MANSIONS OR ROOMS?
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so,
I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
The NIV and RSV both translate the Greek word mone as rooms and translate the beginning of this verse as: “In my Father’s house are many rooms…”
Before I continue with this article, I will warn readers that I may stomp on a few toes for which I ask indulgence. Some of these toes may belong to Bible-believing brothers and sisters for whom I have great love and respect. Of course, I step on Bible perverting apostates’ toes every chance that I get, and they may be assured that this apology is in no way directed toward them.
There is a hymn that I dislike very much and will not sing. That Mansion Over the Hilltop. I liked the hymn when I was a young Christian, but the more that I heard it, the more it troubled me. I now dislike it very much because it is unscriptural. I have always been bothered by the idea that we should be asking more than a cottage in heaven, and that we should expect a palatial mansion or great plantation. It always struck me as putting us on a level with the likes of Paul Crouch with his four million dollar mansion in Malibu, and other greedy, worldly, charismatic preachers.
“I want a mansion like the one that Paul and Jan have, that pretty mansion, out in Malibu. And with that mansion, I want a four car garage too, with a boat and four-wheel, and a Caddy or two.”
I knew that the actual hymn was based on the Bible verse quoted above, but I also knew that there was something not quite right with the way that it is interpreted. Knowing that the problem could not be with the King James Bible, I assumed that the problem had to be with our understanding of the word “mansion”. This was obvious to me because the verse states that there are many mansions in our Father’s house. Having many palatial palaces inside of a house makes no sense. It is like saying that there are many piano crates inside of a shoe box. I studied the word “mansion” by using the only Bible study tool, aside from atlases, that I recommend to anyone outside of the Bible itself: English dictionaries. I was not disappointed with the findings.
“Mansion” in King James era English did not refer to a palatial palace or great plantation at all. It referred to a living space within an estate. The Oxford Dictionary defines mansion thus: “1. The action of remaining, dwelling, or staying in a place. Also, continuance in a position or state. -1722. A place of abode, an abiding-place, Now arch. ME… A separate dwelling-place or apartment in a large house or enclosure -1697. 3. A house, tent, etc. -1781…”
It comes from Latin, where it means: ‘place where someone stays’, being derived from the verb manere, meaning to remain. The Latin is related to the Greek word, which means the same thing.
John Bullokar’s English dictionary of 1616, entitled An English Expositor: Teaching the Interpretation of the Hardest Words Used in our Language, defines mansion as follows: A tarying or abiding; also a dwelling house.
In essence, a mansion was a living space that was given to someone, most often an heir, in which they were able to live within the estate of the master of the estate. Sons were often given mansions by their fathers when they married. It could be a room like the NIV and RSV suggest, but calling it “a room” is misleading and too narrow in meaning. As Bullokar’s dictionary makes clear, these living quarters could be a small house within the estate or a section of the larger house. It can be something like a cottage below. As usual the KJV is more accurate, but in order to understand it we must be willing to follow the advice given to us in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Some may suggest that the KJV needs to be updated because the meaning of “mansions” has changed. This would not work because there is no real equivalent in the modern language. Furthermore, as Gail Riplinger has stated in at least three of her books, the meaning of words can be found within the KJV itself. It may be gleamed that mansions are smaller than houses and are therefore parts of houses, and therefore the word’s meaning may be made clear to us without any outside help at all.
John Hinton, Ph.D.
Bible Restoration Ministry
A ministry seeking the translating and reprinting of KJV equivalent
Bibles in all the languages of the world.