Wednesday, December 5, 2007

John 10 and the Jews

I've been looking at the Central Asian Russian translation of Scripture (CARS). As noted in the previous post, I've noted some (perhaps) minor issues with the translation.
Here's a more blatant, intentional change in the text: John 10, particularly verses 24, 31, 33. The Greek clearly says "Jews" are speaking with and are angry with Jesus in these verses. Every translation I can find reads "the Jews."

CARS replaces "Jews" with "the people," or "they."

I can guess why they would do that: Muslims like to blame the death of Jesus on the Jews (and many believe Jesus will return and destroy them in the last days). Really, we all crucified Christ because we have all sinned.

But... the Greek as original as we can get, right? The Greek clearly says "Jews." So, does replacing an unmistakable word like "Jews" with another word bother anyone else but me?

Psalm 1:6

Psalm 1

How important is word-for-word translation in Scripture?

I’ve asked this question recently in looking at a new Russian translation of Scripture, whose target audience is Russian-speaking Muslims in Central Asia (who may not have the Bible in their own languages).

Psalm 1:6 says (NASB):

“For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

Russian Synodal:
1:6 Ибо знает Господь пут праведных, а путь нечестивых погибнет.

They match up well. As does KJV (“Knoweth”, NIV “considers”, and the Latin Vulgate which I understand says “considers”).

However, the Central Asian Russian translation renders it:
Âåäü Âå÷íûé îõðàíÿåò ïóòü ïðàâåäíûõ,à ïóòü íå÷åñòèâûõ ïîãèáíåò.

Охранять” means “to guard, safeguard, to protect,” and doesn’t mean “to know”

I don’t know Hebrew, and don’t have a Hebrew concordance with me. My Zondervan Expository Dictionary says that there are several uses of of yada, “to know,” in Hebrew. “The root appears almost 950 times in the OT and is used in referring to all kinds of knowledge gained through the senses. Yada` is used also to indicate a knowing of information and facts, the learning of skills, acquaintance with persons, and even the intimacy of sexual intercourse. Although Hebrew is not a philosophical or speculative language, it is clear that "to know" calls for more than direct experience”

I don’t see how “to know” can mean "to protect" in this instance. I can understand one might expect the 2 ideas in the verse to contrast: “God protects the way of the righteous, but the way of the sinner (is unprotected and) leads to death.”

But, I don’t think that’s what the verse says. The Youngs Literal Translation:

“For Jehovah is knowing the way of the righteous, And the way of the wicked is lost!”

Matthew Henry writes:

“They are blessed because the Lord knows their way; he chose them into it, inclined them to choose it, leads and guides them in it, and orders all their steps. 2. Sinners must bear all the blame of their own destruction. Therefore the ungodly perish, because the very way in which they have chosen and resolved to walk leads directly to destruction; it naturally tends towards ruin and therefore must necessarily end in it. Or we may take it thus, The Lord approves and is well pleased with the way of the righteous, and therefore, under the influence of his gracious smiles, it shall prosper and end well; but he is angry at the way of the wicked, all they do is offensive to him, and therefore it shall perish, and they in it. …Let this support the drooping spirits of the righteous, that the Lord knows their way, knows their hearts (Jer. 12:3), knows their secret devotions (Mt. 6:6), knows their character, how much soever it is blackened and blemished by the reproaches of men, and will shortly make them and their way manifest before the world, to their immortal joy and honour.

This doesn’t sound like “guard,” or “protect.”

I tried several other English translations. “Sees, knows, regards…”

Then, I tried two other languages. Turkish and Azerbaijani, which are very closely related.
Interestingly, the Azerbaijani also renders this “guard/protect,” while the Turkish is very clearly “considers.”

My question for all of you into exegesis and hermeneutics is: Does this matter? Does it change the idea of the verse?

I think it does. I offer Matthew Henry’s thoughts above and contrast them with the idea I get with the word rendered “guard” instead of “know:”

“The Lord guards the way of the righteous, but the way of the brings them to death.”

It’s a nice thought, and there are other places in Scripture where this appears to be said, but it’s not what this verse says.

Any takers?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

1 Timothy 5:1-2

1Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, 2the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.

Looking back at 1 Timothy 1:3-4, we see that Timothy is going to have to instruct some men not to teach "strange doctrines" and engage in conversations that aren't really helping anyone. From these passages 2 things stand out:
1. Timothy has authority as being appointed to his position by Paul and church elders.
2. Timothy is young (4:12).

Timothy being young and most likely single means he had 2 cultural strikes against him: In Asian cultures, like those found in Asia Minor, real adulthood begins when you're married. Not only that, but authority is always given to the oldest male.

Yet, he had God-given authority, and the older men in the church would have to submit to him if they wanted to be obedient.

I can't imagine having to correct an older man, even by "appeal"ing to him as a father. Have I ever even "corrected" my own father? I was raised in obedience to his position of authority as head of our household.
Timothy, as a very young and single man, is now the authority of the church in Ephesus. Tough job, I'm sure, which is why Paul continually encourages him.

I would find it even harder to talk to a woman about something she's doing wrong. Doing this tactfully is a tough task, and I'd probably send my wife (someone who understands her own gender better than I) to say "You know, what you're doing isn't really benefiting the body..." Timothy didn't have that option.

It's like Paul is saying "be tactful, be respectful, and don't be harsh." This would mean Timothy needed to have patience and firm reliance on the Spirit as well as a boldness to carry out the task he was given.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

1 Timothy 4:14-15

"14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. 15Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all."

In v. 14 we learn Timothy has a "spiritual gift...which was bestowed."
I would guess the "prophetic utterance" would be one or more of the elders identifying what that spiritual gift was.
Where else do we see gifts being "imparted," by one believer to another?

In Romans 1:11, Paul longs to see the church in Rome so that "
I may
impart some spiritual gift to you." It seems that in that passage, "some" gift seems seems to be talking about mutual encouragement. Is encouragement a spiritual gift?

In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul says that he and others imparted "not only the Gospel, but our own lives" to the church.

The gift imparted to Timothy is something specific which is not to be "neglected." Could it be one of the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14? Paul urges the church at Corinth to "desire earnestly" spiritual gifts because they edify the body (14:1-12).

So, we see that Paul has a desire to impart gifts, that we should "earnestly desire" gifts and not "neglect" them because they're beneficial to everyone for mutual edification and encouragement.

How often do we, as a group of believers, seek to impart gifts to others? When was the last time you heard someone give a "prophetic utterance" for mutual encouragement, something Paul especially urges in 1 Cor. 14:2.
It appears that the prophetic utterances do 2 things in the NT:
1. They identify gifts given. Either at the impartation of that gift, or as a way of recognizing a spiritual gift that already exists.
2. They edify and encourage the whole church (1 Cor. 14:3-4).

I think there was only one time in my life where someone spoke a "prophetic utterance" to me in this way. It was a pastor who was praying for me in a group of other believers. Without knowing me very well or for very long, they identified a particular gift that I have and prayed that it would not be neglected, or used vainly, but rather to further the kingdom.
It really struck and encouraged me.

I should seek to allow the Holy Spirit to use me to impart gifts to others. We should all do that for each other.

Timothy was told to "take pains," with the things we've talked about: Public reading of scripture, teaching, exhortation, and to not neglect the particular spiritual gift mentioned. I should be "absorbed in" the things of God and in using the gifts He's given me to further the kingdom. I should be absorbed in obtaining gifts, but should probably first not neglect the ones I have and use them to edify others. That seems to gel with the Parable of Talents in Matthew 25:
For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away."

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

1 Timothy 4:13

v. 13 "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching."

Some people use this passage to support expository preaching. Paul, however, was referring to something even more specific: the Jewish practice in worship of reading the Scriptures aloud in public.

In watching one of the Ray Vanderlaan videos entitled "Footsteps of the Rabbi," I learned that one of the central parts of Jewish worship was bringing out the Scrolls to read aloud in the local synagogues. There was a special seat called the "bimah" where the person reading the Scriptures was to sit. Jesus would have occupied that seat on several occasions. Zodiahtes mentions that the Greek word for this Scripture reader was "aganostai," it was an actual position.

Jews would shout and sing and dance in excitement at the sight of the scrolls being brought out for a reading. They'd be excited about the Word of God, and I assume it was the same in early churches. We don't seem to get that excited these days.

Maybe it's because we can read the Word anytime we want to, whereas complete scrolls weren't widely available to the general public back then. It was truly possible for someone to come and hear a scripture that they hadn't heard before or had access to.

There's an implication in the verse, too. Timothy wasn't just to read aloud but to "exhort" and "teach" from the Scripture. I can see how the entire verse taken together could support expository preaching, or teaching from an entire passage read publicly.

I wonder how the believers in Ephesus danced when it was time to hear the Word read out loud.

"Until I come..." Clearly this was a specific command for Timothy, but I think most feel it's a role of an elder today to "devote yourself" (NIV) to reading, teaching, and exhorting from the Word.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

1 Timothy 4:1-5

"1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer."

I always think of the Shakers when I hear of this. They were an old 1800's cult that still have a re-enacted homestead near Lexington, KY. (People think of it as just an 1800's tourist reenactment, and never consider the fact that it was a cult). They considered Adam's sin to be sexual impurity and married couples who joined their community were forbidden to be together. They basically forbade marriage.

I started thinking about verse 5. Why is it that the word of God isn't enough to sanctify food? It's clean, God says so (Acts 10:15), why do we have to pray about it?
Then it struck me, that for many Jews who were considering eating pork (for example) were probably having a tough time with that. They needed to pray about it, because their consciences (Romans 14) weren't quite to the point where they could eat it.

I've seen that with Muslims, too. And Christians with even ridiculously small amounts of alcohol. It's not enough that the word of God says "it's good, you have freedom," there has to be a period of prayer for that truth to become real in their lives and hearts.

But, I think this thought doesn't just apply to food. Maybe there's some other legalism we need to be set free from. Like a converted Muslim who feels guilty if he doesn't pray 5 times a day. It's not just enough for the word of God to say "you're set free!" our consciences have to be aligned with this truth also (Romans 14).

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

1 Timothy 3:15-16

v. 15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

I often quote the bold part of the verse a lot. I just like it. It's an integral role the Church plays in the world.
It's also interesting to me that God in the Holy Spirit dwells in our bodies as his temple (1 Cor. 6:19) yet also in the Church as corporate believers meeting together. Eastern Orthodox folks would point to this verse as evidence that God inhabits a physical building. But, I think Paul is saying "how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is made up of the church of the living God [ie: the individuals (temples) together]."

v. 16
By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.

One of the earliest church creeds that we have. What does "vindicated in the Spirit" mean or refer to? I think the creed is clearly chronological of his life, burial, resurrection, ascension. What's the significance of "seen by angels"? I think it's referring to his post-burial, when the angels proclaimed to the women at the tomb: "He is not here, for He is risen." May it also be a reference to 1 Peter 3:19?