Vol. 21 New Series June, 1959 No. 3
THE SEVEN WICKED SPIRITS

Matthew 12:45; Luke 11:26
No translation of the Scriptures, or in fact of any book, can ever preserve and present all of the original idiom and sense. Something is lost in every case.

One peculiar feature in Greek is that the nominative case of a neuter plural noun generally takes after it a verb form in the singular. The reason for this is that the neuter plural is strictly speaking an objective case, and has no nominative case of its own, but uses the objective case for the nominative also. This was mentioned more fully in The Differentiator of January, 1949, page 11. Coleridge mentioned long ago in Table Talk that

Thus, if a Greek wanted to say that "the animals are running," he would put it as "the animals is running." We have in Scotland a similar old usage, only it is not confined to neuters. We could say, without breaking any law of grammar, "the roads is muddy." Such a usage applies when a number of things belonging to one class is spoken of in a general way, and not as individuals.

Here is an example, to illustrate, from John 10:3: "and the sheep is hearing his voice." That is the literal meaning in Greek. The sheep as a group, as one mass, is hearing his voice. Yet the next verse tells us something different: "and the sheep is following him, seeing that they are acquainted with his voice." Here we meet with two constructions. The sheep follow as a body, one mass, but each one individually knows his voice.

Paul tells us in Eph. 4:17 that we should not go on walking "as the Gentiles is walking." There is no occasion to describe exactly how all the Gentiles are individually walking; they are seen as one group, and to describe the walk of one is to describe the walk of all. But in English we have no method of rendering this idea without using a circumlocution.

Another example of this usage is to be found in. Matt. 12:45 and Luke 11:26. I was taken to task once over these verses, in "Unsearchable Riches" of September, 1941, in a brief article on "A Criticism Criticised" or "A Corrector Corrected." I had been asked in the year 1937 to stop my daily toil on the Hebrew translation of the Concordant Version, and revert to an overhaul of the errors in the New Testament. The matter was urgent, and I was told there was no one capable of "ferreting out" errors in Greek translation as I was held to be able, either in the United States, Germany or Britain. The checking of the translation of the New Testament in the Concordant Version took a year and a half, in 1937-1938, or say about two thousand solid hours. All this was accomplished after a heavy day of office work. Of course, had I known that I was to receive nothing but insults for my toil, the work would certainly not have been done.

As usual, the brief article in "U.R." only told part of the facts, and concealed other necessary facts. My criticism of Luke's Gospel took up thirty-two pages of foolscap, and was entirely constructive and suggestive. Out of nineteen very bad cases of mistranslation, my suggestions were accepted in all but two cases (11:26 and 22:56). Yet it was claimed that my work was only "destructive." Minor errors I pointed out in 169 verses, and many of my suggestions were accepted. Fifty-five blunders in the sublinear and concordance were also explained, while more than ten pages were taken up with pronouns, definite articles wrongly used or omitted; wrong verb tenses; examples of Middle Voice forms; emphatic pronouns; prepositions wrongly rendered, etc.

Here is how Luke 11:26 had been rendered in the 1930 Complete Edition:

"Then it is going and taking along seven other spirits with itself more wicked than itself, and entering, it is dwelling there." Matt. 12:45 is very similar, with the same grammar and sense, but reads "coming in" for "entering" although in both cases the Greek is the same (eiselthonta).

Now the crux of my criticism was that this Greek word was not singular, but plural. So a company of spirits was entering in. This Greek word could either be a participle in the accusative singular masculine, or a participle in nominative plural neuter. Very extraordinary to relate, the C.V. Concordance, at page 69 shews this Greek word in Luke 11:26 as being a plural (nominative neuter), though it is out of its proper place; yet lower down we find the Matt. 12:45 occurrence marked as being accusative masculine singular. Now this would mean that in Matt. 12 only the original unclean spirit was coming in, while in Luke 11 the entire eight unclean spirits entered.

But why was it not explained how the singular word in Matt. should or could be in the accusative? "Coming in" (eiselthonta) is not governed by another word so that it could be in the accusative. It must be nominative, as the example in Luke is shewn to be.

Any conscientious scholar would take a look around all the possible facts or theories. That would save him from fooling himself, and corrupting Holy Scripture.

In my criticism I wrote: "'Coming in' (eiselthonta) is, however, not singular, but plural. We must therefore amend to, 'and coming in, they are dwelling there.'" This is the reading of over thirty versions which I have examined.

What the Lord said was not merely that the unclean spirit re-entered the human being, but that it entered along with seven more wicked Spirits. The difference is not trivial and immaterial. Was not this a very true picture of what took place in Israel before very long?

When in 1941 my Criticism was "criticised" there was no publication wherein I could reply. Probably the reason why the participle "coming in" or "entering" was quite ignored in Unsearchable Riches was because of the blunder made in the C.V. Concordance, which certainly shews up some uncertainty and hesitation.

Had the term "coming in" only applied to one spirit, it would have been nominative singular neuter, namely, eiselthon (cf. Matt. 12:44 kai elthon, and coming). But we do not find this word, so we must render, "Then it is going and taking along with itself seven different spirits wickeder than itself, and (they) coming in (plural), is dwelling there." In English, of course, we must read "are dwelling there." Just look at Matt. 12:46, literally, "And is becoming (singular) the last (states, ta eschata, neuter plural) of that human being worse than the first (states)."

It was maintained against me that the spirit (with seven besides) "is dwelling there," where other versions read "they are dwelling there." This would mean that hundreds of conscientious scholars had in the past been little but grossly ignorant fools, totally incompetent to translate the Divine Scriptures. Nay, even Jerome's Latin Vulgate must have been wrong, sixteen hundred years ago, as it shews the plural form of the Latin participle.

How bewildering it is to think that of all the dozens of capable men and genuine scholars who have sat around the tables and prepared the 1611 King James version, the Revised versions of 1881, and recently the Revised Standard version, not one could stand up and give the correct rendering in these two verses.

However, the German Concordant Version of 1939 is on my side.

The true sense of the contested words I take to be: "and (they) coming in (as individual spirits), are dwelling there (as; one group or company)."

It was ever claimed, that the correction proposed, by limiting the number of spirits to seven, and excluding the one spirit, really was guilty of the crime charged against the Concordant Version, that of mutilating and corrupting the Word of God. But I said no such thing in connection with those two verses. As the final states of that poor human being became worse than the first states, eight unclean spirits must have dwelt within him.

As usual, an endeavour was made to befog the reader here. A few "simple formulas" were set forth, thus: "A spirit dwells; A spirit dwells with others; A spirit, with seven others, dwells; A spirit, with seven others, dwell (wrong)." But unfortunately for this way of putting matters, the word "with" (Gk. meth) must be taken along with the "taking," not with the dwelling. As for the formula, "A spirit, with seven others, dwells," it was stated that "even though the verb is singular (dwells) yet the sense is plural. It does not signify that only one spirit dwells, but one with seven others, that is, eight spirits. If we change to the plural, the statement may be confined to the seven spirits, and exclude the one, unless we remember that it was this one spirit which was returning." This might have had some truth had the word for "coming in" been in the singular. That the sense in English of the verb (katoikei; is dwelling) is plural has all along been my contention. Eight spirits were "coming in" or "entering" into the human being. But what would be the sense in reading, "Then it is going and taking along with itself seven different spirits. . . . and it, coming in (a plural word), is dwelling there"? The plural form could not be confined to the seven spirits, thus excluding the one spirit, because the word for "taking along" (paralambanei; is-beside-getting) implies that the eight were all together, beside each other. Perhaps, however, we are supposed to understand that the original spirit somehow swallowed up the other seven, "and coming in, is dwelling there." But here again, the word for "coming in" is plural in the Greek.

"We fear that such corrections, if made public, may convict the corrector of being unreliable, rather than the version." Yet I am far from being convicted, and would enquire why about seventy-five per cent. of my suggested major corrections of the 1930 Concordant Version were, in the 1944 Revision, accepted, while of my lesser corrections and suggestions, ninety per cent. were accepted; while sundry errors which since 1939 I have discovered, and had previously overlooked or missed, have not been corrected in the 1944 Revision, which, unfortunately contains a great many new blunders not previously made.

Those who declare that "the worst sin in the calendar is falsifying the Word of God" ought to take very special care that they are not the worst falsifiers. Paul would have dealt very severely with anyone who translated his epistles into other languages in slipshod fashion and with so little regard for Greek idiom.

A.T. Last updated 22.11.2005