NO! Your Other Right!

One time my wife and I were traveling to a store that I had never been to. I was driving, so my wife was giving me directions on how to get there. As we approached an intersection I asked, “Which way?” She glanced up and said, “Turn right.” As I began to steer the car to the right she looked up in a panic and cried, “No! NO! Your other right!”

Inadvertently, my wife had meant to say one thing, but instead said the exact opposite. We see this same thing happen in the King James Version.

Consider 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 in the KJV. The passage is speaking of the revealing of the Man of Sin.

2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 (KJV) And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:

The mystery of iniquity is already working. We see the Holy Spirit then referred to in the latter half of verse 7 with the phrase, “he who now letteth will let”. So what is the Holy Spirit doing here?

I asked a fellow who was KJV only what the words “letteth” and “let” meant. He said, “allow.” So I then read the verse with his understanding of those words: “he that now allows will allow, until he be taken out of the way.” But if we look up the word translated “letteth” we find something interesting. Strong’s Concordance has this:

κατέχω [katecho /kat·ekh·o/] 1b to restrain, hinder (the course or progress of). 1b1 that which hinders, Antichrist from making his appearance. [1]

So I asked my KJV only friend, “is ‘allow’ the opposite of ‘restrain’?” After a long period of silence he agreed. I said, “So the scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit restrains the mystery of iniquity instead of allowing him to work. Isn’t that the opposite of what you understood from the King James Version?” He protested, “But don’t the Scriptures teach that God is sovereign and that He allows sin to happen?” I replied, “But that is not what this verse is teaching.” I explained that the Holy Spirit is hindering the work of the mystery of iniquity until the Spirit is taken away (I believe at the Rapture). To say that the Holy Spirit is allowing the Man of Sin to work is simply not true.

Now, my challenge to my KJV only readers is this:

If the KJV says the opposite of what the Scriptures truly teach here, then does the average reader of the KJV have a proper representation of the word of God at this verse?

I want to show you how this passage reads from some other versions of God’s word.

2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 (NKJV)
6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.

2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 (ESV)
6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.

2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 (NASB95)
6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming;

Do we want clarity? Do we want to avoid confusion (because God is not the author of confusion)? Do we want accuracy? Yes, yes, and yes. In all three cases, these modern versions better convey God’s word to the modern reader.

So what is the problem that we see here with the KJV vs. the newer versions? Well, first of all, this is not a textual issue. All major Greek texts agree on this verse. And here is what may surprise you the most:

This is not even a translation issue!

If you look up the archaic meaning of ‘letteth/let’ you will find that it used to mean “something that impedes”. So when the translators of the King James Version translated this verse, they did a fine job. So what is the problem that we have here with this verse and the King James Version?

The problem is that English is not a dead language!

Here we have a case where the translator picked a perfectly fine word for the translation he was creating in his day. But over the course of 400 years of English usage, the meaning of the word changed to be the exact opposite of what it used to mean. And today’s reader would have no cause to stop and go, “Hmmm… I wonder if ‘let’ doesn’t mean what I have been told it means?” Even little kids know what ‘let’ means.

My point is this: As long as the English language is in use, there will be the need to update the language used to translate God’s word from time to time. If we don’t, there is a good chance that God’s people will read God’s word and inadvertently think it says the exact opposite of what it really says.


[1]James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order., electronic ed. (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996), G2722.

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