MacArthur is Wrong – Again!
MacArthur Study Bible – Romans – Hebrew Parallelism – another misuse of language rules by MacArthur

After discovering that MacArthur had misused the Granville Sharp rule (on Acts 2:23) apparently to “prove” his false doctrine that foreknowledge is predetermined, I decided to check further on any other of his claims that certain Greek or Hebrew rules somehow “proved” more of his false doctrines. His seemingly deliberate attempt to distort Biblical truth on the foreknowledge of God by misusing the Granville Sharp rule makes it likely that this is just the tip of the iceberg. In actual fact, his incorrect use instead proves his “truth” to be lies! If MacArthur has this so wrong, then we may assume that it is a deliberate error intended to deceive. And, if so, then we should find further examples of deliberate attempts to distort the truth and so deceive the very elect of God (no pun intended!).
Mark 13:22For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if [it were] possible, even the elect.

Such false prophets (along with false teachers) will bring in heresies.
2 Peter 2:1But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

And such heresies will allure people back into the world again, back into destruction.
2 Peter 2:18-1918 For when they speak great swelling [words] of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, [through much] wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

Today these “false prophets” would apply to those who set themselves up as great teachers of the word of God, yet are instead like blind teachers leading their blind followers into destruction.
Matthew 15:13-1413 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. 14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

If MacArthur is a false teacher, speaking great swelling words of vanity, then the Granville Sharp rule misuse would not be his only error. There will be other errors that will point to such false teaching. And, note, the Granville Sharp rule error is not the only evidence of apostasy. MacArthur also misuses a Hebrew language construction rule called Hebrew parallelism, quoting such in his Study Bible notes on Romans 5:18 (and referring it back also to Romans 5:15). Rather, like the word “many” in 5:15, Paul is using “all” with two different meanings for the sake of parallelism, a common practice in the Hebrew OT. (MacArthur)

One common factor stands out with both the Granville Sharp rule and the Hebrew parallelism claims in MacArthur’s writings: he names the rule and apparently expects that this will be all that’s needed to fully explain his Scriptural interpretation. What made me look at both of these statements of MacArthur (more than a year ago now, when we were studying Romans) was this noticeable lack of explanation. Having a Maths degree, I like to see all things proven beyond reasonable doubt, and this appeared to be a long way from being acceptable!

Firstly, the quote from notes on Romans 5:15.
5:15 many died. Paul uses the word “many” with two distinct meanings in v. 15, just as he will the word “all” in v. 18. He has already established that all men, without exception, bear the guilt of sin and are therefore subject to death (see notes on v. 12). So the “many” who die must refer to all Adam’s descendants. much more. Christ’s one act of redemption was immeasurably greater than Adam’s one act of condemnation. (MacArthur Study Bible)

Romans 5:15But not as the offence, so also [is] the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, [which is] by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

many” in both cases is masculine plural adjective, with the first one being nominative and the second one being accusative. This makes them both the same case, as nominative simply means it is used as the subject in the clause, whereas accusative means it is used as the object in the clause. In both cases “many” means the same.

Then the quote from notes on Romans 5:18.
5:18 condemnation. See note on v. 16. one act of righteousness. Not a reference to a single event, but generally to Christ’s obedience (cf. v. 19; Luke 2:49; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38), culminating in the greatest demonstration of that obedience, death on a cross (Phil. 2:8). justification . . . for all men. This cannot mean that all men will be saved; salvation is only for those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 1:16–17; 3:22, 28; 4:5, 13). Rather, like the word “many” in 5:15, Paul is using “all” with two different meanings for the sake of parallelism, a common practice in the Hebrew OT. (MacArthur Study Bible)

Romans 5:18Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life.

all” in both cases is masculine plural adjective, with both being in the accusative as well. Grammatically they are identical! In both cases, “all” means the same.

So why does MacArthur say “Rather, like the word “many” in 5:15, Paul is using “all” with two different meanings for the sake of parallelism, a common practice in the Hebrew OT”? I’ll go into the Hebrew parallelism further down, but will say at this stage that, when it seemingly suits his purposes, MacArthur says that terms must be interpreted the same in both verses. (From his Study Bible notes on Romans 8:29 where MacArthur is trying to prove that “foreknow” (or “foreknew”) in Romans 8:29 has to be predetermined because (allegedly) “foreknowledge” in Acts 2:23 has been shown (by the Granville Sharp rule) to be predetermined. (Of course, he had to misuse the Granville Sharp rule to get this spurious result!) So, both times foreknowledge is mentioned, it has to mean the same thing, according to MacArthur. Yet here, because of another rule that he doesn’t explain at all, two words the same in one verse have to be interpreted differently!?? Is he serious??

See MacArthur’s notes on Romans 8:29.
(cf. Acts 2:23—an inviolable rule of Greek grammar, called the Granville Sharp rule, equates [pre]determination and “foreknowledge”; see notes on 1 Pet. 1:1–2, and cf. with Rom. 1:20—the term must be interpreted the same in both verses).
(Underlining emphasis mine.)

So is the Hebrew parallelism a relevant issue here?

Hebrew parallelism is found throughout the Old Testament, especially in the poetic books such as Psalms, and takes a number of forms. The main forms are synonymous parallelism, antithetic parallelism, and synthetic parallelism.

1/. synonymous parallelism – a synonymous repetition of the first part in the second part of a verse.
Eg. Psalm 38:1
O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath:
neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

2/. antithetic parallelism – the second part is the negative or opposite of the first part.
Eg Psalm 1:6
For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous:
but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

3/. synthetic parallelism – there are a few variations of this but they generally build upon the first line.
(a) staircase parallelism – a series of parts that build up to a conclusion. Sometimes called climactic parallelism.
Eg Psalm 29:1-2
Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty,
give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name;
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

Eg Habakkuk 3:17-19a
Although the fig tree shall not blossom,
neither [shall] fruit [be] in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail,
and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold,
and [there shall be] no herd in the stalls:
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God [is] my strength

(b) emblematic parallelism – one line gives a comparison to illuminate the other.
Eg Psalm 103:13
Like as a father pitieth [his] children,
[so] the Lord pitieth them that fear him.

Other examples of synthetic parallelism are

Eg Psalm 24:3-4
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?
or who shall stand in his holy place?
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart;
who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

Further examples of parallelism
Eg Habakkuk 1:2 – (eclectic parallelism)
O Lord, how long shall I cry,
and thou wilt not hear!
[even] cry out unto thee [of] violence,
and thou wilt not save! 

Deuteronomy 6:5 – (emphatic parallelism)
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God
with all thine heart,
and with all thy soul,
and with all thy might.

In the New Testament, we get a number of such constructions, many spoken by Jesus in parables and in the sermon on the mount. But only MacArthur, it seems, can find Hebrew parallelism in Romans Ch.5. No-one else appears to quote Romans 5:15 & 18 in the light of Hebrew parallelism.

I cannot see how the examples MacArthur quotes (Romans 5:15 & 18) can be proper examples of any type of Hebrew parallelism at all. It seems more likely, in fact, most certain, that MacArthur is having a Granville Sharp moment, and that he is trying to blind his readers with a show of “scholarly” wisdom, that is all show and no substance! (All “froth and bubble”?) Even if it might be possible to make a case for parallelism, both words (“many” and “all“) would have to have the same meaning to make sense!

With my suspicious mind I considered perhaps if there might be a reason for MacArthur being desperate to find some way out of having to acknowledge the obvious, viz, that “many” means the same in both cases in Romans 5:15, and that “all” means the same in both cases in Romans 5:18. After all, why teach a lie if there is no benefit? There is a pattern to each of these verses, a pattern that connects the first and second parts of these verses. There is a sameness about each part, yet opposing as well. The true meaning has to take this into account.

The one major point of parallelism would be the use of the same word twice, “many” in Vs 15 and “all” in Vs 18. That which has happened to the “many” (or “all”) is opposed by something else that happens to that same “many” (or “all”). There is a certain balance centring upon the use of “many” and “all”. If these words do not mean the same in both parts of each verse, then we end up with disjointed logic, something Paul would have avoided in his excellent debate in the book of Romans.

Romans 5:15 For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, [which is] by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

That is,
The offence of one makes many dead
The grace of one has come to that same “many”.

Instead of emphasising the difference between the two usages of “many”, or even building up to a climax, the pattern is of two halves equally balanced such that all the harm that the first one caused was completely balanced (that is, cancelled out) by the good that the second one did. The logical balance here has to rest upon the two usages of “many” meaning the same amount.

Romans 5:18Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life.

That is
From one offence came condemnation upon all;
From the righteousness of one came the gift of justification upon that same “all”.

My points for this will be similar to my points for Romans 5:15. Unless both usages of “all” mean the same each time in this verse, the desired balance will be missing. All are born under condemnation of death; all may be justified freely (Romans 3:24) yet this justification is actuated by our faith (Romans 3:26). We all have a choice: to choose to be justified by our works and be found in debt (Romans 4:4) or to believe and our faith is accounted as righteousness (Romans 4:5). 

So all who reject the gift of salvation have literally chosen to be saved by their works and will be found in debt in the judgment. (Note that James talks about our faith being justified or proven by our works, not that our salvation is justified by works. They are two completely different concepts.)

Thus, in Romans 5:15, the debt incurred by all mankind is equal to the debt paid for all by Christ on the cross; it is finished! Jesus paid it all on the cross. But, if we refuse such great salvation, then we are effectively demanding to be judged in our own right (on our own works, not those of Christ), and not through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The debt has been cancelled for all mankind who have been placed under condemnation of death because of that debt. Yet, those who reject that gift of salvation will still be found in debt because the forgiveness of God is dependent upon man’s repentance. For a gift to be a gift, it must be received.

This is why there is this juxtaposition between the “many” and “all” in the first part of each verse, and the “many” and “all” in the second part. It is emphasising that balance, that the payment was fully equal to the debt incurred.

So, once again MacArthur appears to have exposed his weakness through his desperation to cover it up with deception. And the weakness? If MacArthur cannot find any better way of explaining his beliefs here, then the only conclusion I can draw is that MacArthur knows that “many” means the same in both cases, and that “all” means the same in both cases. By attempting to use deception to defend his teachings he has instead demonstrated the falseness of those teachings.

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