“Though he were dead” – A Controversial Understanding of John 11:25-26


Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life:
 a. he that believes in me, though he were dead [i.e. having died the 1st Death], yet shall he live [i.e. the 2nd Life]:
 b. And whosoever liveth [i.e. is still living the 1st Life] and believes in me shall never die [i.e. the 2nd Death].
 Believest thou this?

John 11:25-26 KJV

John 11:25-26 – The Problem of a Superfluous Verse

Like many other verses in the bible, John 11:25-26 uses certain words in multiple senses. This means that the reader needs to be extra careful when trying to understand such verses in order to avoid ending up with the wrong interpretation. What I am about to say will no doubt shock many readers, but after much study, I strongly believe that John 11: 25-26 is referring to the idea that it is possible for (at least some of) the dead to believe the gospel in that state. I hope to demonstrate this discovery by carefully revealing what I believe to be the true meaning of key terms in this passage. Specifically, I believe that the term “dead” (in v.25) does not mean the same as “die” (in v.26) nor does “live” (in v.25) mean the same as “liveth” (in v.26). In other words, the verbs die and live are words to which these two verses have ascribed multiple meanings. Of course, John 11:25-26 does not employ different meanings for the same word in order to engage in equivocation (i.e. the accidental or deliberate use of a key term in an ambiguous way) but for the sake of achieving contrast through the use of an antithetical parallelism. According to Biblical scholar E.W. Bullinger’s Figures Of Speech Used in the Bible, the antithetical parallelism is a literary device used to demonstrate an antithesis, or contrast between certain words in each part of a symmetry. Verses which comprise an antithetical parallelism will therefore join opposing ideas in a noticeable contrast. Instead of repeating the same thing twice (as is done in a synonymous parallelism), an antithetical parallelism will say one thing in the first line and then a contrasting thing in the next. Yet, most explanations of John 11:25-26 which I have encountered completely miss Christ’s glaring attempt at creating a contrast. Instead, these commentaries end up ascribing a meaning to John 11:25 which is effectively the same as that of John 11:26. For instance, respected Bible commentators Albert Barnes and Adam Clarke both suggest that John 11:25 refers to the granting of eternal life to those who happen to die in a state of belief, while John 11:26 refers to the granting of eternal life to believers who are currently alive (but will also eventually die in a state of belief) [3]. But if this is the case, then why would Jesus say what is effectively the same thing, twice? What is the difference? No, there has to be something else going on in this passage. It is for these reasons that I have concluded that John 11:25-26 requires greater scrutiny.

Because the usual meaning of the verbs “die” and “live” seem inadequate to account for the contrast required between verses 25 and 26, we need to consult the Scriptures for more guidance. It’s as if the word “dead” (in verse 25) and “die” (in verse 26) require two different types of death, and the words “live” (in verse 25) and “liveth” (in verse 26) require two different notions of what it means to live.

Interestingly enough, the bible does tell us that there are actually two types of life and death that a person can experience. Let us first examine the two deaths. Continue reading

Pastor Lon Solomon says Paul tried to get intellectual with the gospel and was “booed off the stage.” Really?


The other day I was watching Ken Ham’s Foundation Series DVD entitled: “Revealing the Unknown God” where on the second half of the DVD Ken was talking about how he felt like crying after reading one of the devotions from a devotional booklet that was printed for a particular group of Reformed churches in Michigan. The devotion stated:

Paul came to Corinth speaking the gospel in simple terms. He had just journeyed there from Athens where he had drawn on his education and tried to communicate the gospel in the style of a philosopher. He even quoted from the Greek poets. The result? The great missionary fell flat on his face. I can picture him entering into his diary, “Don’t ever try this again. The cross doesn’t need my verbal decorations.”
Source: [Chic Broersma, https://woh.org/word/devotionals/2010/01/03, Accessed on April 26, 2014]

Continue reading

Romans 1:20 – Thinking it through…

On October 17th 2010, My pastor preached a sermon entitled Thomas (The Exclusivity of Christ for Salvation) which is part of a series entitled: “People Jesus Met.” In the sermon, he poses a hypothetical objection to the exclusivity of Christ for salvation then proceeds to answer the objection. I have included an excerpt below:

“What about people who have never heard about Jesus Christ? Hmm? …Romans 1:20, says for since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities — what are they? Namely His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly on display so that people are without excuse. The Bible says that there is enough about God revealed in the natural world, revealed in creation, the stars, the moon, the trees, the human body, that any thinking person should be able to recognize and should be able to acknowledge that there is a mighty creator God out there.”

This view of Romans 1:20 is actually quite common. In fact, apparently, Thomas Aquinas thought that this verse was a proof text for his cosmological argument for the existence of God.  I had never encountered a different interpretation until I heard Dr. John Robbins (of the Trinity Foundation) speak about this verse during one of his lectures. After some serious thought, I’m convinced that the common view of this verse is in error for the following reasons:

Paul’s procedure in Romans, later followed by Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologiae, was to raise a series of questions, and then answer them, both incorrectly and correctly. Paul, however, derived all his answers from revelation. His opening chapters have been much misunderstood by Thomas the Aristotelian, and by his many followers, both Romanist and Protestant. But Paul does not add any source of truth to Scripture. A careful reading of Romans 1:18-21 indicates that it has nothing to do with the so-called Thomistic proofs for the existence of God. Let us examine it line by line.

”For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven. . . .” Taking off one’s Aristotelian glasses, one might be surprised to note that Paul says the wrath, not the existence, of God is revealed from Heaven. Apparently our evidentialist friends have misread the verse. (Likewise, the Psalmist says the heavens declare the glory, not the existence, of God. Funny how the empiricism of Aristotle can make people hallucinate.) I have yet to come across an evidentialist argument proving the wrath of God on empirical grounds. This is a curious inconsistency. Evidentialists like to argue from experience and observation to the goodness, benevolence, or intelligence of some sort of god, but they are strangely silent about the rest of experience, which seems to imply, on their assumptions, the irrationality or wickedness of a god. If they are going to appeal to experience as proof of God, they must appeal to all experience, including the experience of Nazism, Communism, and Romanism.

Verse 19 says, “What may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.” This, of course, is obviously a denial of empiricism, and an assertion of direct revelation in their minds. It is manifest in them. Calvin said that men are born with a sense of God. They do not learn about God’s existence through observation; when they are conceived they possess knowledge of God and his wrath. It is this immediately revealed knowledge that renders all men inexcusable. If our guilt depended on our knowledge (as it does), and our knowledge in turn depended on our senses, or on our ability to follow an intricate cosmological argument, then virtually all the human race would be innocent. Those whose senses are impaired are obviously excused, and those who cannot follow an argument, especially one that stretches for a thousand steps, are excused as well. Helen Keller and Forrest Gump get free passes to Heaven. Given the assumptions of evidentialist apologetics, their lack of senses or intelligence gives them a Get Out of Hell Free card. Paul, of course, was not endorsing the cosmological or teleological arguments. He taught that the rudimentary knowledge which renders men inexcusable is manifest in them because God has shown it to them; it is not something they gain by observation or discursive reasoning.

Verse 20 says, “For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen. . . .” Obviously, invisible attributes cannot be seen with the eyes, so Paul was not teaching some form of empiricism.

Paul continues: “being understood”: “see” it seems, was a metaphor for “understand,” as it usually is in Scripture. “By the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” In this portion of the verse, Paul is simply repeating his statement: The things that are made include men. He is not teaching a novelty-that seeing trees (if one could, in fact, see trees) logically compels one to infer wrath, eternal power, and judgment in the Godhead. Thomas himself denied that creation could be inferred from observation. It was a truth he said, that must be obtained by revelation. Paul is no more an evidentialist than Christ. Instead, he defends revelation, both here and in other letters, such as 1 Corinthians and Colossians, as the only source of knowledge. – Dr. Robbins, The Apologetics of Jesus and Paul

In conclusion, I think a critical reexamination of Romans 1:20 would lead to the anti-empirical view that men are without excuse, not because of their ability to observe God’s creation, but rather because those “invisible” attributes which may be known of God (i.e. His existence, His Power, His Godhead) are manifested in every human being (for John 1 says that Christ lights every man that comes into the world). It is this innate knowledge of God, this truth, that man suppresses (from birth) in unrighteousness, and allows everyone to be deemed inexcusable.