Posts tagged ‘Greek’

Anger and Patience

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Jesus’ words on anger in His Sermon on the Mount are incredibly challenging:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. (Matthew 5:21-22)

In His words, Jesus connects a feeling – that of anger – to a felony – the crime of murder.

These words are not just challenging for us in our context, where societal anger is on display on social media, on cable news, and in the streets and where personal anger can be found in homes, in workplaces, and in relationships across this nation, these words have been challenging ever since Jesus uttered them.

We see just how challenging Jesus’ words have been in an interesting textual variant found in some of the ancient manuscripts of Jesus’ sermon. Some manuscripts add the phrase “without cause” to Jesus’ words:

I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister without cause will be subject to judgment. (Matthew 5:22)

Though these words, according to the best textual evidence we have, were almost certainly not original, they are widespread among the ancient manuscripts. It seems that even in antiquity, people thought that a prohibition against being angry with someone without qualification was a bridge too far. But when we are angry, none of us believe our anger is “without cause.” We all believe our anger is justified or even necessary. Jesus reminds us that it’s not. Anger is not the answer to offense.

Solomon once wrote:

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. (Proverbs 15:18)

When we are tempted to become angry, patience is the key. For patience can produce what anger never can – peace. Patience can diffuse a situation instead of escalating it. And patient is what God was with us. In our sin, He waited for us to turn to Him in repentance.

Anger may make us feel better for a while, but patience can make the world better for the long haul.

November 1, 2021 at 5:15 am 1 comment

New Discoveries of Old Scrolls

Last Tuesday, researchers unveiled newly discovered fragments of some Dead Sea Scrolls. These fragments represent the first discovery of Dead Sea Scrolls in over 50 years and contain verses from Zechariah 8:16-17 and Nahum 1:5-6. And there’s plenty notable about these discoveries.

First, the text of these fragments is written in Greek, the language of the New Testament, instead of in Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, even though Zechariah and Nahum are Old Testament prophets. This is because these scrolls were written in the first century AD when the world spoke Greek. This is a reminder that the Jewish people treated their Hebrew Scriptures as eminently important, so they translated them into the lingua franca of the ancient world so that as many people as possible could read them and learn from them. They believed their Scriptures were good for the world and needed by the world.

Second, these fragments seem to indicate that there was some debate over how certain passages should be translated from their original Hebrew into the contemporary Greek of their day. The translation work in these fragments represents a revision of an older Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. So, for instance, in Zechariah 8:17, the older Greek translation renders a Hebrew word ish as “each other.” The verse reads, “Do not plot evil against each other.” This fragment, however, notices that, in the Hebrew manuscript, ish is the first word in the sentence and therefore leaves it there, and translates it using its most common meaning of “man.” It translates: “As for a man, do not plot evil against his neighbor in your heart.” This shows that, dating all the way back into the first century, people took translating the Scriptures seriously, even debating how to best translate various verses and difficult grammatical constructions. Their goal was to provide as accurate a rendering as possible of the original language texts they had because they held the Scriptures in such high regard. They wanted to be supremely careful in how they translated these holy documents.

Finally, these fragments also, quite uniquely, use the personal name for God: Yahweh. The scrolls leave the name of God in Hebrew with Hebrew letters, even though these are Greek manuscripts. Traditionally, in an attempt to avoid coming even close to misusing God’s name, translators would address God formally as “Lord” instead of invoking God’s name personally as “Yahweh.” But these manuscripts get personal. These translators seemed to have wanted to emphasize that there is a personal God who cares about people – personally.

A discovery like this reminds us that people have long revered the Scriptures and treated them with the utmost care. These were always considered to be sacred documents. They were not exalted to such a status later. This discovery also provides us a window into the faith of our forefathers, who trusted in a personal God and His personal concern for them. From them, we have learned the faith. From them, we have learned the Gospel. And for them, we should be thankful.

March 22, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

At God’s Core: Service


Credit: Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles by Meister des Hausbuches, 1475

A while back, I was having a conversation with a friend who was going through a difficult time.  He was struggling relationally, vocationally, and financially.  And yet, throughout his struggles, he had managed to keep a remarkably clear head about what was most important.  “No matter how bad things may get,” he told me, “I still want to find ways to help and serve others.  It helps me take the focus off my own pain and remember just how important other people really are.”

I could not agree more.  This is wise insight from a good friend.  Serving others is a surprisingly great salve for a troubled soul.

In Philippians 2, the apostle Paul writes about the difficult times Jesus endured – specifically, His most difficult time of dying on a cross.  Paul also explains that as Jesus endured these times, He did so with the heart of a servant:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  (Philippians 2:5-7)

The Greek behind this passage is interesting and worth a moment of our reflection.  The passage above is taken from the ESV, which notes that though Jesus was God, He became a servant.  The ESV translates Jesus’ servanthood concessively.  That is, the ESV makes it sound like Jesus’ divinity and His servanthood are somehow logically antithetical to each other, or, at the very least, in tension with each other.  Jesus is God and has all the power, perks, and privileges that go along with being God, and even though He could have retained all those power, perks, and privileges when He came to this earth, He conceded them to become a servant.

The actual grammar behind this passage, however, is more ambiguous.  The word for “though” in Greek is hyparkon, a participial form of the verb “to be,” which, at the same time it can be translated concessively as the word “though” as the ESV does, it can just as easily and legitimately be translated causally as the word “because”:  “Jesus, because He was in the form of God…emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant.”

If I had to choose between a concessive or a causal translation of hyparkon, I would opt for the causal translation.  Here’s why.

To translate hyparkon concessively makes it sound like somehow the nature of God and the nature of a servant are at odds with each other.  But what if God is, in His very nature, a servant?  What if, as John Ortberg says, “When Jesus came in the form of a servant, He was not disguising who God is, He was revealing who God is”?[1]  What if the grandeur of God and the servanthood of Christ don’t conflict with each other, but correspond to each other?  What if Jesus not only explaining His mission, but revealing God’s nature when he said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28)?

Sometimes, we can be tempted to treat service as a bother, a burden, or, worse yet, as something that is beneath us.  But being a servant should never conflict with who we are.  It should reveal who we are.  Jesus was a servant not in spite of who He was as God, but because of who He was as God.  God is a servant at heart and so it only makes sense that Jesus would comes as a servant!  Likewise, we should be servants not in spite of who we are as business people, managers, or people who can command respect, but because of who we are as God’s children.

This is what my friend understood when he talked to me.  He wanted his service not to be incidental to his life, but core in his life.  May we want the same.


[1] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 115.

September 5, 2016 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Has The Bible Been Corrupted?

Greek Bible 2This past weekend in worship and ABC, we discussed some of the biggest objections and obstacles that people present to trusting in Jesus.  One of the objections and obstacles I covered in ABC had to do with the reliability of Scripture.  Bart Ehrman, a skeptical scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explains why so many people call into question the Bible’s reliability:

Not only do we not have the originals [of the biblical manuscripts], we don’t have the first copies of the originals.  We don’t even have the copies of the copies of the originals, or the copies of the copies of the copies of the originals.  What we have are copies made later – much later.  In most instances, they are copies made centuries later.  And these copies all differ from one another, in many thousands of places…These copies differ from one another in so many places that we don’t even know how many differences there are.  Possibly it is easiest to put it in comparative terms:  there are more differences in our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.[1]

Many people wonder if that which is recorded in the Bible is historically accurate.  Recently, popular news commentator Bill O’ Reilly called into question the historicity of the biblical stories of Adam and Eve and of Jonah, saying, “I was taught, in my Catholic school, that a lot of the stories in the Bible are allegorical.”[2]  Bart Ehrman takes it a step farther.  He not only questions if what is recorded in the Bible is historically accurate, he questions if what is recorded in the Bible was even supposed to be there at all!  He notes the many ancient copies we have of the Bible differ from each other, thereby undermining their veracity, at least in Ehrman’s eyes.  After all, if no two ancient manuscripts completely agree with each other, how can we know which manuscripts record what was actually written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, et al?

In their book Reinventing Jesus,[3] three biblical scholars make some helpful distinctions concerning the types of variants, or differences, that we find in ancient biblical manuscripts.  In order to understand what is truly going on with the differences we have between ancient copies of the Bible, it is worth it to review their categories.

Spelling Differences

The majority of the variants we have in the New Testament are either alternate spellings or misspellings of a given word.  For instance, the name John is in some manuscripts spelled Ioannes, while in other manuscripts, it is spelled Iaones.  One “n” or two?  It doesn’t really matter.  Regardless of how this name is spelled, we know to whom the manuscript is referring.

Differences That Do Not Affect Translation

There are some differences between ancient copies of the Bible that have no affect on how we read something in English.  For example, Greek allows for definite articles before proper names, but does not demand them.  Thus, instead of referring to “Mary,” a biblical Greek text may refer to “the Mary.”  Or, instead of referring to Jesus, a Greek text may read “the Jesus.”  Because Greek allows for but does not demand these definite articles, some ancient Greek texts contain the definite articles in front of names while others do not.  This, however, does not affect the translation or meaning of a given biblical text.  Rather, the decision to retain or forgo a definite article is merely a matter of style.

Meaningful Variants That Are Not Viable

There are some differences between ancient biblical copies that do indeed affect the meaning of a text, but one of the variant readings is simply not viable.  For instance, ancient versions of 1 Thessalonians 2:9 refer to “the gospel of God” while a late medieval manuscript of this same verse refers to “the gospel of Christ.”  Though the gospel is indeed Christ’s gospel, because only one late medieval manuscript has this reading while almost all other ancient manuscripts refer to “the gospel of God,” the reading that refers to the gospel of Christ simply isn’t viable.  Too many other texts militate against this reading.

Meaningful and Viable Variants

Finally, there are some variants between ancient biblical copies that both affect the meaning of a text and are viable.  Romans 5:1 has variants that read, “We have peace” as well as “Let us have peace.”  Scholars are split on which one is original.  But even if scholars are split on which one is original, both statements are theologically correct.  After all, we are both promised peace through Christ and commanded to be people of peace by Christ.

It is important to note that the variants which are both meaningful and viable make up only about one percent of all textual variants.  Moreover, even with the many, but small, differences in our many ancient biblical manuscripts, not one of these differences – even the meaningful and viable ones – compromises a biblical doctrine.  Throughout all of these manuscripts, doctrines like the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and salvation by grace through faith are taught.  Indeed, Ehrman is finally forced to admit that the vast majority of variants in ancient biblical manuscripts are insignificant when he writes,  “Most of these differences are completely immaterial and insignificant.”[4]

So what does all this mean?  It means the text of the Bible we have is the text of the Bible as it has always been.  Thanks to the faithful and diligent efforts of many scribes and scholars over many centuries, the words of the apostles and prophets have been faithfully handed down from one generation to the next.  What we read now in the Bible is what the Christian Church has always believed, taught, and confessed.  Christ has preserved His Word from corruption by His grace.  Thanks be to God!

[1] Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus (New York:  Harper Collins, 2005), 10.

[2] Melissa Barnhart, “Robert Jeffress Argues With Bill O’Reilly Over If Jonah, Adam and Eve Stories Are Real,” Christian Post (3.8.13).

[3] J. Ed Komoskewski, M. James Sawyer & Daniel B. Wallace, Reinventing Jesus:  How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Really Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture (Grand Rapids:  Kregel Publications, 2006), 53-63.

[4] Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, 10.

March 18, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

The Exodus Belongs To Jesus

“The Israelites Leaving Egypt” by David Roberts (1830)

One of the things for which I am deeply grateful is the hard work of New Testament textual scholars who search out and study ancient copies of biblical manuscripts, comparing and contrasting their little differences, in order to try to discern what the oldest, best, and, hopefully, original reading of a biblical text may have been.  The standard for wading through the myriad of texts out there for pastors and scholars alike is the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece.  Your English Bible, if it is of recent translation, is more than likely based on this Greek text.

When I was in seminary, Nestle-Aland’s Greek New Testament was on its twenty-seventh edition.  Recently, the twenty-eighth addition hit the presses.  And though there are many notable changes and improvements, one change rises above the rest.  It is in Jude 5.  The NIV translates the verse this way:  “I want to remind you that the Lord delivered His people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.”  Here, Jude hearkens back to God’s rescue of His people out of Egypt as well as their unfortunate subsequent destruction because of their rebellion.  He references the exodus to warn his readers against those “who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4).

Interestingly, there has been a fair amount of dispute over the text of Jude 5.  The NIV translates it according to the preferred reading of Nestle-Aland’s twenty-seventh edition.  But the twenty-eighth edition makes an important change:  “I want to remind you that Jesus delivered His people out of Egypt.”  Rather than having “the Lord,” a title for God generically, deliver His people out of Egypt as the NIV translates it, the twenty-eighth edition of Nestle-Aland says this verse should read that it was Jesus specifically who led the people out of Egypt.  Bruce Metzger, a world renowned textual scholar, notes that “critical principles seem to require the adoption of ‘Jesus,’ which admittedly is the best attested reading among Greek and versional witnesses.”[1]

The change from “the Lord” to “Jesus” is of inestimable significance, for it gives us an important window into the way first century Christians understood God’s work in Christ.  Christ was no one new when He was born in Bethlehem; rather, He was older than creation itself.  Indeed, He was active in creation itself (cf. John 1:1-3).  And He has been active throughout the course of redemptive history, long before His incarnation.

Thus, wherever there is rescue, wherever there is salvation, wherever there is freedom, wherever there is hope – be that in the Old Testament or in the New Testament – there is Christ.  Christ is present and active throughout all of Scripture.  Christ led the charge out of slavery in Egypt for the Israelites and He leads the charge out of slavery in sin for us.  Jude 5 says so.

[1] Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the New Testament, 3rd ed. (New York:  United Bible Societies, 1971), 726.

November 26, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Building Your Endurance

When I lived in north Austin, there was a park close to the house at which I was staying with a beautiful jogging trail, complete with lots of forested areas and a breathtaking open field full of wildflowers.  At the time, I was overweight, so I decided taking up running might be just the thing to help me shed those unwanted pounds.  So one afternoon, I hit the gravel.  The trail was a mile and each tenth of a mile was marked.  I made it about two- tenths of a mile before I had to stop.  I was dripping with sweat.  I was out of breath.  But most of all, I was embarrassed.  “Two-tents of a mile?” I thought to myself.  “That’s not even once around a running track!”

After my embarrassing initial outing, I knew something had to change.  So I went out again…and again…and again.  I sweated.  I grunted.  I pushed myself.  I was tempted to give up and tap out.  But I knew the more I ran, the more my body and health would be transfigured and transmuted.  And so, I endured.  And that endurance made all the difference.

These days, I am thankfully many pounds lighter and can run much farther.  A three-mile run is now a part of my daily routine.  Although now, being a little older and wiser, I know that pre-dawn mornings in Texas are much better for running than are sun-scorched afternoons.  But beyond the temperature, it is my endurance that made all the difference in my health and fitness.  Endurance was the key.

In our text for this past weekend from 2 Corinthians 6, Paul rattles off a list of the hardships and joys he has experienced in ministry:

As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:4-10)

With such a lengthy list, it does not take long to discover that Paul has had more than his fair share of ups and downs in ministry – everything from beatings and imprisonments and sorrows to purity and love and rejoicing.  Yet, it is the first thing in Paul’s list of ups and downs that sets the tone for the rest of Paul’s list:  endurance.  Paul writes, “As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:  in great endurance” (verse 4).  Through all of ministry’s ups and downs, Paul highlights one thing that has made all the difference in his ministry:  endurance.  The Greek word for “endurance” is hypomonemone, meaning “to stand,” and hypo, meaning “under.”  Thus, to “endure” means to “stand up under” even the toughest times.  The great New Testament scholar William Barclay comments on hypomone:

It describes the ability to bear things in such a triumphant way that it transfigures them and transmutes them. Chrysostom has a great panegyric on this, this triumphant Christian endurance. He calls it the root of all goods, the mother of piety, the fruit that never withers, a fortress that is never taken, a harbor that knows no storms.[1]

Barclay’s thoughts describe precisely what Paul does with the ups and downs of his ministry.  He endures through them so that he might be transfigured and transmuted.  Rather than giving up or tapping out, Paul endures.  And you should too.

What ups and downs are you experiencing in your life?  When you endure through them, God can change you by them.  God can use them to “conform us to the likeness of His Son” (Romans 8:29).  So stand up under hardship.  Stand up under good times as well.  For standing up under life, which is the very definition of endurance, can be used by God for His purposes.  And God’s purposes will endure long after you fail and falter.  His endurance is an endurance we all need – for life and for eternity.

Want to learn more? Go to
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

[1] William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1954), 237.

May 14, 2012 at 5:15 am 1 comment

ABC Extra – Team Lifting

A few months back, I purchased a treadmill for my wife.  The one we previously owned had worn out and it was time for a newer, more powerful, more advanced model.  I was very happy with the deal I received on the treadmill.  I got it for about 50 percent off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price!  As I was paying for the treadmill, the customer service representative asked me, “Would you like to pay an additional $100 to have the treadmill delivered and set up?”  I didn’t even have to think about it:  “$100?  No thank you, I’ll pass.”

A couple of days later, I returned to the store with my truck and a buddy to pick up the treadmill.  It was going to be simple.  We would load the treadmill in the bed of my truck, haul it home, set it up, and be done.  The plan was perfect.  That is, the plan was perfect until we tried to actually pick up the treadmill.  It had to weigh 1,000 pounds!  Thankfully, a couple of guys from the sporting goods store came out to help us.  When we finally got it into the bed of my truck and drove it back to my house, we took it out of the box, piece by piece, to haul inside.   After a whole lot of sweat and an aching back, I decided I should have paid the $100.

As I was trying, without success, to lug the huge and heavy box out of the sporting goods store to the bed of my truck, I noticed an icon the box’s side.  It had two people picking up a hug box with these words:  “TEAM LIFT for your safety.”  When I saw the icon, I thought to myself, “Would anyone even think of trying to pick this box up by himself?”

In Luke 10:38-42, we meet two sisters:  Martha and Mary.  These sisters could not be any more different.  Jesus and His twelve disciples are joining the sisters at their house for a supper, and Martha wants to make sure everything is just perfect for her guests.  And so she goes about preparing a lavish feast.  But with her recipe books strewn across the kitchen, pots and pans boiling over on the stove, and flour flung across the floor, Martha’s meal becomes more than she can bear.  She need someone with whom she can “team lift” in preparing.  But Mary, her sister, seems unable or, worse yet, unwilling to help.  When Jesus and His disciples arrive, Mary simply sits at Jesus’ feet, listening intently to what He says.  Finally, in exasperation, Martha complains to her Lord:  “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me” (Luke 10:40)!  The Greek word for “help” is synantilambanomai.  This one word is actually a compound word made up of the words:  synanti, meaning “with,” or “corresponding to,” and lambanomai, meaning “to take up,” or “to lift.”  Thus, when Martha asks for her sister’s help, she is asking her to do some “team lifting.”

Now surely, Jesus should empathize with Martha’s plight.  After all, her hard work could break her back!  But Jesus’ response to Martha is altogether surprising if not even offensive:  “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).  Jesus will not send Mary to “team lift” with her sister.  Because finally, Martha doesn’t need a team lifter, Martha needs Jesus.  Martha needs to learn from Jesus, like Mary.  Martha needs to follow Jesus, like Mary.  And Martha needs to rest in Jesus, like Mary.

Be it in friendships between children or marriages between adults, I often hear people complain that a partner in a relationship is not “pulling their weight.”  These people explain that they are left all by themselves to do the heavy lifting of a relationship.  Though it is true that friends and spouses certainly ought to help each other, before you complain that another person is not pulling their weight, perhaps you should first go to Jesus.  Perhaps you should ask Him to heal and reconcile your relationship.  Perhaps you should ask Him to give you the strength needed to maneuver your way through what can sometimes be complex and weighty relationships.  Because before you need someone to “team lift” with you, you need Jesus.  Because Jesus doesn’t just help you with some of your burden takes your burden and nails it to His cross.  So find your strength – and your rest – in Him.

Want to learn more? Go to
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

June 27, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Resurrection! It’s Not Just for Jesus

One of my favorite parts of Holy Week is the music.  Last night in Maundy Thursday worship, we sang of Christ’s body and blood, given for us sinners to eat and drink.  I’ve been singing the words to this hymn this morning:

God’s Word proclaims and we believe
That in this Supper we receive
Christ’s very body, as He said,
His very blood for sinners shed.

Today, as we reflect upon the cross of Christ, we will sing another of my favorite songs:

Mighty, awesome, wonderful,
Is the holy cross.
Where the Lamb laid down His life
To lift us from the fall.
Mighty is the power of the cross.

And then, on Easter, will come this powerful anthem:

I know that my Redeemer lives;
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever-living head.

The words of this final song, of course, are taken from the book of Job where, even after Job has lost everything, he declares his faith in God and his desire for an advocate to plead his case to God:  “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me” (Job 19:25-27)!  These words have long been taken by Christians as a foreshadowing of Christ’s resurrection.  Hence, the reason we sing these words on Easter!  Interestingly, however, it’s not just Christians who have found hints of a resurrection in Job’s story, the ancient Jews did too.

In the third century BC, a Greek translation of the Old Testament was commissioned.  Because of the rampant Hellenization of the ancient world, many Jews could no longer read Hebrew, the language in which the Old Testament was originally written, and so this work  of translating the Bible into Greek was undertaken so that people could read the Bible in their language.  The Septuagintal translation of Job is especially interesting because whoever translated it seems to have a love for resurrection!  Consider these passages:

  • Job 14:14:  Hebrew – “If a man dies, shall he live again?”  Greek – “If a man dies, he shall live!”
  • Job 19:26:  Hebrew – “After my skin has been thus destroyed…” Greek – “And to resurrect my skin upon the earth that endures these sufferings…”
  • Job 42:17:  The Greek Septuagint adds a line to this verse not in the Hebrew text:  “It is written of Job that he will rise again with those whom the Lord will raise.”

Clearly, the translator of Job believed in the resurrection!  Thus, the book of Job not only foretells Jesus’ resurrection in that famous line from Job 19, it foretells the resurrection of Job and all the faithful as well.  For because Christ has risen, we will rise!  In the words of the prophet Daniel:  “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).  For those who trust in Christ, we will be raised to everlasting life.  Because Christ has risen, we will rise.  The translator of Job knew and believed this.  I hope you do too.  For if you know and believe that your Redeemer lives, you can know and believe that you will live…forever.

April 22, 2011 at 7:36 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – So Many Translations, So Little Time

This past weekend, we reflected further on the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture in part two of our series “Inspire!”  In an effort to better understand the Bible we read, in ABC, I talked about some of the different philosophies which undergird different Bible translations.  I identified three different major types of translational philosophies:

  • Word-for-word translations seek to translate the ancient Hebrew and Greek of the biblical text word-for-word into English as far as possible.  They also try to translate the same Hebrew or Greek word consistently throughout the Scriptures, even when the context of a given verse might encourage a different translation of that word for the sake of style and ease of reading.  Indeed, word-for-word translations can often read clumsily since Greek and Hebrew syntax and sentence structure can vary widely from English syntax and sentence structure.
  • Thought-for-thought translations seek to take phrases or even sentences from the Hebrew and Greek biblical text and translate them according to the intent of the biblical authors using smooth, readable English.  This is helpful for understanding, but can also lead to misunderstandings because sometimes the biblical syntax, no matter how convoluted and confusing it may appear, is important to understanding the argument of a biblical writer.
  • Paraphrases consult other English translations of the Bible, along with some Greek and Hebrew texts as well, and then they paraphrase these other translations into contemporary, readable English.  Paraphrases are dangerous because they often explicitly, and sometimes even recklessly, reflect the theological biases of their paraphrasers.

With this brief review of translational philosophies in mind, I wanted to offer a couple of additional thoughts with regard to translating Scripture.

First, it is important to note that Bible translating is more of an art than a science.  Oftentimes, people will ask me what the best translation of the Bible is. The fact of the matter is, there is no one translation that I can recommend wholeheartedly as the “best” because, finally, Bible translating is an art!  This means that there are some translations of the NIV that I prefer while, in other places, I prefer an ESV or an NASB rendering.  In a couple of instances, the old KJV still carries the day for me!  This is why, rather than simply recommending a single translation, I encourage people to compare several translations, giving the benefit of the doubt to the word-for-word translations over the thought-for-thought ones, and then consulting a commentary to shed further light on the text.

Second, it is important to note that there is no such thing as a “literal” translation of the Bible.  Whether it is a word-for-word or a thought-for-thought translation, every translation involves some level of translator interpretation, especially when an ancient biblical text is especially ambiguous or when its idioms are unintelligible to the modern reader.  The example I gave in ABC last weekend comes from Acts 20:37 where, after Paul says his farewell to his beloved Ephesian congregation, and with much weeping and sadness, the Ephesians, according to a word-for-word translation of the Greek, “were throwing themselves upon the neck of Paul.”  Whoa!  I know the Ephesians were sad to see Paul leave, but they didn’t have to try to break his neck!  But this misunderstands the idiom.  Even the NASB, considered by many to be the most faithful word-for-word translation available, translates this verse, “They embraced Paul.”  And indeed, this is an appropriate translation.  For even if the NASB does not translate woodenly the ancient idiom, it does faithfully reflect the author’s intent in using the idiom.  Thus, to find a “literal” translation is neither possible nor is it always necessarily helpful.

Finally, I want to say a word about the use of inclusive language in many of today’s more recent translations.  There is a move afoot to replace traditional translations of words like “brothers” or “men” with more gender inclusive language like “brothers and sisters” and “people.”  Though this is certainly fine in some places (e.g., Matthew 5:19 in NIV 2011:  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” rather than in NIV 1984: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”) it is dangerous in others.  One prime example comes in Psalm 8:4-6.  Consider the translation of NIV 1984:

What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; You put everything under his feet.

Here the Psalmist extols how God has made humankind the crowing glory of His creation and how He has given them dominion over the earth.  Notice that the Psalmist describes humankind collectively using the masculine singular pronouns “him” and “his” (see italics above).  In NIV 2011, because the Psalmist is referring to humankind collectively, the translators opted for the more generic plural pronouns “them” and “their.”  Two problems arise with this translation.  First, the Hebrew of the Psalm employs masculine singular pronouns.  Thus, it may behoove us to translate the pronouns as singular collectives since that is the way the Psalmist wrote his Psalm!  Second, the preacher of Hebrews picks up on the masculine singular pronouns of this Psalm and applies these pronouns to Jesus:

There is a place where someone has testified: “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.”  In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:5-9)

Thus, the preacher of Hebrews sees this Psalm as referring not only to humankind generally, but also to Jesus singularly!  The Psalmist, writing some 1,000 years before Christ, prophecies concerning Christ!  To discard the masculine singular pronouns, then, in favor of more generic plural inclusive pronouns, obscures the Messianic character of this Psalm.  And that is a tragedy.  For Christ is the center of the Scriptures.  Thus, I tend to caution people against translations that commit themselves to inclusive language at the expense of Greek and Hebrew grammar and syntax.

So where does all this leave us?  To use a phrase coined by President Reagan, we should “trust, but verify.”  I advise people, with few exceptions, to generally trust the translations they read and not worry about missing a huge theological theme because of a faulty translation.  Reading any major translation, you will still discover the gospel that Christ has come to die on a cross in your place for your sins apart from anything you do.  No major doctrine of Christianity is compromised by any major translation.  However, I still encourage people to verify confusing or disputed passages by consulting other translations, commentaries, and their pastor.  This can help bring clarity and orthodoxy to some sticky passages.

So get to reading!  The people have God have spent a lot of time translating the Word of God.  And they’ve translated it so that the Word of God can be read and believed by you.

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March 7, 2011 at 5:15 am 1 comment

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