How to Mis-use Hebrew in the Name of Selfish Christianity

One of the dangers of learning a bit of biblical Hebrew (or Greek) is thinking that after a basic introduction (i.e., less than four semesters), you understand the nuances of the language. Many preachers take a little bit of Hebrew or Greek and then go on to expound profoundly about the meaning of this or that Hebrew/Greek word Sunday mornings when they preach. These errors are tame in comparison to what some people do to/with the Bible.

This video contains a hilarious (and horrendous) example of two “interpreters” appealing to the Hebrew meaning of a word to serve their heretical theology. The discussion of the Hebrew word for “word/thing” (דבר) by Kenneth Copland and his guest is a classic example of what D.A. Carson calls the”illegitimate totality transfer” fallacy (i.e., the explicit or implicit transfer of all the meanings of a given word into any given passage — in this case into every passage where the word “word” occurs!). This is such a hilarious (and sad) example that I will have to use it in my biblical interpretation class this fall.

Take a gander at the video for yourself — but be warned: while it is funny, it also reveals a side of Christianity which I find offensive (and if you don’t find that type of Christianity offensive then the video will likely offend you!).

(HT Scotteriology)

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8 Responses to How to Mis-use Hebrew in the Name of Selfish Christianity

  1. Steve Martin says:


  2. Jim Linville says:

    The one guy reminds me of Cleveland from Family Guy — which probably also offends folks here, too.

  3. J. Richard Middleton says:

    I think I’ll use this example too. By the way, Carson’s use of “illegitimate totality transfer” is from James Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language (1961), p. 218.

  4. voxstefani says:

    I hope you’re not implying that Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar have studied even a little bit of either Hebrew or Greek! 😉


  5. anonymous says:

    Quit a funny video. Sort of. I actually spent a good 4 years at a certain institution of higher education which espouses (and by that I mean created) this abysmal theology. So as an actual witness of this sort of crap I would like to say a few things. Please understand that as an eye witness I will be vague with names and such because I don’t want to be seen as a gossip. I can tell you that after 4 years of this junk, no one abhors it more than me.

    First the negative. While I cannot really add to what people have said about this kind of stuff, what I can say is that not all of these guys are 100% con men. (Some obviously are, but actually those tend to get ostracized by the others.) Actually most of it has come out of sincere belief that this is what the Bible says about the believer and what sort of quality of life he/she is supposed to have. The place where I went to school (again I will not say it but any historian could tell you where) is actually tens of millions of dollars in debt. (God is an ironic fellow.) So at least for the fount of this sludge, those people really kind of have to believe it. It is the most talked about thing at the school: $$$ why aren’t we prospering? what sort of biblical principles can we apply to get out of debt? etc. $$$ Those who are on the board of directors of said university (some of which are pictured) do in fact believe what they are saying however wrong. And if you think that the video clips were crazy and that their biblical interpretations where completely quacky, my friend, you did not sit in chapel with me and hear the stuff I did. The stuff in that video is completely and utterly tame.

    Secondly, I wanted to talk about the teaching’s effects upon students. People tend to react towards it in extremes. Some fully embrace it and live their ENTIRE lives based upon it. And while it did not “work” for the younger host of the satirical show, there are people who I have seen with my own eyes, who do get money from no where and they firmly believe that it comes from following the various teachings of the quacks. Also students react cynically towards it. Such cynicism has varying effects, some quit Christianity altogether, some tend not to think much of the scriptures anymore, some transfer elsewhere, some switch to RC or Eastern Orthodoxy perhaps to find legitimacy, some apply to law school (perhaps to make money honestly??), the list goes on and on. I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I NEVER saw with my own eyes (again this is only my testimony) ANY student who bought in to this quackery do it just to get rich. That does not mean that there are those who don’t, it just means that in my intimate knowledge of the what I would call religio-cultural phenomena, I never saw such.

    If you want to get high and mighty about it, I would actually pray for the students in particular who either buy into this or go through it and come out sour; they are the real consequence of the situation. I know Christians mostly hate this because they feel that they are somehow associated with it via the media even though they hate it as much as the next Christian. Normal Christianity never makes the news. Mostly its some sort of scandal or political activism or the pope dying before Christianity makes the news. And as the modern era has taught us, if its on TV it must be true or normative, right?

    So in sum, while I understand the distaste for “selfish” Christianity, also understand that most of the people who believe in it (that I met) are in fact good people who may not deserve the mockery that they receive. I have seen it for myself and the best, most Christian people I ever knew or met associated themselves with this. Trust me on this, I graduated over 2 years ago and after significant thought, I feel kind of embarrassed for the mockery I dished out. The bottom line is that a lot of those people, heretics in many minds, are simply better people, better Christians, than a lot of those rejecting it (or such is my experience).

    Ps – By the way, I never encountered anything like that in class; it was ONLY in chapel. Interesting huh.

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