It was with uncertainty that I received the news of a ‘great coverup’ which was about to be righted by this intriguing book, being naturally cautious of those who seem to suggest they’ve found something crucial in the Bible that has been missed for centuries. However, John MacArthur does take pains to explain his introduction and then discusses the nuance left by what he has discovered.
The book revolves around questioning the translation of the Greek word doulos (δοῦλος) – often translated with a form of ‘servant’ but more literally rendered ‘slave’. The book is carefully structured to achieve three things; to explain what the word doulos meant to the original audience, to discuss passages of scripture which use the word in this light, and to paint a picture of our relationship to Christ understood through a more historically accurate understanding of the term.
With an eclectic mix of everything from ancient Hebrew customs and stories from recent church history the text is refreshing and enjoyable as well as containing a serious theological focus. John MacArthur is a natural story-teller and it shows in this work.
The theological points he makes seem to be generally well founded. There is a lot which is not well substantiated, particularly references to ancient customs outside of the Biblical narrative, leaving doubts in some places as to how strong the evidence is for a given point or how widespread a practice was.
As to whether there is a ‘great coverup’ regarding the word doulos, it is clear that there is variation in the way the word is translated and that the word cannot be directly correlated to either servant or slave, as we understand them today. Quite what English word John MacArthur thinks is correct remains unclear, given he himself notes many problems with using the word ‘slave’. On the other hand, it is worth remembering that Greek is common to the vast majority of Bible college curricula, and so the word has remained unchanged and open to trained pastors as they prepare to preach – and explain – a passage.
The copy I reviewed was narrated by John MacArthur, who did a great job of bringing his work to life.
With thanks to christianaudio who provided the review copy.