If Handel’s Messiah is playing near you, go. H- and I went tonight and it is amazing. Every word is from Scripture. The most striking and awe-inspiring songs included For Unto Us a Child is Born, and All We Like Sheep (whose last part was unexpectedly dramatic), and, also unexpectedly, the new-to-me song Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs.
Most of you know I am a member of a black church. I mention this because the first song that the chorus sang made me tear up and I thought about how I would react to the Hallelujah Chorus and whether I would stand by myself or not. For those who do not know, it is a tradition to stand for that one, and so we did. It was sublime beyond compare. Praise Yahweh. Praise the LORD. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
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.
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.“
“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.”
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.
I am currently enrolled in the most fascinating class of my seminary experience. It is a class on the Septuagint. The Septuagint, often abbreviated LXX, is the name for the first translation(s) of the so-called Old Testament. I have written some summaries of the required readings in a way that I hope prove enjoyable and informative. Here’s the first.
“Anyone?” he asked the abnormally silent classroom. After a moment the professor continued, his voice feigning disbelief, “Not one of you has an answer to this question? You’re usually all so talkative.”
Finally one student spoke up. “Maybe you could ask the question again. The silence has caused me to forget how you worded the question—which seems like it may be your point here.”
“Fair enough,” the professor conceded. He then raised up high over his head, for the second time, the black, hard-bound book which had the words “Holy Bible” inscribed in gold lettering on the front cover and asked, “Am I holding the English translation of the Holy Bible?”
The same outspoken student, after a quick look around the room resulting in renewed confidence to speak for the group, cautiously answered, “I think I could say that you’re holding one English translation of the Holy Bible and not break my integrity.”
“Ah, and why do you say, one and not the?”
Several students were heard chuckling at the ridiculously easy nature of the question.
“Well, professor, as you well know, we probably have at least four English translations amongst ourselves in just this classroom, not including digital versions stored on–or accessible by–our phones and laptops.”
“Exactly the point!” At this the just-animated professor paused. “Okay then. With that, we’re now ready to talk about the so-called Septuagint.
“The first question we need to answer is, ‘When? When are we talking about? When did this occur?’
“As with all antiquity, a range is more honest than an exact date, or if an exact date is mentioned, keep in mind that a range is implied. That said, the request and its fulfillment to translate some of what we call the Old Testament into Koine Greek (the Lingua Franca of its day–thanks to Alexander the Great) was around 250 BC. It should surprise no one that the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) was treated first, and only over time does it appear that the rest of the OT (and more) was completed. Moreover, no different than the reason behind our many contemporary English translations, soon after the first so-called Septuagint there was disagreement and desire to do it better or perhaps more accurately. The big (versus only) three recensions/translators (the new ‘r’ word will be defined in a moment) that the historical record attests to are Aquila (ca. 140 AD), Theodotion (ca. 190 AD), and Symmachus (ca. 200 AD).
“Naturally, simply acknowledging these things often causes us to forget we’re in the forest. There is no denying that we find ourselves past the trees, through the roses’ scent, beyond the grass, and into the weeds. The weeds, of course, being the things that will not go away. Either we pull one up and another appears or we kill one only to discover it comes right back. Regarding Septuagint studies, this means that people are both still discovering how all the extant and attested to Septuagints were viewed in history as well as arguing over just how to categorize the many, many seeming distinctives involved in the criticism of ancient texts.
“Yet, decisions must be made and I’ve made them. You’re free to disagree with mine—after the semester. For now, here are some words that I’m going to use. Recensions must include revisions, but revisions do not necessarily produce recensions.
“In other words, there are times when we notice that some writer revised the Septuagint, without entirely revising it.
“But to say it that way is confusing. So in order to prevent the confusion I just introduced, we call the entire revision thing a recension.
“Speaking of recensions, we’ve already mentioned three notable recensions. But there are three more names that you’ll continuously come across. Those being, Hesychian, Hexapala (which is the six-column and no-longer-extant work of a man named Origen), and Lucianic. No doubt, more will be said about these as we go.
“Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is one more word that this introduction must include: Vorlage (pronounced “4-log-eyh”). Vorlage is the name for the so-called parent-text to the LXX that history has not preserved, but which scholars believe the above personalities (and more) used to create the first LXX.
“Murky, indeed, are the waters when trying to reproduce the Vorlage.”
This is my summary of pp. 1-62 from Jobes, Karen H., and Moisés Silva’s 2015, Invitation to the Septuagint. 2nd edition. Grand Rapids: Baker. ISBN 978-080103649-1.
Of all creatures, man is set apart by his ability to respond at length. Other creatures appear to be able to make inquiry and even reply through a series of grunts and gestures, but man alone has been endowed with the responsive power so-called reason.
Lowering his chin almost imperceptibly, Adam slowly closed his eyes. With an increase of force likely to be noticed solely by his closest family, he exhaled the entirety of the deep breath he had been holding as he watched his sons. He leaned his head forward until his chin rested on hand, which was on the top of his staff, as he reopened his eyes.
“What?” Eve asked.
He didn’t look at her. Though his eyes were open, he did not see anything but the garden.
“What?” Eve repeated.
Worried by Adam’s silence, Eve did not notice the look on Cain’s face. Adam did not have to.
“Abel!” he called at last. “Here,” he motioned for his son to come close.
As Abel listened to his father’s words, he looked towards Cain only to see that Cain was staring at him. Some new feeling arose in Abel, one whose name did not yet exist but which he wished would never have surfaced.
The next month was not pleasant for the family. Adam would not let his sons out of his sight. Eve worried.
“What are you saying, Cain?” Abel asked when the two brothers were in the fields, some distance from Adam.
“I’m saying He-” Cain motioned towards the entire sky, “-He spoke to me after that day.”
“And what did He say?” Abel replied.
“He told me If you do well, will not your face be lifted up?”
Relieved, Abel said, “That sounds true.”
“But then He said,” Cain continued, “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you.”
Alarmed and looking for Adam, Abel said, “Why wouldn’t you do well, brother?”
Adam awoke from his daydream and did not immediately see his sons. Scanning the horizon with growing panic, he soon calmed down. The two men were seen facing each other, apparently talking about something. Then Abel took a step backwards, as if to place some distance between Cain and himself. Adam grabbed his staff and began to run, cursing himself that he did not stay closer.
“STOP!” Cain commanded Adam, Abel lying lifeless on the ground. “Do not come any closer, father.”
Adam stopped and closed his eyes and saw the garden. Cain bumped Adam’s shoulder as he left him there with Abel’s body. Then Adam buried Abel.
That night, Cain had nightmares of the voice saying, “You must master it. You must master it. You must master it.”
He awoke to the sound of thunder, soaked in sweat.
Then Yahweh said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”
I don’t know about your town, but in mine the main grocery store has become a very large employer of special needs folks. The spoiled rich kids call these people “specials” for short and because they have enough wealth to not have to understand things like life on planet Earth. Given that I was the spoiled rich kid too, I was embarrassingly uncomfortable when I saw this hiring trend. But over the last year or so, I have come full circle with such force that I am often dizzy. I didn’t do it by choice. It took the Word of God. But I think I now see what Jesus meant when He said, So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit…Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
Despite what the world often tells us, the goal is not homogeneity–the goal is the glorifying God our Father through building the Kingdom of Heaven as proclaimed by the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.
Here’s another thing. As an adult, I still produce the thought, “I just am uncomfortable because I don’t know how to act around them.” H- has never evidenced that she has of yet had that thought. Don’t misread me. It’s not that she has “acted” perfectly around all people, it’s that she just acts. H- is a child. Jesus also said, truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
My point: Our problem is we do not readily discern between child-like, dogmatic, immovable, and unshakable faith in Jesus Christ and NOT child-like, dogmatic faith in the things that we build on this foundation. But the distinction is real. And now is a good time to start making it. Jesus also said, therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock
Now for some fun. I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this display just now at the store. Transformers will always have a special place in me because my helicopter was the first transformer in the first movie. But that place just got smaller and more remote. Could they get it more wrong? When I need a recommendation for which razor-maker is doing the best these days at ensuring I don’t accidentally bleed-out next time I shave, it will only and ever be accepted from man-flesh. Sorry, Prime.
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, X, viii-x.
Not long ago, a certain boy found himself curiously free from the normal assault that accompanied the end of the school day. His walk home began no different than any day before. While always a bit like a gauntlet, on this day he made his way down the hallway with no interruptions. The uneventful moments were filled with the buzz of weekend plans, clangs of locking metal, and worshipful snickers other boys directed towards Billy as he downed a shooter and lit up before even leaving the building.
Teachers puzzled over the boy. He turned in flawless homework, and proved it was his own with perfect in-class test scores. But he would not speak while at school. The walk home, however, was a different matter altogether.
The boy had Christ in his heart, in his mind, and was not afraid to summon Him when necessary. The Devil knew this and called one of his Imps over to him.
“But we are powerless against that Name,” the Imp responded when challenged.
“I didn’t ask about your weaknesses, you fool!” the Devil seethed. “I gave you an order. Now go!”
“I’ve tried that!” Billy said. “I told you I’ll do what you ask, Imp, but I will not strike the boy. He has done me no harm. I like being able to use your powers, but this boy doesn’t seem affected by the curses you gave me. His Chri-”
“-Don’t!” the Imp interrupted violently. “Do not say that name. Ever! Do you not know what would happen to us? I’d be done for, and you’d be as powerless as you were when I found you unable to fight off your drunken father.”
Taking a swing at the Imp, Billy screamed, “Say one more thing about my dad and I’ll kill you!”
Leaning back to avoid the attack, the Imp’s eyes lit up as he watched Billy feed on rage. He feigned, “Sorry. I’m sorry. Just don’t ruin this, kid.”
“Okay, okay,” Billy said. “What’s the plan this time?”
“You’ve tried breaking his things?”
“Yes. I’ve broken and torched just about everything he has brought to school. He just replies, ‘You-know-who says, Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth...'”
“You’ve tried insulting him?”
“Yep. He just says, ‘You-know-who says, Blessed are you when people insult you.‘ I’m telling you, Imp, this boy is not like the others.”
The Imp and Billy sat and thought.
Visibly impatient, the Imp began, “Wait a minute, we’re working too hard. Let’s get lazy.”
“What do you mean?”
“Next time, instead of directly challenging the boy, I want you to give him something that will take his voice away.”
“Yes,” the Imp whispered, as if to himself. Growing louder, he continued, “We’ve been going at this one all wrong. What’s the newest mirror-like thing that all your kind looks at?”
“I’m not sure what you mean?”
“ANSWER ME!” the Imp screeched. “That thing you all stare at when you are with each other? Your kind never used to do that. What’s it called?”
“Yes,” the Imp said. “Your phone. Does the boy have one like yours?”
“I think so, but he doesn’t seem to care about it.”
“Fine, fine. Here’s what you do. Call him over to you and make friends with him. Tell him you’re sorry and you’d like to be his friend. Do what you have to to get him to look at his phone more and more. We’ll simply silence him.”
“Oh, I see your game now. Silence. Yes, I can do that. I even know just what will work.”
“He’ll be working against himself soon enough. Maybe I can even get that vacation I’ve always wanted,” the Imp fantasized.
“Hey, boy!” Billy said, “Can I get your number? I want to text you later about this Bible app my aunt installed on my phone.”
“No, no. Stay there another week. Enjoy yourself. The next round is on me. You earned it. Brilliant, I tell you. The boy went from three hundred mentions to just a single mention each week,” the Devil delighted. “The best part,” the Devil paused, wiping a tear as he laughed, “The best part is he thinks we’re losing!”
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.
I bought a pocket sundial. I bought it because a lot of my recent reading has caused me to question my assumptions about everything, including time. You see, the Christian Bible has many instances where man’s conception of “time” is kind of poo-pooed. And with many of you sensuous heathens being incapable of listening to words that follow, “The Bible says…”, I needed to find a different way to get you to the Word. Now, with my sundial in hand, I finally can demonstrate what the biblical writer’s were saying in a non-threatening manner. Here’s how.
Suppose I have my pocket sundial. And suppose after a leisurely midday meal I set the device correctly and the sunlight passes through the hole and I read the time to be 2:45. Now, suppose you check your phone and it reads 2:52. Well, you know me; I’m stubborn as a mule and I insist that I’m right. And I know you; you’re arrogant as Icarus and you insist that you’re right.
Who is right? By what measure can we agree?
In the end, I have a piece of pretty metal upon which a spot of sunlight shines and you have an electrified screen upon which an Arabic numeral appears. All we’ve demonstrated is that time is a convention. I’d feel smart if my namesake didn’t express the exact same truth nearly two thousand solar-Gregorian-calendar years ago when he said that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day–without pocket sundials or portable electricity at his disposal.
But noooo. I couldn’t just listen. So I bought a pocket-sundial. And on the seventh day of owning it, I found my thirty-five year old self expressing to a friend, “Did I tell you I wrecked my car the other day? Sometimes I feel like, ‘if I can just make it to forty’…” as if I hadn’t learned a thing.
Christ is all and in all. Don’t give an inch.
I used to think it was Christians who were virtually mindless robots, all saying the same thing. Since receiving the Holy Spirit, I can report from the inside that Christians are certainly not robots and moreover we are certainly not nearly close to saying the same thing about anything. It’s like part of the Holy Spirit’s manifestation in a person includes suspicion of everyone and everything–often including what the heck the Good News of Jesus Christ even is. We’re the most disorganized, freewheeling “people group” I can imagine. (Though, we are rightfully sure that we’re on our way to glory!)
But you non-believers, whether Deist, Atheist, Muslim, Agnostic or any other heathen flavor, you all are robots. After listening to your first five words I find I can accurately forecast your entire train of thought–especially if one of those words is “Trump.”
Or maybe it’s just that you all watch the same shit and I read books.
(Seriously, turn off the television.)
One of those books, pictured here, is not a must read. In fact, do not read it (unless you’re a Muslim feeling like the world is out to get you). It’s depressing. I just wanted you to see the title and maybe begin to consider that the last Christian in a region/society has already died many, many times.
With the Quebec Mosque terrorist attack, the West is officially back in the game–and playing to lose.
Christ Jesus humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
I don’t know what to write.
If Thunder walked into your life, could it convince you to turn down the volume? How about if you met Lightening? Would you look up for Lightening?
Ah, but let’s not kid ourselves. You and I, we need the rain. We always have.
Despite the above, I believe there is hope. I see the peaceful way forward. And I am working on concrete projects which encourage us to challenge our assumptions, which can lead to peace. Specifically, I’m working on re-tooling how we teach our children math. (Speaking of children, pray for our children, especially H-. I don’t imagine too many six year old’s find themselves forced to work through Euclid’s Elements as their dad works on a Master’s thesis in New Testament.) But I need help, so contact me if you possess the rare trifecta of time, hope, and the Holy Spirit. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I must believe there is time.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.