Archive for May, 2010

May 31, 2010

About Bible Translations

“What translation do you use?” Is that some secret code I need to know? Is there a litmus test among Christians that reflects one’s maturity based upon the translation you use? Is it a sign of intelligence or spiritual growth? Perhaps different spiritual gifts respond better to different translations.

When people use to ask me that question of translations I use to answer “umm, Greek for the New Testament and Hebrew for the Old Testament. You?” They would look at me cross-eyed as if I had just spoken Greek to them. As they walked away shaking their head I would call after them, “Wait! Wait! I didn’t mean it…” But it was too late, they were gone. And while extremely cool for reading the original languages of the biblical text, I found myself all alone. But that is what I get for hearing the words that are coming out of yo’ mouth.

Now when people ask me this question I hear this question instead, “If you didn’t know Hebrew or Greek which translation would you use?” But what I really answer is “Based on what you know about me, what translation would you recommend?” That’s when I pull out my handy-dandy white board and start drawing stick figures and say “Man-Adam…Woman-Eve.” Then I give a few grunts for emphasis. Sometimes, if it seems appropriate, I’ll actually find a table to climb and start beating my chest as I scream like a chimpanzee. It all seems proper to me.

I love this intramural competition between translations. Mine is better than yours. Why isn’t there a trophy that has a representation of a representation of a bible on it and which ever translation wins that year would be considered the “authorized version” for the year? There could be multiple categories to decipher the winner. Categories to determine the winner would include:

  1. The Best Selling Bible Translation of the Year: Easy enough category, which translation sold the most that year – NIV, KJV, ESV, etc… – one point
  2. The Best Growth in Sales for a Translation in the Last Year: Which translation experienced the greatest growth in sales in the last year. Probably a newer translation, maybe the HCSB or NIrV? One point.
  3. The Best Study Bible Translation: Take inventory of all the study bibles out there and which ever translation has the best study bibles committed solely to that translation gets a point.
  4. Translations that have exhaustive concordances dedicated to them – two points.
  5. Bible study literature (SS literature counts) paying royalties for use of bible version – one point.
  6. Bible translation created so you don’t have to pay someone else for royalties – five points.
  7. Number of revisions for translation – one point per revision.
  8. “New” versions of older translations: Like the New King James or the New American Standard – one point.

Then you take the top three versions and put them into a final round where some arbitrary verses are picked utilizing a lottery ball vacuum cage thingy. The first ball sucked up into its tube would pick the book of the bible. The next ball would pick the chapter. The third ball would pick the starting verse and the last ball would pick the ending verse. There would also be a power ball that would pick a comparison text elsewhere in the Bible. Which ever translation did the best job with the text and its comparison text, as chosen by our celebrity guest Christian judges, wins! Then none of us would have to worry about which translation to rely on in the upcoming year.

Sadly, I don’t see this happening any day soon. So until then I have a few pointers that I think are worth considering as you chose a translation in your personal study.

  1. Use multiple legitimate translations: The reality is that by referring to multiple translations you will get the underlying issues the interpreters wrestled with as they sought to accurately translate the Greek and Hebrew of the Bible into your modern day langauge.
  2. Have a word-for-word base translation that you are comfortable with in doing your verse-by-verse studies. It will then simply become your compass in that you have a version you can continue to come back to when you need to regain focus and familiarity. I like the NASB for this use personally. In part because I find the “awkwardness” (the version’s primary criticism) of the text an aid in forcing me to focus and think through what the text is saying. It is much harder to gloss over the text in a version you have to labor over.
  3. Have a readable translation you can curl around with a cup of coffee (or tea…I guess) that you don’t have to work so hard to read for those times in the day when you need to read through long passages, an entire book or as you do your “read through the bible in a year” plan. Have that really readable version. One of my friends is a big New Living Translation fan for this.  Notice the difference in rule 2 and rule 3. Rule 2 likes to look at the tree and Rule 3 likes to look at the forest. I keep changing my readable translation but I like the NET right now.
  4. Have a memorable translation. By memorable I mean one that seems to read the way you think. This way it is easier for you to memorize. My translation for this is the HCSB. After the HCSB I probably would go with the ESV and the NIV. But I’m just simply giving you examples. Many people like the KJV here because they love the beauty of the old english and find it easier to remember. What ever works.
  5. Stay away from the mentality of “authorized version.” I’m not talking about the KJV when I say this, but the idea that “my translation is the best translation.” It is a ridiculous statement. There simply is no such thing as the best English translation. It confuses the issue, creates arrogance, makes us boastful, becomes resistance to change, can result in idolatry and probably a litany of other things.  If you disagree with the decision of the translators on a specific verse in a specific version than good for you. You probably should, whether it is a difference in punctuation or word choice, but that opinion doesn’t delegitimize the translation, rather just strengthens the need to consider multiple translations.
  6. Wrestle with this issue. So far this entire blog has been academic to most of us because we simply don’t even deal with this issue of translations. We stay largely apathetic. I’m glad to know many people will disagree with me after engaging in their own study of the versions. So don’t take my word for it…

And a neat video promoting the HCSB that does a good job explaining the driving ideas behind translation philosophy.  Enjoy

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “About the HCSB Translation“, posted with vodpod

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May 23, 2010

Today is Pentecost

The second most important day to commemorate in early Christianity after Resurrection Sunday was Pentecost. How I lament the loss of this celebration of the giving of the Holy Spirit to every individual believer in contemporary times. But there is nothing to stop us in our families to celebrate this day.

Here are two resources that perhaps get you thinking about the Holy Spirit.

An article on the Holy Spirit by R.C. Sproul

More developed thoughts on the Holy Spirit by John Owen.

May 15, 2010

Welcome MEA: America’s Newest Athletic Adventure

With postseason basketball upon us, this seems an appropriate time to consider the announcement of a newly formed professional league to vie for your attention. Move over NBA, and let’s give a hearty applause to the MEA. The MEA was in the process of announcing its primary market yesterday at a press conference when controversy broke out from a leaked audio recording. While initially shocked by the very fact that a new sporting league was already shrouded in controversy, I am quickly coming to the realization that apparently it can’t be a sporting event without some type of controversy. Back to the MEA controversy….

Yesterday, the president of the Monastic Evangelical Association – or MEA, Hermit Benedict, was announcing the need for a growing need for a new and more professional type of monasticism in evangelical life. “We need to refine the art of piety to the heights of superstardom. Then, as children grow up dreaming of becoming their favorite MEA player, we will compete with the NBA, NFL and other sporting franchises for the hearts, minds and physical talents of the phenoms that are around us. The next generation of MEA superstars will bring overwhelming moral and religious commentary on our culture in a single solitary meditation.” Benedict proclaimed. He continued by saying that “while we need superstars, there can be no doubt this is a team event.”

However, contrary to Benedict’s claims, a recording of a private meeting reportedly held a day earlier between owners of MEA teams was leaked. Benedict was quoted in this recording as saying that despite the public mission statement of the MEA (which reads “Committed to promote godliness while simultaneously condemning cultural sins”) the purpose of the MEA is to take attention from the everyday evangelical Christian so they can live their life in unrepentant sin without anyone noticing. He went on to say, “With MEA superstars garnishing the attention we will successfully alleviate any expectation of Joe Christian to live a godly life publicly. After all, we all know that only some of us are really God’s superstars.”

The implications of such an attitude calls into question Benedict’s claims at the initial press release by wondering if the purpose of the MEA is really to call attention to “culturally driven sins”, as Benedict calls them, or if it is really to allow the church to continue in those sins with little accountability.

It was discovered that the person responsible for the leak was a top executive in the MEA, a man by the name of Martin Luther, who is now being call the Benedict Arnold of the league.  While refusing an interview, his advocate released the following statement on his behalf, “It is our belief that all Christians are accountable to God to live a godly life while being a part of their respective cultures. We are told to be both salt and light. Mr. Luther correctly believed that despite the claims of piety that come with any type of monasticism, it is in fact a back door entry to let most Christians go unaccountable as they buy into a pragmatic philosophy of ‘well, I’ll never be [insert MEA superstar name here] so why try.'”

In the swirls of controversy, this reporter was left wondering who exactly is an ideal prospect for the MEA and what demographic would be its likely target. The Press Secretary of the MEA, Ethane Gantry Tho, was glad to give some fast facts about this breakout league. My interview with him follows:

IS: How did you get involved with the MEA?
EGT: I’ve been here since the beginning.
IS: How is this league going to look?
EGT: Like baseball, the MEA will have a farming system. The entry-level league is commonly called “The robe wearing league.” That promises for some interesting games of piety. The second level is the Kibbutz league, where farming is refined to a holy skill with the professional league garnishing the nickname “the Meade League” for obvious reasons. Each team will be from a specific denomination, with interdenominational play being the large makeup of the season’s games.
IS: Where do you expect most of your players to come from?
EGT: Prospects will only be considered from the professional ministry leadership of local churches.
IS: You aren’t accepting laity?
EGT: If you aren’t getting paid now, don’t expect to get paid in the future. And if you are getting paid now, don’t expect to get paid in the future.
IS: You’re smiling as you say this. Why such an emphasis on the clergy?
EGT: Because Christian superstars only come from clergy. It is a known fact. We’re only interested in superstars.
IS: Is there a specific kind of clergy you are looking for?
EGT: Yes, we are only looking for clergy who are currently superstars. These will be men and women who do everything for their church. Their unofficial job description shows them as the teacher, preacher, minister, evangelist, servant, hand maid and butler for everyone else in the church. If a church has anyone else volunteer to do any physical labor other than the clergy than, frankly, he just is not our man (or woman). We especially look for micromanaging churches. They produce the best overall monastic athlete.

The entire interview left me wondering one question. Is your church MEA material?

May 14, 2010

Did we print that?

From the (Australian) Advertiser:

An incorrect Thought for the Day was published yesterday. It should have read: “Lord God, you lead me along good and right paths in life.” Here’s what was published: “This is the thought of the day and this is where you put the thought of the day as if anyone has a thought for the day. And can’t work out what the hell is going on. But who knows what is happeningishness.”

Quoted from Reader’s Digest, June/July 2010 edition, p. 185.

May 13, 2010

Atheists Against Darwinism

An article by Peter S. Williams posted on the Evangelical Philosophical Society’s website entitled Atheists Against Darwinism: Johnsons’ “Wedge” Breaks Through is an interesting read.  You can check it out here.

May 12, 2010

Y’all is required English

While engaging in an email conversation the other day, a friend lamented my written usage of “y’all” in our correspondence. After cordially (and immediately) responding to him, I realized that a larger audience is in need of my valuable insights concerning the value of this precious commodity.  In this regard I have inserted my response to my friend with a few additional flourishes just to make it appear that I am instantly witty in tart replies to the nay-sayers of Israel. Be thou one of them?

Dear Christian,

Thank you for your sweet concern in regards to my usage of the English language. However “y’all” is more refined than you credit. In fact, to argue against y’all in the English language is to argue for an antiquated system that is evolutionarily stuck in the mud. Why? Because  languages typically differentiate between second person singular and plural. I admit at this point that I have not done an exhaustive survey, but all of the languages I have an acquaintance with do.

Specifically, I have in view (Ancient) Hebrew and (Koine) Greek. First let us consider Genesis 1:29-30, where we are informed “Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;  and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. ” Our concern in this text is the word “you” which I emphasized with bold letters to make reference easy.  A good translation of this text would read “Behold, I have given y’all every plant.. and it shall be food for y’all.” Can you imagine the infighting that would have occurred had Hebrew been like English?

Adam: Yup, you heard God. These plants, trees, fruit, beast, birds, creepy crawlies are all mine.”
Eve: What? But what about me?
Adam: What about you? That’s not my problem. Did you hear God? He used the singular masculine second person pronoun. That puts you out of the mix little darling. After all, I don’t want to go against God’s plan.
Eve: (crying as she runs out of the Garden of Eden)
Adam: (Whistling Dixie as he checks of the first, and only, battle won by men in the war of the sexes.)

You can only imagine how that application of that verse would have gone down in history. But thanks be to God, Hebrew can differentiate second person pronouns from singular to plural (as well as masculine and feminine).

Or how about in 1 Corinthians 16:14 when Paul instructs, “Let all that you do be done in love.” I can see the Corinthian church arguing over this one.

Chloe: You heard him Priscilla! You best start doing everything in love! Uh-huh.
Priscilla: Uh, I think he was talking to all of us.
Chloe: No he wasn’t (snapping her fingers in a circle). He was talking to you. If he was talking to all of us it would have been a second person plural pronoun. Boo-ya! You got served.
Priscilla: Who are you?

Thankfully the Greek has a second person plural pronoun so Chloe and Priscilla didn’t have this confusion and neither do we – that is if we can read Greek. As I lament, English does not have a second person plural pronoun to help distinguish these beautiful biblical nuances – unless you happen to have within your repertoire the poignant “y’all.” Then there can be mutual understanding so no equivocating can take place. For example, let’s say I wrote to you the following:

“Dearest Christian, I do hope with all sincerity that all is well with you.” And, of course, you were deeply moved by my incredible showmanship of empathy and reported such to your wife who tartly responded with “Well how do you like that, he asks about you but no one else. Well, there are more people in this church than just you. I’ve never! The man has no heart I tell you!”

And now I’m in a pickle so to speak. What to do, what to do? The answer, my friend, is to be a linguistic aficionado and utilize English to its fullest potential. Do I dare let others have the second person plural but not us? No I say! We will not be left alone. We will not go down on a sinking ship. We can be progressive by turning back the tables to an earlier time and better syntactical usage of pronouns to carry the weight of specificity into our daily conversations!”

For some reason I now feel like yelling at the top of my lungs so let me leave you with this picture: Just imagine William Wallace, as played by Mel Gibson, at the end of Braveheart scream “FREEDOM Y’ALL!” instead of just “FREEDOM!” Now that my friends gives me the shivers; that is powerful indeed. Who knew William Wallace that you meant for all of us to have freedom? Who knew?

May 11, 2010

First Broadway Musical

“The Pentateuch somewhat resembles a Hollywood musical. Its story is both interrupted and developed by the songs (poems). Also like a musical, the songs (poems) are not randomly spliced into the story. The songs (poems) develop and carry the central theme of the story. They are the primary means for developing what the narratives are about. A careful attention to the details of the songs (poems) clarifies the message of the Pentateuch.”

John H. Sailhamer, The Meaning of the Pentateuch, p. 242-243.

May 10, 2010

Social Media: Why You Need To Be Involved

My readership is split almost perfectly in half. I have the half that is routed to my blog via my Facebook account and the other half is not on Facebook and checks out my blog as part of their weekly internet reading ritual. I find the following statistical video very compelling. While those who are already involved in Social Media networking might find it interesting, my real target is the other half of my blog readership.  I am on a crusade you might say, especially as when it comes to the advantages of utilizing Social Media for ministry. Some of my ministry friends out there (you know who you are)  don’t buy my arguments. I see them as Ol’ Scrooge before the three ghosts visited and Facebook being their Christmas. So to all my poor nay saying fellow travelers I say Merry Facebook!

HT: Is Social Media a Fad?

May 8, 2010

For The Sweet Mother In My Life On This Joyous and Momentous Mother’s Day

Dear cherished lovely Lady of whose value the world cannot esteem or estimate for you are truly beyond being some mundane mathematical equation (such as 2+2=4)  but rather are more like an esoteric mathematical investigation that promises to carry on into oblivion (like Fermat’s Last Theorem, only that was solved after 300 years so maybe more like the Navier-Stokes Equation(s)),

I am glad for another Mother’s Day to be  upon us. It forces me, yet again,  to pause as I consider this stupendous day that annually commemorates your impact on my life as well as the life of others. Not that I mind taking a break of thinking about me .  You, my  dear, are such a prized treasure of great worth that the word that comes to mind is…overpriced? No, that’s not it. You know how bad with words I am. So funny.  I do have an equation I’m working on to determine your value. Basically the way it works is I subtract a little of my worth (just a bit) and viola – there you go! The problem is I can’t seem to figure out a precise value to myself since I’m so unique and precious. (Sigh) It is so hard not to talk about me, but back to you. I want to linger on that word “impact” for once second. Impact does not equate to bruising. No more – please.  Just try to take a break today; after all, it is Mother’s Day. You need to give your five favorite knuckles a rest.

I’m so glad to be celebrating your day today. It’s not as though the rest of the year isn’t dedicated to you. What’s that? Oh, right. The rest of the year IS  dedicated to you. Why am I even bothering with this crummy letter?  You’re the lucky one. Consider the evidence. (Ahem, over hear…a little farther…there! Stop.) Me – I’m talking about me.  I am the bomb. It is so hard being this good. Now that I have your attention let me tell you – Not sure how I stay humble. Did I tell you the Social Security Office contacted me to change my first name legally to Bomb kinda like what Miley Cyrus did or how all tissue paper is now called Kleenex. When being the bomb is so synonymous with your entire existence it is hard to understand why it took Social Security so long to request a hearing from my honorable presence. They even passed a law for when I go out into public. Notice how it is  against the law to proclaim my entering any location by exclaiming “Bomb!” No one wants a stampede of pandemonium as the common people push each other aside to rub shoulders with me or wipe the sweat off my brow or get a signature on a Michael Jordan Jersey (cause I’m the best – that’s why). To the Bourgeoisie, I’m here for you…and you…and you (Yes, I’m actually pointing to my imaginary fans). I love you all. You all have been so great! (Blowing kisses).

The more I think about myself the more I realize how lucky you are this mothers day.  In fact, I am such a blessing I HAVE TO broaden the scope of this lllooovvveee  letter. I’m so good, and there is too much goodness here for any  one person  so clearly my adoration is too much for one person to handle. My care and sensitivity for you prevents me from allowing the radiance of my love for you to overwhelm you or you will  lose yourself in me. The only way to prevent this danger  is for me to share me. It is the hard, but sacrificial thing.  So to all the lovely ladies in my life…What?!? I was thinking of my mother and OUR children. How could …never mind.  Just more proof that all you ladies are so lucky to have me in your life. Yes, my dear, you did well.

Now, a prize like myself has a myriad of ways to communicate my appreciation, love and affection for a precious jewel like you but there is no better present than myself. So I’ve determined this Mother’s Day we are going to celebrate your special day with a theme that constantly reminds you of me. Just think “the bomb.” I think I’ll start in the kitchen…

You are welcome to have married me my dear,

The Bomb

P.S. I’ve left a map at the bottom of the sink for you. With luck you will find your way out.

May 5, 2010

Why Are They So Scared?