The Way International claims to be not only different from traditional Christianity, but to be the only group which accurately understands and teaches the Word of God. Here we examine several of the Way's distinctive teachings: man as body-soul-spirit, believing, use of the Aramaic language, distinctions between Greek words such as allos and heteros, the nature of death, and unique methods of "dividing" Scripture. In each case, we will see how well The Way's teachings stand up to the tests of logic and the whole of Bible teaching.
Wierwille's manipulative interpretations of Scripture twist biblical teaching not only on the nature of Christ, but also on the nature of man. Wierwille holds to a tri-partite origin of man, in which he consisted of body, soul, and spirit (citing I Thess, 5:23). However, his view of the threefold nature of man is different from that held by those Christians who teach that man is tri-partite. In regard to the body and soul Wierwille's view is nearly identical to that of the Jehovah's Witnesses, He teaches that the soul is the life-force that gives life to the body (Gen. 2:7) and is contained in the blood (Lev. 17: 11 ). Thus "when a person takes his last breath his soul is gone";" it ceases to exist. The spirit, on the other hand, is that part of man directly created by God, which enables man to communicate with God, who Himself is Spirit .36 At the fall man lost the spirit part of his nature and today exists only as a body and soul. At death even his soul disappears, leaving only his dead body. Wierwille bases this unusual distortion of man's nature essentially on a single passage from Isaiah, with which he interweaves other passages. He writes:
"To understand the origin of man, a scripture in Isaiah must be rightly divided.
Isaiah 43:7: Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
... Are the three words "created ... .. formed" and "made" synonymous? If God's Word means what it says and says what it means, these words cannot be synonymous, . . .37"
Driven by his assumption that "formed," "made," and "created" cannot be synonyms because God's Word always "says what it means," Wierwille makes a vain attempt to distinguish among the meanings. He says that "formed" (Hebrew yatsar) is "to fashion from something that is already in existence" and is used in Isaiah and Genesis 2:7 to refer to the formation of man's body out of the preexistent dust of the earth. He maintains that ,.create" in Isaiah refers to the creation of man's spirit. He supports this by reference to Genesis 1:27, where the same word, "create" (Hebrew bara), is used of "creating" man in God's "own image" (which, of course, is Spirit). Such a distinction could seem plausible, but his case falls apart when he tries to distinguish the third term, "made" (Hebrew asah) from the other two. He defines "made" with the mind-boggling meaning of "a substance required of which the thing made consists .1131 Since Wierwille teaches that the soul is that part of man which is "made," his definition must fall somewhere between "formed" (which is to produce from preexistent material) and "create" (which is a direct divine action). But what is such an in-between position? It is doubtful that even Wierwille himself can tell us. That is why his definition of "made" is so meaningless and why his idea that the three words are not synonyms is so unsupportable. If "the thing made consists" of a "required" "substance," then one needs a preexisting required substance to "make" it. This is probably what Wierwille intends to say, namely, that God took the existing substance of man's body and acted upon it to give to his blood the ingredient of "life." But that brings us back to the same idea that we have in taking existing dust and transforming it into the body of man. For that idea Wierwille tells us the word "formed" should be used. It is evident, therefore, that his distinction among "created ... .. formed," and "made" is really out of whole cloth.
Wierwille, however, simply leaves the reader in a quandary over that and by an act of linguistic legerdemain inserts his term "made" (asah) into Genesis 2:7, where it does not appear at all. The biblical text says that when God breathed into man the breath of life, "man became a living soul." The word "became" is the Hebrew hayah, not the asah ("make), the word that Isaiah employs. Wierwille transforms the text to read, "He made man a living soul" (emphasis his) .3" This clever substitution, however, violates his own announced principle that the Word always says what it means; there can be no synonyms. His position, therefore, ends up in a contradiction of itself. Perhaps the following diagram can clarify Wierwille's confused picture.
The Hebrew Words for "Formed," "Made," and "Created"
in Isaiah 43:7 and Genesis 2:7 and 1:27
"formed" = Hebrew yatsar
"made" = Hebrew asah
"created"= Hebrew bara
|Genesis 2:7 and 1:27
"formed" = Hebrew yatsar
"became" (made) = Hebrew hayah
"created" = Hebrew bara
For Wierwille's view of man to hold true, it is essential that yatsar, asah, and bara each to be used in both Isaiah 43:7 and Genesis. However, asah is not found in both places. This discrepancy invalidates his entire teaching on man, even on his own premise.
In addition to this internal conflict in Wierwille's position, the biblical material itself overthrows his theological distinctions about soul and spirit. The Old Testament refutes his false notion that only man has spirit. Psalm 104:29 states that God causes the deaths of animals by taking away their spirit. Genesis 7:15 and Ecclesiastes 3:19, 21 group men with animals as having the same spirit. English translations often use the word "breath" in these verses. However, the underlying Hebrew (which Wierwille infers he faithfully examines) reveals that this Hebrew word is indeed ruach, the usual word for spirit. The Way's claim that spirit is only in man is based on superficial research. Wierwille's entire teaching on the nature of man is opposed to the biblical material.
The Way's fallacies undercut even the doctrine of salvation and faith. Wierwille's teaching on faith bears little resemblance to evangelical Christian belief. Wierwille distinguishes radically between faith and believing. To him faith is a spiritual thing given to man only after Pentecost, while anyone before or after Pentecost can believe by way of his five senses. Faith is not in God, but of God; not in Christ, but of Jesus Christ, and of the same measure and amount to every person.40
Peculiar use of words and passages pervades his discussion. We must ask: what wholesale confusion would result if we would distinguish love from loving, repentance from repenting, and sin from sinning, just as he distinguishes faith, or belief, from believing? Each of these pairs has a common Greek root. Wierwille would have to assign contrasting meanings to each if he were consistent. He must even clarify Paul's "manifestation of faith" by adding a parenthesis after it, "(believing) 1141 lest his doctrine fall apart. Apparently Paul knew no such distinction.
If men all have the same amount of faith, as Wierwille says, we marvel at the number of times Scripture speaks of men being weak, strong, of full of faith (Rom. 4:19; 14: 1 ; 4:20; Acts 6:5, 8; 11: 24; Matt. 8: 10; 15:28; 1 Cor. 13:2), or of faith lacking, growing, or needing to be completed (I Thess. 3:10; 11 Thess. 1:3; Luke 17:5; Heb. 12:2; 13:7). Although Wierwille mentions that Romans 12:3 refers to "the measure of faith," he fails to note that it has no definite article ("the") in the Greek original.42 The context of Romans 12:3, as well as the reference to "proportion" of faith in verse 6, refutes his idea.
Wierwille also adapts Mark 11:22, "Have faith in God," to his theology. He writes, "The 'original' text read, '. . . Have the faith of God .1 1143 He is apparently noting that in Greek no preposition exists between "faith" (pistin) and "of God" (theou), which is here in the genitive case. However, a deeper knowledge of Koine Greek reveals that this phrase is a genitive of aim, also known as a genitive objective. As such, it does not need a preposition such as "in" (en) to be understood as "faith in God."44 Examples of other genitives of aim include Romans 3:22 and Hebrews 6:2. Similar passages where the preposition is supplied are Colossians 1:4 and Ephesians 1: 15. This misunderstanding of Greek is also part of the source of Wierwille's belief in the "faith of Jesus Christ."
Using Mark 11:22, Wierwille eventually asserts that anyone, Christian or non-Christian, can exercise this faith. However, verse 24 makes clear that only Christians have faith, by declaring, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." Prayer-requests to the one true God-is required, trusting that He will deliver. This is not a subjective confidence that one's desire will occur.
Wierwille's exposition on faith uses John 20:29 to support his thesis that "until the day of Pentecost, people saw and then believed."45 The end of this same verse refutes his idea. Jesus uses aorist tenses to say, 11, . , blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." The Old Testament person did not require seeing in order to believe.
Wierwille also makes the radical pronouncement that
"there is no faith in the Gospels or in the Old Testament. When we read the word "faith" before the book of Acts, we are simply reading an error in translation. How many times do you think the word "faith" appears in the Old Testament in the King James Version? It appears only twice, once in Habakkuk 2:4 and once in Deuteronomy 32:20. Reading "faith" in context, one will see that it means "faithfulness, steadfastness.""46
At least three times the Apostle Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4. Each time, contrary to Wierwille's thesis, be uses the word "faith" (pistis), not the word "faithful" (pistos) (Rom. 1:7; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). Wierwille's perspective indicts the inspired writer with gross misunderstanding. Wierwille also throws out some 42 instances of the word "faith" in the Gospels and Acts. His basis is not actual evidence but his surmisings that they were wrongly translated. One could rewrite the entire Bible on just as much evidence as he has here! There is no question that Wierwille has rewritten-the Bible's teaching on faith by distorting its words. Wierwille alters its entire character on the cardinal topic of faith.
A presupposition behind much of Wierwille's exegesis is the primacy of Aramaic. In fact, Wierwille and The Way freely alter much of the New Testament text, such as Matthew 27:46 and the Hebrews 11 passages mentioned above by an appeal to Aramaic. Their basis is the forthright assertion that the Testament was written originally in Aramaic, not Greek .47 They refer extensively to the Estrangelo Aramaic, or Syriac versions and to the Peshitta version as translated by Dr. George M. Lamsa.
Reputable modern scholarship unanimously rejects the notion that the Syriac was the language of the autographs, although some suggest that many of Jesus' sayings were first recorded in an Aramaic dialect of Israel. However, the only conclusion that fits the evidence is that the Syriac versions were translated from original Greek writings.
Evidence against the Syriac being the original language of the New Testament is quite conclusive. First, Aramaic has continually changed over the 30-plus centuries of its existence. Numerous dialects have existed simultaneously. Palestine was home for recognizable variations, including the Galilean dialect which Jesus space the Samaritan dialect, and the Southern dialect spoken around Jerusalem. Odessa, the focus of Syriac and its major New Testament versions, was over five times as far from Jerusalem as Galilee was. Hence, Edessan Aramaic (classed as an eastern Aramaic) was far different from the Palestinian Aramaic dialects of the apostles (classed as western dialects). Second, the 100-200 years of change between the time of the apostles and the Syriac brought more differences. In fact, the area of Odessa, about 150 miles from the coast, was not even evangelized, much less established in Christianity, until after A.D. 116, long after the New Testament was written. Third, Koine Greek was used universally around the Mediterranean and was known as a second language even by farmers of less Hellenized areas, More than half of the Old Testament passages found in the New Testament are quoted from the Greek Septuagint, not from an Aramaic targum or Hebrew text of the day. Even the Gospel of Matthew, written by a Jew for Jews, quotes more than half of its Old Testament passages from the Septuagint.4' Of 29 inscriptions found on ossuaries on Mt. Olive, 11 are Greek, 11 are Aramaic, and 7 are Hebrew.
In addition, the apostles and the Jews around them were well acquainted with Greek. The New Testament writers wanted not only Israel, but all nations, to believe. There is no reason for them to have written in a little known, politically and racially colored local dialect when the universally known Koine Greek existed.
The Peshitta, respected highly by The Way, is an inferior biblical text. It was not an original or even a new translation of the Greek New Testament, but was a late fourth-century revision of the superior Syriac versions based on later inferior Greek texts. It also lacks 11 Peter, 11 and III John, Jude, and Revelation. The Estrangelo Aramaic it represents is not a language in itself as The Way International leads one to believe. Instead it is one of many scripts or styles of writing that was applied to Aramaic and prevailed in the fourth and fifth centuries A.D.50
Dr. Lamsa's translation of the Peshitta, respected by The Way, displays many weaknesses. He paid little attention to variant readings that would improve its text, used unidentified "later Aramaic texts" to supply missing portions and, in places, copies the King James Version. The forms of Aramaic he is acquainted with are quite removed from that of Jesus' time." Unfortunately, The Way spends an enormous amount of energy and places a great deal of weight on the unfounded theory of Aramaic originals, ne un supportability of this theory results in the collapse of many of Wierwille's interpretations.
Essential to his teaching on the crucifixion and Holy Week is Wierwille's concept of "narrative development." Wierwille's expositions using "narrative development" essentially set the Gospel accounts in opposition to each other. In the process, he concludes that four men were crucified with Jesus rather than two. Claiming that malefactors and robbers are two different classes of robbers, Wierwille demands that Matthew and Mark could not be talking about the same people. If he were consistent in applying this principle, there would also have to be two Barabbases, as John 18:40 terms him a robber while Luke 23:19 and Mark 15:7 call him an insurrectionist and murderer. Other examples could be given to prove that this method, carried to any extent, reaps absurdity.
Crucial to The Way's doctrine of four crucified with Jesus is a distinction between two Greek words, allos and heteros. Although both words are normally translated "other," he claims that allos means "other of varying kinds" while heteros means "other of the same kind."52
The many New Testament passages using these words show that Wierwille's definitions are incorrect. A host of passages using the word allos are made ridiculous if Wierwille's definition is used. Are a man's right and left cheeks of varying kinds (Matt. 5:39)? Was the seed of the sower of varying kinds (Matt. 13:5, 7, 8)? Were the talents the faithful servant gained of varying kinds (Matt. 25:20, 22)? Did the restored hand of a cripple vary in kind from his other hand (Mark 3:5)? Were the similar things that the Jews did actually things of varying kinds (Mark 7:8)? Obviously, Wierwille's attempted definition of allos was unknown to biblical writers.
The following pairs are described by biblical writers as heteros. Are these pairs "other of the same kind" as Wierwille insists? God and money (Matt. 6:24)? Pharisees and publicans (Luke 18:20)? Sadducees and Pharisees (Acts 23:6)? Contradictory spirits and gospels (11 Cor. 11-4; Gal. 1:6)? Ages of mystery and ages of the revealed (Eph. 3:5)? The Levitical priesthood and tribe versus the Melchizedekan priesthood and the tribe of Judah (Heb. 7:11, 13, 15)? Obviously, Wierwille fabricates distinctions not known to this wide range of New Testament writers.
The definition of allos and heteros that Wierwille gives in Power for Abundant Living contradict those in his later book, Receiving the Holy Spirit Today. This inconsistency emphasizes the fictitious nature of his definitions and distinctions. In explaining I Corinthians 12, his later book claims heteros "is used for another when only two are involved." By contrast, allos is used when more than two are involved .53
However, even this definition of heteros is also false. In more than three-fourths of the uses of this word in the New Testament, more than two are unquestionably involved, as a look through a Greek concordance reveals. Furthermore, his definition of heteros in the earlier book will not fit his exposition of I Corinthians 12 in the later book. His earlier definition was "other of the same kind," but he writes in Receiving the Holy Spirit Today: "Since no other person profits from the usage of believing and tongues, heteros is used because two and only two are involved, namely, God and the believer.54"
If he had used the definition he is so adamant about in the earlier book, he would have to write: ". . . heteros is used because two others of the same kind are involved, namely, God and the believer." Even though Wierwille currently does not hold to this absurdity, he would be compelled to if his definitions were consistent.
When we compare Wierwille's definitions for allos in the two books, we. find the same inconsistency and more unanswered questions. Why did he give up his first definition when he wrote his later book? Or why did he not begin using his second definition in John 19: 1955 '11.1 it is more accurate? Obviously, if he did, his theory of four men crucified with Christ would fall. It is evident that Wierwille fabricates definitions and makes distinctions between words at will. , In this way he molds New Testament passages to fit his preconceived interpretations and theology.
Another example of unfounded distinctions between Greek words is that made between d6rea and doma. The Way's Lonnel E. Johnson rephrases Wierwille's stance: "A gift when put into action may benefit the recipient (d6rea) or it may benefit others (doma), or both the recipient and others may be benefitted through its operation (d6rema). In each case a different word is used to indicate a specific and unique aspect of the gift.56"
The Way cites "the gift of Christ" of Ephesians 4:7 as "a gift which benefits the receiver." In contrast, the "gifts unto men" of 4:8 are "gifts which are of benefit to others." Upon closer examination we find that these Greek words were not so narrowly understood by the New Testament writers. Only a chapter before, Paul says that he "was made a minister, according to the gift (dorea) of God's grace which was given to me . . ", (Eph. 3:7). Contrary to The Way's definition, this gift is for the benefit of others (see also 11 Cor. 9:15). Luke 11:13, its parallel in Matthew 7: 11, and Philippians 4:17 are cases where dorna is used. Again contrary to The Way's definition, these refer to gifts which benefit the recipients. Wierwille's definitions on the surface always appear to be accurate, but any depth of analysis reveals his inaccurate assessments.
Wierwille continues to use his wide range of biblical gymnastics in his teachings on death. Among
these, The Way's exposition of John 21: 18, 19 reveals their belief that there is no glory in death.
Because of this view they think that, "This passage does not flow in harmony with the rest of the
Word nor first century tradition."57 To solve the dilemma of the New Testament disagreeing
with The Way's theology, Walter Cummins, assistant to the president, revises the text. His only
"evidence" is the lone deletion of the word "death" in a marginal reading of the very late
(thirteenth-century) MS 31. Not only is this single manuscript outnumbered by hundreds that
maintain the word "death," but it is an unreliable source." This is an excellent example of the
lengths to which The Way will go to "prove" its errant doctrines.
Wierwille again misdefines a biblical word in his exegesis on a passage relating to a believer's view of death. He quotes Psalm 116:15, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints," and explains:
"The word "precious" in the text is "costly." . . . It does not cost God anything when an unbeliever or a God-rejector dies. They have not done anything for God anyway. But if a believer died, it would be costly to God . . . because they cannot help God any after they are dead."19
This word "precious" (yaqar) throughout the Old Testament has the connotation not of expense, but of rareness, value, treasure, or prize. (Note especially I Sam. 3: 1; Isa. 13:12; Dan. 2: 11.) Three times this whole phrase, "precious in the sight of' is used. Each time it is obvious that the lives spoken of were not expensive, but were "highly valued" and so weren't flippantly destroyed (11 Kings 1: 13; 1: 14; 1 Sam. 26:21, 24). In the same way, the death of God's saints is valued and prized in His sight. He does not deal with our lives carelessly, nor does He allow the enemy to reign over us. Instead, He carefully plans and controls the death of His saints to His purposes and glory.
Wierwille also comments on the "paradise" Jesus mentions in Luke 23:43, "verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise,"
"However, this verse talks about paradise-and paradise is not heaven. . . . Paradise is always a place upon earth."
This statement does not agree with 11 Corinthians 12:4. A man in Christ, Paul says, "was caught up into paradise, and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak." Indeed, Paul says this man was "caught up to the third heaven" (12:2). Paradise as Paul speaks of it is definitely not "a place upon earth," as Dr. Wierwille adamantly proclaims it to be.
Wierwille further manipulates this text to defend his errant view of death. Following the lead of many pseudo-Christian groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses and the Holy Order of MANS, he places the comma after the word "to-day" instead of before it. His result is, "Verily, I say to you to-day, thou shalt. . . ." He then claims, "This fits with the rest of the Word of God.""' If this were true, then why does Jesus use the phrase "Verily I say to you" scores of times, while He never says, "Verily I say to you today"? Dr. Wierwille's revision is not consistent with the rest of the Word of God. Instead, we have another instance of Wierwille molding the Word to fit his theology, rather than molding his theology to fit the Word.
Important to Wierwille's errant view of death is his interpretation of Hebrews 11:5, "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that be pleased God."
He interprets this to say that all, including Enoch, die and stay dead until Christ's return,
"He pleased God all the time for which God so loved him that God took him from the place where Enoch's loved ones would die and put him at a place where he should not see death. Enoch did not see anyone else die, but be himself died."62
Wierwille's bizarre exegesis is incorrect on many points. He claims that "the word 'see' is anablepo, which means 'to look with one's eyes' or literally to see someone die.""' In no reputable Greek text of today, including the UBS, Nestle, and Westcott and Hort, and not even in the outdated Stephens' text of 1550 which The Way uses, is the word anablepo found in the verse; nor is it found in any of the critical notes. This reflects either an incorrect guess on Wierwille's part or a deliberate misstatement. Instead, the word is idein, an aorist form of horao. In 17 of the 40 times this word is used in the New Testament, it does not mean a physical seeing as Wierwille demands. Verse 27 of this same chapter is an example. Moses left Egypt. . . . for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen."
Wierwille cites verse 13 as proof Enoch died: "These all died...." However, he does not take into account that this verse is sandwiched in the middle of a section (vv. 6-17) dealing only with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob. Verse 13 refers only to these, not to Enoch and the earlier patriarchs. A look at Genesis chapter 5 is further persuasion that Enoch did not die. The entire chapter is genealogical in nature, listing 10 men, their ages at death, and children. After each one (except for Enoch and Noah) the closing phrase of the section reads, ". . . and he died." This phrase is not listed after Noah because the following chapters continue the narrative of his life, and finally record his death in Genesis 9:29. The phrase is not listed after Enoch's section because he did not die, but instead, ". . . he was not, for God took him." That is, God took him directly to Himself (contrary to Wierwille's ideas) without Enoch first physically dying. (Contrast Gen. 5:5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 27, 31 with v. 24.)
Wierwille is also apparently confused about the nature of death, claiming that the person's body and soul-life die together,
The Bible says that when a man dies, he is dead and he stays dead until the return of Christ and the resurrection. Nobody who has died is living with the exception of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Bible declares God raised from the dead."'
However, Scripture is witness that death is not the cessation of all life of the person, but rather a shedding of the body, Death is a "departure" or "release" from that which is only a dwelling or tabernacle as Peter expresses it (I Pet. 1:13, 15; 11 Tim 4:6). Old Testament examples of the departure (and, in one case, a re-entry) of spirits of men from their bodies include Genesis 35:18 and I Kings 17:22. For the Christian, this departure from the body means immediate presence with the Lord (11 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:21-23), and the cognizant souls/spirits of men continue for a time without their bodies (Rev. 6:9, 10; 20:4; 1 Pet. 3:18, 19; Heb. 12:23; Acts 2:27).
Wierwille and his colleagues encourage their followers unknowingly to use inferior study tools. These help to substantiate and bolster their own image as the sole competent correctors, translators, and interpreters of the Word. An excellent example of their widely used inferior tools is the Greek text of Stephens, 1550, in the Greek-English Interlinear by Berry. In Fundamentals of Greek Research, Walter Cummins explains basic textual criticism (finding the original texts of the New Testament writers by comparing varying manuscripts) and shows his readers how to correct two Greek words in Ephesians 3:9.65 However, if he had used any reputable Greek text produced in the past 80 years, such as Westcott-Hort, Nestle, and UBS, this would not have been necessary. These texts have already made the appropriate corrections in Ephesians as well as in such verses as I John 5:7 and I Timothy 3:16.
The most tragic aspect of Wierwille's promotion of inferior tools is not simply the false image of himself he creates for his followers. His followers are led to accept his other self-serving and invalid "corrections" and fallacious principles of criticism because on occasion he has been correct and hy this has secured their respect.
In each of the major areas of theology discussed here, Wierwille has fallen short of the accuracy of God's Word. The primary reasons for his incorrect expositions of the nature and work of Jesus Christ, the nature of man, faith, the New Testament originals, "Narrative Development," and death is his inept keys or principles of interpretation.
Wierwille's promise to "set before the reader the basic keys in the Word of God so that Genesis to Revelation will unfold . . ."66 falls tragically short of its goal. The biblical "keys" he uses repeatedly lock up the Word's interpretation of itself to his advantage. The results are internal confusion and gross perversion of God's Word. Wierwille's misleading and fallacious keys fall into four basic categories.
Foremost among these keys is Wierwille's contrived definitions of Greek words. His above-mentioned imaginative definitions of pros (with), paradise, metecho (take part), heteros and allos (other), dia (by means of) and others war against reliable lexicons and usage in the Word. Even Wierwille's "literal translations according to usage" never mention the Bible's use of given words, but are founded on his own conjecture. It is apparent that once he decides blow he will use a passage, he then contrives a supporting meaning for one of the Greek words.
An unscholarly companion to Wierwille's contrived definitions is his unfounded distinctions between words, like that between allos and heteros. Rather than illuminating shades of meaning, he produces obscuring colors.
Wierwille's scholarship fails not only by making erroneous word definitions and distinctions, but also by forcing word relationships. He wrongly equates such words as "with" and "foreknow" and "chosen." His inconsistency is glaring; while he attempts to distinguish between synonyms, be considers wholly different concepts identical.
To support his manipulations of words, be uses an occasional English word-not to illuminate a Greek word, but to define it. He uses "isosceles" to define isos and the King James translation "took part" to define metecho. This poor linguistic methodology is like defining the KJV word "conversation" by today's American use of the word.67
Abuse of Greek syntax and manuscripts is the second category of Wierwille's defective methodology. His misuse is apparent in the examples discussed above: ignorance of genitives of aim, mid-sentence alterations of word meaning, the superfluous distinction between "faith" and believing," and imposed parentheses that wrongly segment biblical sections. His knowledge of Hebrew linguistic style is no better, as his misapplication of Isaiah 43:7 shows. In order to use Greek manuscripts to his full advantage, he also promotes inferior research tools and false principles of textual criticism.
Glaring inconsistencies mark The Way's manipulations of Greek texts. On the one hand, The Way revises the text of John 21:19 on the basis of MS 31, claiming that this thirteenth-century manuscript was based on an earlier, "correct" text. This approach refutes Wierwille's revisions of I John 5:7, 1 Timothy 3:16, Galatians 4:6, and John 1: 18 (which he alters to deny Christ's deity). If MS 31 were based on an earlier, "correct" text, then by the same principle MSS 61, 88, 629, and 635, which support the KJV reading of I John 5:7, were also based on earlier, correct texts and should be accepted. Also by the same principle, the 26 MSS which support the KJV reading of I Timothy 3:16 were also based on earlier texts and should be accepted by The Way. There is more evidence in favor of the KJV readings of I John and I Timothy 3:16, which Wierwille rejects, than there is for his revision of John 21:19. The Way's defense of the use of a late variant supposedly based on an earlier "correct" text proves entirely untenable.
Wierwille also misuses Greek texts by setting a lone good source in opposition to all other MSS (as in Gal. 4:6) and by placing a few MSS of low reliability above MSS of greater quality and number (as in John 1:18). Proper textual criticism does not scrape up any MS evidence in existence regardless of quality in order to back a preconceived interpretation, as The Way does. Instead, it delays any interpretation until the text is assured by applying proper and reliable principles of textual criticism, Proper textual criticism first weighs the external evidence, or MSS, considering their date, geographical distribution, and genealogical relationships. Second, the internal evidence of the text and of the passages themselves is examined. Here the more difficult, shorter, divergent, and less refined readings are generally favored, while taking into account the author's style and content.'" The art of textual criticism is oversimplified and abused by The Way.611
Wierwille's third false key of research is his claim that the New Testament was authored in Aramaic, then translated into Greek, Some passages, such as the above-mentioned Matthew 27:46 and Hebrews 11 verses, he claims were erroneously translated, and he offers his own "accurate" translation. He also manipulates Orientalisms to his advantage, as in Philippians 2:6. He uses both "Aramaic originals" and "Orientalisms" to avoid passages that oppose his preconceived theology.
Wierwille gives no concrete evidence to support his theories of Aramaic originals nor of mistranslations into Greek. At best, he argues from silence, which is the weakest of contentions. No Aramaic originals are extant, and all of the earliest New Testament manuscripts that have been recovered are in Greek, not Aramaic. The overwhelming evidence favors Greek, not Aramaic originals. Semitisms and Aramaic words found in the New Testament are not traces of Aramaic originals. Rather, they reveal the historic reality of the language Jesus most often ministered in, as well as literary fullness and the Semitic backgrounds and ways of thinking that the Jewish authors were used to. Latinisms, by comparison, are also found in the New Testament (such as Paul's praetorium and Mark's use of Roman monetary terms), but no one claims this to be evidence for Latin originals.71
The fourth category of Wierwille's pseudo-research is his practice of relating words and concepts that have no business being together, while he ignores other relationships that clearly should be established. As explained above, he unjustifiably relates the "light" of John 1:6 to the Father, and "foreknow" to "elect" and "chosen." He also equates God's image with man's spirit and makes man's spirit a prerequisite to communication with God. A classic example of his failure to parallel related passages is his refusal to interpret the word "faith" in Habakkuk 2:4 by Paul's quotations of this verse. Sanctified common sense, combined with a fuller knowledge of Scripture and some balanced teaching on valid principles of interpretaion7l would have prevented many of these peculiarities. It is also necessary to curtail logic's tendency to manufacture presumptuous relationships and presuppositions,
The most disturbing feature of The Way is not that the group respects Wierwille, but that they place his work on par with Scripture and above the Greek texts that are the Bible's basis! Cummins fully upholds Wierwille's erroneous methods of establishing the Greek texts:
"Then, where there appear to be discrepancies we must compare the texts, keeping foremost in our minds the "inherent evidence" which is the evidence from the scope of the Word and the foundational research principles contained in the Power for Abundant Living Classes ." 72
The Word has been proven valid over centuries of use and attack. Wierwille, on the other hand, has repeatedly fallen short of the accuracy and integrity of God's Word.
We must draw four conclusions regarding Wierwille's use of God's Word to establish his doctrines. First, his scholarship and translation ability are motivated by a preconceived theology. His corrupt interpretations do not unveil the Word, but only reinforce his preferred doctrine. Second, the methods of interpretation he uses to achieve his doctrine are not sound, but are engineered to mold the Word to fit his design, Third, his preconceived theology and unsound methodology render him virtually incapable of rightly dividing the Word of truth, Wierwille himself points out, "If my research is a wrong-dividing of God's Word, then I stand before God as an unapproved workman .73"
His research repeatedly reflects a wrong dividing of God's Word and he does stand before God as an unapproved workman. Fourth, the extent of Wierwille's error invokes the question of whether he is simply misled, or if he is knowingly misleading others. While in this world we may have only partial evidence of the answer to this, the Lord will make all things known on the great day to come.
How may Christians, then, accept Victor Paul Wierwille? Is he "the next man of God to rise up after Paul's death,"" as some of his followers suggest? Is he a brother, though misled in some areas? Or is he a "wolf in sheep's clothing," a false teacher with whom we must contend?
Wierwille victimizes every fundamental doctrine of Christianity. Scripture itself judges the person who so violates the faith, and especially the doctrine of Christ:
"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds (11 John 9-11 )."
Even if the teaching on Christ were the only doctrine Wierwille denied, we would have to reject him completely as a false teacher.
To accept Wierwille's teaching in some areas but not in others is not a via)le option. First, his theological system does not allow it. His teachings are so interdependent that if one doctrine is rejected, others fall with it. More importantly, Scripture does not allow us to assent to a false teacher at all. Victor Paul Wierwille must be rejected as a false teacher.
We challenge followers of Dr. Wierwille to examine objectively his teachings and use of the Word. A Greek concordance and recognized study aids, written by a wide range of scholars from many Christian persuasions, will supply valuable information. Following a restricted group, composed of Dr. Wierwille and his upper-echelon followers, does not fill the proverb's requirement that "in a multitude of counselors there is safety" (Prov. 24:6; 11: 14). Ask God for the strength and courage to leave The Way. It is difficult to leave friends, acceptance, and status and to write off countless hours of expended time and energy. Nonetheless, Jesus, the accuracy of God's Word, and the hope of eternal life demand no less.
Teachers of The Way have a great responsibility to correct their present teaching. "The greater condemnation" (James 3: 1 ) awaits teachers for error they propagate. To those who cognizantly deceive, beware! There is danger of becoming "wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever" (Jude 13).
Our Lord is the great and powerful God. He would not allow His people to flounder in darkness from the time of the apostles until the first Power for Abundant Living class in 1953. He has kept His people strong against the power of the evil one for centuries and will continue to do so for His glory.
32. Wierwille, Power for Abundant Living, pp. 154-56.
33. On the Aramaic form of Matthew's text see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (United Bible Societies, 1971), p. 70; H. B. Swete, The Gospel According to Mark (London: Macmillan Co., 1905), pp. 385f.; and cf. Brown, Driver and Briggs, p. 552. Scholars transcribe the Aramaic form of mah into English as ma'.
34. Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 3rd ed. (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1970), p. 60.
35. Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Not God, p. 62.
36. Ibid., p. 63; idem, Power for Abundant Living, pp. 239, 247.
37. Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Not God, pp. 58-59 (pp, 58-63 contain essentially the same argument as Power for Abundant Living, pp. 231-40).
38. Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Not God, p. 61. 39. Ibid.
40. Wierwille, Power for Abundant Living, pp. 272-83. 41. Ibid., pp. 278, 280.
42. Ibid., pp. 274-75. 43. Ibid., pp. 34-35.
44. Nicoll, op. cit., p. 419; Evelyn Abbott and E. D. Mansfield, A Primer of Greek Grammar (London: Rivingtons Limited, 1963), Syntax p. 3; H. P. V. Nunn, A Short Syntax of New Testament Greek (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), p. 43.
45. Wierwille, Power for Abundant Living, p. 283. 46. Ibid., p. 273.
47. Walter J. Cummins, Fundamentals of Greek Research (New Knoxville, 0.: American Christian Press, n.d.), p. 12,
48. Matthew 26:73. 49. Guthrie, op. cit., p. 21.
50. Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, 3rd ed., p. 779.
51. Most of the above material was gleaned from Edwin M. Yamauchi, "Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, or Syriac?" Bibliotheca Sacra, October, 1974, pp. 320-3 1, and The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, 1: 188-89, 4:754.
52. Wierwille, Power for Abundant Living, p. 167.
53. Wierwille, Receiving the Holy Spirit Today, 6th ed. (New Knoxville, 0.: American Christian Press, 1972), p. 174.
54. Ibid., pp. 174-75. 55. Wierwille, Power for Abundant Living, p. 164.
56. Lonnel E. Johnson, The Gift (New Knoxville, O: American Christian Press, n.d.), p. 5; cf Wierwille, Receiving the Holy Spirit Today, p. 192.
57. Walter J. Cummins, "The Integrity of the God-Breathed Word," The Way Magazine, May-June, 1975, p. 7.
58. The inferiority of MS 31 is evidenced by the fact that Bruce Metzger does not cite it in The Text of the New Testament. In addition, the list of miniscules (which use cursive script) systematically cited by the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (New York: American Bible Society, 1966, 1968), p. xvii, chosen and collated by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research of Muenster, West Germany with co-editor Kurt Aland, includes 21 other manuscripts as late or later than MS 31, but ignores MS 31 itself. Since Cummins has identified himself closely with the Institute and Dr. Aland, we marvel that he would consider MS 31 important and even essential for critical use while recognized Institute scholars reject it as such.
59. Wierwille, Power for Abundant Living, p. 123. 60. Ibid., pp. 134-35.
61. Ibid., p. 135. 62. Ibid., p. 19 1. 63. Ibid., p. 191. 64. Ibid., pp. 188-89.
65. Cummins, Fundamentals of Greek Research, pp. 16-17.
66. Wierwille, Power for Abundant Living, p. 4.
67. Zondervan's Englishmans Greek Concordance is an excellent resource for checking New Testament word use. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology is a very good encyclopedia of articles on New Testament word use, written by scores of recognized scholars.
68. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, pp. 209-11.
69. Good syntaxes and lexicons are invaluable in New Testament study. Among recognized sources are Dana and Mantey's A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament and A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament by Arndt and Gingrich, cited above. For a full and readable discussion of the New Testament textual evidence and criticism, Metzger's The Text of the New Testament, cited above, is excellent.
70. Helpful discussions on the Aramaic are found in larger Bible dictionaries, such as Zondervan's Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible and Abingdon's Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, as well as assorted dictionaries of philology, such as The Languages of the World, Ancient and Modern by Stanley Wemyss.
71. Mayer's Interpreting the Holy Scriptures supplies helpful principles of interpretation of Scripture.
72. Walter J. Cummins, "The Integrity of the God-Breathed Word," The Way Magazine, May-June, 1975, p. 7.
73. Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Not God, p. 3. 74. Whiteside, The Way-Living in Love, p. 43.
This article was originally published as part of The Integrity and Accuracy of The Way's Word by John Juedes and Douglas Morton, 1981.
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