The author’s three reasons for translating the text differently from the common versions. That the preposition () in the text signifies through or by. Other places of Scripture where it signifies likewise causam or modum actionis.
I have spoken hitherto, of the first part of this prophecy, being a description of the character of that solemn defection which was to come. I come now to the second part of my division —the quality of the persons, and the means whereby it was to enter and be advanced, which is set forth in the verses now read; which though you may find by others otherwise translated, yet I hope the translation which I have propounded, if the judicious reader please to
examine it, will approve itself not only not to be a forced one, but such as salves that incongruity of construction which the other could not avoid. For it is usually translated intransitively, or with reference to the persons expressed in the former verse —viz. “that they should speak lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with an hot iron, and forbidding marriage, and commanding to abstain from meats.” So that what in the former verse is named doctrines of devils, should only mean that in general terms, which in these verses is particularly instanced to be “doctrines of prohibiting marriage, and abstaining from meats,” as two branches of that devilish doctrine; for so Calvin, Melancthon, and some others seem to expound it.
But why this interpretation should not be the most likely, my first reason is —
1. Because it makes St. Paul, who speaks of that great Apostasy of Christians which was to be in latter times, to instance only in the smaller and, if I may so say, almost circumstantial errors; and to omit the main and principle, which the Scripture elsewhere tells us should be idolatry or spiritual fornication. Who can believe that he would so pass by the substance, and name only that which in comparison is but an appendix thereto?
2. He prophecies here in express words of such things as were to come in * the latter times. But errors about marriage and meats were no novelty in the apostles’ own times, as the
diligent reader may easily collect out of their epistles; which makes it improbable he would specify the Apostasy of the latter times in these alone.
3. But my last reason, whereunto I think I may trust, is that the syntax of the words in the Greek is incapable of such an intransitive construction, and consequently of the sense depending thereon. For the persons intimated in the former verse, are expressed in the nominative case,* but the persons intended here we find in the genitive;† and I cannot see how they can agree with the former, after the manner of intransitive construction, without a breach of grammatical congruity, not elsewhere sampled in our apostle’s writings. Indeed they would agree with demons.‡ but that would be a harsh sense every way; for either we must say (as some do) that by devils are meant devilish men, or men led by the devil, which is an hard signification; or else it would be a stranger sense, and I think not over-pliable to the usual exposition, to say, that devils should lie, have seared consciences, and forbid marriage or meats. So that Beza, with others, had rather confess a breach of syntax than incur the inconvenience of such a forced sense. “The Apostle,” saith he, “heeded more the matter than he did the grammar.” (Major est habita sentenić quam constructionis ratio.)
But what needs this, so long as there is a better way to salve it? —namely, to construe the words transitively, making all these genitive cases to be governed of * hypocrisy; as through the hypocrisy of liars; † through the hypocrisy of those who had their consciences seared; and so forward. Which construction is observed and followed by Andreas Hyperius, one of our reformed writers, who translates, “Per simulationem falsiloquorum,” &c., and expounds it, de modo quo fallent Spiritus Impostores; fallunt per simulationem seu hypocrisin falsiloquorum,” &c. And I believe that many others have taken it so; for our late Latin translations are indifferent to be taken either way. Howsoever it be, I see no way but this to keep the syntax true and even, and wholly to avoid the forementioned inconveniences; which, as it is easy and obvious, and not strained, so I hope to let you see the event to have been most answerable thereunto; that this was the manner, and this the means, this the quality of the persons whereby the doctrine of demons was first brought in, advanced and maintained in the Church —viz. through the hypocrisy, feigning, craft, or counterfeiting of those who told lies, of those who had their consciences seared, &c.
As for the use of the preposition in,‡ to signify the cause, the instrument, the manner of action,§ he that is not a stranger in the Scripture
knows it to be most frequent, the Greek text borrowing it from the use of the Hebrew preposition. But two or three examples will not do amiss. (Matthew 5: 13.) “If the salt hath lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salty?” Acts , “Because God hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by the man whom he hath ordained.” II Peter 3: 1, “I stir up your pure minds, by way of remembrance.” Titus 1: 9, “That he may be able by sound doctrine to exhort and convince the gainsayers.” And most naturally to the business we have in hand, II Thessalonians 2: 9, 10, of the man of sin, “Whose coming (saith the apostle,) is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, (or through them,) and through all deceivableness of unrighteousness,” &c.,
So in my text, , “through the hypocrisy of liars,” &c.