Tagged: gospel

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.

SilvaTov1Tov2

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.”

****

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.

Class Is In Session

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.

Unforgettable African-Americans

The following is something I have not shared with very many people. But it has been on my mind of late and I just want to put it down on paper, so to speak.

Lately, as I spend more and more time with African-Americans, I have come to see that everyone hates them. With Denver having a booming African population, it has become clear that even, and sometimes especially, Africans hate them. Naturally, this triggers my desire to defend them. But why?

Why do I love African-Americans so much? They aren’t my culture. We have very different lifestyles. There are some similarities in worldview, but once we leave the Gospel and Word of God, there is often a terrific break. My daughter loves the church and her friends there, but as she gets older, it’s going to be more and more difficult for her to live in both the white and black worlds. Yet I persist. Why? Why? Why? Why?

I’ll tell you.

So there I was. Balad, Iraq, ca. 2008 AD. It was my third of three deployments. My squadron–the aircrew at least–was exclusively male. The lone life support troop was often female. Can you imagine it? She’s half-way around the world, all by herself. Not all by herself, of course. She’s surrounded by men in their most primal environment. At this point in my story, you can probably guess that she was African-American. And she was Christian. I noticed this right away. The LORD was her rock.

One evening, she was with us at our dinner table. She ate quietly. The conversation was loose and the jokes were filthy. One of the more senior officers couldn’t seem to avoid vulgarities. Some might say he was in rare form with this woman present. It was like he was a fly and dick jokes were the light. He’d tell a story, and then the next would be worse. I kept looking towards her and I could tell she was not happy. I just wanted him to give it a rest. He didn’t.

When we returned from dinner, this woman went back to where she worked. There, for at least ninety nights, with no days off, she diligently cleaned and prepared all of our helmets, survival radios, vests, and most importantly the night vision goggles. She was the definition of mission-essential. She did this all by herself–save for when one of us would grace her with some attempted pleasantry.

Something inside me would not let the dinner scene go unaddressed. So I got off the couch and took a moment to walk over to where she worked and struck up a conversation. I said, fully expecting an explosion of gratitude, “If I was more of a man, I would have put a stop to the conversation you just had to listen to at dinner.”

Her response?

I remember her stony eyes more vividly than her words, but I do remember that with great resolve, she said, “Would you have?” Then she repeated it, “Would you have?”

What about you, reader? Do you possess enough penetration to see my mistake?

She didn’t want some empathetic friend. She didn’t want some “we’re all in this together” moment. She wanted righteousness. And the fact that I admitted that I knew it was wrong, made me more guilty, more unrighteous, than my boss.

This young woman had something most of us don’t recognize and are unable to do anything more than talk about if we do see.  It’s something only got by experience. It’s something that’s forgettable–but that would be a tragedy.

The more you hate on her, the more you kill it. And for what?

I don’t know. Maybe that might help you understand why I love African-Americans and think you should too.

It’s Not Over

I fought in Iraq.

Not often, but sometimes while I was there I felt a unique-to-me sensation which I later determined to be my body’s response to feeling afraid-for-my-life. For me, this kind of fear feels similar to run-o-the-mill crying. But whereas everyday crying feels localized to my face and eyes, afraid-for-my-life doesn’t leave any part of me untouched–plus it is many times more intense. Put another way, I might say crying cuts like a scalpel, afraid-for-my-life cuts like a semi-truck.

That said, as I keep reading about these attacks, I hear the interstate. What about you?

****

Maybe you don’t think you’re smart enough to see what is going on. It’s not that difficult. If you can read, you can get it.

Here’s what I could track down as the formal response of some of the West’s leaders. One formal statement is different from the others. Can you discern whose it is and how it is difference? Or do you need pictures?

Germany – Merkel: “We have to assume it was a terrorist attack.”

Russia – Putin: “This is a shockingly cruel and cynical crime committed against peaceful civilians.”

America – Trump: “Our hearts and prayers are with the loved ones of the victims of today’s horrifying terror attack in Berlin.”

America – White House Spokesman: “…we stand together with Berlin in the fight against all those who target our way of life and threaten our societies.”

Poland – Szydlo:  “…with pain and sadness we received the information that the first victim of this heinous act of violence was a Polish citizen..”

London – Khan: “My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the awful suspected attack on Berlin last night…”

Can anyone explain to me what Khan means by “suspected”? Does he not know what “an attack” is? Does he not know that even if it turns out to be the equivalent of a Columbine or Sandy Hook mass-murder that it is still an attack? Is he really asking us and expecting us to withhold forming an opinion?

What about you? Are you with Khan? Am I being silly? Does he seem reasonable to you? Should we put our ability to match like-with-like on hold? Also, who is he praying to? Allah? The same god that the “suspected” attacker prayed to? How does that work?

****

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is only path to victory. For H-‘s sake, do not believe the lie that the war is against flesh and blood.

Our God’s Word–the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who loved the world so much He sent His son Jesus the Christ to die for us and whom He resurrected on the third day, this God and no other–could not be clearer: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 

Do not send our children to fight flesh and blood. Instead, turn off the television and fulfill your calling and proclaim the Gospel. In our day this looks like ensuring and insisting the people in your life know that Our God is not their god. This begins with you knowing this is the case. Do you know this? Do you know our God? Do you know Jesus? Really know Him? If you have any doubt, then track down a “Christian” and ask them to remind you what the Gospel is. If they don’t seem to know, or if what they say doesn’t sound like good news, thank them for their time and find another one. (Christian churches are a good place to start…)

Being Dogmatic Is Not Giving Up

Receiving WordPress’s latest auto-reminder email that suggested I need to renew this blog made me feel like WP was growing impatient and about to put another persuasive turn into the vice. That said, I gave in, spilled the beans, forked over the cash–however you want to think of it–I succumbed to the belief that my words might matter. Here is an overdue post to mark the occasion.

My Evangelical, protestant, Christian seminary might just embody the most defeatist attitude I have ever seen.

As some of you know, I began to notice this after the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando (which occurred after 9/11, which occurred after the first attempt to knock out the Twin Towers in 1993).

As well-read academics, the professors and most of the students are aware of the English language’s five letter word “dogma.” But I am convinced they do not know what it means. Do you?

All I would like to suggest here is that dogma has nothing to do with giving up. Here at school, dogma is treated as the thing at the end of the argument. The fail-safe. When all else–when all logic, when all argumentation–fails, the Christian simply declares, “dogma.” Come to think of it, it’s almost used like saying “uncle” when wrestling around with older siblings or cousins. (Or Uncle Bob).

This approach, dogma as the fail-safe, is a grave, grave mistake. Ohio State was another data point.

The Christian knows we have the victory in Christ. That’s primary and ever will be. Start there and end there. Never stray from there.

The tangible way to do this is with Christian love. With the only real love. With the love that is rooted in the Cross.

The conversational way to do this is asking questions until you demonstrated that you actually are listening and curious to discover what he or she thinks. Don’t stop when he repeats Wolf Blitzer or Obama or Trump or Clinton or Megyn Kelly (why is she in the headlines so much?) or John Stewart or Trevor Noah or John Oliver or whoever. I don’t even watch TV and I can’t help but hear what these people think. And I don’t care what they think. I don’t know them. Neither does the person you’re talking to. Keep questioning. Become an expert in listening.

It is our Christian duty to restore dignity to people. It is our Christian duty to announce the available redemption. This starts with Christ, not fails with Christ.

Being dogmatic does not mean giving up. It means honesty. It means integrity. It means that from the ‘get go,’ you proclaim, “I know my assumptions. Do you know yours?”

One final way I can offer to help re-frame ‘dogma’ in your mind is by comparing it to confidence. Think of any person you would call confident. Then ask yourself, “Would anything meaningfully different be communicated if I called them dogmatic?”

Michael Jordan = confident or dogmatic? Trump = confident or dogmatic? Obama = confident or dogmatic? Your pastor = confident or dogmatic? Your military members = confident or dogmatic? Joel Osteen = confident or dogmatic? Moses = confident or dogmatic? Muhammad = confident or dogmatic? Paul = confident or dogmatic? Martin Luther = confident or dogmatic? Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, any A-List Actor or Actress etc.

Confident living is not silent. Dogmatic living is not giving up.

Being dogmatic is not giving up. Christians, don’t give up.

But Who Can Explain Longing To My Child?

But who can explain longing to my child?

 

The teardrop tries but fails,

For it carries many.

 

The silenced voice is unheard,

The pounding heart, muffled.

 

The knotted gut is unseen,

The lumped throat, concealed.

 

But who can explain longing to my child?

 

I could explain longing to my child,

But for it is not when I am with her.

Response To Pew Research Center Study On Why We’re Giving Up On God.

As you’re no doubt aware, we’re giving up on God. Why? The research group “Pew” knows.

If you’re a redeemed sinner, washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ, and it pains you to see so many other sinners harden their hearts, close their eyes, and cover their ears, please keep reading. In response to Pew’s findings, I’m going to do my best to give you some tips on how to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with folks similar to those Pew surveyed.

(RFL is ‘reason for leaving’ and GR is ‘Gospel Response’.)

RFL 1: Learning about evolution when I went away to college.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ literally has nothing to say about evolution. Not in an “evolution is wrong” sense, but in a “the Gospel of Jesus Christ also has nothing to say about Harry Potter’s prowess in a quidditch match” sense. 

RFL 2: Too many Christians doing un-Christian things.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is literally the good news that un-Christian things can be forgiven. 

RFL 3: Religion is the opiate of the people.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. Good news is not a substance or thing that I put into my body.

RFL 4: Rational thought makes religion go out the window.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ literally has nothing to say about rational thought. Not in a “rational thought is wrong” sense, but in a “the Gospel of Jesus Christ also has nothing to say about the fact that Batman’s costume switched colors from blue and grey to black over the years” sense.

RFL 5: Lack of any sort of scientific evidence of a creator.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ literally has nothing to say about science. Not in a “science is wrong” sense, but in a “the Gospel of Jesus Christ also has nothing to say about Christian Grey’s preference for BDSM” sense.

RFL 6: I just realized somewhere along the line that I really didn’t believe it.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ literally is the good news that there is hope–even if we don’t believe it.

RFL 7: I’m doing a lot more learning, studying, and kind of making decisions myself rather than listening to someone else.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ literally has nothing to say about learning, studying, and making decisions by yourself. Not in a “learning, studying, and making decisions yourself is wrong” sense, but in a “the Gospel of Jesus Christ also has nothing to say about Rocky Balboa’s decision to train Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son” sense.

RFL 8: I just believe that religion is a very personal conversation with me and my creator.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. The ability to have a personal conversation with your creator is not good news. Muhammad had a very personal conversation with Allah. 

RFL 9: I don’t have a particular religion because I am open-minded and I don’t think there is one particular religion that is right or wrong. 

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. The fact that you can have an open mind and/or choose to not condemn a certain religion as “wrong” is not good news. Muhammad didn’t condemn a certain religion as wrong; he just agreed that other religions were on to something. Being “on to something” is not good news, either.

RFL 10: I don’t have time to go to church.

GR: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a calendar event that you find time for in the same sense that bad news is not a calendar event that you find time for.