On the INC Prophecy, Part One
[Source: Musing of An INC Member]
The suit winds its way uncertainly through a prejudiced political minefield as the advocates for truth tirelessly navigate the system, struggling to cast a final irrepressible light on the shadows of corruption, ceaselessly seeking both restitution and reformation, even as the hope for either grows increasingly slim.
Half a world away, in places far removed from the epicenter of the religious unrest, the remaining publicly vocal pockets of resistance are methodically and systematically silenced.
Amidst it all, the propaganda machine continues to churn, consistently albeit less vehemently, as it met and now maintains its purpose in deliberately shaping the perception, manipulating the cognition, and directing the behavior of our brethren.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, it seems we are inexorably fated to be ‘one with EVM’ and with a corrupt administration, left with little choice but to subvert our own conscience and understanding in order to blindly obey and submit, lest we and our loved ones incur dire consequences.
And yet many of us still persist in our pursuit of truth, even as our inquiries are met with faulty logic and irrationality, as the responses run the gamut from “because the Bible prophesied it” to “brother/sister, you and your household are now expelled.”
Consequently, a growing number of brethren are now asking an evolving series of questions that inevitably lead to an inquiry into the veracity of the church itself.
“Can our leaders become corrupted and lose God’s favor?”
“How exactly are the recent church events prophesied in the Bible?”
“Do these events possibly indicate that we are actually not the ‘one true church’?”
The one seemingly incontrovertible defense the church has consistently used to respond to every allegation and accusation, other than outright denial, is simply this:
“We are the one true church prophesied in the Bible. Therefore, we are the only means to salvation. If you do not obey and submit to our authority, you won’t be saved.”
As I stated in a previous entry, our pursuit of the truth is akin to arguing at the point of a gun, since it matters little whether they’re wrong or right- either way, you’re still getting shot (in our case, expelled) if you continue to persist.
But, what if we can prove that the gun was never loaded to begin with? Or that it doesn’t work?
Or that the gun itself isn’t even real?
In the same manner, for argument’s sake, what if we can prove that their expulsions have no merit? That their threats don’t work? Or that the church isn’t “real”?
This brings us to the fundamental inquiry many of us have already explored in our membership, an inquiry I recommend every active member pursue (ideally with an open-minded reasonable minister, if you’re fortunate enough to know one) in order to truly explore and ascertain the basis of one’s faith.
And so we come to that inevitable fundamental inquiry, which is simply-
“Is our church, the Iglesia Ni Cristo, and the last messenger, Brother Felix Manalo, truly prophesied in the Bible?”
Since the administration continues to employ the church’s divine prophecy as an all-encompassing defense that excuses whatever questionable actions they may take, be it their alleged financial misappropriation and questionable financial practices, their purely profit driven pursuits, their peculiar preoccupation with world records and entertainment, their embarrassing and immoral responses to the crisis, etc, then I feel that a simple inquiry and revisit into this prophecy is justifiably merited.
So let’s continue.
According to the doctrine, our church, which emerged in the Philippines in the Far East, was established in 1914 by virtue of the fulfillment of the prophecies of our Lord God (as per Isaiah 43:5, Moffatt translation) and of our Lord Jesus Christ (as per Acts 20:28, Lamsa translation) through the commissioning of the last messenger, Brother Felix Y. Manalo (as per Isaiah 46:11).
For today, I will primarily address the three verses used in the previous statement which are most frequently used by our ministers as prophetic biblical proof of our church and of the last messenger, namely:
1) Isaiah 43:5
2) Isaiah 46:11
3) Acts 20:28
First, let’s look at Isaiah 43:5.
On Isaiah 43:5 – “East, east and afar of, and the Far East”
Isaiah 43:5-6 in the New King James Version reads:
“Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west.”
Isaiah 43:5 in the Moffatt translation reads:
“From the far east will I bring your offspring, and from the far west I will gather you.”
The Old Testament, including the book of Isaiah, was originally written in Hebrew. In the original Hebrew translation of Isaiah 43:5, the church claims that the Hebrew word “mizrach” refers to the geographic term “Far East” and therefore consequently refers to the Philippines. The church uses Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, authored by bible scholar William Smith, to interpret the Hebrew word “mizrach” to mean “Far East.”
This is what our church claims Smith’s Dictionary says:
“While both terms, “kedem” and “mizrach”, can be translated as “east”, “kedem” is used in a strictly geographical sense to describe a spot or country immediately before another in an easterly direction, whereas “mizrach” is used of the far east.”
Essentially, the church claims that “mizrach” means “far east” according to Smith’s Dictionary.
Let’s examine exactly what it states:
“East. The Hebrew term, kedem, properly means that which is before or in front of a person, and was applied to the east, from the custom of turning in that direction, when describing the points of the compass, before, behind, the right and the left representing respectively east, west, south and north. Job 23:8-9.”
“The term as generally used refers to the lands lying immediately eastward of Palestine, namely, Arabia, Mesopotamia and Babylonia; on the other hand, mizrach, is used of the far east with a less definite signification. Isaiah 42:2; Isaiah 42:25; Isaiah 43:5; Isaiah 46:11.”
That was the full quote of the Smith’s Bible Dictionary, and it states that “mizrach is used of the far east with a less definite signification.”
A less definite signification.
Meaning that “mizrach” does not definitively or necessarily mean “far east.”
If mizrach does not necessarily mean “far east”, it would follow that Isaiah 43:5 does not necessarily refer to the far east, and so therefore does not necessarily refer to the Philippines.
Let’s say that we’re not certain of the meaning of some word in a book, in much the same way that we’re not completely certain -based on the examination of the evidence- that ‘mizrach’ means far east. And let’s say that the sole authoritative source we’ve used to define that word actually does not definitively do so, in the same way that the Smith’s Dictionary does not definitively define mizrach as the far east.
So what else can we do at this point? Simple. We can keep reading the book.
In other words, we can simply examine how the word is used in context, because one clear and obvious way to determine a word’s meaning in a book is to examine how the word is used elsewhere in that same book.
So, let’s examine how the word mizrach is used in the Bible.
The word mizrach is used in many different verses throughout the Old Testament. Each one of those verses translate mizrach as “east” and but not necessarily and not specifically far east. All of the literal, direct word-for-word translations of the Bible, including the KJV, NKJV, RSV, and NIV, translate mizrach simply as “east.”
Yet, among the many verses and versions of the Bible that translate mizrach simply as east, we see that the phrase “far east” still occurs in that one specific verse in that one specific translation: Isaiah 43:5, Moffatt translation. This is the authoritative version that our church insists upon as the basis of its prophecy.
Upon further examination into the origins of this outlying translation, we would discover that James Moffatt employed a less accurate translation principle, which bible scholars call ‘dynamic equivalence.’ Basically, this principle permits the addition and subtraction of words and phrases depending on the understanding of the translator. This translation principle emphasizes and prioritizes the readability of the translation over preserving the original grammatical structure. Accuracy is therefore sacrificed. We could observe Moffat’s use of this translation principle when we look at his version of the Bible as a whole, as we would readily observe that Moffatt rearranged the order of verses and of entire chapters.
More particularly in our case, we can observe Moffatt’s use of this less accurate principle in Isaiah 43:5-6. The prophet Isaiah says mizrach or simply “east” in verse 5. Two sentences later in a succeeding yet different verse, Isaiah says “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” Moffatt pieces together the word “east” from verse 5 and the words “from afar” from verse 6 to create the phrase “far east.” To compound the translation issue further, the church interprets this phrase “far east” not simply as “farther in the east” but as the specific geographical Eurocentric term “Far East”, the region in Southeast Asia.
To illustrate an obvious problem with this, here’s a simple example.
Let’s say I was visiting you in Long Beach, California, and I told you that I traveled from the “east” and was brought by plane “from afar.” Would you automatically assume that I traveled from the Far East? Even if I had told you I traveled from “far east” of here, why would you assume that I meant “the Far East” as opposed to simply “farther east”? I could have traveled from, say, Forest Hills, New York, for example, which is “far east” of here, “farther east” of here, and also “from the east and from afar.”
How then is the word “mizrach” used in the Bible?
If we examine all the verses that contain the word mizrach, we see that it’s used to illustrate a number of different things: a courtyard’s dimension in Exodus 38:13, a tabernacle gate in I Chronicles 9:24, a realm in Israel in Joshua 17:10, an area east of the Jordan river in Deuteronomy 4:41, among others, but never is it used to illustrate a region or a country in Southeast Asia.
What then could prophet Isaiah have been referring to?
Well, not surprisingly, the prophecies of the ‘Jewish’ prophet Isaiah might actually refer to his fellow ‘Jewish’ people. This becomes increasingly clear when we read the entire chapter and see that prophet Isaiah is actually writing about Israel. The Jews were a scattered people after their Babylonian captivity and also after the later destruction of Jerusalem. Isaiah prophesies in chapter 43 that those scattered people would be gathered again, which actually did come to pass when they returned after the Babylonian captivity and also when, in more recent history, the Jews formed the state of Israel.
Let’s now look at Isaiah 46:11.
On Isaiah 46:11 – “Felix Manalo or Cyrus the Great”
Isaiah 46:11 reads:
“Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country.
Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.”
The church claims that the ravenous bird of prey from the east is Felix Manalo, from the Philippines.
But, when we read further into Isaiah and consider the narrative, biblical, and historical context, one could strongly argue that the verse actually refers to Cyrus the Great, of Persia.
The sigil and standard of Cyrus the Great, a warlike king during the time of ancient Israel, was a literal bird of prey, a golden eagle. (In the same way the sigil of Lord Stark was a direwolf, but I digress as well as jest; I anxiously await for ‘Winds of Winter’, but that sentiment is for another blog site.)
As an aside and on a more relevant note, Cyrus was also physically described as having a nose like the beak of an eagle. In any case, the golden bird of prey was the emblem of Cyrus, which adorned his banners. Cyrus’ emblem of a ravenous bird of prey could very applicably denote a bird-like swiftness and his ravenous fierceness as a ruler.
Reading the entirety of the preceding and succeeding chapters of Isaiah provides us further context and clarification.
In the preceding chapters, 44 and 45, we clearly read that Isaiah is referring to Cyrus, starting in Isaiah 44:28 and continuing through Isaiah 45. In the succeeding chapter, 47, we read about the defeat of the Babylonian empire by the Persians, the king of whom was Cyrus. It makes perfect narrative sense that chapter 46 refers to Cyrus and it doesn’t make much sense in both the narrative and historical context for it to refer to anyone else. Cyrus was the warlike king who descended upon Babylon in the manner exemplified by his reputation and by his sigil- a ravenous bird of prey, from Persia in the east.
Now, let’s take a look at Acts 20:28.
Acts 20:28 – “Of God, Of Christ, and Of Common Nouns”
(As another aside, if you are an active member of the church such as myself and you don’t know this verse by heart, you should relinquish your special anniversary edition #OneWithEVM membership card now. I would surmise that Acts 20:28 is the most frequently repeated verse in the history of the church, and was consequently among the first verses I memorized and recited verbatim as a young CWS choir member, winning me one of those “most intelligent” ribbons that all the kids eventually get. I can still hear myself reciting that verse, even as I specified “Lamsa translation” at the end. My, how they train us young.)
Acts 20:28, Lamsa translation, reads:
“Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.”
First, we should understand that the Lamsa translation is not directly based on the text or language of Greek, which is the original language that the book of Acts and the New Testament were written. The Lamsa translation is based on the ‘Peshitta’, which is a particular edition of a Syriac translation of the New Testament. Syriac is again not the original language but a dialect into which some of the original Greek manuscripts were translated. Nearly every other Bible translation agrees that Acts 20:28 says “the church of God” simply because the original Greek text itself reads “the church of God.”
The phrase in Acts 20:28 in the original Greek text reads “ten ekklesian tou Theou” or “church of God” and not “ten ekklesian tou Christou” or “church of Christ.”
The church argues that “church of Christ” is the more accurate rendition because the latter part of the verse states, “which he purchased with his own blood”. The church argues that the rendering “church of God” in the verse would imply that God died and shed blood on the cross. And this would contradict other verses such as 1 Timothy 1:17 that teaches God is immortal, John 4:24 that teaches God is a spirit, and Luke 24:36-39 that teaches God has no flesh and bones and therefore has no blood.
I would simply argue that there might not be any conflict at all with the original Greek text that reads “church of God” or “ten ekklesian tou Theou.” This is why:
The full original text of Acts 20:28 reads “thn ekklhsian tou theou hn periepoihsato dia tou aiuatos tou idiou.” The most appropriate translation of this is “the church of God which he bought with the blood of his own one” or alternately “the church of God which he bought with the blood of his own Son”
This translation has no conflict with the rest of the Bible, as it maintains God’s spiritual nature, while still faithfully true to the original Greek text reading “church of God.”
In light of this, some other translations including Lamsa’s translation of Acts 20:28 are all inaccurate because they are either 1) not faithful to the original Greek text or 2) not in agreement with the verses in I Timothy, John, and Luke.
The NKJV and NIV versions conflict with verses in I Timothy, John, and Luke by misinterpreting “dia tou aiuatos tou idiou” to mean “with His own blood” when it actually means “by the blood which is his own son” or “the blood of his own son.” The Lamsa version conflicts with the original Greek text by misinterpreting “ten ekklesian tou theou” to mean “church of Christ” when it actually means “church of God.”
So, are all Bible translations of Acts 20:28 incorrectly translated? No, not necessarily.
There are at least eight other Bible translations of Acts 20:28 that both 1) derive directly from the original Greek text and 2) do not conflict with the aforementioned verses in I Timothy, John, and Luke.
Here are three of them:
Acts 20:28 in the New Revised Standard Version:
“Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.”
Acts 20:28 in the New English Translation:
Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.
Acts 20:28 in the Contemporary English Version:
“Look after yourselves and everyone the Holy Spirit has placed in your care. Be like shepherds to God’s church. It is the flock that he bought with the blood of his own Son.”
Again, note what each of these translations of Acts 20:28 have in common. All of them more accurately translate the Greek text of “thn ekklhsian tou theou hn periepoihsato dia tou aiuatos tou idiou” as containing the phrases “the church of God” and “with the blood of his own one or Son.”
Therefore, since both “with His [God’s] own blood” and “church of Christ” are inaccurately translated phrases from Acts 20:28, we cannot derive Church of Christ conclusively from this verse, based on the evidence presented.
There is another somewhat simpler argument as to why Acts 20:28 may not refer to the Iglesia Ni Cristo.
Even if, for argument’s sake, we allow the original Greek phrase in Acts 20:28 to mean “church of Christ”, the common noun “church” of Christ is made into the proper noun “Church of Christ.”
Here’s an example to illustrate this.
When I referred to that ridiculously exorbitant “plane of Eduardo” this did not necessarily mean that the actual name of the plane was “Plane of Eduardo.” The actual name of the plane could be Airbus or Boeing, but not “Plane of Eduardo”, because “plane” is used as a common noun. In the same manner, when that translation of Acts 20:28 refers to the “church” of Christ, this does not necessarily mean it’s the actual name. The word “church” -like the word “plane” in our example- is also used as a common noun, a word used to name general items rather than specific ones.
While some of our brethren may agree with this initial analysis and many more may object, what’s more important at this juncture is that we realize how the application of logical reasoning, the use of an evidence-based approach, and the process of rational thought allow us to simply continue the analysis and the discussion where both supporting and opposing points of view are welcome and necessary for us to eventually reach a clear objective truth. We should never allow anyone, including our own church administration, to subvert our God given ability to think independently, to seek and share knowledge, and to discern the truth.
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