I’m not think about that “F” word.
I mean, what biblical grounds could there possibly be for chucking out a horrifying word like “frankincense“?
Are you a magi?
Are you bringing gifts to the incarnated son of God?
Well then, you’re thinking about the wrong “F” word MuckMouth!
Now that we’ve cleared up that constant misunderstanding, what “F” word am I referring to?
I’m referring to the word that gets tossed out when theological debates get heated. The word that gets tossed out when someone tries to take their misunderstanding of a biblical doctrine to it’s logical extension in order to portray how horrid it is. The word that gets chucked around when someone first learns that a favorite celebrity pastor/teacher holds to a doctrine that they have rejected through significant struggle/difficulty. I’m talking about the word that is used a bunch without any real clarity as to it’s meaning (or underlying and associated concepts).
I’m talking about the word “false“, almost always followed by “teacher” (though sometimes “prophet” or “brother” or “convert” or “gospel”). That specific word was thrown out a lot in the recent Strange Fire meltdown and is regularly getting stamped on a whole lot of people, movements and ideas.
Seeing that there’s so many wrongful understandings and applications of the word and it’s associated technical phrases (i.e. “false teacher” and “false gospel”), I thought it would be worthy of a rather exhaustive treatment that will hit a few dozen birds with one stone.
Let’s start with laying out a few points:1. The phrase “false prophet” never occurs in the Old Testament at all. The term “false prophet” comes from the Greek pseudoprophetes and is first used by Jesus himself in Matt. 7:15. The term pseudoprophetes (false prophets) is paralleled with pseudodidaskalos (false teachers) in the New Testament in 2 Pet. 2:1. This suggests that there’s a direct parallelism between the two concepts, though they’re different terms.
2. The term “false prophet” was also used by Jesus before the church was established, meaning that the office of “teacher” wasn’t given to the church either. Jesus was talking about “false prophets” in an Old Testament sense when he first mentioned the term. The only people running around claiming to talk for God, at least in the time of Matt. 7:15, were prophets.
3. Seeing that “false prophet” is strictly a New Testament expression, I will save the examination of the concept for later.
4. The adjective “false/lying” (pseudes/psuedos) is used to qualify many nouns in the New Testament:
Prophets – Matt. 7:15, 24 (24:11, 24), Mark 13:22, Luke 6:26, Acts 13:6, 2 Pet. 2, 1 Jo. 4:1, Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10.
Apostles – 2 Cor. 11:13
Brothers – 2 Cor. 11:26; Gal. 2:4
Teachers – 2 Peter 2:1 – It’s worth noticing that this is the only occurrence of the term in the entire New Testament (the “dollar word” for a term that appears once in the scripture is hapax legomenon – use that in a drive thru!).
Witnesses – Matt. 15:19, 26:59, 26:60; Acts. 6:13; 1 Cor. 15:15 (the actual term pseudomartyreo, which carries the idea of “lying about being a witness” or “deceitful witness” also occurs in the N.T. – Matt. 19:18; Mark 10:19, 14:56-57; Luke 18:20; Rom. 13:9.)
Christs – Matt. 24:24; Mark 13:22.
5. There’s a few other manifestations of the pseudes/psuedos word group in the New Testament:
– When pseudes/psuedos/pseuma (false) are all translated “lie” or “liar” in the N.T. – John 8:44; Rom. 1:25, 3:7; Eph. 4:25; 2 Thess. 2:9, 2:11; 1 John 2:21, 2:27; Rev. 2:2; 21:27, 21:8; 22:15.
– The noun usually translated “liar” is pseustēs – John 8:44, 55; Rom. 3:4; 1 Tim. 1:10; Tit. 1:12; 1 John 1:10, 2:4, 2:22, 4:20, 5:10.
– 1 Tim. 6:20 also contains the only usage of pseudonymos (falsely named).
– Titus 1:2 contains the term apseudes which is translated “cannot lie”.
– The term appears in the form of pseudomai, which carries the idea of “lying” or “lie” – Matt. 5:11; Acts 5:3-4; Rom. 9:1; 2 Cor. 11:31; Gal. 1:20; Col. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:7; Heb. 6:18; James 3:14; 1 John 1:6; Rev. 3:9.
So all this to say that the term “false” is applied widely to various nouns (brother, apostle, prophet, teacher, witness, Christs) and appears in several terms that carry a connotation of lying/falsehood.
It seems pretty straightforward.
A person who is a false witness is a person who either is lying about the fact that they’re a witness of something, or lying about what they’ve seen.
A person who is a false apostle is lying about the fact that they’re an apostle.
A person who is a false Christ is lying about the fact that they’re Jesus (and in case you laugh, there are at least 13 people living on earth right now who claim to be Jesus, though Arnold Potter is likely one my favorites, mostly because of this bold tract and how he was proven wrong…).
Back to the topic at hand now.
The term “false”, when applied to prophets, isn’t as much of a narrow technical descriptor as I had once thought. “False prophet” definitely isn’t a technical office separate from “false teacher”, like Michael Brown suggests in chapter seven of his book Authentic Fire. It’s a simple term that basically means either the prophet is lying about the fact that they’re a prophet and/or the prophet is claiming to speak for God but is actually lying in his name (and the two are basically synonymous; there’s no such thing as a prophet who doesn’t actually prophesy…).
Same goes for a false teacher. A false teacher isn’t a technical descriptor for a special type of heretic. Rather, a false teacher is a person who wrongly or deceitfully claims to be a teacher, or fill the biblical office of teacher (or pastor); I may go so far as to suggest that it’s a person who is marked by teaching unbiblical doctrine.
Isn’t that a little broad?
Well, yes. It’s not as broad as it sounds. It’s not like anyone who claims to be a pastor and is biblical unqualified is a “false teacher”…though that might be true. A biblically unqualified elder/pastor could equally (and more likely) be just that: biblically unqualified.
In order to really work out the biblical grounds for tossing out the “f” word, we need to hammer out the concept of false prophet. Seeing that “false teacher” appears only once in the entire Bible but is directly paralleled with “false prophet”, one must work through the concept in the scriptures. That’s my next post and that will set us up for my review of chapter seven of Michael Brown’s book Authentic Fire.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “clarifying terms is necessary but doesn’t make for exciting reading” Unger