(Lambano and Dechomai)

The Way International (TWI) teaches that the gift of holy spirit may be received in two different ways-- "spiritually" and "into visible manifestation." English Bibles use the same word "receive" in both cases. Even so, TWI insists that two different Greek words lay beneath the word "receive," and that they must be understood differently. TWI's founder, Victor Paul Wierwille, writes:

"There are two Greek words translated 'receive,' which must be accurately defined and understood. These Greek words are dechomai and lambano. From checking each usage in the New Testament, the following are the exact meanings: dechomai, which is a subjective reception indicating that by a person's own decision something spiritual has taken place; lambano is an objective reception indicating that by a person's decision he manifests outwardly that which has been received inwardly." (Receiving the Holy Spirit Today [RTHST], p. 9)

TWI believes that the gift is "received into manifestation" (lambano) by speaking in tongues. Like the old Power for Abundant Living course, Way leaders now teach individuals to speak in tongues. In this way they "operate the gift."

Wierwille encourages his readers to verify for themselves his distinction between dechomai and lambano. Appendix 1 of RTHST lists every occurrence of "receive" when it is dechomai in Greek. Then it lists every occurrence of "receive" when it is lambano. By means of these lists, the reader "may study the two meanings of the word to your own satisfaction." (2)


Wierwille's idea, research and word lists all show serious flaws. First, his appendix is not a study of the Greek words dechomai and lambano, as he states. Rather, it is a study of the occurrences of the English word "receive" in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Actually, his study completely ignores at least 130 New Testament instances of lambano and 7 instances of dechomai. If he had used a different English version of the Bible, his list would have included more or fewer verses, and different ones at that.

Second, he claims to list only the words dechomai and lambano, both of which the KJV often translates "receive." A closer examination of the passages Wierwille lists reveals that 17 Greek words are actually represented here, not just two. In fact, two of the 17 are not even verbs-- they are nouns! In one place Wierwille mentions that "there are seventeen different Greek word-forms used...." (3) However, these 17 are not "word-forms," but are entirely different words. Over 60 word-forms (similar to our "tenses" in English) of these 17 words are employed in the passages he cites.

Each of the 17 words in his lists contains a form of lambano or dechomai as its root. However, a preposition is added as a prefix which transforms the root into an entirely different word. Therefore, words such as paralambano and analambano cannot be considered to be just different "word-forms" of lambano. Instead, they are entirely different words.

It murders language to say that such words are only "word-forms" and so have the same general meaning as the basic "root" word. This would be like claiming that the English words "phrase," "paraphrase' and "rephrase" all are word-forms of "phrase" and so all carry the same basic meaning. In the same way, one would have to say that "classify," "reclassify," "declassify" and "overclassify" all are only word forms of "classify" and so all carry the same general meaning. Generally, they do not.

At other places in RTHST Wierwille recognizes that Greek compound words are entirely different words with much different meanings. He distinguishes broadly between hairesis and diairesis(4) and between pipto and epipipto (5). Yet, he makes no distinctions between the compounds of dechomai and lambano, showing again the inconsistency which plagues his writings.

A close look at a Greek concordance (which lists all the instances of Greek words, not just the times an English word like "receive" is used), shows that Wierwille not only ignores scores of times lambano and dechomai is used-- he also neglects scores of instances of the 15 compound verbs. In fact, Wierwille ignores a staggering 216 instances of these 17 Greek words-- a whopping 47%!

If lambano and dechomai are such important Greek words-- why doesn't he list all the times the New Testament uses them? If compounds of lambano and dechomai are important-- then why doesn't he list all NT instances of them? Why does he rely on the KJV, and make no attempt at all to seriously study the Greek?

This shows again how Wierwille always tried to make it appear as though he studied the Greek, while he actually relied on the English, and mangled the Greek usage in the process.

A serious study would begin with the Greek words lambano and dechomai, and all the passages in which they appear (not just the ones in which the KJV uses the word "receive"). One would need a Greek concordance, not just an English one like "Young's," which TWI typically uses. It would then see if a definition like "receive into visible manifestation" actually fits in every instance. If it doesn't (and it doesn't actually fit in every instance of lambano), then this rigid definition would have to be replaced by a one or more other definitions. This is a very basic type of study, yet few Wayers are even aware of this.

The charts below show how sloppy Wierwille's research actually is.

GREEK WORD Number of Instances Cited in Appendix 1 Number of Instances in the New Testament Number of NT Instances Wierwille Ignores Percent of NT Instances Wierwille Ignores
dechomai 52 59 7 12
paradechomai 6 6 0 0
hypodechomai 4 4 0 0
prosdechomai 3 14 11 79
apodechomai 4 6 2 33
anadechomai 2 2 0 0
eisdechomai 1 1 0 0
epidechomai 2 2 0 0
TOTALS 74 94 20 21

GREEK WORD Number of Instances Wierwille Cites Number of Instances in the New Testament Number of NT Instances Wierwille Ignores Percent of NT Instances Wierwille Ignores

(a noun)

1 1 0 0

(a noun)

1 1 0 0
lambano 133 263 130 49
paralambano 11 49 38 79
analambano 3 13 10 77
apolambano 8 12 4 33
hypolambano 2 4 2 50
proslambano 7 14 7 50
metalambano 1 6 5 83
TOTALS 167 363 196 54

Some people may say, "Alright-- if Wierwille was wrong about what lambano and dechomai, then what is the real distinction between them?" But this is asking the wrong question, because it still wrongly accepts Wierwille's idea that there are only two words for receive, that there is a single meaning for each, and that this is very important to understanding the N. T.

Actually, Wierwille is wrong on these counts-- there aren't just two words for "receive," and there isn't a single hard and fast meaning for each. This is typical of language. For example, if you look in an English dictionary, you'll notice that most words have more than one meaning listed-- not just one, narrow meaning. This is especially true of common words like "receive." (My medium-length Webster's lists 13 meanings for the English word "receive.")

The writer and tense used can change a meaning. For example, Jesus with his Hebrew background often used words differently than Paul with his Greek background. In addition, in Greek, as in English, we sometimes use synonyms interchangeably, choosing one over the other for a variety of reasons, such as the background of the readers, the breadth of our own vocabulary, our educational background, their O. T. usage, the style of the writing, and so forth.

So the bottom line is, lambano and dechomai have multiple meanings depending on who used them, the tense and the context. This is why any translation of the Bible uses (and has to use) more than one English word to translate lambano and more than one word to translate dechomai-- and why it often uses the same English word for more than one Greek word.

Try this-- take a Greek concordance with all the occurrences of the 17 N.T. Greek words listed above (Young's and Strong's won't do, because neither has all the occurrences of these Greek words listed in the same place) and read them all. It's obvious then that it's not possible to have 17 distinct definitions that can be applied to every occurrence. Of course, there are some distinctions between these words, but there are also cases in which one can be used just as well as another. In all this, it's important to approach the issue objectively, putting aside the biased assumptions and errors which TWI imposed on its followers.

All references are from Receiving the Holy Spirit Today, V. P. Wierwille, 6 ed.

(1) p. 9, (2) p. 263, (3) p. 259, (4) p. 166, (5) p. 111

Related reading: "Inhaling the Spirit," "Wierwille Borrows- a Challenge to the Originality of Receiving the Holy Spirit Today" (on how Wierwille plagiarized much of RTHST from J. E. Stiles), "The Word Must Fit Like a Hand in a Glove," which addresses more of Wierwille's imagined distinctions between words.

C. 1998, John P. Juedes, Highland, CA

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