaster to think that everything that is old, must also be good. The same Yermeyahu who reminded his people in chapter 18 that they should stick to the ancient paths, spoke these words two chapters earlier, in Jer 16:19 “Our fathers have inherited only falsehood, futility, and there is no value in them.” If there is one person who should know about old and new, it is Kepha (Peter) who was present when his Master spoke about new wine in old wineskins. So when Kepha wrote a letter to the believers living in Asia Minor, he said to them: “Know this that you were redeemed from your futile (old) way of life inherited from your fathers, not with what is corruptible, silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Messiah” (1 Pet 1:18-19). Yahweh provided something new, something spotless, something incorruptible – the precious blood of his own Son – to redeem us from our old way of life that we have inherited from our fathers. This old way of life included old beliefs and old doctrines. Many of those who have adopted the NEW that came along with Messiah, are still struggling to get rid of the OLD patterns of belief.

One of these old patterns of belief that many people still need to get rid of, is the whole complex and controversial issue of the so-called trinity doctrine. We know by now that scribes (who once more thought that they were smart and clever) have tried to introduce subtle changes to the text of certain verses to support the philosophical idea that the Almighty is one Being revealed in three persons. Over the centuries, through solid and objective study of the Word, some of these old translations have been exposed as inaccurate and have been corrected in subsequent translations. Today, we shall not go into those so called “trinity verses” that have repeatedly been exposed by using the testimony of old and reliable manuscripts and tools. These proofs are well known and accessible for everyone – those who would like to find out more, can do so easily.

There is one verse in the Messianic Scriptures, however, that seems to support the trinity idea, and is also fully supported by the official manuscripts that are used in the translation of Scriptures. This verse is Matt. 28:19 “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, immersing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Set-apart Spirit”. The singular, “name”, coupled with “Father, Son and Set-apart Spirit”, seems to support the trinity idea of one Being revealed in three persons. There has long been a suspicion that all is not well with this verse, because the disciples, who were all present when Y’shua spoke these (or different) words, never used this formula when they baptized new converts – not once. They consistently baptized or immersed new converts (only) in the Name of Y’shua the Messiah – never in “the Name of the Father and the Son and the Set-apart Spirit.” So the question arises: Did Y’shua actually use the words “in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Set-apart Spirit” or did some scribe (who thought that he was smart and clever) insert these words at a later stage? We cannot know for sure. There is, however, some new evidence that may shed some light on one of the oldest and most well known formulas used in churches all over the world – the formula “in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost”.

What needs to be clarified here, is that it’s not really the evidence that is new. The evidence is old and established and reliable. But the understanding and the perspective that it brings, are new. Let us try to get to the story behind Matthew 28:19. In the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics we read about this verse: “In all extant versions the text is found in the traditional form … though … the best manuscripts, both of the African Old Latin and of the Old Syriac Versions are defective at this point.” What is meant by the words “(these versions) are defective at this point”? FC Conybeare, a professor in theology at Oxford University explains: “In the only codices which would be even likely to preserve an older reading, namely the Sinaitic Syriac and the oldest Latin Manuscript, the pages are gone which contained the end of Matthew.” It seems very likely that this verse was not accidentally omitted, but removed. So, if the pages that contained this verse were removed, where did the modern-day translators find the text? They found it in other manuscripts that were not as old as Sinaitic Syriac and the African Latin – documents in which the removed content was replaced by something else. Is there a way of knowing what was removed? Perhaps there is.

The possible answer comes to us from the writings of a certain Eusebius, a very reliable Messianic historian who lived between the years 270 and 340 a.M. His writings are even older than the Sinaitic Syriac and African Latin manuscripts that do not contain the wording of Matthew 28:19. Professor Conybeare of Oxford University studied the writings of Eusebius and found in them no less than 18 citations from, or references to, the text of Matthew 28:19. By putting them all together he came to the conclusion that the wording of this text that was known to Eusebius, was significantly different from the wording that we have access to, in the official manuscripts upon which our translations are based. The text that Eusebius knew and that he used to quote from and teach from, was the following: “Go ye and make disciples of all the nations in My name, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded you.” Eusebius not only quoted the verse, he also commented on it and more than once emphasized the importance of the specific words “in my Name”. In one of his documents he wrote that the Messiah not only commanded his disciples “to make disciples of all the nations”, simply and without qualification, but that He clearly added the words “in my Name” – an addition that should be of great encouragement to all his followers who go out into this world.

If people in the christian world regard the omission of one or two verses from the book of Matthew, as a departure from the ancient paths, just think what their reaction would be if one dares to challenge the doctrine of the trinity. Do we have the courage and the wisdom – not only to distinguish between new and old, but also between truth and tradition? And once we’ve seen the difference, do we have the conviction to follow truth – even if that means contempt and rejection? Someone once said “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” In terms of belief, to me, this means that truth comes to those who are willing to step outside of their own, established way of thinking, asking Yahweh to start from scratch and teach them both about old and new.

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