Review of “The Pure Word” Translation
This is a critique of a new book that claims to be a ground-breaking “translation” of the New Testament by Brent Miller, Sr. Other reviews of this book have been written, but none that I found gave examples from the actual text, which turn out to be eye-opening. The danger of such a review is that it may bring the book to the attention of those who otherwise would be blissfully ignorant, but hopefully it will serve a larger purpose of warning those who might have come across it in other ways.
What does it claim to be?
The heart of this project is Miller’s novel “monadic hermeneutics.” But before we get to that, a few other observations are worth making. First, Miller claims this project is based on “the original inerrant and infallible Greek Scriptures as determined by the King James scholars in 1611” (Preface, p. iii). This statement tells us two things. One is that Miller favors the Byzantine Greek text which was reflected in the KJV, or perhaps he simply wishes to ingratiate himself with those who like the KJV. This statement also tells us that Miller is quite ignorant. The men who produced the King James Bible did not “determine” or produce any Greek text. In fact, their work was actually a revision of another English version known as the Bishop’s Bible. They were instructed to follow the text of the Bishop’s Bible when possible, a task they accomplished admirably.
The next sentence in the preface reads, “They gathered all 5,309 surviving Greek manuscripts that contain all or part of the New Testament and separated the accurate copies from the counterfeit text.” This statement is 100% false. The number 5,309 reflects the number of manuscripts of the Greek NT that were known to the scholarly world in the mid-1980s. In 1611 only a fraction of that number were known, probably fewer than 50. Furthermore, the men who produced the King James Bible did no gathering or separating of manuscripts. From what is known of their process (which is little enough), they consulted a variety of earlier English versions (Tyndale, Coverdale, Matthews, the Geneva Bible, the Bishop’s Bible, the Great Bible) and several printed Greek texts for the New Testament (particularly Erasmus, the Complutensian Polyglot, Stephanus, and Beza). There is no record of them ever consulting an actual Greek manuscript, nor would there have been reason for them to do so.
Is Miller really this ignorant, assuming that the way he imagines the KJV translation process somehow makes it so? Or is he purposefully deceiving the reader? Is this juvenile bluster, or is it a con?
The critical issue is Miller’s translational method. To quote from the preface, “Since each word is pure (without mixture), it stands to reason that God is not ambiguous or indecisive regarding the meaning of His message. As a result, each word has a single, specific meaning that is not open to personal interpretation nor shared by another word. Translating the Scriptures in this manner generates a pure monadic translation that presents an unambiguous and clear meaning of the original Greek that prevents personal interjection, opinion or cultural influence.”
The logical leap from “it stands to reason that God is not ambiguous” to the statement that “each word has a single, specific meaning” that is not “shared by another word” is incomprehensible. And utter nonsense. This would rule out synonyms completely. There is not a language in the world where every word has a “single, specific meaning” that is not shared by any other word. This includes Greek, as we will see below.
The method claimed by Miller is that he “determined the single pure meaning that was originally defined for those words,” referring to each of the 5,624 words making up the Gospels (what about the rest of the NT?). He states, “The ‘context’ of each root word was determined by the entire New Testament as the single meaning of each word had to fit precisely into each and every instance in which that word was used” (Preface, p. iv). Anyone who actually speaks a human language and reflects on this method for a moment will immediately see that it is based on a fallacy. Look up nearly any word in a good dictionary and check out the variety of ways in which it can be used.
Does it deliver what it claims?
Despite a valiant effort, which also produces a very garbled text in general, Miller does not and cannot consistently follow his own monadic principle. If his principle worked, one should be able to look up any place in the NT where a particular Greek word appears and it should be translated exactly the same way every time. However, even allowing for a clunky and sometimes incomprehensible text, Miller is unable to do this. His intuition overrides his principle and he ends up translating the same word in different ways. Let the following examples demonstrate this.
aphiemi (ἀφίημι) – favored TPW translation is “Removing from Memory”
- Matt 9:5 – “Because which is easier to speak, I am now Removing from Memory (Forgiving) your sins . . .”
- Matt 13:36 – “Then Jesus dismissed the multitudes of people . . .”
The same Greek word is used in both verses, so why not be consistent with the monadic principle as claimed and state that Jesus “Removed from Memory” the multitudes of people?
logos (λόγος) – favored TPW translation is “Spiritual Communication”
- Luke 6:46 – “Whoever is Coming to Me, and Hearing My Spiritual Communications, and Doing them, I will Give you Forewarning what he is like.”
- 1 Cor 4:19 – “. . . I will definitely not recognize the account of those being arrogant . . .”
- 1 Cor 4:20 – “For the Kingdom Rule of God definitely not in Word, but definitely in Miracle Power.” [Can we get a verb?]
Here a single Greek word gets translated three different ways. If the pure, single, specific meaning of logos is “Spiritual Communication,” why is it not translated that way in 1 Cor 4:19-20?
agapao (αγαπάω) – favored TPW translation is “God-Love”
- John 13:34 – “A New of a different kind Commandment I am Giving to you, that you should God-Love one to another . . .”
- John 3:19 – “. . . and men loved by their choice the darkness much more than the Light . . .”
- 2 Tim 4:10 – “Yet Demas has forsaken me, loving this current age and went to Thessalonica . . .”
If the pure, single, specific meaning of agapao is “God-Love,” as Miller claims even in his online promotional video, why does he refuse to translate it that way in John 3:19 and 2 Tim 4:10? Is it because “men God-Love the darkness” sounds heretical?
gune (γυνή) – is it “woman,” or “wife”?
- Luke 13:11 – “And Behold, a woman was having a spirit of infirmity eighteen years . . .”
- Eph 5:22 – “Wives, you must be for yourselves Continuously Subjecting to your own husbands as to the Lord.”
The word “woman” and “wife” overlap; in fact, “wife” is a subset of the larger category “woman.” If each Greek word has a single meaning that is not shared by any other word, which one does gune refer to, “woman” or “wife”?
de (δέ) – an extremely common conjunction
- 2 Pet 1:5 – “. . . you must have Fully Furnished by your Faith, Virtue, and by the Virtue, Knowledge.”
- Matt 23:25 – “. . . you cleanse the outward of the cup and platter, but inside from within you are being full of extortion, and lack of control.”
If every word has a pure, single, specific meaning, then does de mean “and” or “but”? Is it a connecting conjunction or is it contrastive?
angelos (ἄγγελος) – favored TPW translation is “angel”
- 1 Cor 6:3 – “Are you not now Spiritually Discerning that we shall Judge Angels, how much more yet this existence?”
- James 2:25 – “And likewise also was not Rahab the harlot Made Righteous by Works by God, humbly Receiving for herself the messengers, and Sent Away by another of a different kind way?”
Although Miller’s monadic hermeneutic dictates that the previously determined meaning “angel” should also be used in James 2:25, since the principle “prevents personal interjection, opinion or cultural influence” (Preface, p. iv), here he has clearly exposed his opinion that James 2:25 refers to Rahab, the woman in Joshua 2 who helped two Israelite spies. Thus Miller abandons his monadic principle in favor of his own opinion about what the text ought to say. The conclusion is correct, but it completely flies in the face of the novel method Miller claims he has used throughout this project.
helikos (ἡλίκος) – a Greek contronym
- Col 2:1- “For I would have you to be Discerning how great a conflict I have . . .”
- James 3:5 – “Even so the tongue is a little member, and Behold a great thing, how great an issue, a little fire starts a fire by our choice.”
Like English contronyms (e.g. apology, bill, clip, custom) the Greek word helikos can be used in two opposite ways. In this case it can refer to something great or small. How does a monadic hermeneutic deal with something like this? Immediate context rules out “small” in Col 2:1, and rules out “great” in James 3:5. Yet Miller’s claim is that “the single meaning of each word had to fit precisely into each and every instance in which that word was used” (Preface, p. iv). Obviously the monadic hermeneutic is a farce, and Miller has abandoned it when he wishes to avoid embarrassing himself too badly.
But wait, there’s more. Jesus tells a parable in Luke 8 of soils and a sower who spreads seed. Jesus specifically identifies the “seed” that the sower plants as the Word of God (Luke 8:11, TPW “the Spiritual Communication (Word) of God”). However, Miller translates each seed as “a seed of a different kind” because the word “another” is the Greek word heteros (ἑτερος). While such an understanding fits in some contexts, here it clearly violates the intent of Jesus. God was not sowing different gospels, or different kinds of “Spiritual Communication.” Rather the soils were different from each other and responded differently to the same kind of “seed.” This is the sort of place where Miller’s misplaced, novel method does serious injury to the text and reader by completely misrepresenting what the author is saying.
Finally, much of the text produced by Miller is simply unintelligible. Far from producing “an unambiguous and clear meaning of the original Greek,” he has instead produced a word salad. Doubt me? Try these out:
- Luke 6:37 – “And you must not by your choice be Continuously Judging, that also you should never ever be made Judged. Also you must by your choice Continuously not be Finally Judging Condemned. You must by your choice continuously Remove from Memory (forgive), that also you shall be Made Removed from Memory (forgiven).”
- Luke 8:15 – “But those in the God-Work Earth, they are these who in a God-Work Heart, and by God-Good, having Heard the Spiritual Word are holding fast and bearing Fruit by Endurance.”
- Rom 2:28 – “Because he is definitely not a Jew among the openly manifest, neither the circumcision in sinful flesh nature among the openly manifest.”
- Heb 2:16 – “Yet He took definitely not hold of Angels, but definitely, verily He Took Hold of Seed of Abraham.”
- Heb 5:7 – “Who in the Days of His (Sinless) Flesh Nature and with both Supplications and Requests with Mighty Strong Crying and Tears, to Who is being able to Save Him from Death, and was made Spiritually Heard for His God Fearing.”
Such treatment of the text does not reflect what the original audience would have either heard or understood, nor does it communicate the meaning of the NT to an English reader. Instead, it makes the Word of God unintelligible and incomprehensible. In my estimation, as one who has taught Greek to college students for many years, the work it would take to untangle this gibberish is greater than the work it would take to learn Koine Greek itself.
It is difficult to tell whether Miller is serious in this endeavor. Does he really believe in the monadic hermeneutic principle? If so, why does he violate it so often and so blatantly? Or perhaps this is just a con, a way to fleece gullible and unsuspecting church-goers who are taken in by his fantastic claims. Either way, readers are advised not waste their time or money with this “version,” nor to give any further consideration to such a wild scheme.