Saturday, October 9, 2010


Charles H Welch was the editor of, and the primary contributor to, ‘The Berean Expositor’ a bi-monthly magazine ‘Devoted to Bible Study’. And in many respects the magazine wonderfully fulfils its aim towards serious Bible study in providing stimulating articles on various subjects.

Personally, I have benefited much from Welch’s writings and he, no doubt, sincerely labours to render much needed service and help to Believers. Nevertheless, as the Scriptures enjoin us to prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good, it becomes us to examine Welch’s writings and, as he would have it, in the spirit of the Bereans, search the Scriptures to see if these things are so. And if they are, we are bound to abide by what he teaches, but if they are not, it is our bounden duty to state where and why we differ.

In The Berean Expositor volume 64 number 4 for July 2007, Welch examines the various usages of the Greek word huperano in an article entitled ‘The Psalms in the Ministry of Paul (part 8) under the subdivision ‘The Epistle to the Ephesians’ (the article is a continuation of the previous issue of the magazine).

Mr. Welch says, “Let us observe the way in which huper is used in combination,...”, and then he goes on to list 6 words in the Greek NT which have huper as a prefix. The words given are as follows.

Huperairomai              ‘Exalted above measure’                     (2 Cor. 12.7)
Huperauxano              ‘Groweth exceedingly’                         (2 Thess. 1.3)
Huperbaino                 ‘Go beyond’                                         (1 Thess. 4.6)
Huperballo                  Exceeding’                                         (Eph. 1.19; 2.7; 3.19)
Huperbole                   ‘Far more exceeding’                           (2 Cor. 4.17)
Huperupsoo                 Highly exalted’                                  (Phil. 2.9)

To the above list he adds a comment ‘see also 2Cor.10.14; Luke 6.38; 1Tim. 1.14’. So in all Mr. Welch lists out 9 words.

But in truth in the Greek NT there are more than 9 occurrences of words which have huper as a prefix. Of course, Welch might not have intend to give out all the occurrences of the words, nevertheless, he at least seems to have given this impression in not making it clear that there were other words besides the ones he mentioned.

For example, the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament by Louw & Nida gives 31 entries for words with huper as a prefix.

Thayer’s Lexicon gives 29 entries for words with huper prefixed.

The Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint by Johan, Erik and Katrin gives 59 entries for words with huper as a prefix.

It will be to no purpose to list out every occurrence of the words as they may be easily looked up in the dictionaries mentioned.

The Greek work huperano occurs 3 times in the NT and 22 times in the OT Septuagint. The word itself means, “above, far above; used as an improper preposition with the genitive; (1) of location (Heb. 9.5); (2) of superior status (Eph. 1.21)” – Analytical lexicon of the Greek NT by Friberg.

In the present volume of ‘The Berean Expositor’, Welch quotes from a previous issue of the magazine (vol.32, pgs. 148-150)

“As the word in question only occurs three times in the NT it is a matter of importance to ascertain whether it occurs in the Septuagint, and if so, in what connection.”

Then after a brief quotation from his critic who listed out all the occurrences of the word in the LXX, Welch goes on to say,

‘But when we consult the Septuagint, we discover that out critic omits the first occurrence, and upon examination we further find that this first occurrence is antagonistic to his contention that huperano means position, but never distance. The omitted reference is Genesis 7.20: “Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.”’ (italics in the original)

Welch is right in pointing out his critic’s view that, in Hebrews 9.5 where the word occurs, huperano cannot denote near, as says his critic. His critic’s words are “Huperano, in this case, may denote near rather than far” (italics in the original quotation of Welch). On this point we agree with Welch. Huperano cannot mean near as already seen.

However, Welch is in error when he gives Genesis 7.20 as the first occurrence of the word huperano in the LXX. In fact, the first occurrence of this word huperano in the LXX is in Deut.26.19 where it is translated ‘high above’ in the KJV. The word used in Genesis 7.20 is epanoo. Besides, this is not the first occurrence of the word in the LXX. This word epanoo is first seen in Genesis 1.2 where the word occurs twice and is translated ‘above’ or ‘over’.

Whereas it is true that the word huperano has been translated ‘far above all’ and should not be translated ‘among’, a translation none would rightly agree to, we believe Welch has pushed his argument to an unnecessary limit. And in doing so he has been led to give Genesis 7.20 as the first occurrence of the word, besides omitting various other occurrences of combinations of words with huper as its prefix, and therefore missing out on the complete picture.

In commenting on the third and last occurrence of huperano in the NT, in Hebrews 9.5, Welch says quoting his critic – “In the ark of the covenant we have the best possible illustration of the force of this word. Surely the Cherubim were not ‘far above’ the ark.” With these words of the ‘critic’, Mr. Welch of course disagrees.

Mr. Welch goes on to say, “Whoever used the word huperano in Genesis 7.20 and elsewhere, had no hesitation in using it for a measurable distance, whether for the height of the water above the mountains, or the height of the wings of the overshadowing Cherubim. Doubtless he would have been surprised to have learned that huperano contained no idea of ‘distance’, and that in the reference to the Cherubim, it might mean near rather than far.” (However, in Mr. Welch’s ‘Dictionary of Dispensational Truth, An Alphabetical Analysis’ Part 2, under the heading of huperano, he says, “The question of how ‘far’ huperano indicates is not answered by the word itself, but by the context. The cherubim of glory were not ‘far’ above the mercy seat, the nature of the case limiting this superior position to a matter of inches, but the exaltation of the Lord’s house to the top of the mountains, and so far above the hills, may indicate thousands of feet (Isa.2.2)...”. Here Mr. Welch rightly admits that the word itself cannot indicate just how ‘far’ above a thing is, the context would have to decide. If only Mr. Welch remembered this in this place too. Besides, Mr. Welch clearly contradicted himself on the one hand disagreeing that the cherubim was not near but was far above, and on the other hand admitting that it was not ‘far’ above the mercy seat! He says two different things in different places! Something we would least expect from one such as Mr. Welch.)

Furthermore, Welch says, Maal is translated in the LXX by huperano, and so provides an infallible authority for the usage and meaning of the word. Maal occurs in such passages as ‘In heaven above’ (Exod.20.4); ‘From his shoulders and upward’ (1 Sam.9.2); ‘The clouds above’ (Prov.8.28).” (italics in the original)

However, in looking up these references we notice that the Greek word used for maal in Exodus 20.4 and Proverbs 8.28 is not huperano but anoo and the word in 1 Samuel 9.2 is epanoo.

Mr. Welch himself, I suppose, would not tolerate such carelessness. He is himself rather intolerant of his critic who, according to him, had failed to give out the first occurrence of the word huperano in the LXX. This is how Mr. Welch expressed his shock at his critic’s research. “If we are investigating the usage of a particular word, and we profess to have given ‘all of the occurrences’, then the omission of one reference, especially one that militates against our own conclusions, is serious.” I suppose in the present context, Mr. Welch’s own carelessness is far more serious, given the circumstances.

Later in another article entitled ‘The Cross’, Welch says in ‘The Berean Expositor’ volume 64 number 4, pg.78, “To any who see special meanings in numbers (and the numerics of the Bible are a wonderful fact), the number of occurrences of stauros, ‘cross’ in the New Testament, namely 28 or 7 x 4, will be suggestive.” But when we look up the Greek word stauros in the NT, we find it occurring not 28 times, but only 27 times. It does appear 28 times in our English KJV. But I suppose Mr. Welch would here be giving out the number of times the word ‘cross’ appears in the original, in order to draw any such significance. The occurrence of the ‘cross’ in Mark 10.21 is doubtful. Darby, in his translation, has put the last words ‘taking up the cross’ in italics as not being part of the original, as can be verified by checking any critical edition of the Greek NT. So if we exclude the English reference to the ‘cross’ in Mark 10.21, we end up with only 27 references to stauros in the NT.

In pointing this out we do not wish to take sides with those who see no significance at all in the numbers in Scripture; far from it. We would gladly own and admit that God has indeed hidden away very many precious truths in the Biblical numerical system, waiting only for the eye of faith to discover them. Interestingly, the number 27 is 3 raised to the power of 3.  And in Appendix 10 of The Companion Bible, EW Bullinger gives “27 = 33 Divinity intensified”.

In any case, for Mr. Welch to be so careless so as to state what he does with regard to the number of occurrences of stauros in the NT, is admittedly most lamentable. We would have least expected such oversights, to say the least, from such an one, who for exegesis and research, had a respected name, among others. We wish Mr. Welch was not so intolerant with oversights in others, which when seen in himself, is for this very reason, the more inexcusable.

One wonders if, when Welch’s research in giving out, what any college freshman could do without much difficulty, a list of words occurring in the Greek NT is found to be faulty and unreliable, there would remain any assurance to accept his interpretation or the spiritual insight of his writings?

Herein we see the wisdom of the apostle’s injunction to the believers at Thessalonica, to “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.” Brethren, may the Lord enable us so to do and thus only will be found, guarding His Own Glory and Honour, our safest ground of richest blessing and comfort.

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