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A Problematic Scripture Passage

by Susan Budensiek  
9/22/2019 / Bible Studies

I have often wondered about some of the passages of scripture that don’t seem to make sense and recently one of them showed up again as I was reading. It was Mark 4:12 which seems to contradict John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (ESV), in particular the “whoever believes in him” part. We know that Scripture does not contradict itself, so.…


Mark 4:12 (ESV) reads: “… so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.” Most English translations use the word “lest” and several others use “otherwise” in its place, so the meaning is essentially the same when using most English versions. And it sounds like God is going to make sure these people are never saved, and that is where I felt like the conflict lay. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 seems very clear in every translation I checked, and all said something very much like, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (ESV)


I wholeheartedly believe that God made sure the Bible contains everything we need to know to obtain salvation and live our lives as a follower of Jesus – even through many centuries of time and culture differences. And I believe that knowing how civilizations and languages would change over time, God has given us increasingly abundant “helps” like the many translations of His Word we can readily lay our hands on, concordances, Bible dictionaries and maps, etc., none of which were available 2000 years ago and very few even 200 years ago. And His Word does tell us to study to become more Christ-like in several places – 2 Timothy 2:15, John 5:39, 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, etc. -so I believe we are meant to use the helps He has given us.


Since we now know that Greek was not the original language of most of the new testament,** I consulted the Aramaic English New Testament (AENT) and found a different message given in the text of Mark 4:12. “So that when they see, they will not yet see, and when they hear, they will not hear and comprehend. Unless perhaps they return and their sins be forgiven them.”  


Then I found the Disciples’ Literal New Testament (DLNT) which brings out the compassionate nature of our Savior. It was translated from Greek to be as understandable as possible without using “beautiful English” and it is very much like the AENT. It reads: “And He was saying to them, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But all things come in parables to those outside in order that while seeing, they may be seeing and not perceive, and while hearing, they may be hearing and not understanding, that they may not ever turn-back and it be forgiven them”.


The Message (MSG) is also very explanatory. “When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight. These are people—Whose eyes are open but don’t see a thing,
Whose ears are open but don’t understand a word,
Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven.”

Another scripture I wondered about was Romans 1:28. In the old familiar KJV it reads, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;” but the difference was that these people were deliberately disregarding God’s ways. The Vine’s Expository Dictionary explains that the word ‘reprobate’ when talking about a person in Romans 1:28, means " a mind of which God cannot approve, and which must be rejected by Him, the effect of refusing "to have God in their knowledge;"


I feel better now that that question has been put to rest in my mind. Thank you, Father.



** [“And even though many scholars will still tell you that the original language of the New Testament was Greek, the evidence is overwhelming that much (or even most) of it, too, was first written in Hebrew. Even the parts that probably were given to us originally in Greek were written by Hebrew men, * from their own distinctly non-Greek perspectives. The authors grew up as Hebrews and looked at the world through Hebrew eyes. Again, there’s not a Greek in the bunch – even Luke, commonly cited as the “exception,” had a Hebrew father and was raised in a Hebrew household. That makes him Hebrew from the Biblical perspective.”

*Alfred Ederscheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life (Peabody, MA: Hendrikson Publishers, 1994), p.95

John Klein & Adam Spears, Lost In Translation, Discovering the Hebrew Roots of Our Faith Volume 1 p. 16]


For additional documentation see “Aramaic or Greek Lingua Franca?” in the appendix of the Aramaic English New Testament Translated by Andrew Gabriel Roth.




I was raised in church but always felt like I was missing something. Now the Word of God excites me! My curiosity enhances pursuance of discernment. I have often felt discouraged, but not totally defeated knowing that in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

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