If you’re in or near Nashville, I hope you’ll join us Sunday at 8:45 or 10:15 at The Donelson Fellowship. The sermon is from John 14, and during the message I want to deal with the word “mansions.”
Years ago when I memorized John 14 in the King James Version, it said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” When I read it now in my New International Version, it says, “In My Father’s house are many rooms.”
I’m not happy that my heavenly accommodations have been downgraded from a mansion to a room. There’s a lot of difference between a mansion and a room. When I travel, I don’t mind if they upgrade me, but I don’t like to be downgraded. And it’s quite a downgrade to go from a mansion to a room. So what gives?
Well, our English word “mansion” comes from a Latin word meaning to live or dwell; and originally the word “mansion” simply meant a place to live. When Katrina and I were first married, I preached for a Presbyterian church in Roan Mountain and they let us stay in the church’s manse. What the Baptists call a parsonage, the Presbyterians call a manse. It wasn’t a mansion; far from it. It was a house for the pastor, a dwelling place. When Tyndale first translated the Bible into English, this is the word he used here: Manse, mansion. It didn’t have the connotation it has now; it simply meant “dwelling place.”
The Greek word is μονή, and it literally means “dwelling places.” It doesn’t literally mean “rooms.” It means dwelling places.
Why, then, do some of the newer versions use the word “rooms.” Well, it’s obvious. They are responding to the analogy Jesus is using. He’s comparing the New Heavens and the New Earth and the New Jerusalem to a house. “In My Father’s house are many places to dwell.” And what you have in a house is “rooms.” But that doesn’t mean that we’re all going to be confined to a single one-room efficiency in some sort of heavenly tenement house throughout eternity. I actually think that the word “mansion” is a pretty good one. After all, the smallest house in heaven is going to be a million times better and more wonderful than the grandest palace on earth, and so I don’t think the idea of “mansion” is inappropriate. I’m going to stick to my old King James terminology here. In my Father’s house are many mansions.