We will be discussing several passages today, to see if the NLT measures up in understanding (mine or Paul’s?) reprobation – in which someone is cast away from God. The word itself, absent doctrine and dogma, is an important word, and carries with it a deep meaning, often lost through lost in translation.
The word ἀδόκιμος (adokimos) is found 8 times in the Greek New Testament,
Romans 1:28; 2nd Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:16; 1st Corinthians 9:27; 2nd Corinthians 13:5-7; Hebrews 6:8
Thayer defines the word as
1) not standing the test, not approved
1a) properly used of metals and coins
2) that which does not prove itself such as it ought
2a) unfit for, unproved, spurious, reprobate
In the ancient world, it was used for coinage that when inspect was found to be unable to hold the image of the Emperor/Ruler.The English word means to reject, to foreordain to damnation, and to strongly condemn. It is a word full of dark meaning and dark results for those that are indeed reprobate. It is one not easily touched on by Christians.
Paul wrote that he feared that he would himself, after running the course, would somehow become ἀδόκιμος:
I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:27 NLT)
Paul did not qualify this with a ‘but it cannot happen,’ but instead goes on to show examples of those that once brought from Egypt (sin) turned from God in the wilderness and was cut off for it. The NLT here does a splendid job of connecting the reference of ἀδόκιμος to the training of an athlete.
We have a Apostle in fear of reprobation.
In Romans 1.28, Paul writes about Gentiles who have abandoned God to worship idols and was given to a ἀδόκιμος mind. In doing so, God gave them ‘over to a reprobate mind (KJV),’ are as the NLT reads, ”
Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done.
While I would prefer a stronger translation, the thought is the same. Because of the ἀδόκιμος mind, people were allowed to engage in forbidden things. (Here is an echo between Paul and 2nd Maccabees 6.4)
In talking about ancient heresies, Paul uses the word again,
Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. (2nd Timothy 3.8 KJV)
And these teachers fight the truth just as Jannes and Jambres fought against Moses. Their minds are depraved, and their faith is counterfeit. (2nd Timothy 3.8 NLT)
While the KJV lives the literal sense, forcing a definition concerning reprobate, the NLT makes it clear that the two who fought against God had a faith that was counterfeit. It was rejected. Disapproved.
In Titus, we see again, that certain people are considered ἀδόκιμος:
Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. (Titus 1:15-16 KJVA)
Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good. (Titus 1:15-16 NLT)
You and I might very well know some of these people, who have taken the Gospel and the holiness of life, and defiled it. While the KJV translation is understandable, the NLT is forceful, readable, and striking.
We have others, thinking that they know God, are abandoned by God.
In the next two passages, we examine ἀδόκιμος as applied to the faithful.
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Corinthians 13:5 KJV)
Examine yourselves to see if your faith is really genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5 NLT)
Christians must test themselves, I would contend, to see if they are truly in the Faith (and that means you can be outside the Faith, but believe). While the sense is the same, the NLT does spell out what it means to be reprobate – to fail the test of Faith before God. We are to seek that genuine faith, the real thing, are we not?
Finally, in Hebrews 6.8, in speaking about those that have fallen away, the author uses an allegory of the field,
But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:8 KJV)
But if a field bears thistles and thorns, it is useless. The farmer will condemn that field and burn it. (Hebrews 6:8 NLT)
Returning to the original meaning of ἀδόκιμος, we find the NLT applies the strongest sense of the word to the field ‘useless’ and not merely rejected to be re-tilled. The NLT goes further and instead of the ‘nigh (near) unto cursing’ of the KJV, the NLT has the Farmer condemning the field.
Many times, the KJVO’ers will condemn the modern versions, such as the NLT of loosening the word of God, but that is not the case in the matter of reprobation. While in several instances, the sense is the same, sometimes the NLT is tighter than the KJV (which may not be relevant, considering the words carry different meanings 400 years after they were used). In this area, the NLT preserves the sense of the word in question, and does not let down the standard of holiness before God.