by Maurice Barnett


Because brother Smelser introduced that Gospel Truths will not publish a continuing exchange between us, I must explain the reason for the reader’s benefit.  It has always been the policy of Gospel Truths that if someone objects to an article in the paper, he gets one response and a rejoinder by the original writer.  This policy was restated in the editorial column of the December, 2003 issue.  Every paper with which I have been associated has had the same policy.  Brother Smith has applied this policy fairly and uniformly.  He has even published articles with which he disagreed, allowing a response followed by a rebuttal by the original author and no more.  Further, brother Smith printed two articles from me and one from Willie Ramsey on Mark 10 within three consecutive issues and these were followed by brother Smelser’s response and my rejoinder.  No editor can just turn his paper over to an indefinite discussion like that.  If anyone wants a lengthier discussion, he must do it elsewhere or in another format.  What brother Belknap will do regarding our articles and his website is up to him.  I thank him for his willingness to post these articles.


Preliminary Remarks

Brother Smelser accuses me of having some hidden position to uphold and that I am more concerned about that than I am with the truth.  Here is what he says:

“Apparently, brother Barnett feels that some doctrinal position he holds concerning divorce and remarriage is jeopardized by understanding against her to mean against the first wife.  Because brother Barnett believes the words refer to the second woman, the woman in the adulterous relations, he feels the need to explain how the adultery is against her.”

Brother Smelser says it is “apparent” that this is what I’m doing but it is apparent only in his own mind.  He has no basis on which to read my mind as to what I “feel the need” to do or not do.  He later says:

“But when our efforts become exercises in ferreting out obscure theories that might shore up endangered positions, we ourselves are in danger of straying from the pursuit of truth.  We are in danger of defending a creed.”

It has been my experience in debates that when someone attacks the motives and integrity of his opponent it means he is frustrated because he cannot handle his opponents arguments and, at the same time, he must try to prejudice the hearers or readers against his opponent so they will give no consideration to what he says.  My conclusions come from my own study with a desire to know the truth.  It has never been any different.  Brother Smelser would do himself a service to present evidence for his position rather than question my character.  But, there is more.  He says:

“Remember, he wouldn’t have this problem if he understood the words against her to refer to the first wife.”

That works both ways:  “Remember, brother Smelser wouldn’t have this problem if he understood the words “against her” to refer to the second woman.”

But, while we are on the subject, we ask brother Smelser: just what position are you trying to establish?  Your articles and arguments are being used to support the position that the put away woman has the right, in some sense, to “put away” the man and remarry without sin after the man has first divorced her and married another woman.  Be sure to tell us.


What is he saying?

In reading brother Smelser’s material, any difficulty is not in answering his assertions and arguments but in trying to figure out just what he is saying.  At the very beginning of his first article, he says:

“There’s no denying the man commits adultery with the second wife. But is that really what this passage is saying?”

That statement is a strong implication that Mark 10:11 is not at all saying that the man commits adultery with the woman he marries.  Then in his last response, he says:

“Greek grammar does not necessitate our understanding the verse to say the man commits adultery either with or against the second woman.  If brother Barnett wishes to establish that that is what the verse means, he will need to build his case on something other than Greek Grammar.”

This sounds like he is denying that “commits adultery” has anything to do with literal, sexual relations with the woman the man marries!  This means that “commits adultery” has to be figurative only because the man cannot be committing literal sexual relations with the woman he divorced.  But, then he says:

“Let’s be clear about one thing here: There is no disagreement between brother Barnett and me about the fact that the man does indeed commit adultery with the second woman.”

Now it is the other way around.  The man does indeed commit adultery with the second woman.  But, brother Smelser is not finished.  Notice:

“But brother Barnett wants us to believe that if the man commits adultery with the second woman, he can’t be committing adultery against the first wife, and if he commits adultery against the first wife, he can’t be committing adultery with the second woman.”

Here he is contending for two definitions of “commits adultery.”  One is literal, physical, durative sexual intercourse with the second woman.  The other is some sort of figurative sexual intercourse with the woman he divorced.  But, there is more.  Note:

“The man commits adultery with someone, and he commits adultery against someone, but the prepositional phrase against her points to only one of these facts.  Our disagreement is about which of these facts is indicated by the prepositional phrase.”

Now it is adultery with the second woman based on “commits adultery” but is figurative because of  the prepositional phrase, “against her.”  Recall that he said, “Remember, he wouldn’t have this problem if he understood the words against her to refer to the first wife.”  So, it is not “commits adultery” that refers to the first woman but the prepositional phrase, “against her.”  Brother Smelser, do you really understand what you are talking about?

I have already shown, in previous material, that Matthew 19:9 and Mark 10: 11 are parallel accounts.  I have also shown that moichatai, commits adultery, is literal, durative, unlawful sexual relations between a man and a woman in every place it is found in the New Testament; it cannot be both literal and figurative at the same time.  At this point, we will look at brother Smelser’s splitting up the clause “commits adultery against her” and see just what the grammar tells us.


Sentence Structure

Apparently, brother Smelser insists that the preposition epi, cannot possibly mean “with,” and that the phrase, against her, absolutely must refer to the put away woman.  He says:

“Brother Barnett seems to have acknowledged that context will play a role in helping us to determine what the antecedent of the pronoun is......”  

Brother Smelser, I have insisted on context from the beginning.  I have discussed context from the first article.  I have asked more than once just where does the context of Mark 10 require that we understand epi with the accusative to mean “against?”  Where does the context require that “her” absolutely must refer to the first woman?  I have yet to get an answer to those questions while brother Smelser has treated us to nothing but assertions.  He just claims that his conclusions are true but presents no evidence.  Here is one of his statements already mentioned above:

“Greek grammar does not necessitate our understanding the verse to say the man commits adultery either with or against the second woman.  If brother Barnett wishes to establish that this is what the verse means, he will need to build his case on something other than Greek Grammar.”

As stated above, I have already shown the meaning of moichatai to be literal sexual relations from the parallels with Matthew 19:9 and Luke 16:18.  We know that moichatai, “commits adultery,” refers to literal, durative (continuous) unlawful sexual relations with a woman because of its grammatical form. We know that it is not an intransitive verb because one does not commit adultery by himself; it must be “with” someone.  It is thus transitive. The literal adultery cannot be with the put away wife because that relationship is broken.  The only one with whom he can be practicing the continuous adultery is the second woman, the one he marries.  Simple grammar, brother Smelser.  What was it you said?  We can’t understand that the man commits adultery either with or against the second woman from the grammar?

We get a view of brother Smelser’s handling of grammar by his interpretation of the clause “(he) commits adultery against her.”  Fitted in among his other statements, he tells us that “commits adultery” refers to the second woman and the prepositional phrase “against her” refers to the put away woman.  He also insists that we must consider the context and then he destroys the context by breaking up and rearranging the sentence.  I made the following points of grammar in my previous article but brother Smelser observed the passover.  So, I will expand on that material now and it’s going to involve grammar, which brother Smelser says doesn’t prove anything.  Well, we’ll see.

Prepositions originated as adverbs.  In koine Greek, they join the object of a preposition with an antecedent of the preposition.  This is true in both Greek and English.  William Mounce in his book, Basics of Biblical Greek, (an up-to-date, current, Greek grammar) page 55, 56 says, relative to a preposition in English:

“A preposition is a word that indicates the relationship between two words.  In the sentence, ‘The book is under the table,’ the preposition ‘under’ describes the relationship between ‘book’ and ‘table,’ which in this case is a spatial relationship.....The function of a preposition in Greek is the same as English.”

William B. Wallace in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, pages 356-7 (another current and widely used Greek grammar), says,

“Prepositions show how the verb connects to various objects....the accusative and dative are usually connected to a verb and the genitive is usually connected to a noun.”

Other Greek Grammars say the same thing.  Since the function of prepositions is the same in English as in Greek, we will add the following information.  It is from The English Sentence, A Grammar of the English Language by Jonathan Rigdon.  This book was the English grammar used for many years at Freed-Hardeman College.  The following is from pages 157-8.

“Prepositions are relation words, and relation implies two objects.  There are, therefore, always two terms of the relation expressed by a preposition.  These two terms are object and antecedent.  The object is the substantive governed by the preposition.  The antecedent is the term to which the preposition joins the substantive .... The object of a preposition is always a substantive.  It may be, a noun, a pronoun, an adverb, an adjective, an infinitive, a participle, a clause, a phrase ... The Antecedent of a preposition is the word the phrase limits.  It may be a verb, a noun, a pronoun, an adjective, an adverb, an interjection.”

Let’s apply this to our sentence in Mark 10:11.  “(he) commits adultery against her.”  In word order, this is the exact counterpart of the Greek phrase, moichatai epautein.  The object of the preposition is “her.”  The antecedent of the preposition is the verb, “commits adultery” (moichatai)  Commits adultery” and “her” are joined together by the preposition.

The action of “commits adultery,” moichatai, carries over by means of the preposition to the object of the preposition, “her.”  The pronoun is feminine, singular.  It can apply only to one person.  The action of the verb, “commits adultery,” applies only to that one person and no other.  Seeing that “commits adultery” refers to literal, durative sexual intercourse, which brother Smelser accepts, it can only refer to the woman with whom he is having that sexual intercourse and that is the second woman, the one he marries.

Regardless of what English word translates epi, whether upon, in reference to, against, regarding or with, the object of the preposition is the one who is linked directly to the verb.  The “her” of Mark 10:11 is directly involved in the durative sexual relations.  And, that means the second woman.  It is just elementary grammar, brother Smelser, Greek or English.

At the same time that brother Smelser is splitting up the sentence, as we just noted, he turns around and contends for dual definitions of terms.  He says:

“But brother Barnett wants us to believe that if the man commits adultery with the second woman, he can’t be committing adultery against the first wife, and if he commits adultery against the first wife, he can’t be committing adultery with the second woman.”

I want the reader to notice how brother Smelser slips and slides around on the clause.  He first denies that commits adultery refers to the woman the man marries, then he splits the sentence and makes “commits adultery” refer to the woman the man marries and “against her” to the woman he divorced.  Now he wants to define “commits adultery” to mean literal sex with the second woman and figurative with the first one.

 Brother Smelser uses Joseph and Potiphar’s wife to prop up his contention.  He thinks he has a passage that proves he can split up the sentence (first one way and then another) in Mark to apply to both women.  He says:   

“In Genesis 39:9, Joseph refused to lie with Potipher’s wife saying, ‘How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?’  Had Joseph lain with Potipher’s wife, wouldn’t he have been sinning with her, and also sinning against God  Indeed he would have.  And we might add that he would have been sinning against Potipher.  Surely we have no difficulty in understanding that.  That should help us to understand how adultery can be both with someone, and against someone else.”

Notice brother Smelser’s attempt to get two meanings of the same act by using the word “sin.”  That is, Joseph “sinned” with the woman and “sinned” against God which is supposed to give us two meanings of the word “sin” in keeping with what he wants to establish in Mark 10.

 First, Potiphar’s wife kept after Joseph, saying, “lie with me.”  That meant have literal, sexual intercourse with her.  Notice that there is a verb, “lie,” a preposition, “with,” and an object of the preposition, “me.”  “Lie” is tied to “me” by the preposition and it refers to no other person than Potiphar’s wife.

We can fine tune that even more.  “Commit adultery with me.”  “Commit adultery” is the verb, “with” the preposition and “me” the object of the preposition who was only one person, the one who received the action of the verb.  Sounds like Mark 10:11, doesn’t it?

Second, it would be a “sin against God” because “sin is the transgression of law.”  This underlies every rule God has made whether it is stated or not.  Inherent in the word “adultery” is “sin against God.”  It is the nature of the word itself.  But, we know this because the Bible tells us specifically that violating any law of God is sin; that defines “sin.”  Further notice, “sin” is the verb, “against” is the preposition and “God” is the object.  The sin in this statement is directed only against God.

Now, let’s apply this again to Mark 10:11, “(he) commits adultery against her.”  “Commits adultery” is unlawful, literal sexual intercourse, which is the verb in the sentence.  “Against” is the preposition that ties the unlawful, literal sexual intercourse to the object of the preposition, “her.”  Potiphar’s wife said, “lie with me.”  Injecting any other person into that sentence requires that he or she be specified.  Potiphar’s wife did not acknowledge God and so Joseph introduces Him into the matter by adding “and” sin against God.  In order to get another person to begin with, the first wife in Mark 10:11, into “commits adultery against her,” requires that she be specified.  To put the divorced woman into the verb, moichatai, is nothing but imaginative assumption.  To put her into the preposition, epi, is nothing but imaginative assumption.  To put her into the pronoun, autein, is nothing but imaginative assumption.  I ask again, where does the context require brother Smelser’s contention? 

To illustrate the point, look at Mark 9:13.  “But I say unto you, that Elijah is come, and they have also done unto him whatsoever they would, even as it is written of him.”  “Is written” is the verb followed immediately with epauton, epi with an accusative personal pronoun, “of him.”  The preposition ties the verb and object of the preposition together.  Jesus focuses only on the Old Testament writings that referred to a single person, John the Baptist.  Were there things written in the Old Testament about any other individuals?  Certainly.  Jesus and Judas come to mind, but they are not contained in the above statement Jesus made; we must go to other passages to find that information.  In the same way, any doctrinal consequence regarding the put away wife in “commits adultery against her” must be found in some passage other than Mark 10 because that verse does not say it.

Regarding antecedents of pronouns, brother Smelser continues with nothing but his assertions.  When there are two eligible antecedents to a pronoun, the nearest substantive is to be considered the antecedent.  Exceptions to that occur when the context requires we understand the remote substantive as the antecedent.  But, there must be some compelling reasons why we absolutely must take the remote substantive.  I have asked before and still ask:  Where in the context of Mark 10:11 are we required to take the remote substantive as the antecedent when the nearest substantive fits the context, and the truth, very well?  I’m still waiting for brother Smelser to answer that.  I have presented grammatical evidence that the woman the man marries is the antecedent of the pronoun.

Brother Smelser refers to the Majority Text as the “so-called majority text,” a belittling expression.  To him, these texts and any translations from them are nonstandard, substandard, inferior or the like.  If interested, I suggest that the readers obtain material on both sides of the controversy over texts and make their own judgments.  Brother Smelser has identified himself as siding with one wing of modern scholarship and wants to be our advisor on what texts and translations will be acceptable.  He wants to tell us what is the “Standard” for inspired texts and what translation we must look to.  I’m not willing to accept that.

Brother Smelser criticizes the documents and text behind the King James and Majority Text in favor of those based on the Vaticanus and Alexandrian manuscripts.  In view of his preference for these manuscripts, and their derivatives, I want him to explain to all of us if he believes that the last twelve verses of Mark, including Mark 16:15-16, should be stricken from our New Testaments.  We might add, to these deletions, enough words, phrases and verses of the New Testament that take up the same space as first and second Peter.  Since he is going to tell all of us what texts and translations make up the inspired word of God, we need to know what we should believe, preach and practice and what we shouldn’t.  If he tells us that he accepts the inclusion of those “deleted” verses as genuine New Testament, then his prejudice against the Receptus and Majority Texts means nothing.  A maybe yes, maybe no won’t do.  Which is it, brother Smelser?  We want to know.


My “Lexical Litany”

This is what brother Smelser calls all of the lexical scholars that I have brought as witnesses to the varied meaning of epi.   The word “litany” as used by brother Smelser means “a tedious recital.”  I’m sure he does consider it tedious, seeing that he doesn’t agree with them.  Brother Smelser made no comment on the Brown and Comfort Interlinear, based on the UBS Greek text where they use “with” in Mark 10:11.  Nor did he deal with Zondervan’s Interlinear based on the Nestle text.  Nor did he say anything about Bullinger’s Lexicon.  Perhaps these were just oversights.

Speaking of oversight, I do want to point out James Strong.  Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and Hebrew-Greek Dictionary is one of the most widely used reference works in the world today.  A large number of other books are cross-referenced to Strong, using his numbering system for Bible research and study.  Brother Smelser probably won’t consider it a “Standard” work but other moderns do.  I have the latest edition, the “New” Strong’s published by Thomas Nelson Publishers.  In the Publishers Preface, they say:

“Comprehensive Hebrew and Greek Dictionary improvements include: new enlarged type; hundreds of corrections and updated entries, including corrections of outright errors, inconsistencies, variant readings, and syllabification of pronunciations; consistent abbreviations throughout; clarification of obscure terminology; and updated, reader-friendly introductions.”

That sounds pretty up-to-date to me.  And, what does Strong’s say under epi (#1909) with accusative?  Strong lists “with” among the uses.  We are going to come back to Strong’s shortly when we talk about Nigel Turner to see what else Strong’s has to say on our subject.  

I am going to show through the rest of this article that my “litany” of lexicons are vindicated and his “Standard” authorities are the ones that fall short of the facts.

Bass:  Brother Smelser says of Bass’s Manual Lexicon that it was “a small rudimentary lexicon published in 1851.  It was in fact pocket size.”   So, his point must be that we should dismiss what Bass says because he considers it just “rudimentary,” very small in size, that little tiny book.  So, must we conclude that Bass was either ignorant or lied when he used “with” as one application of epi with accusative? 

As a point of fact, the pages of Bass’s Lexicon were just three inches by four and three-quarters inches in size.  The print was extremely small so that it could be published as a pocket edition that people could easily carry around with them.  That was a testimony to its popularity.  At that, there were 246 pages in it!  If the type was increased to a 12 or 13 point font, it would have made a large volume.  In the introductory remarks of this Lexicon, it says:

“While every thing has been retained which adapted it to the wants of the mere learner, the author has aimed to accommodate it also (as far as its limits would permit) to the use of those whose perusal of the sacred volume is more critical and discriminating.  The careful distribution of the definitions into separate heads, the references to passages in which words are used in peculiar acceptations, and the examples quoted of unusual combinations of language, will in this light, he trusts, be regarded as improvements, and, with others, render the work more extensively useful.”

Bass was very careful and thorough in his scholarship as well as physical structure of the volume.  He does not deserve any “put down.”

Laing: Brother Smelser says about Laing, “According to Laing himself, this was designed to be an ‘elementary work.’  It was primarily intended to serve as a guide to pronunciation with particular emphasis on vowel quantity.  Beyond that its discussions truly are elementary.”  My, my.  What is “elementary” must be unreliable if not totally false if we are to understand brother Smelser’s statement at all.  Brother Smelser is a teacher of Greek.  He has a website and offers courses for a fee.  Does brother Smelser teach elementary Greek?  Surely that is where he starts with new students.  I wonder if he tells them that the “elementary” Greek that he teaches them is not really reliable because it’s elementary?  What brother Smelser has overlooked in Laing’s Preface is the following:

“Though much was to be supplied from his own researches, the Author is anxious to acknowledge  his obligations to former writers of whose labours he has made free use, particularly Stephens, Scapula, Schleusner, Parkhurst, Leigh, Matthie, &c., in the grammatical part......”

Laing’s work was much more than just pronunciation.  It also dealt with grammar and word meaning.  Was Laing ignorant or dishonest in listing “with” as an application of epi? 

Robinson:  Brother Smelser says that the 1825 edition of Robinson’s Lexicon was his first effort and was just a translation of Wahl’s Lexicon.  From that point alone, I suppose, we are to reject the 1825 Robinson.  However, brother Smelser adds that by the 1850 edition that Robinson had learned better and dropped the word, “with,” from his lexicon.  But, brother Smelser overlooks some things.  Apparently, he just doesn’t know the facts.

First, Wahl has always been considered an outstanding lexicon of N.T. Greek.  Second, Robinson said in the introduction to the 1825 edition:

“In translating from a language in which the significations of the words are in most cases so general as in the Latin, there is a great difficulty in seizing the exact shade of meaning, and expressing it in an English definition.  Hence it became necessary to recur constantly to the original Greek, and to form the definitions from the Testament itself, rather than from the very general Latin definitions either of Wahl or Schleusner.  This, of course, caused a great amount of additional labour; but the value of the work, it is hoped, will be found increased in at least an equal proportion.”

Third, brother Smelser asserts that Robinson “thought better” of his using “with” for epi with the accusative by his 1850 edition and removed it.  For those who are familiar with Robinson, they recognize in him the same thing that has happened with a number of men as they get older; they also tend to become liberal in their attitude toward the Bible.  This was the case with Robinson.  On pages 118-119 of his 1850 edition, he says that “baptism” cannot refer to “full immersion” because, in his thinking, there wasn’t enough water in Jerusalem to baptize thousands of people in one day.  That is a silly liberal idea that isn’t in the 1825 edition where he just said that baptism was immersion.   In 1850, page 791, Robinson said that “psallo” meant singing “as accompanying stringed instruments.”  That’s another liberal idea that isn’t in the 1825 edition.  Does brother Smelser think that Robinson “thought better” in regard to baptism and singing in worship as he got older?

After saying this, I do recognize that no lexical writer is without mistakes, but the basis on which brother Smelser discusses them is without merit.

Parkhurst: Brother Smelser does indeed cite a revision of Parkhurst made by Hugh Rose, a revision that was extensively changed by Rose to suit himself.  Parkhurst was dead by the time Rose published his “new edition.”  I was citing the original work by Parkhurst.  Parkhurst, to my knowledge, is the only linquist who independently wrote a major lexicon on both the Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek.  Both works were outstanding.  I quote first from the introduction of his second of four editions of his Hebrew Lexicon, which is indicative of his careful attention to his work, and the second quotation is from the first of three editions of his Greek Lexicon  :

“Now, in fixing the leading sense of each Root, after carefully and constantly consulting the ancient versions (I mean those of the LXX and Vulg. together with the Chaldee Targums, and the fragments of the Hexaplar versions of Aguila, Symmachus, Theodotion, &c. published by Montfaucon), I have endeavoured as much as possible to let the Holy Scriptures, on a diligent and close examination and comparison of the several texts, speak for themselves, well knowing that nothing cuts a diamond like a diamond.” 

“All I can say for myself in these respects is, that I have honestly and conscientiously done my best, nor have I knowingly and wilfully misrepresented a single word of expression, nor paid a regard to the opinions of any man, or number of men whatever, further than they appeared to me agreeable to the sacred Oracles, and to the analogy of the Greek Tongue.”

Parkhurst was very careful in writing his Lexicons, and regardless of what a later editor did to his work, Parkhurst listed “with” as a meaning of epi with the accusative.

Nigel Turner:  Brother Smelser claims that I have staked my “case” on antecedents and Nigel Turner.  That’s nothing but wishful thinking on brother Smelser’s part.  As I said in my last article, I am not interested in defending Turner.  He was just one of many linguists that I cited.  I also said that they cannot be brushed aside as of no consequence.

But, brother Smelser has said that he has made a deep study of Turner on this point.  This is why brother Smelser has made such an issue of Turner.  Also, according to brother Smelser, all of the linguists who agree with Turner, such as Hanna and Alfred Marshall, can be dismissed because Turner is wrong to begin with and, therefore, they are wrong.  While brother Smelser deals primarily with epi in the Septuagint, it is the Hebrew preposition, el, that is the center of controversy.  In view of his insistent pursuit of this matter, I think it is necessary to point out some facts that brother Smelser does not tell the reader.

The Hebrew preposition in Jeremiah 5:8, is “el.  The word is a multifaceted word in meaning, just like its counterpart, epi, is in Greek.  It is variously translated.  Among the possible applications is “with,” just like “epi” in the New Testament.  I’m going to present yet another “litany of lexicons” and other authorities for brother Smelser, which he won’t like, but they should have meaning for the reader.  These bear on the Hebrew Old Testament.

Among the Hebrew Lexicons that give “with,” as a meaning for el, in the range of applications in the Old Testament are the following: Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon of over 1500 pages by Julius Fuerst, Third Edition, p. 88.  Hebrew and English Dictionary by W.L. Roy, p. 29.  Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary by Alexander Harkavy, p. 24.  Langenscheidt’s Pocket Hebrew Dictionary, by Dr. Karl Feyerabend, p.16.  Of those Lexicons that also say that it means “together with” are the following:  Gesenius, translated by Edward Robinson, p. 51.  Gesenius, translated by Samuel Tregelles, p. 47.  Brown, Driver, Briggs, p. 40, #413 with Strong’s numbering.  Benjamin Davies, revised by Edward C. Mitchell, p. 38.  And, let’s not leave Strong’s Dictionary off the list.  Under el (#413), Strong’s lists “with,” just as he does under epi.

Further, Genesis 4:8 translates el in “Cain talked with Abel” in the KJV.  The Hebrew-English Interlinear by J.P. Green, also translates “with” in Genesis 4:8.  In Lamentations 3:41 it is “with our hands” in the KJV and ASV.  In Daniel 11:23 it is “the league made with him.” In the KJV, ASV and NASV. 

The exact same range of possible meanings attach to both el and epi.  In Jeremiah 5:8, el in Hebrew is epi in the Septuagint.  There is thus, after all, a foundation for Turner’s contention on that passage and on Mark 10:11.  And, there was enough evidence for Hanna and Marshall, and no doubt others, that they agreed with him, enough so that they put it into print.  But, let’s cut to the chase.


Hebrews 8:8

Brother Smelser has contended that not only does epi not mean, in any sense, “with” or “in concert with” in Mark 10:11 but has denied that there is any place in the New Testament where it means any such thing.  Here is what he said in his first response to me, followed by another in his second response:

“What context could we imagine wherein the root idea upon would in effect end up meaning with, i.e., in concert with? In fact, there is no other NT passage where epi is understood to mean such a thing.”

“Brother Barnett has yet to cite any New Testament passage where a case can be made that epi with accusative is generally understood to mean with.  The standard lexicon of New Testament Greek, in its thorough treatment of the preposition epi, makes no allowance for the idea that the preposition could mean with when used with the accusative case.”  

What brother Smelser has formed is what is called in logic a “Universal Negative” expressed in a proposition as “none are.”   That is written out this way: “No verse in the New Testament uses epi with accusative to mean ‘with’ or ‘in concert with’.”  That is a universal negative proposition.  Brother Smelser has staked his entire position on that universal negative.  All of his assertions, his “Standard” works, his criticism of my “Litany of Lexicons” and his position on Mark 10:11 are all based on that universal negative. 

In the logical square of opposition, it takes only one contradictory to prove a universal negative to be false.  In fact, there is more than one such passage in the New Testament but we will focus on Hebrews 8:8 at this point.

“But God found fault with the people and said: ‘The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.’” NIV

It reads the same in the King James, New King James, American Standard, New American Standard, New American Standard Update (1995), Revised Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, The New English Bible, Todays English Version, and so on.  In this “litany” of translations are some of brother Smelser’s “Standard translations” based on his “Standard texts.”  The Greek text has epi with the accusative and it is translated specifically the way it could not possibly be, according to brother Smelser.

What does brother Smelser have to say about Hebrews 8:8.  Well, just take a look at the maneuvering and suppositions he presents to get around it.  Just look at the backflips he takes, jumping first one way and then another, to get “with” deleted from Hebrews 8:8!  Shame on him.  He is doing the very thing he claims others do plus he completely abandons all he wrote at the beginning about sticking with the “Standard” works.  Let’s look at some of the things brother Smelser says.

“In Heb. 8:8, at least brother Barnett can point to English translations that actually use the word with where the Greek text has epi.  But the fact that an English translation of a phrase may use the word with is not the same thing as saying epi itself means with.  Brother Barnett needs epi to actually mean with to support his argument in Mark 10:11.”

Here is a reference I gave in my last article.  It is from A.T. Robertson in his monumental grammar, page 602:

 “In personal relations hostility is sometimes suggested though epi in itself does not mean ‘against.’”

Perhaps Robertson is not “Standard” enough for brother Smelser but Robertson stated the fact there.  “With” is just as much a meaning for epi as is “against.”  I don’t have to prove that “with” is inherent in epi in order to understand that epi means “with” in some passages.  According to brother Smelser’s logic, he must prove that “against” is inherent in epi before that can be used in some passages.  There is a list of varied applications of epi.  Brother Smelser makes rules for others that he doesn’t follow himself.  But, here is something else he says:

“Brother Barnett asks, ‘Just how would brother Smelser have Mark 10:11 to read?’  The ASV, KJV, NAS, MKJB, NIV, RSV, NRSV, NLT and ESV all translate it so as to say the man who puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.  At this point, I’m happy with that rendering.”

I wonder why brother Smelser has the King James in that list?  Since it is quite old and based on the Receptus text, he doesn’t think it is a “Standard” translation and thus of no value; he has to throw that one out.  Anyway, I can just as well say:

“The KJV, NKJV, NIV, ASV, NASV, NASVU, RSV, NRSV, TEV, NEB, Amplified Bible and Young’s Literal all translate so as to say that God made a covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.  At this point, I’m happy with that rendering.”

That works just as well for me as it does for him.  And, I have more translations in my list than he has in his.  But, here is a real gem from him about Hebrews 8:8:

“Though the Septuagint is quoted, the verb used in the Greek text represents a departure from the text as found in the Septuagint.  The meaning of the verb used here is to complete or to bring to accomplishment.  With the preposition epi, the idea is ‘I will bring to accomplishment upon (for) the house of Israel and upon (for) the house of Judah a new covenant.’  (See  Alford, Barmby, Milligan, Rienecker.)  But translators have tended to render the whole phrase ‘make (a covenant) with....’  Why this is done, I can only speculate.”

Then brother Smelser launches into speculation.  Now, let’s just use his gymnastics with the verb while using the preposition in the “Standard” translations.

I will bring to accomplishment with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant.”

That makes sense.  Here is another translation of this passage made by Louw and Nida in their Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, 13.88.  This is surely a modern “Standard Lexicon.”  True to the text and clearly stated, it says:

 “I will bring into existence a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah.”

Has the reader noticed that brother Smelser has not only retranslated epi with the accusative to get rid of the meaning “with” in this passage but he has also retranslated the verb to try to accommodate the change in prepositions so it will all conform to his position?  All of his attempts to get around the passage just will not work.  After everything is said and done, all of what he called my “Litany of Lexicons” were right and his “Standard” references are the ones that are mistaken.

Here is a question that needs answering.  With so many translations, from the King James to the most recent versions, all of them translating epi with the accusative in Hebrews 8:8 “with,” why have brother Smelser’s “Standard Lexicons” failed to include “with” as a possible meaning under epi?  I’m not going to speculate on that but somebody goofed and brother Smelser has based his universal negative on their mistake.



Brother Smelser says:  “Brother Barnett completely misunderstands the Greek expression epi to auto.  This is the sort of case brother Barnett has made, and it is not credible.”  So, brother Smelser then tells us the following:

“In I Cor. 7:5, brother Barnett has in mind the phrase, ‘may be together again,’ and from the word together brother Barnett infers the meaning with.  The word together represents the Greek phrase, epi to auto.  But epi is not translated with, nor is it understood to mean with, nor even is it, in and of itself, understood to mean together.  Rather the whole expression epi to auto is translated together.”

Yes, brother Smelser, I have been aware all along that the phrase epi to auto is what is translated “together.”  But, how in the world did epi with an accusative pronoun become a stock phrase meaning “together” if epi with an accusative never has even a particle of the meaning of “with?”   I will remind brother Smelser again of what he said in his first article:

“What context could we imagine wherein the root idea upon would in effect end up meaning with, i.e., in concert with?”

“Together” means “in concert with,” which he, himself, says is the meaning of “with.”  According to Webster, one meaning of “together” is “with each other” and that means the same thing as “in concert with.”  Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 7:5 to see what it says:

“Defraud ye not one the other, except it be by consent for a season, that ye may give yourselves unto prayer, and may be together again, that Satan tempt you not because of your incontinency.”

This is talking about stopping sexual relations for a short while, a voluntary abstinence, to give each other time for prayer and spiritual uplifting.  Nothing is even implied that either of them would be leaving the house; they are still in the same place as far as the text says.  Look at the passage.  “Be together again” (epi to auto) is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.  They are shortly to resume sexual intercourse lest they be tempted to wrongdoing because of continued abstinence.  And, sexual intercourse is something that one only does “with” another.  Further, in other passages, to come together “in one place” still means something people do “with” each other.  After all, one person, alone, does not “come together in one place” by himself.

Now, with all of brother Smelser’s maneuvering, Hebrews 8:8 and I Corinthians 7:5 contradict his universal negative which means it is false.  My “Litany of Lexicons” were correct.  In some places, epi with the accusative means “with.”


Concluding thought

I want brother Smelser to remember the two questions I asked him to answer.  (1) Is it your position that after a man’s unlawul remarriage that his divorced wife can then “put him away” and remarry with God’s approval?   (2) Are the last twelve verses of Mark 16, including verses 15-16, along with numerous other words, verses and phrases, a part of the New Testament or must they be deleted as uninspired?  Don’t forget.  We want to know.