Saturday, October 6, 2012

Swordfight: "kosmos" in John 3:16

The “Greek Experts Themselves” Disagree with Kielar

On YouTube there is a 3 part video series entitled, “Does John 3:16 Refute Calvinism?  (Part 2 of 3)”, taught by Mark Kielar and presented by LanesCh (see:

My concern is the first 37 seconds where Mr. Kielar makes the claim that...

The Assertion Made

“The Greek experts themselves, Strong, Thayer, and so on…specifically cite John 3:16 as an example of when kosmos or ‘world’ is referring to ‘believers only’.”

Kosmos is the Greek word translated “world” in our English Bibles in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world (kosmos) that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (NASB).

Clarification of My Argument

Let’s first begin with what I am not arguing:
  • I am not arguing that kosmos has various nuances of meanings.
  • I am not arguing for any particular doctrinal system of belief.
Rather, I am challenging the assertion made by Kielar that the Greek experts define kosmos as "believers only" when referencing specifically John 3:16. 

I argue that:
  • The Greek experts neither define “world” as having reference to “believer’s only” nor cite John 3:16 as an example of such a definition.
  • On the contrary, wherever John 3:16 is cited it is concerning a definition or reference that clearly contradicts the Kielar's assertion.

My Objection as Follows

A.   A look at the language references Mr. Kielar specifically mentioned shows that his assertion is incorrect:
  1. The New Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon: (coded under Strong’s #2889) p.357, point #5 reads - “the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human race” citing John 3:16.  No definition of “believers only” is found or even implicated.
  2. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance: #2889 for John 3:16, “the world (in a wide or narrow sense, incl. it’s inhab., lit. or fig.)”.  No definition of “believers only” is found or even implicated.
B.   Two other reputable language resources disprove Kielar:
  1. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: vol.1, p.524-525, states the meaning of “kosmos in the inclusive sense of “world” under three connotations: (1) the universe, (2) as earth, and (3) humanity, “the place and object of God’s saving activity” (p.524).  Respecting the Gospel of John in particular, it states that the predominant meaning of kosmos is “the world of men…under different aspects.”  No definition of “of believers only” is found or even implicated.
  2. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament: vol.5, p.50, “The world (ton kosmon).  The whole cosmos of men, including Gentiles, the whole human race.”  No definition of “believers only” is found or even implicated.
Failure to Perform Proper and Thorough Research

Apparently, Kielar’s erroneous assertion seems to demonstrate a failure to properly and adequately research the issue to verify just how scholars in NT Greek define kosmos, especially in relation to its appearance in John 3:16.  If one would carefully research the issue, he would find that:
  1. The definition for kosmos, which Kielar claims as defined by all the “Greek experts”, is actually found verbatim not by any NT Greek scholar or resource but in a Bible “study” by Calvinist, A.W Pink.  As you can see when accessing the link, the definition shown on a computer in the video reads the same as what Pink states in his “study”, word for word and verse for verse (see: htm
  2. On the Youtube video, Kielar attempts to substantiate his claim by showing a copy of what may be mistaken to be Thayer’s or Strong’s since it is not made clear as to what is the resource being used.  As far as I have been able to discover, Kielar obtained his information regarding kosmos from only one source, an electronic “language” resource, which uses Pink's definition of kosmos under the subheadings of 8a[i] and 8b.  If I am correct, this is available in the eSword as Strong’s Enhanced Concordance distributed by Logos and is not necessarily put together by a NT Greek scholar.  Apparently, this online source (as shown in the video) follows Thayer’s list of definitions for kosmos.  However, Pink's definitions are added without warrant and are not Thayer's original entry.
  3. Thayer does not cite John 3:16 under definition #8 but under definition #5, where we read, “the inhabitants of the earth; mankind”.  There is no numbered definition listed as “8b: believers only” (or 8a for that matter).  To verify, you can view Thayer’s original list of meanings for kosmos here:  Scroll down to the "Thayer's Lexicon (Help)" box  and click underneath where it reads, "Click Here for the Rest of the Entry".
  4. This definition “of believers only” for kosmos is not found in any of the various and many reputable Biblical language lexicons, dictionaries, and Biblical resources in book form, at least, that I have in my library.  It seems to be only in the electronic “lexicon” alone mentioned above. Unfortunately, this electronic resource is found in many online Bible Study web sites and it's definition for kosmos, as here argued, is assumed correct without question by many believers.[ii]  A NT Greek scholar advised that any serious study of the Bible should not be conducted via electronic resources,[iii] since those who make them can easily manipulate the information in support of any theological bias they may hold.
  5. It should be noted that once the Blue Letter Bible website was informed of the erroneous entry, they deleted it off their website: and compare it with this website:  In a personal Email to me, an administrator for the BLB stated, "I reviewed the remarks of yourself and [name of Greek scholar] and consulted with Brandon, another of our team members, and we've come to agree with you that the 'of believers only' doesn't belong in the lexicon entry for kosmos."

Contrary to the assertion made in the video, “the Greek Experts”, whom Kielar mentions, do not refer to or define kosmos as “believers only”and with specific reference to John 3:16 as an example of such usage either explicitly or implicitly.

The only way I see to correct the statement is to either:
  • Show exactly where these “Greek experts themselves”, especially Thayer and Strong, “cite Jn 3:16 as an example of when kosmos or world is referring to ‘believers only’.”
  • Retract the whole statement in question and provide a correction.[iv]
Refusing to do either would necessarily turn the question Kielar posed back to him: If we can’t trust Mark Kielar's definition here, why would we trust him elsewhere?

[i] Although my focus is on 8b, the definition for kosmos shown under 8a is also untenable according to a NT Scholar via personal email correspondence.
[ii] I have contacted some web sites informing them of the erroneous definition included in the Greek lexicon provided by their website.  Only one website responded, researched it, and concluded that there is no warrant for it and removed that particular definition (“8b. believers only”) from their copy of the electronic language resource.
[iii] This was actually the opinion of a Logos administrator and Bible scholar who did not like the lexicon portion of eSword and would rather remove it from their software.
[iv] I have emailed Kielar informing him of his error.  He refuses to acknowledge it and insists what he states is accurate and true.  From my perspective, it is one thing to mistakenly disseminate wrong information and another thing to dismiss correction once received and continue to knowingly advance the error; and, of course, it is still another thing to advance what you have convinced yourself is true when in reality it is false.  The former is to be deceiving, the latter is to be deluded.


  1. 1. I would like to know if Kielar's definition of kosmos is believers only, is that belief in God or Christ.
    2. How does he define the word "whosoever " in the same John 3:16 verse?

    1. You may contact Kielar here: I'm not sure he'll respond.

  2. 2 questions for Kielar...
    1. If definition for the word "kosmos" is for "believers only", believers of God or Christ?
    2. What does the word whosoever pertain to in same scripture passage?

  3. The answer to the first, I would think Keilar might say both, although primarily as faith in God through Christ.

    To answer the second, I'm pretty sure Keilar would tell you that the Greek literally reads (off the top of my head), "all the ones believing", which he is correct; however, it has no reference to particular persons. It's emphasis is not on the individual but on the point that eternal life is obtained only through faith, and faith in Christ. Therefore, whoever exercises faith escapes eternal damnation.

  4. Thank you for your research and efforts to clear up this misunderstanding

    1. Hi, David. Your welcome. I'm happy to know the article was helpful for you.

    2. In the context of John 3:16 'KOSMOS' pertains to G2865...isn't it. Context is how word should be defined.Bible says God created the wicked for the day of evil and Bible says 'vessels of wrath fitted(fully accomplished) to destruction. Men who were of old ordained unto condemnation (proverbs, Romans,Jude) how can God love men he has fitted to destruction? To be all of mankind 'KOSMOS' would not fit context of passage because it would be in conflict with these and other verses...I could be wrong but this seems like a good way to shed light on kosmos in John 3:16... Eli Eli

    3. I‘m not sure I understand what you’re attempting to say but it seems you agree that "kosmos" in Jn 3:16 means "believers only." If that's the case, allow me to briefly respond in disagreement to some of the things you mention.

      Re: Pr 16:4, if you're suggesting that God created men morally evil than you will need to affirm that God is the author of evil, which does not fit the Bible's characterization of God.

      Again, if you're suggesting that Rom 9:22 is teaching that God purposely created certain people in order that he can express, not love and salvation but, anger and damnation against them, then you are affirming a god whose character is unlike how the Bible portrays it.

      And, finally, if you are suggesting that Jude teaches that there are certain men, whom God created wicked for the express purpose of forming them to endure eternal the terrors and pain of an eternal damnation, then, again, you are imagining a god that in nowhere enters into the Biblical framework. As such, you pose a good question, "how can God love men he has fitted to destruction?" And if you are implying there are those whom God has created to hate and does hate, again, you are positing a God not found anywhere in the Bible.

      To your comment specifically on Jn 3:16: (a) the context makes more sense when "kosmos" is understood as the "world," that is as Thayer defines it, "the inhabitants of the earth," and not "believers only." You would have to show how (b) In any case, there is no other place in the NT where "kosmos" refers to "believers only." (c) Even Calvinist scholars, like D.A. Carson, refute the notion that "kosmos" in Jn 3:16 refers to "believers only."

      Again, I'm not too clear on what you're trying to say, so if you respond to my comment, please be a bit more clear and precise. If I misunderstood you, please accept my apologies. Thanks.