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Interpretation: All Not Everyone

The word “all” or “every” does not necessarily mean every single individual entity. It means all or every of whatever the context is talking about. For example, it would be common for someone to say something like, “After church, we all went out to lunch together.” Quite clearly, the person was not speaking of every single individual on the earth. In fact, he probably (although possibly) was not even speaking of every single individual in the church. He was speaking of all of a smaller group defined by the subject of the sentence, “we.” Who is encompassed in the “we” would only be known by the context. This situtation can lead to some problematic interpretations of verses that use the word “all” and “every” in the Bible.

  • Gen 6:17; 7:4: All flesh was not destroyed. Nor did everything die. Noah and his family, the animals on the ark and the sea life were not destroyed.
  • Dan 4:1; 2:37-30; 4:11-12,20: Says Nebuchadnezzar was king of ALL the earth. Yet he did not rule over Greece, Rome, Others
  • Dan 2:39: Greece did not rule over ALL the earth; e.g., Spain, Italy, others.
  • Dan 7:23: Rome did not rule over ALL the earth; China, Japan, etc.
  • Mat 3:5-6: Did EVERY single Pharisee and Saduccee get baptized? Not according to Matthew 21:25.
  • Luk 2:1-3: Did even the Australian aboriginees get taxed by Rome?
  • Rom 1:8; 10:8: Did every single person on the earth hear about the church in Rome?
  • Col 1:23: Did the gospel get preached to every ant and worm in the South Pacific?

Many times when the Bible says “all people,” it is referring to:

  • Hebrews and Greeks as groups.
  • [Gal 3:28 NKJV] There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

  • Or all groups of men: Kings, noble, free and slaves.

    [1 Timothy 2:1-4 NKJV] Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, [2] for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. [3] For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, [4] who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    Compare the above to 1 Timothy 4:10, where I believe the interpretation is all and everyone, since believers are clearly indicated as a special subset of “all men.”

  • [1 Timothy 4:10 NKJV] For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach,* because we trust in the living God, who is [the] Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.

  • Or back to a previously defined group.The “all” in 2 Peter 3:9 most likely by grammatical rules refers back to “us-ward”. The previous verse tells us that Peter is speaking to the “beloved,” i..e, believers.
  • [2 Peter 3:9 KJV] The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

So the context of the paragraph determines to what or who “all” and “every” is referring.

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