Second Peter warned Paul says many things difficult to understand and many thereby fall from their steadfastness in Christ. Jesus' Words on Salvation

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Matt 5:28 Mistranslated to be About Lust for Any Woman, Rather than only For Another Man's Wife in Context

 

In Matthew 5:28, this reads in the KJV from 1611 so that a man who lusts at any "woman" has committed "adultery" in his heart with her. The word the KJV translated as "woman" in Greek was gunaika … the accusative form of gune. It can mean woman or a "married woman."

Here, the KJV chose to translate this as "woman," suggesting a lusting by any man for any woman constitutes adultery, with no exceptions.

One could therefore read this as Jesus redefining adultery to be able to happen by any man lusting after either an unmarried or married woman even though adultery in the Law is only "coveting your neighbor's wife."

However, if one presumes Jesus used "adultery" in this verse to mean what the Torah-Law said previously, the right translation should have been "a wife." You cannot commit adultery in the Law by coveting / lusting an unmarried woman; it is only committed by coveting / lusting your "neigbhor's wife." (Exodus 20:17.)

 

Nor is coveting / lusting conduct of an unmarried woman ever prescribed against in the Torah-Law. (In fact, it appears endorsed by the command to be "fruitful and multiply," as well as by the book of the Song of Solomon.)

 

Thus, if the KJV translation is correct of Matt 5:28, Jesus would be changing the Law fundamentally. It would now be support for Paul's shocking view in 1 Cor. 7:29 that even a married man should no longer have sexual relations with his wife -- to live as if he were not married. More on that in a moment.

 

So did Jesus intend to change the meaning of adultery to encompass any man lusting any woman, even potentially for a man's own wife?

 

Or did Jesus intend his audience to know that gunaika meant "a wife," and hence Jesus in context by referring to "adultery" was just paraphrasing the Torah command in the Ten Commandments at Exodus 20:17 on adultery?

 

Did KJV Deliberately Mistranslate to Help Paul?

 

I will prove this choice of "woman" by the KJV in Matt 5:28 was likely purposeful to support Paul's horrific views about what relations a Christian married man should have with his own wife in 1 Cor. 7:29.

Also, Matthew 5:28's mistranslation in the KJV has proven useful to justify salvation by faith alone. This is deduced because if Jesus' standard to be righteous is that no man can  ever lust for any woman sexually which is obviously impossible, Paulinists tell us we supposedly must fall on grace alone to make up the necessary deficiency. We will find this message in Willard's The Great Omission in our discussion below.

 

As we will prove here, "wife" is the true translation in Matthew 5:28. It was clearly changed here solely or primarily to protect and advance Paul.

We know it was deliberate because this 1611 translation was the first one in church history to render this as "woman." Specificaly, Jerome in the Vulgate Latin of 405 AD  had wife. ("mulierem") (link). Tyndale's English translation of 1534 -- from which the KJV borrowed verbatim 84% -- likewise had "wife" not "woman. See link.

 

Greek Word At Issue

 

Now the word at issue in Matt 5:28 is gunaika -- the accusative of gune. It is almost everywhere else in the KJV translated as "a wife." See Matt. 5:31-32 (“wife”); Ephesians 5:22,33 (“Married woman....”) and Romans 7:2-3 (“a married woman is bound....”) See Strong's Concordance in BibleHub by opening Greek tab under Matt 5:28, then selecting gunaika; you can start at this link

 

In the nominative case -- gune -- the KJV translated it as "a wife" in 1 Cor. 7:4 KJV.

 

Moreover, "married woman" is what obviously the Greek-educated hearer of Jesus' words would infer is the word meaning due to Jesus saying it is "adultery" which the Law repeatedly states involves "another man's wife" as an element of adultery.  In other words, a "wife" or "married woman" is the only meaning in Matt 5:28 that fits the context of Jesus talking about "adultery." 

Why?

Because adultery by definition cannot be committed with an unmarried woman. (Lev. 20:10, “another man’s wife”; Deut. 22:22 “a woman married....”) Adultery  always requires a married woman to be involved. See also, Exodus 20:7. And in every one of these verses it means another man's wife, not your own wife.

We can also emphatically say that any fornication offenses (e.g., bestiality, sex with a close relative, etc.) -- unlike adultery -- were never triggered by "coveting" or "lust," but only by the act.

Hence, the only proper translation of gunaika in Matthew 5:27-28 is "married woman" or "a wife," implying another man's wife by Jesus calling it "adultery."

The church translators had it correct until at least up through the translation of Tyndale in 1534. Jesus' listeners would simply think Jesus is quoting the seventh of the Ten Commandments.

 

Did the KJV Intend Any Lust for Any Woman to be A Sin?

 

Did the KJV translate "gunaika" as "woman" in Matthew 5:28 to suggest something horrific? That any lusting by a man of "a woman" was adultery -- a new meaning of that offense? And why would the KJV do so?

 

The first obvious answer we will show here is that indeed the KJV -- edited by the Puritan party of Calvinism -- intended Jesus' meaning to convey this impression. The  church under King James was shifting entirely to Paul, and his values on marriage. It did so despite Paul's views on sex and marriage being horrific and subject to scoffing and ridicule. By mistranslating Matthew 5:28 to say "woman," however, this would deflect a negative reaction to Paul's words in 1 Cor. 7:29 where Paul says in the KJV

“the time is short: it remains that both those who have

wives should live as though they have none." 

 

Paul's point is even clearer later when he says he himself

has a right to take a wife in 1 Cor. 9:5. For in Greek, Paul

says he has a right to take a "sister wife" (not just a wife)

using the Greek root words for a sibling -- adelphen -- and

the word gunaika for wife. See "sister wife" in KJV. Other

translations obscure this truth by omitting "sister" and

replacing it with "believing" -- obviously to avoid the

implication that Paul repeats 1 Cor. 7:29 in 1 Cor. 9:5. See

NIV

 

Paul was saying that because the time for Christ's return is

short, if you made the supposedly unwise decision to marry

(which decision Paul strongly discourages in several places

in his epistles as robbing time and attention from God),

you should act as if you never married your wife. This

means you must isolate yourself physically from your wife.

You must treat your wife as you would your own sister.

 

The Christian leading commentator  -- Tertullian

--  in 210 AD saw the meaning plain as day. Tertullian used

1 Cor. 7:29 to prove why remarriage after your spouse dies

should always supposedly be wrong: 

 

"How does he [i.e., Paul] call away from the enjoyment

of marriage such as are still in the married position

saying that the 'time is wound up' [1 Cor. 7:29, "time is

short" in KJV] if he calls back into marriage such as

those who through death escaped marriage?" 

(Tertullian, On Monogamy at PDF 78 / pg. 68 of text,

col.1)

 

Tertullian is not wrong in how he read Paul. This passage in

Paul led to the horrible view among many early Christians

that a widower or widow should not ever remarry. This was

supported by Paul's equally horrific view that a Christian

widow under 60 loses her salvation -- suffers "damnation" -

- if she remarries. See 1 Tim. 5:9-12 KJV. 

(So Paul's preaching of eternal security only belongs to any

other Christian!)

 

This passage in 1 Cor. 7:29 on celibacy within marriage fit

perfectly with Paul similarly saying 28 verses earlier "it is

good for a man not to touch a woman." (1 Cor. 7:1 KJV.) 

 

Why should a married man live with his wife as if they are not married, i.e., have no sexual relations and stop interacting as a married couple? Why should any man not touch a woman? What is Paul's rationale?

 

In context, Paul says that marriage is a distraction -- a

division of attention -- away from God, and you are better

off not marrying. But if you did so, that is you marry, that

is not a sin, but now your obligation is to "live as though"

you are not married to your wife. For a thorough

discussion, see Paul on Women and Sex.

 

Paul's idea is an horrific violation of the Law which says

the company of a woman is good for a man -- "it is good

that he is not alone," and invites them to be "fruitful and

multiply." (See the article just linked.)

 

How can we sanction Paul's horrific view? Obviously the

KJV translators wished to make it appear Jesus endorses

Paul's view -- so that it would appear that Paul's view is

justified by the revamped Matthew 5:28.

 

Did the KJV Know Better?

To avoid this implication that even a married man could 

violate Matt 5:28 by lusting for their own wives -- a

"woman," all the KJV had to do is translate gunaika

correctly as "a wife" -- its true meaning in context.

Then the meaning of "adultery" in the Law would retain its

meaning in 5:28. This would mean  you cannot "covet your

neighbor's wife."  Jesus would be simply repeating one of

the ten commandments in Matthew 5:28. It is not that hard

for a man to avoid lusting after his neighbor's wife. Nothing

of a momentous shift in the Law would be implied in Jesus'

words.

 

But having Jesus say that lusting by a man of any "woman" is adultery creates a crime unknown in the Law. Jesus would be changing it, per the KJV, if now adultery was any man coveting any woman, so that even a married man lusting after his own wife thereby sins. But if this is ingested as true, the mistranslation fully matched Paul's outrageous position in 1 Cor 7:29.

 

The KJV knew that no one ever used its mistranslation for 1500 years. This means it deliberately refused to follow Tyndale's lead of rendering gunaika in English in 1534 as "a wife" here despite the KJV rendering gunaika many other times in the NT as a "wife." The KJV also refused to follow Jerome's lead for the prior 1100 years to render gunaika as "wife" in Latin in Matthew 5:28. Instead, the KJV backed away from the obviously correct translation present in both Tyndale's and Jerome's work.

 

We can have little doubt the primary reason was to give some cover for Paul's outrageous principle in 1 Cor. 7:29.

 

This brings to mind the valid point of Professor Richard Eisenman -- a non-Christian scholar but one not below telling us Christians a truth about how Jesus has been misrepresented by defenders of Paul who Paulinists use to redefine Jesus' true teachings. Eisenman in The New Testament Code (London: Watkins Publishing, 2006) at xxvii alludes to this ongoing problem from Paulinists which Eisenman often writes about:

 

[I]f there had been things that had been done and said in his name [i.e., Jesus' name] that were not his; it is my view that he would expect - nay require - his most sincere, ardent, and dedicated supporters and followers to find this out, there being nothing worse than having things done in or attributed to one's name in either life or legacy that were not one's own. This would be his charge to them and their obligation.

 

Did the KJV know better and reject it deliberately?


The KJV of 1611 borrowed 84% of its translation word-for-word from Tyndale's New Testament of 1534. But notice how Tyndale - trained in Greek at Oxford University - translates this:

 

But I say unto you that whoseover looks upon a wife lusting after her has committed adultery in his heart already. (Link.)

 

This speaks of a man adulterously lusting for "a" wife -- obviously not his own wife because Jesus says such lust is the same as  "adultery" which by definition in Torah is for your "neighbor's wife."

 

That is, "wife" as the translation makes sense because "adultery" under the Law can only happen with another man's wife. So "adultery" in context dictates that gunaika -- the Greek word for a wife -- should be rendered as "wife" in English.

Here is what the KJV instead translates this as:

28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

 

How is this justified besides that it props up 1 Cor. 7:29?

What if it means that Jesus supposedly teaches us to regard His own teachings as impossible without grace for faith alone? That absent accepting grace due to unattainable standards of righteousness such as this King James' version would represent, we are invariably sinners incapable of ever consistently obeying this particular command?

 

Dallas Willard in his otherwise great book The Great

Omission (San Francisco: Harper 2006) says precisely that

this is Jesus' true point:

 

Thus, for example, Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on

the Mount (Matt 5-7) make references to various

behaviors: … looking to lust...[which are]

illustrations of what living from the Kingdom God

[should mean]....[However] to live in conformity

with them...is like to attempt the impossible, and

will lead to doing things that obviously are wrong

and even ridiculous. (Id. at 105.)

 

What is Willard's solution? Faith alone. Willard says we will never be able to avoid this sin as Jesus supposedly redefined it, but this means, Willard says, we will have to gain access to Christ-likeness by a "gift of grace."

What does this mean? Willard says we will supposedly awaken by the gospel of grace to realize that we are "dead in our trespasses and sins" (an echo of Romans) to find the "love of God" and the "availability of life in His Kingdom through confidence in Christ." (Willard, id., at 106.)

 

So Willard says (a) "confidence" (faith) (b) makes available "life" (salvation) once we realize we can never measure up to this impossibly high standard in Matthew 5:28.

(Strangely Willard says to try to obey Jesus's list of dos-and-dont's in the Sermon which he lists would be to do something "obviously wrong" and even "ridiculous." Strange indeed are the teachers of Pauline doctrine.)

 

Willard has merely repackaged faith alone to say this passage drives us to repentance with no other option than to accept grace, and never assume we can have enough righteousness to ever live up to Jesus' standards. Willard discourages us from even trying to obey the do's and don'ts of this and other passages in the Sermon as "obviously wrong" and "ridiculous" to try. 

 

How do we excuse compliance as wrong and ridiculous?


Willard says this grace and life is made possible by "the acceptance of Christ as savior," and not by actually achieving Jesus' alleged standard against lust in Matthew 5:28. Id.

Conclusion

 

Hence, it is very likely in Matthew 5:28 that the Puritan translators rendered gunaika as "woman" rather than its more common usage as "wife" -- which would match Jesus' use of the term "adultery" in the same sentence -- because the KJV knew this would make it appear Jesus supports the validity of Paul's statement in 1 Cor. 7:29.

 

Incidentally, when I recently mentioned this article to my wife, she disclosed to me for the first time that an elder named Lowell in about 1996 while we belonged to a Presbyterian church (hence Calvinist like the Puritans) told her it is sinful for a husband to lust for his own wife based upon Matthew 5:28 in the KJV reading. Thus, Calvinist translators created guilt where none should ever have belonged, harming likely the conscience of millions of Christian men and women to feel guilt initiating sex in marriage.

 

For now Matthew 5:28 reads literally that any man who lusts for any woman -- no exceptions -- is guilty of adultery -- an utterly new scope to the meaning of the word adultery. This would fit Paul's view in 1 Cor. 7:29 that such lust by a husband for his own wife is illicit -- we must live as if we have no wife. We allegedly must live with her as simply a sister.

 

This mistranslation of Matt 5:28 has also been exploited often to advance faith alone, such as Willard does, which is exposed above.


In fact, in 2013 I had a back-and-forth argument with Pastor Jonas - a pastor of a mega-church - where he tried to use Matthew 5:28 to prove to me that faith alone is the only way to attain Jesus' high standard to not even lust after any woman (implicitly even my wife!) He was trying to prove Jesus, and not Paul alone, believed we can only be saved by faith without any actual ability to ever reach Jesus' standards.

Please see how Pastor Jonas in 2013 used this mistranslation to battle me to accept faith alone based solely on Matt 5:28, available at this link. (Thanks to God, I had already studied Willard's similar effort, and previously rebutted it in my 2009 book Jesus' Words on Salvation, which I then used to rebut Pastor Jonas in our exchange.)

 

Thus this mistranslation has the contemporary secondary corrupt purpose -- perhaps forseen by the KJV -- that it can be exploited to make it appear falsely that Jesus gives us an impossible command against lust for our girlfriends or wives. Of course, we will never achieve this even if we believed Jesus commanded this. Thus these theologians with a corrupted understanding insist this means we can only supposedly fall on grace by faith alone to overcome such an alleged sin. There is therefore supposedly no other way to be righteous in God's eyes if Jesus' standard of righteousness is impossible -- so Willard and Pastor Jonas expressly tell us. 


Therefore, the "woman" mistranslation of Jesus' words helped also support Paul's preposterous view that we are saved by faith alone despite Jesus in Matthew 19 refuting that. And despite Jesus precluding faith alone to enter heaven in Mark 9:42-49.

 

Unfortunately, the mind-bending guilt that Matt 5:28 in the KJV has caused has in turn damaged the consciences of men and the women we love. We need to truly repent - re-think - about such passages.


Finally, a famous street evangelist too -- who will go nameless -- also needs to stop using this mistranslation to guilt young men about what Jesus never truly said. His famous guilt line, "have you ever lusted after a woman?"  is always answered "of course," to which the street preacher always says, "Jesus [or the Bible] then judges you an adulterer." Then the faith alone gospel is offered as the only cure.

 

Thus, this street preacher openly claims Jesus supposedly condemns the very God-given desire which leads us to obey God's exhortation to be "fruitful and multiply." Sexual desire by a man for a female.

 

As Eisenman said, followers of Jesus should not allow our Lord Jesus to be falsely portrayed. It is not the street preacher's fault. It is the fault of the Puritan translators assigned by King James to re-translate in effect Tyndale's English NT to match highly anti-marriage beliefs instilled via Paul.

 

Please do not share any Bible quote of this passage that does not translate Matt 5:28 correctly. That means you have to quote Tyndale's Bible in English for this verse.

 

NOTES.

 

Other Mistranslations to Help Paul.

 

We have collected a series of other mistranslations designed to help Paul in our collection entitled: Mistranslation to Help Paul.   

 

1 Cor. 7 29 Is Another Proof Paul Is Uninspired.

The most common way to explain Paul's remark that married men should act as if they are not married is that Paul said this was because the time is short. See 1 Cor. 7 29. But Paul proved wrong, and hence Paul defenders say to me that this passage can be ignored.

 

But this 'explanation' then concedes Paul is not always inspired. Paul, they thus concede, did not realize that almost 2000 years would pass before the return of Jesus. Hence, many Paulinists say we men do not have to obey this message from Paul.


However, that is quite convenient. You believe Paul's words are all from God when when you like what he says. But if you don't like them, Paul is no longer constantly inspired in every word. However, if Paul is inspired, you have no choice but to believe Paul even foresaw people would not have seen the return of Christ yet by our era, but that in his mind was still a 'short' 2000 years. Thus this Pauline downplaying of 1 Cor. 7:9 is no true explanation.  Paulinists if true to belief in Paul's inspiration instead should believe they are having supposedly illicit relations with their wife, because that is what Paul says.  But many don't because they selectively read Paul -- accepting only commands that relax concern about sin, and ignoring any principles of Paul that ratchet up what is sin.

 

However, the Paulinists's retreat is actually on the right path. No one need obey this instruction from Paul because Paul is not inspired in 1 Cor. 7:29. But if Paul is not inspired here, on what basis can one conclude any other passage from Paul is inspired? There is no basis. For Paul does not quote a single revelation from Jesus or Yahweh to Paul to support anything Paul ever teaches. Hence, 1 Cor. 7:29 can be an eye opener for Paulinists to entirely break free from Paul, and re-embrace Jesus as their "sole teacher" and "sole pastor."