John MacArthur charges Bible Translators with Conspiracy

An excerpt from video clip:

“Exploring the New Testament I uncovered a distortion of truth when it came to the word δοῦλος

There has been a conspiracy to cover up a truth that is so essential to the New Testament, that without it we misunderstand our relationship to Jesus Christ.”

For example, of the 150 times δοῦλος occurs in the New Testament, 28 of these are spread out in eleven of Paul’s thirteen letters.

But this use of δοῦλος to identify the believer in the sense that John MacArthur is claiming is hardly true of how, for example, the Apostle Paul identifies believers in his letters.

In fact, Paul tends to only apply δοῦλος/οι to himself and his traveling companion (Phil. 1:1) rather than to the believers he writes to.  The few times he applies δοῦλοι to believers is often as rebuke or corrective (Romans 6:15-22).

Against John MacArthur’s overstatement, when the Apostle Paul is referring to his addresses as “brothers and sisters” (Gk. ἀδελφοὶ), or “saints” (Gk. ἁγίοι), he describes and locate them “in Christ” (Gk. ἐν Χριστῷ).

In fact, the John 15:15 text that John MacArthur quotes in his promotional video goes against the central thesis of his book Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ: “I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me” (NLT, bold added).

But it seems to me that being “friends” of Christ is the real hidden truth about our identity.

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32 Responses to John MacArthur charges Bible Translators with Conspiracy

  1. Craig Benno says:

    John Mac contradicts himself big time. He says we were slaves to / in sin, then become sons, then friends…. then he says… he is a slave to Christ?

    Watching this made me feel a little nauseous. He is dismissing the idea of being adopted in Ephesians… and no adopted son could ever be a slave… after watching this; I have to call him a heretic who preaches a false gospel of legalism and not grace and freedom.

  2. Pingback: John MacArthur… a heretic | Trinitarian Dance

  3. Mike Gantt says:

    The “promotion” in the promotional video is truly regrettable. It demonstrates how much of ministry has become business. Nonetheless, there is an important grain of truth in the slave idea – and Eph 6:6 is one of the places this is revealed. The point for me is that we should be obeying Christ, not merely professing Him. That evangelical Christianity largely professes Him without obeying Him is its most obvious sin.

  4. missional girl says:

    Am I being punked?

    The value of doulos is that in the world we see how our wills are to be surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus. But even the Lord Himself said to His disciples that He no longer called them servants (doulos) but friends (philos) [Jn. 15;15]. I assume Macarthur addresses this in his book.

  5. ScottL says:

    TC –

    I am saddened by MacArthur on many respects, and here is another case.

    Interestingly enough, in an article you posted back in August (though the video has now been removed from YouTube), MacArthur raves about his study Bible now being with the ESV text. Why nothing said about the ESV’s constant translation of doulos as servant? (By the way, here is a new link to that video you had in your article.)

    I just think MacArthur has jumped on a bandwagon (though one he created himself) to give us a new ‘conspiracy’ to get excited about. It reminds me a little of Jack Van Impe (or Hal Lindsey) and all their conspiracies. Perhaps modern Bible translators are part of the anti-christs plan to fool us.

  6. T.C. R says:


    My problem lies largely in the fact that MacArthur has invested too much in this one word where the NT writers really haven’t.


    Regarding Eph. 6:6, Paul is engaging in a nice play-on words here.

    M. girl,

    MacArthur may have discussed John 15:15 in his book, but what does the verse actually teach? It’s not how MacArthur is going to spin it to fit his thesis.

    Scott W,

    Yeah, MacArthur is guilty of double-talk, given the contents of that MacArthur ESV study bible. I use to read him back in the day until I realized what really was going on. But I did learn from him. 😉

  7. Gal 4:3-7 NET. So also we, when we were minors, were enslaved under the basic forces of the world. (4) But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, (5) to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights. (6) And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who calls “Abba! Father!” (7) So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if you are a son, then you are also an heir through God.

    So Christians are former slaves made heirs, a process not unknown in ancient times. But one shouldn’t take on airs, because this adoption process is entirely the work of God, and in the end the Christian is rather like a third cousin to a king. You’re still just a subject, just a privileged one. Also, as parents have been telling children forever, “don’t forget where you came from”. Once you were a slave, then the King for His own reasons freed you, and even adopted you. Plainly gratitude is in order.

    Book hype aside, one wonders:
    1) What MacArthur was doing all these years before he “suddenly discovered” doulos in the NT.
    2) Exactly what sort of slave MacArthur envisions, since in ancient times slaves could be everything from poor folk working mines to trusted household workers who traveled the land on their master’s business and ran those businesses. This variation in the meaning of doulos/slave is why so many English translations prefer doulos/servant.

    Our assumptions, based on what we know, often betray us. Learning better is a lifetime project.

  8. T.C. R says:


    Yes, there seems to be a movement up in status in the New Testament, contra MacArthur. Having said that, your admonition is duly note – it’s all the work of God.

    Well, I guess MacArthur was a victim too of conspiracy like the rest of us. 😉

    I’ve argued before that merely drawing on the Hellenistic practice of slavery is not the only possible background to doulos – OT ebed yhwh must be factored in.

  9. additionally, words have usage, not meaning… why the insistence on so much ignorance? TC – you know how I feel about the Big Mac – why torture me like this? lol!

    missional girl hit it right on in her comment – as do you in your critique. Chuck makes excellent comments as well and so do everyone else.

  10. Pingback: John MacArthur charges Bible Translators with Conspiracy (via New Leaven) « συνεσταύρωμαι: living the crucified life

  11. T.C. R says:


    My friend, I thought about your fond “Big Mac” expression along the way. 🙂

    Yes, I’m afraid MacArthur is at it again.

  12. Brian LePort says:

    Also, Jesus had children with Mary….oh wait, different conspiracy theorist.

  13. Jerry_B says:

    What Johnny Mac has over reached and created a theological mountain out of a biblical mole hill this is so unli…wait, this is exactly like him. I stopped reading and listening to Johnny Mac years ago for this very reason. What this really shows for me anyway, is the legalism that runs through his theology. How can you go from joint heir to slave unless you have some need of justifying yourself and your salvation. No thanks

  14. Wait, wait, wait, MacArthur says that there has been a CONSPIRACY to cover up the meaning of doulos, and because of this, Christianity as suffered severely — because this “truth” is “so essential” to the New Testament? Does this mean that for the tenor of MacArthur’s Christian life, He has suffered in and completely misunderstood his relationship with the Lord? This sounds to me like John MacArthur just got saved. This is bombastic and embarrassing. Thanks for pointing this out.

  15. T.C. R says:

    Jerry B,

    I don’t know if MacArthur would take it kindly to be called a legalist. 😉

    WM. Birch,

    Simply, priceless! 😀

  16. Iris Godfrey says:

    Sad, sad, sad. Legalism always has room for conspiracies. “Someone, whomever, them -all taught me wrong! Someone, whomever, them – they are to blame – I’m to blame, wait – no — we are all to blame!” My, my, my. Sad, sad, sad!

    I am so delighted my Lord Jesus has provided grace for me, for all – even “Big Mac.” So it’s O.K. there really isn’t any conspiracy after all. Whew! Thank you Jesus! (Also, really no need to buy the book).

  17. T.C. R says:

    |Legalism always has room for conspiracies.|


    This is a keen insight.

  18. Have you read the book in question yet? I haven’t, although I have heard him preach widely on this subject.

  19. Pingback: John MacArthur Discovers the Greek Word DOULOS | Participatory Bible Study Blog

  20. Bobby Grow says:

    If you want to have some fun you all can always go over to the Pyromaniacs blog (Phil Johnson’s group blog — John Mac’s Executive Director for his Grace To You ministries); they forward Mac’s theology over there with gusto. They just love me over there 😉 .

    It’s like John Mac engages in the “technical language fallacy,” as well as simply thinking through a pre-text of his own making; wherein he can read his “Lordship” theology into the doulos of his own making! What about the over-riding reality of the Apostle Paul’s unio mystica or in Christ theology; as some have already mentioned here, that we are now sons by God’s grace through adoption?

    Conspiracy is always a good “PR” apparatus though. And yes, the production of this promotion (the video) that John Mac has here reminded me more of a preview one might watch at a movie theater, more than a serious plea to consider carefully something that he believes requires “critical” re-consideration. The form he uses to promote is clearly incompatible with what he is really supposedly trying to communicate; too bad 😉 . . . this is kind of strange even for John Mac who does love controversy!

  21. T.C. R says:


    NO, I haven’t, and I don’t really intend to. My days of reading JM are over.


    I’ve met both MacArthur and Johnson in person. I use to comment on another pro-MacArthur blog until I started having my comments removed and so on. Pyromaniacs ain’t for me. 😉

    Yeah, good call on MacArthur’s word-study fallacy. Yep, a PR stunt.

    • Bobby Grow says:

      How did you meet those characters in person? I’ve been to Johnny Mac’s church a few times, but that’s as close as I’ve been to him in person. I think Phil Johnson’s blog — Pyromaniac (when it was just him) — was the first blog I ever commented on, and then I’ve had run ins with them off and on over the years (I debated Frank Turk, one of the Pyromaniacs over at his “Debate Blog” in the past). Anyway, their “theology” is wacked (and I’m being nice).

  22. Well isn’t it a little unfair to criticize the book without hearing him first? I’m gonna wait and read the book myself before I say anything, even if I am disturbed by the marketing rhetoric that has been employed here…

    • T.C. R says:


      Perhaps at one level it is unfair. But I’m no stranger to the bent of MacArthur, having read and listened to him for a while. Also, I believe we already have the basic concept of the book in this promotional video clip.

    • Bobby Grow says:

      There aren’t any surprises with MacArthur at this point. Those of us who have listened to him preach for years, and read his books know exactly where he is coming from, in general; which then has an impact and provides an ethos on where he comes from on particular issues such as this. The marketing rhetoric isn’t the issue at all, even though some of us picked on it; it’s the theology (which hasn’t changed) behind the man, MacArthur that is the problem. And, his thesis on doulos predictably fits within the framework of theology that John MacArthur has been espousing and propagandizing for years upon years (to the detriment of many a Christian’s spirituality).

      Some have made the point here that MacArthur, in relation to his “apparent” uncovering of this conspiracy, has been disingenuous in his own Christian walk; since this new finding on “doulos” seems to be at odds with his former views. I would suggest just the opposite, it’s MacArthur’s former and present views of soteriology and a Doctrine of God that in fact have given birth to his now idiosyncratic and reductionistic reading of doulos; he is nowhere new, and his lexical study evinced in this book should simply be seen as a symptom of his deeper rooted theological schema (if it can actually be called that).

  23. Pingback: John MacArthur Discovers the Greek Word DOULOS | Participatory … | Christian Outreach

  24. Darrell Deer says:

    Unfortunately, the video is somewhat melodramatic. But, I think some of the comments here might have been different (or not have been made at all) if the book in question had actually been read by some of the commentators. In reading the book, I was surprised to find it was much more than I expected. Sure, there are some of the things one would expect to find in MacAruthr’s writings – lordship salvation and a heavy dose of Calvinism; but there are also many of the things people here are mentioning – adoption, sonship, friendship with Christ, and even the citizenship of the believer. He also addresses the genesis of his thoughts on this subject (which he admits is rather recent). Even though I don’t always agree with MacArthur, it seems that my opinion of him is more favorable than what others here may feel. But I think we all would do well to be careful how we comment on things we really haven’t explored as fully as we could have…myself included. I’m not sure if MacArthur is making more out of the word doulos or not, but he does handle the subject a lot more thoroughly than I (and I imagine most of us) expected.

  25. T.C. R says:


    Thanks for this perspective, as one who actually read the book in question.

    As I conceded above in my reply to Douglas, yes, many of our comments, given the fact that we haven’t read the book.

    But the word in question, doulos, it seems like you can’t decide on how to evaluate MacArthur on it. 😉

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