Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Lordship Salvation's 'Notorious' Error : Lexical Study of "Save Your Souls" (James 1:21)

In an email correspondence, I brought Frank Turk to task for the huge lexical error he submitted in his debate against Jodie Sawyer. He replied by email:
If your view of lexical errors is this high, you need to go and review the justification Jodie uses for substituting "life" for "soul" in James 1:21 for the word "psuche". Even /if/ it is technically correct, she then conflates the idea of "the substance of life" with the idea of "the days of my living" to reach her conclusion there. I'm sure you won't find what she has done "dishonorable" even if it is just as notorious an error as mine.

Is the substituting of “life” for “soul” in James 1:21 for the Greek ‘psyche’ “just as notorious an error” as getting 50 occurrences wrong in his lexical assertions about the Greek verb ‘sozo’ in his debate with Jodie? Is the sense “days of my living” unsubstantiated (as his lexical assertions were)? Is the ‘substitution’ even in error at all? This post will answer that question. It will prove that the more attested rendering in James 1:21 is “… which is able to save your lives."

By most evangelical scholorship, the Epistle of James was written very early, many claiming that it was the very first book written in the New Testament canon. A.D. 44-48 seems to be the range given by conservative Evangelical commentators. James’ intended audience were Jewish Christians (cf: James 1:1 with the evidence that his intended audience was a community of believers: 1:18; 2:1, 7; 5:7).

The common language of the then-known world at that time was Koine Greek. The Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) were translated sometime between the 3rd and 1st centuries B.C. into Koine Greek, in what is now known as the Septuagint. Also, known as the LXX, the Septuagint is a rich resource for Koine Greek word studies, for it is roughly three times the size of the New Testament, and such studies net authoratative results because of wide and plentiful usage of words.

In language, common usage will determine the meaning of words, and also phrases; these phrases can become widely and popularly engrained into a language. Languages are full of rich idiomatic expressions that convey meaning to those who share a particular tongue.

When studying the Bible, it is wise to research words and phrases doing word studies so that the common meanings and senses can be gleaned. It is a mistake of high proportion to import into the words of the Bible current understandings. It is imperative to understand the words, phrases, and clauses of the Bible in the way that its 1st century readers/hearers would have.

In the current debate on the Epistle of James, the verb “sozo” (= “to deliver, save”) is of particular interest. It is used 5 times in the epistle, and in a few hotly debated verses (James 1:21; 2:14; 5:20).

The author of this post has done a word study on the Greek word “sozo” in his last entry: New Testament Occurrences of ‘sozo’. He found that out of 108 occurrences of the word, 65 represented a temporal deliverance of some kind or another, and only 42 had a soteriological import (1 was found to have both senses present). Percentage wise, 61% were temporal and only 39% were soteriological.

In a word study of the Septuagint we find that the Greek word “soteria” (salvation) and its cognate “sozo” (save) in their contexts, where they are found 319 times in the Masoretic Text (363 occurrences minus the 44 times the noun appears as proper names), means “[to] deliver[ance] from temporal calamaties” – such as circumstances that cause death, from enemies, troubles, physical maladies, etc.; both individually and nationally - in the greatest majority of the times they are found, upwards of 98% of occurences. Only a relatively few passages have spiritual contexts to the salvation being discussed. Yet even in the instances that the terms "save" and "salvation" carry a sense of spiritual salvation in these minimally few OT passages, there is no explicit instance where the term appears solely with a spiritual nuance. In a study Rene Lopez of Dallas Seminary did of each occurrence of the words, he could not find even one instance where the words in their contexts had a justification-salvation-only meaning: Salvation in the Old Testament – From What.

What does this say about the Greek reader of the New Testament? That he obviously would not consider the meaning “salvation from hell” for the Greek words “soteria” and “sozo” (salvation and save, respecively) as the first, knee-jerk option when he read it. This would be especially true for the early Jewish Christian readers of James, absorbed as they would have been both in Koine Greek and the Septuagint (which was read in their synagogues).

Moulton and Milligan in their Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (pg 620) under “sozo” give only temporal usages of the verb, of course including saving of the physical life (they even give an example where “psyche” is the object of “sozo”). There is not even one occurrence of a spiritual (let alone soteriological) usage of the word in all their findings.

BAGD (2nd Edition, 1958, pg 893), the standard Greek lexicon, gives the entries “of life on earth in its external, physical aspects” and “earthly life itself” for psyche (soul/life).

Of great interest in James is 1:21:

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls

This is the first instance of “sozo” in his epistle, and can give an indication of the type of “saving” he has in mind in the remainder.

We need to pay special attention to the phrase “save your souls”.

"It remains for scholors of historical theology to discern how this phrase ever became connected with the idea of deliverance from hell. It is never used that way in the Bible, and such an idea would have been foreign to any Jewish reader of the New Testament."

"Because the meaning is definitely established from other passages, there is no reason to abandon it in the Epistle of James, no reason except the interests of Perseverance theology. Here we have a case where the Traditionalist meaning “deliver from hell,” is absolutely without parallel in biblical or extra-biblical literature, and yet it is accepted as the starting point for understanding the meaning in James." (Joseph Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, pgs 116-17)

This phrase, “sozo” with “psyche” as its object (“save [your] souls”), is found eleven times in the Septuagint (LXX), and in each case it has the notion of preserving one’s physical life.

"It is unfortunate that most interpreters of James are either unaware of this data or dismiss it as irrelevant. Whenever linguistic evidence of this type is ignored, faulty interpretation is almost inevitable" (Zane Hodges, The Epistle of James: Proven Character Through Testing, pg 41).

Let us now give consideration to this most important phrase:


The following references are every occurrence of phrases consisting of the Greek verb “sozo” (= “to deliver, save”) with the Greek noun “psyche” (= “life, soul”) as its object found within the Koine Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, called the Septuagint (LXX).

Septuagint References (with any English Parallels)

(1) Genesis 19:17
(2) Genesis 32:31 (= English Genesis 32:30)
(3) 1 Kings 19:11 (= English 1 Samuel 19:11)
(4) Amos 2:14
(5) Amos 2:15
(6) Job 33:28
(7) Psalms 71:13 (= English Psalms 72:13)
(8) Jeremiah 31:6 (= English Jeremiah 48:6)
(9) Psalms of Solomon 17:17 (= English Psalms of Solomon 17:19)
(10) Judith 10:15
(11) 1 Maccabbees 9:9

Word Study of Every Occurrence of “sozo” with “psyche” as its object in the LXX

(1) Genesis 19:17
σωζε την σεαυτου ψυχην
“Save (sozo) the life (psyche) of yourself!”

Genesis 19:17
So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said,” Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed."

The angels warned Lot and his family to flee from the temporal destruction of Sodom, so as to preserve their physical lives.

(2) Genesis 32:31 (= English Genesis 32:30)
εσωθη μου η ψυχη
“My life (psyche) was saved (sozo).”

Genesis 32:30
So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."

After wrestling with God, Jacob called the place of his pugilism with the Angel of the Lord (a theophany) Peniel (meaning face to face) for he had seen God face to face and yet he did not physically die.

(3) 1 Kings 19:11 (= English 1 Samuel 19:11)
σωσης την ψυχην σαυτου
“Save (sozo) your life (psyche).”

1 Samuel 19:11
Saul also sent messengers to David's house to watch him and to kill him in the morning. And Michal, David's wife, told him, saying, "If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed."

Michal, David’s wife, said he must flee or physically die in the morning, so she sent him out the window.

(4) Amos 2:14
σωση την ψυχην αυτου
“…will save (sozo) his life (psyche).”

Amos 2:14
Therefore flight shall perish from the swift,
The strong shall not strengthen his power,
Nor shall the mighty deliver himself;

Discussing God’s coming temporal wrath on the Northern Tribes of Israel, the Lord, during the reign of Jereboam II, pronounces through Amos that not even the ‘strong’ or ‘mighty’ shall be able to deliver themselves from the coming temporal calamities due to their unrighteous activities (see Amos 2:6-8).

(5) Amos 2:15
σωση την ψυχην αυτου
“…will save (sozo) his life (psyche).”

Amos 2:15
He shall not stand who handles the bow,
The swift of foot shall not escape,
Nor shall he who rides a horse deliver himself.

Continuing from verse 14, The Lord, through Amos, relates that not even the fighting men of valor shall escape His judgment. See also note on Amos 2:14.

(6) Job 33:28
σωσον ψυχην μου
“He will save (sozo) my life (psyche)”

Job 33:28
'He has redeemed my soul from going to the pit,
And my life shall see the light.'

In Elihu’s poetic and spirited speech to Job, Elihu relates that the man who repents, saying, “I have sinned, and perverted what is right, and it did not profit me” (Job 33:27) will be saved from the destructive principles of his sin. In both Job 33:18 and 33:22, we see that one’s experience with the “pit” is paralleled (remember that this is poetic parallelism) with physical death: “perishing by the sword” (v 18) and “draw[ing] near to the executioners” (v 22). “Pit” is used here figuratively, a euphemism, for the “grave,” implying one’s bodily death (see any Hebrew lexicon for “shachath,” Strongs #7845). See Psalms 30:9 and 55:23 for more substantiation on the figurative use of “pit” describing physical death. “Going down to the pit”, the result of unrighteousness, is also contrasted with “flesh” being like a “child’s” (Job 33:25a) and a man returning unto “the days of his youth” (Job 33:25b). Also, cross-reference “see[ing] the light” of Job 33:28 (the result of one’s life being saved from death, the grave) and “be[ing] enlightened with the light of life” of Job 33:30 (the result of one’s life being turned from death, the grave). This is the result of the man’s repentance! Whereas unrighteous activity will bring one to death (see Proverbial literature after this word study), repentance will avert death and bring a meaningful life: “the light of life”. Elihu’s rich and prosaic language should not be misunderstood! He is speaking to Job who is in the middle of a temporal and physical tragedy. Job’s friends believe that his physical infirmities are a result of his sin, and that he needs to repent so as to avert his temporal/physical demise.

(7) Psalms 71:13 (= English Psalms 72:13)
και ψυχας πενητων σωσει
“…and He shall save (sozo) [the] lives (psyche) of [the] needy.”

Psalms 72:13
He will have compassion on the poor and needy,
And the lives of the needy [H]e will save.

Speaking of the Messiah, Solomon states that in His earthly reign that He will save from death the lives of the needy. Speaking of the same group of needy people, Solomon continues, “He will rescue their life from oppression and violence; And their blood will be precious in his sight” (Psalms 72:14).

(8) Jeremiah 31:6 (= English Jeremiah 48:6)
σωσατε τας ψυχας υμων
“Save (sozo) your lives (psyche)!”

Jeremiah 48:6
"Flee, save your lives!
And be like the juniper in the wilderness.”

The Lord, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, speaks of the coming judgment on Moab, telling them to save their lives by fleeing, becoming like the juniper that “ekes out its stunted growth in the wilderness, hiding in crevices of rock” (Notes in the Nelson Study Bible, pg 1305).

(9) Psalms of Solomon 17:17 (= English Psalms of Solomon 17:19)
σωθηναι ψυχας αυτων
“To save (sozo) their lives (psyche)”

Psalms of Solomon 17:19
They wandered in deserts that their lives might be saved from harm, And precious in the eyes of them that lived abroad was any that escaped alive from them.
Gray Translation, 1913

The writer of this Apocryphal book is speaking of righteous Jews who escaped from the hands of idolatrous Jews and pagans.

(10) Judith 10:15
σεσωκας την ψυχην σου
“You have saved (sozo) your life (psyche).”

Judith 10:15
Thou hast saved thy life, in that thou hast hasted to come down to the presence of our lord: now therefore come to his tent, and some of us shall conduct thee, until they have delivered thee to his hands.

Assyrian soldiers confronted Judith and because of her beauty and message they did not kill her, her message saved her life: “Now when the men heard her words, and beheld her countenance, they wondered greatly at her beauty, and said unto her” (Judith 10:14).

(11) 1 Maccabees 9:9
σωζωμεν τας εαυτων ψυχας
“We should save (sozo) our lives (psyche).”

1 Maccabees 9:9
But they dehorted him, saying, We shall never be able: let us now rather save our lives, and hereafter we will return with our brethren, and fight against them: for we are but few.

Judas Maccabbee has just exhorted the remnant of his army to go out in battle. Their reply was that they needed to flee so as to preserve their lives, regroup with their comrades, and then go fight.

Moulton and Milligan, furthermore, (op. cit. pg 698) show that in the papyrii evidence (the Koine literature of the time) that the phrase “save a soul” continues to mean “save the physical life” (see section I.(b)). And they give examples on how psyche (soul) can mean physical life as well.


The sense of “saving the life” for ‘sozo’ and its object ‘psyche’ had become a bona-fide idiomatic expression in the Koine Greek. There are no biblical examples (and Moulton and Milligan, in their study of the existent papyrii evidence found no examples either) for the sense “deliverance from hell” for the aforementioned phrase.

Lordship Salvation and Reformed Soteriologists have not been careful to do the lexical research necessary to come to a solid interpretation, and have imported the present day understanding of “save the soul” into the text of James for support of their insupportable doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. They have imported their Perseverance theology into James destroying the practical and pastoral emphasis of the epistle.

Powerful evidence has been adduced to support the interpretation that James is discussing practical and temporal deliverance from calamitous trials, tribulations, and circumstances, including the physical death-dealing consequences of sin.

It is high time for a re-evaluation of the Epistle of James, and the linguistical study provided, should be a starting point.

Blessings and peace to all who endure in trials, being doers of the word, unto the preservation of their lives.

Antonio da Rosa


Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

How do they get away with that?

December 08, 2006 2:03 PM  
Blogger H K Flynn said...

And another question is: Why haven't they come back with a valid response in light of this?

December 08, 2006 2:14 PM  
Blogger centuri0n said...

Notorious Reply part 1

December 08, 2006 11:06 PM  
Blogger chamblee54 said...

Good Grief.
You and Scent should get away from the magic book and enjoy the world.

December 09, 2006 3:11 AM  
Anonymous bobby grow said...

Excellent work, Antonio!

Very objective . . . and manuscripturally based lexical analysis.

I appreciate the resources you used . . . they definitely represent the standards in doing lexical work.

December 09, 2006 4:11 PM  
Blogger Bobby Grow said...


Frank's response to you, see the link he provides in his comment here, only establishes that there is some controversy around some of the passages you use to demonstrate the falsity of Frank's usage of sozo in James. To me the minimum point that needed to be established, which you've done with your study here, is to demonstrate that sozo indeed has a broader semantic domain beyond "justification" or "sanctification" for that matter. What you've accomplished is to bring this discussion back to where it should be, the contextual usage of sozo by James, and not where Frank initially wanted to take this by floating, via generalization, sozo as referencing justification in James. Context definitely determines meaning of a word . . . and I tend to agree with you guys, that sozo in James does not primarily reflect ideas of justification.

December 09, 2006 7:43 PM  
Blogger Gummby said...

Antonio: I've asked some followup questions to your comment on my blog. In the meantime, I just have to ask--do you really thing that by showing what something meant in the LXX, it must mean the same thing in the New Testament?

Are you still working on a response to what I put in my post? Did you actually read what I wrote, or are you just so bedazzled by those 11 LXX references that you're willing to ignore the evidence that contradicts your conclusion?

December 09, 2006 8:15 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...


Great point. And I agree. Thanks for your input and support. Reading Frank's response, (besides convincing no one but the Reformed Lordship proponent) I found blatant errors. It would be a waste of time, in my opinion, to spend the time necessary to show him his errors. I may very well still do it.

The wave of the hand dismissal of the LXX Koine Greek lexical evidence is unfathomable to me. Every single one of the instances adduced from the LXX of the Greek "sozo" with "psyche" as its object nets the same results.

This is huge evidence. Furthermore, with only a cursory look at the N.T. occurrences of "psyche" I found several verses that give the sense of one's life, rather than just the immaterial nature of the human.

Gummy writes:
do you really thing that by showing what something meant in the LXX, it must mean the same thing in the New Testament?
I would say that when a phrase in the LXX is universally used one way that at the very least, it should be the starting place for our understanding in the New when it is used.

The evidence is strong. There is no exception to the usage of that phrase. The odds, I would say, are not in your favor.

Furthermore it establishes a huge precedent for my case. And you Lordship people cannot even admit the strength of the lexical study and argument.

Let me tell you what. If the LXX had a universality of occurrences where "sozo" with the object "psyche" meant "deliverance of man from hell", you would be ringing that bell as loud as you could!

But you can't. The evidence unanimously shows that the phrase had the import of saving the temporal life.

You may spin the data all you wish and regard it as irrelevent. But you do so only to try to win your argument and preserve your doctrine of Perseverance theology.


December 09, 2006 9:34 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said...

Chamblee54, I now have a new name for Frank: Scent. Ha!

December 10, 2006 6:04 PM  
Blogger jared said...

I don't see the point. That is, I don't see how any of this negates the fact that the chosen of God will persevere in their faith through all trials (including death) because Christ will finish the work He began in them.

December 11, 2006 6:43 AM  
Blogger Gummby said...

Antonio: I must have missed the answer. Where did you say that BAGD lists James 1:21 again?

December 11, 2006 9:53 AM  
Blogger centuri0n said...

Notorious Reply Part 2

That's all the parts there will be.

December 11, 2006 10:21 AM  
Blogger centuri0n said...


If you can read what I have posted on those 23 verses and call the matter merely one of "controversy". What Antonio has done is a far more detailed kind of mistake than I made originally.

There's no question: I made a mistake, and I apologized. What Antonio has done is taken passages and intentionally mistaken the meaning of "sozo" in those passages in order to make some obscure point.

There's also the matter by which I was clear to say in my original statement that "sozo" did not always mean "soteriologically saved". Even in my original overstatement, I was clear to mention that sometimes "sozo" doesn't mean "soteriologically saved".

Let's make sure we don't go too far afield here. What's at stake is if Antonio is playing it at least as fast and loose with lexical usage as I did in my original statement -- and it seems that even if half of my disputed passgaes are in-play, he certainly is.

December 11, 2006 10:26 AM  
Blogger centuri0n said...

By the way, bring on the "blatant errors", Antonio.

The only waste of time is when no one else is reading. My view of the exchange so far is that you have overplayed your original complaint -- that is, you thought that I'd fight with you over my statement of 93 occurances. When I went back to what I thought was my source, and I couldn't find that stat, and I retracted the statement, you suddenly found yourself in a place where you would have to defend your own work.

I have stipluated so much of what you have said so far that you really only have two choices:

[1] What you have done here -- which is throw up your hands and say "I just won't bother",


[2] Bear down on the 23 verses still in question and find out for yourself if your view can stand up exegetically. See: the problem is not really merely "lexical" but in fact the use of lexical range in context. It is possible you might be able to overcome some of my exegetical points; it is not possible that you can overcome the all -- because many of those points I listed are simply errors on your part.

You made errors. I know that seems hard to believe, but you did. Some of them are learned errors, I am sure; others are over-enthusiasm on your part.

Of course, choice [3], is to offer your own retraction or apology, but I think it is more likely that a pizza will come out of my cell phone, so I didn't list that choice.

December 11, 2006 10:36 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Is this the part where Antonio says you didn't answer him well, and your article gets posted 'All over Blogdom'?

I'm just waiting for the klaxons to sound...

December 13, 2006 5:45 AM  
Anonymous bobby grow said...


I recall you saying sozo doesn't always mean, soteriologically saved; but then in the case of James you assume it does. Apparently based upon the long-standing tradition of the Calv. interp. of James; and also by your appeal to certain sources that appear to support your perspective (BDAG is a great source, btw . . . but there needs to be more argument provided than just saying BDAG categorizes Jms 1:21 in the "life as transcendent principle category"--as if that settles the issue--BDAG isn't the "magesterium").

I was, and am, supportive of Antonio's rejoinder to your work on James; simply because his work has demonstrated that sozo and psuche have greater nuance than your original case made them "appear" to have (at least as I read you over at your site).

My view on James is that sozo is emphasizing "sanctification" nuances of salvation, but not to the despair of its implications which are connected to both justification and glorification. What I mean is that, obviously, sanctification is presupposed by justification (which is assumed by James or more accurately, "Jacob" ;); and furthermore, sanctification has consequences on our subjective position in glorification . . . in other words (rewards--i.e. how we live now [what James is referencing] will indeed have consequence upon what we will subjectively experience in glory II Cor 5:10).

Again, I think James is emphasizing issues that pertain to discipleship, which presupposes justification has already occurred; which implies that everything James is referring to is how now should we live, since we are already Christians.

I don't think psuche, given the bible's ontology of man (soul/body unity)necessarily bolsters anyone's case here.

December 15, 2006 12:04 PM  
Blogger nathaniel adam king said...

Antonio, you said this:

In a study Rene Lopez of Dallas Seminary did of each occurrence of the words, he could not find even one instance where the words in their contexts had a justification-salvation-only meaning:

Would this not be a reason to question the Freegrace position?

If 'Salvation', as used within the Scripture, speaks mainly about a salvation from temporal calamaties, wouldn't this mean that the Freegrace position, whereby 'salvation' deals mainly with the 'spiritual/justification aspect' is a little off-focus?

December 26, 2006 9:31 AM  

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