Shortly after writing this article, I decided to turn it into a Shoveletter. As I did so, I updated and expanded upon it quite a bit. Here is the link: Shoveletter Version.
I’m not sure if you’ve read the recent article I posted on theshovel.net about studying to show ourselves approved to God (from 2 Timothy 2:15), but I’ve discovered a translational oddity that has, in some cases, twisted the meaning of a Greek word into almost the opposite. The word is spoudazo, and it is the same word translated as strive or labor or endeavor in Hebrews 4:11 (depending on the translation). And yes, it’s the same word that has been translated as study or endeavor (KJV vs. NASB) in 2 Timothy 2:15. If the KJV translators had striven to be a little more consistent, they could have made Hebrews 4:11 say Study to enter His rest! Haha! Now, the really odd thing here is that this simple word spoudazo means to make haste. [Although I have found no suggestion that our word speed comes from this Greek word, some of the earlier words include: Old Saxon spodian, Middle Dutch spoeden “hasten,” Kinda looks like the Greek spoudazo to me]
Anyhow, I have to ask myself why a word that means to make haste has ended up being used to convey striving or laboring. I mean, what’s that all about? Especially when I can plug the meaning of make haste into most all places where spoudazo is used — and it works. Check out this theological slop:
G4704 σπουδάζω spoudazo (spou-dad’-zo) v.
1. to use speed, i.e. to make effort, be prompt or earnest
How do you show the actual meaning, “to use speed,” and then add an “i.e.” (in other words): to make effort? You see, that’s the rationale used by the KJV crew to come up with “labor to enter his rest.” Really?!
Another form of that Greek word is also used in a few verses.
speudō; a prim. word; to hasten, urge on
It’s used here:
When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. Luke 2:15-16 NASB
“they came in a hurry.” KJV says they “made haste.” Not surprising, eh? Of the 4 uses of spoude, not even the KJV translators tried in insinuate striving or laboring. Such inconsistency!
If you take a look at Hebrews 4:11 in view of the meaning to make haste, it makes a lot more sense than turning God’s rest into something you have to work up or work for or strive and strain to enter. In context, the writer of Hebrews was comparing the Jews hesitance to truly believe that Jesus was the once-for-all sacrifice for sin with the hesitance of their ancestors who hung back at the entrance to the promised land. What if the writer was getting a simple message across to them like this: Get off your butts right now and enter into God’s rest!
What if Bible translators have been (or at least have been influenced) by the same mindset that existed in those who hung back in disbelief? Wouldn’t something like that show up here and there at every possible opportunity? I mean, we’ve got people all over the world talking about their assurance in Christ, only to hang back in fear because they know there is a verse somewhere that says, “Let us strive to enter his rest!”
Even the NASB offering of “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest,” can be just as mired in the muck because the word diligence is given many meanings, as seen in some of synonyms like: industrious, hard-working, assiduous, conscientious, particular, punctilious, meticulous, painstaking, rigorous, careful, thorough.
This is a far cry from the simplicity found in the meaning: make haste. How about synonyms like hurry, urgent, right now, or even eager (as is used in some verses)? Yes, the true rest of God, where he rested from his works of creation, is found in Jesus Christ. This is a good message for those who hesitate to truly believe in the sufficiency of Christ based upon their religious affiliations and conformity to religious requirements. That’s who Hebrews was written to.