This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I began the project on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed it on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. I still do that every once in a while.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

On Ecclesiastes 7:20

QUESTION: Explain Eccl. 7:20, "For there is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not."

ANSWER: This is a defective translation for "may not sin." There is no just man who is impeccable, or infallible. The mistake arises from the fact that in the Hebrew language there is no potential mood, but the future tense of the indicative is used instead. When the Hebrew wished to say, "It may rain to-day," he had to say "It will rain to-day." Thus the hearer or reader was left in doubt whether a certainty or uncertainty is intended; and he must use his wits to determine by studying the context. Thus in Solomon's dedicatory paper in I Kings 8:46, II Chron. 6:36, it is evident that the Hebrew future means "may sin." It is thus translated in the Vulgate, the Syriac and Arabic, in the London and Paris Polyglots, in Castalid's, Osiander's and Francis Junius's versions, and in the Antwerp interlineal translations and in the marginal note in the Miniature Quarto of the Baxters, high Calvinists though they are. If Solomon had been dedicating an insane hospital and had said: "If any man becomes insane, for there is no man who will not become insane, let him come here and be cured," most people would say that the "will not" here means "may not." It is thus translated in Gen. 3:2, 27:25, Job 13:13, 14:6, in our English Bible. This text correctly translated gives no support to the pernicious doctrine of the necessity of sin in the believer, or in any man on the earth, I am suspicious that this error is perpetuated by translators by reason of the general dislike of holiness as possible in human experience this side of the grave. It is natural to the heart of man to desire a Scriptural excuse for sin. It is a nice pillow on which the carnal mind may slumber.

Steele's Answers pp. 209, 210.