Tagged: bible

One Step Back

As I continue to share my summaries on my Septuagint (LXX) studies, I have come to realize how much I am assuming you know, and have concluded that that amount is too much.

First, this is my blog. I’m doing my best, but my aim is not much greater than sharing a curiosity of mine in an enjoyable way. Here are three books you need to read if you want to know more. Links to a certain, large online retailer are here, here, and here.

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Now, let’s announce the problem. Well, it’s not a problem, it’s just life. I’ll just call it the intrigue. Here’s the intrigue. For protestants, our Old Testament is based on the Hebrew text known as the Masoretic Text. This text dates about one thousand years ago (all dates are debatable) to the 10th century A.D. Now, the Septuagint–the name for the Greek translations of the Hebrew Scriptures–is dated to 250 B.C. Naturally, that’s quite a bit earlier (1250 years). Everyone knows that the Septuagint is a translation. But we don’t have the text that it was translated from, so we call what we don’t have the parent text, or Vorlage (4-log-eyh if you’re cool). The Vorlage is what we hope to find. See the complexity?

Put another way, we have the translation (LXX) and know it is a translation–there is no dispute here at all. But we do not have the original (Vorlage). Then 1000 years later we have what is presumably the original, but cannot possibly be for at least 1000 reasons. And “no” the MT is not some weird and late translation of the LXX into Hebrew. The contents of the MT (Mastoretic Text) and LXX are close, but obviously not equivalent–no translation is. So what did the LXX translators have? That’s our question. Now you know.

To me, this is fascinating and enjoyable to pursue. Overall, though, it has nothing to do with blood. Ink on paper is not the blood of our Savior. Never forget this obvious truth.

The fact remains that in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead our heavenly Father “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

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The Biblical Text: First Spoken, then, Right to Left, then, Left to Right.

“Sure it is. Of course it is. That was a loaded question. Speaking is certainly distinct from writing,” the professor announced. “I mean, unless you believe the writer of Genesis meant that the LORD wrote, ‘Let there be light.’ Anyone believe that?” he asked with a pause long enough to cause the students discomfort. “I didn’t think so,” he resumed. “Instead, I say–well, I repeat–what others before me have said, that we throw the word text into our vocabulary anytime we’re not talking about the spoken Word of God. Fair? After all, the Word of God is…what? ‘Sharper than any two-edged sword.’ Right? But the text? The text is surely observable, measurable, debatable, and able to be analyzed with great criticism and scrutiny, no?”

At this, the same lone-hand as always lifted into the air and did not wait to be called upon. “So you’re saying that everything we’re going to do from now on, despite what it might seem, is not criticizing our faith in Christ, nor even the spoken Word of God, but only the written text?”

“Close. I am saying that we have gathered in this classroom because we’re interested and able to study what you just called the written text, but I’m suggesting that you join us in calling the text. Again, this endeavor does not require belief in Christ. That said, the point, which I believe is now abundantly clear, is that the text is different from the Word. Here is Tov’s definition of our task: ‘Textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible analyzes the biblical text and describes its history on general lines.’ Tov clarifies, ‘As a rule, textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible aims neither at the compositions written by the biblical authors, nor at previous oral stages, if such existed, but only at that stage (those stages) of the composition(s) that is (are) attested in the textual evidence (3).’

“Let me say this. It is probably best if you begin to seek at least two distinctions within every initial thought you have or term you use as we go about our task. For example, the data (singular) with which we’re working actually is two things. The texts plus the conjecture about the texts. As text critics, we’re going to do our best to stick with the texts and postpone debate about conjecture. But even this “sticking with the texts” has two steps. We need to first, collect the texts, then we evaluate them. As scholars answer the question of what the early text (singular) looked like, they are involved in one of two established text conventions and it is helpful to self-identify (both to clarify to yourself and to your audience which you are using). First, we have the Masoretic Text or MT, and second, textual traditions other than the MT. Unfruitful complication occurs if this last distinction is not held.

“Furthermore, here, our concern is focused on the Septuagint, not the Hebrew Bible. The two are forever interrelated, though, and it harms no one to spend some time on either text, even as we acknowledge that those texts are certainly not synonymous. For one thing, the Septuagint is irrevocably at a level once removed. Any difficulties encountered in text-criticism of the Hebrew Bible are unavoidably multiplied when we move our eye to the texts of the LXX. Firstly, we must acknowledge the Septuagint consists of many texts or translation units—never as a full translation of the thirty-nine book canon. (We do a disservice to the enterprise if this step is skipped). Secondly, we must acknowledge whether we are inclined to believe the differences in the LXX texts stem from the writer(s) using different Hebrew Vorlages or just applying a different guiding translation principle to the same Vorlage.

“A final note is necessary as we welcome text-criticism of the Septuagint into our lives. We are going to discuss, at length, the nature of translating these sacred texts and do so often with the boundaries free and literal. While doing so, we must not forget that we are dealing with personal—not official—translations. There was great subjectivity in the endeavor—there had to be. At best, forgetting this fact is a time-consuming distraction; at worst, an avoidable and harmful error. So let’s not make it. Instead, let’s join Tov in humbly seeking consistencies within the texts.”

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This is my summary of pp. 1-39 of Tov, Emanuel, 2015, The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research. 3rd edition. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns. ISBN 978-1575063287.

Eve’s Grief

Harsh wind enraged remnant embers

 

No

“Cain, my love!” his mother cries

She bids him, “Here!”, she scrambles near.

 

 

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A Sestina is form of poetry–a restrictive form of poetry.  It has six stanzas of six lines, then a three line stanza.  The last words of each stanza are the tricky part.  After the first stanza, the last words have been chosen.  The full pattern is as follows:    

  1. ABCDEF
  2. FAEBDC
  3. CFDABE
  4. ECBFAD
  5. DEACFB
  6. BDFECA
  7. ECA or ACE (called envol or tornada–it must also contain the other end-words, BDF, in the course of the three lines so that all six appear in the final three lines.)

Foolishness

It’s been exhausting, but the Holy Spirit has finally given me the promised rest. I’m not sure why I had to wrestle for nearly a year, but the LORD works in mysterious ways, of that I’m certain.

Summarizing: My seminary’s required course in Christian Apologetics included mentioning/teaching the available logical arguments for defense of Christianity. This included an argument named after the Muslim that developed it. For reasons including the professor’s utterly shameful assertion, “You might be the smartest Christian someone ever meets” and the fact that I lost a war to Muslims, the whole thing did not sit well with me.

Shortly after that, in the media coverage of events happening in Europe and America there was a seeming surge in “Islamic” terrorism that peaked, for me, with the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who thought I had at least kept the fighting at a distance–and now a Christian seminary student with a growing appreciation for the Word of God, both Jesus and the Bible–I finally picked up the Qur’an to see what it says first-hand. To my shock–and I cannot emphasize this enough–to my shock I learned, not that Islam is inherently violent, but that Muhammad had deduced Allah from the “god” of the Old Testament and New Testament (no different than a Deist deduces some manner of monotheism). And this was exceedingly troubling to me.

Worse than troubling me, it tempted me into foolishness. You see, I believed, and spent the last ten calendar months attempting to persuade others, that logic–or man’s wisdom–must be removed from Christianity.

To what end? In short, Christians that knew this already agreed with me. Christians that disagreed, remained unchanged. In other words, no one budged. I didn’t make a dent.

Then finally–finally, finally, finally–the Spirit spoke. What did He say? Turn with me now to 1 Corinthians 1:19 where these words are recorded, “For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever, I will set aside.'” Dum, dum,dummmm. Who destroys the “Wisdom of the wise”? The Living God. (How? Through his Word–both Jesus Christ and the Bible.) No man, not even me, can do it.

Therefore, I am officially done messing around with the wisdom of the world which God has made foolish. From now on I am preaching Christ, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, but also the Weakness of God and the Foolishness of God. 

If you’re aware of the spiritual war, I encourage you to likewise limit yourself to preaching Christ too. To those who are called, Jews and Greeks, Christ. Arguments don’t save souls. The Blood of Christ does. Preach Christ. Christ and only Christ. Or as yesterday’s namesake put it back in 377AD-ish,

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

Amen.

New Direction

I just wanted to be clear about the new direction of my blog. First, it is decidedly becoming a place for Christians to find encouragement. Second, I plan on sharing screen-less leisure time ideas for families. We’re addicted to screens. If we’re not looking at them together, we’re looking at them separately. And if we’re not looking at them at all, we’re talking about them. Enough, I say. We can do better.

First up is the game Sequence. It is essentially tick-tack-toe with playing cards. It is only mildly mentally taxing, which is to say it is a great lubricant for sustained conversation and relationship building. Letting the five-year-olds play makes it even more pleasant.  

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4 Juxtapositions Every American Christian Needs To Consider

TrinityShield2To begin I’d like to simply ask you to declare with me how holy the blessed Trinity is. Amen.

(I found this little, kinda creepy, picture the other day. It’s called the Trinity Shield. Christians of old used it to help describe the Trinity.)

As you know, I’m on a bit of a righteous anger kick right now (Eph. 4). It began with a conviction that President Obama was doing us dirty when he angrily defended his decision to not say “Radical Islam” and described Islam as, “One of the world’s great religions.” It continued when I finally read the Qur’an to determine whether Islam is the threat that I felt it the empirical facts seemed to indicate.

I’m slowly calming down, but it has taken longer than I expected. Here’s where I’m at today. If I haven’t told you before, I’m at my best when I have things to compare. Maybe you are too. So, let’s compare some things.

1. First, Christians sometimes sing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Until I read the Qur’an, I believed that song to be true. Now I don’t. By that I mean that it’s not the Bible that revealed to me that Jesus loves me. I know Jesus loves me because He told me He does. Muslims, on the other hand, believe Allah notices them because a book (and a man with a deadly weapon) tells them to. This is no trivial distinction.

2. Here’s another: From what I can tell, beginning around 1000 AD, Christian philosophers and apologists began to offer logical arguments which prove god exists. Growing up in a Christian home in America, I charitably believed the arguments must be valid and valuable. As an adult who has read the Qur’an, I am certain abstract god (Allah) does not exist. I’m also certain that humans don’t prove the Triune god exists. The best that humans can do with abstract god (Allah) is enslave each other. Conversely, the Triune god tells us He exists.

3. How’s your math history? As a 21st century American, I learned that humans didn’t always know that the number zero existed as an abstraction. I learned that it wasn’t until the early 7th century, that mathematicians formally named zero and began to use it in previously unrealized ways in calculations (more than just a placeholder). But only since reading the Qur’an have I realized that precisely identical to zero (which is nothing), Allah is an incredibly powerful abstraction.

(For the curious Christians, I do also believe it is more than coincidence that Muhammad wrote the Qur’an in the same century that zero was realized. The number zero shook up the world. And the Qur’an did so as well. Satan is very real. Guard yourselves.)

4. We’ve touched on theology and math. Let’s hit literature. Some people, even Christians, want to argue that the Bible is a great piece of literature. Before reading the Qur’an, I would have agreed. Since reading the Qur’an, I know the truth is that the Qur’an is the greatest, most powerful piece of literature on the planet. Outside of Barna research articles showing why Christians are leaving the church and the ever increasing amount of exorcisms being performed, Christianity is barely newsworthy anymore. However, the Qur’an is spreading to western Europe and America, despite the greatest military force, including yours truly, fighting the Qur’an for at least 30 years now. Want to talk about great, powerful literature? Then study the Qur’an. It is tops. Want to talk about true power? Then repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2).

Here’s the rub. The Triune god told me He wins in the end (the Bible). He told me not to fear when the going gets rough (Psalm 27). But He didn’t tell me my suffering must be at the hands of the Qur’an. Maybe I misheard him. What did he tell you?

Do any of you Christians believe we have the power to relocate the Qur’an to the fiction section once and for all? I do.

Call(s) to Action: PRAY. Then immediately be sure to SPECIFY that you are referring to the Triune god, or the Trinity, or Jesus when you’re talking about the Christian godhead outside of church. This includes church signs. (Here’s a good example.) When you’re in church, PAY ATTENTION to the lyrics and BRING UP your concerns directly to the music ministry. The music ministry can’t fix what they don’t know is broken. Whatever the case, DO NOT LEAVE your church. Pray. Pray and TAKE ON more responsibility. Stay put. “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14).”

The Triune god of the universe cares about words. So does the adversary. This is evidenced by scripture from Genesis through Revelation. I love Jesus Loves Me. (Really, I do. I memorized a sweet piano arrangement of it.) But I love Jesus more than a catchy tune. So maybe it’s time to drop it. On the other hand, This Little Light of Mine is safe because of context.

Hopefully these little comparisons are useful and challenge to you to fulfill your calling.

On The Satanic

I’ve shared on here before that when my ex-wife and I were going through our divorce we used a mediator. We were luckier than many couples. Some couples are forced to use a judge. In either situation, however, it is clear that when two people disagree, the best–sometimes the only–solution is for an outside party to make the decisions.

This last week the seminary put on both a seminar and an evening service on the topic of racism. Racism is like a divorce proceeding; except that in racism every single human ever is a petitioner. Who is wise enough to act as judge? Who is impartial enough? Who is not the victim or the perpetrator?

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I’ve also shared on here that I am in a Christian apologetics class right now. We’ve moved on to Christian ethics, but there is still a heightened feeling of pressure to constantly evangelize. This feeling, for me, has been accompanied by a unique thought. Every once in a while I think to myself, “Boy, this evangelism would be so much easier if I could do it without using the words “Bible”, “God”, “Sin”, “Jesus Christ”, “Resurrection”, and the like. Those words, to most of us, are so hot-button that people can’t think clearly after they are uttered, moreover, people often don’t want to think about them at all .

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Back to racism as a divorce proceeding involving the entire human race.

Do you understand that there actually does exist an outside Judge and Mediator? Do you understand that sin is the only reason you and I segregate ourselves? Do you understand that a book many people take to be the very revelation of God–the Bible–says we are all created in God’s image and likeness? Do you understand that this necessarily implies that our self-segregation means that we’re willfully looking away from divine beauty? Do you understand that the outside Judge and Mediator–the concretely risen Lord and Savior of you and me, the very Son of God, Jesus Christ–made his ruling on racism known to the world in the Bible? And do you know which race he singled out as worth dying for? The human race.

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George Clooney has a great line in “O Brother Where Art Thou?” in which he says of the devil, “Well, there are all manner of lesser imps and demons, Pete, but the great Satan hisself is red and scaly with a bifurcated tail, and he carries a hay fork.” To this description, the escaped convicts’ new-found, soul-less, hitchhiking, black companion replies, “Oh, no. No, sir. He’s white, as white as you folks, with empty eyes and a big hollow voice. He likes to travel around with a mean old hound. That’s right.” If I was given a turn in the conversation, I’d describe Satan as Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park when he is picking up the barbasol  shaving creme can with which he’ll steal the dino DNA. Remember that? His entire body jiggles in a giddy laugh at how easy the theft will be.

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Can you understand post-enlightenment, post-age-of-reason, what the satanic is? The satanic is anything other than the truth. It is lies, distortions, half-truths, diversions, and denials. Take racism. Even widespread knowledge of science’s revelation that “pure” races don’t exist hasn’t helped the problem of racism. The only possible solution to racism must come from some manner of transcendent being. Christianity goes to great lengths to announce that this transcendent being is the triune God who created the universe and sent His Son to die for the sins of mankind some two thousand years ago. Resurrecting from the grave on the third day, Jesus the Christ gave us the victory–if only we choose it.

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So, no, Satan (the adversary), I am not going to water down the gospel. The good news is only *and precisely* that Jesus Christ is risen. And it is only through Him that humans can be free.

 

Big Bird On Mormonism

I need to write a paper for class, but motivation wanes. Instead, I’d like to share one rather intriguing factoid about Deuteronomy and how it helps us understand what we all know: The Book of Mormon is not God’s word.

In brief, the Hittites were a culture whom archaeologists and historians claim wrote treaties according to a specific format. As the name ‘treaty’ implies, these were usually documents (we might expand the term to literature) which were developed after a fight of some sort. In any case, what we now call Deuteronomy is written in the form of one of these Hittite Vassal treaties. Besides helping us date the book of Deuteronomy, this similarity also speaks to the way Christians believe God reveals himself. Don’t miss this point. Folks long ago were milling around and if they were going to write things down (create literature) one of their options was a Hittite Vassal treaty. They didn’t have blogs, or tweets, or fb posts; novels weren’t around, nor were comic books. So when Moses (likely) wrote Deuteronomy he wrote it in the style he would have known–a treaty.

Later, when the Gospels and Paul’s letters were being written, they too were written in the forms their authors would have known. Keeping in mind that none of the Bible’s authors knew that what they were writing was going to be compiled as part of “The Bible”, in a roundabout way, this strengthens the argument that the Bible deserves some time and attention before discarding it.

Then there’s the Book of Mormon. Sesame Street has the familiar, “One of these things” segment and the lesson applies here. Unlike Mr. Joseph Smith, none of the Bible’s author’s claimed to find the Bible. Sure, we can debate whether or not Moses made up the Noah’s Ark story, but it’s Moses’ story. If God wanted an American to add to the Bible’s 66 books in the 1800s, then the writings would been similar in form to, say, the U.S. Constitution, or a dime novel, or more letters, or anything else that Joseph Smith’s contemporary’s would have recognized as “normal”.

Did I just imply that I posses the power to discern how God talks? Yes. Don’t be alarmed. You do too. Who’s up for a little game?

Setback

Church-going Christians: Probably want to skip this one. Or maybe you are my target audience. It’s difficult to say.

Because the topic is endlessly fascinating to me, I have read John P. Meier’s A Marginal Jew series–the first four volumes–and I am anxiously awaiting the concluding fifth volume. I am also one book in to N.T. Wright’s New Testament and the People of God five volume series. These books center themselves on the question “What does the historical record say about Jesus of Nazareth?” I believe them to be intellectually honest, and I have found great comfort and value in them. As an added bonus, I am fairly confident that I understand who Jesus of Nazareth was and thought he was much better than before. So much so that I have recently begun to hunt for a church which I think I could stomach attending week to week.

You should see the looks on the generally elder crowd’s faces when I tell them I’ve been away for a decade. They are so thankful that I’ve returned. It’s a little hokey but feels good nonetheless. My biggest complaint about modern churches is their music selection. It’s horrible, just horrible. I have never sat next to a person who didn’t agree, either. Because I’m older and can only attempt this adventure with authenticity, I let a guy know that I missed the Baptist Hymnal of my youth. He tells me, “You’re in luck!” It seems there is a Sunday School type class that sings the old hymns because there are others like me. Another vote for opening my big mouth, I think.

Yesterday, however, I discovered I should just sit quiet from now on. While the packed room did sing one (1) traditional hymn, I was sure that before the hour’s end I would be the only one not grasping St. Peter’s welcoming hand at the pearly gates.

Social decorum demanding obedience as it does, I remained in the room.

Skipping to the end, what did the well-meaning old timers want to debate for the hour we had together? Whether there is such a thing as unpardonable sin–a sin which is so awful that even Jesus’ saving power can’t redeem the perpetrator’s soul. (Consensus – There might be one, but don’t worry you can’t commit it inadvertently.)

The only thought that occupied my mind for that hour was, “Who gives a shit?”

The sermon was pretty good at least.