Just a Simple Reminder

“But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars-their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”   Rev 21:8

Pay attention, President Trump, Congress, Local government, State government, and every citizen.  It applies equally to all.

Just One Thorn? That’s A Vacation, Paul…

So that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself.  Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:7-9)

‘A’ thorn… that’s a vacation.

‘Haters Gonna Hate’ – Jesus

Jesus knows hate is real.  And he knows that his disciples aren’t going to be liked (and as John has it, they’ll just be downright hated).  And he also knows that sometimes when people are disliked, they bend and break and become what those who dislike them wish them to be, so he gives them this bit of warning about being the kind of weak follower that wants everyone to love them:

Alas for you when everyone speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

Why do people prefer false prophets?  Because they tell them exactly what they want to hear.  And the one thing the disciples of Jesus should never do is that, because it is a betrayal of the truth and the Gospel.

And then this interesting bit, which kicks off with the strong adversative Ἀλλα which carries the notion of ‘but instead’ or ‘but rather’-

‘But I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.  (Lk. 6:26-28)

Becoming like those who hate you is exactly the opposite course of action disciples are expected to take.  Because when you become like them, they win.  Evil wins.  Hatred wins.  And that cannot be the case for disciples of the Crucified and Risen Lord.  ‘You are in the world, but not of the world’ declared Jesus.  And we are not.  We must not be.

Luther’s Best Translation Work

Luther was a pretty good translator (because for the Hebrew Bible he consulted widely, being pretty poor at Hebrew himself and for the Greek of the New Testament he had none less than the magnificent Melanchthon himself: probably the greatest Greek scholar of the 16th century).  But when Luther got it right, he and his crew got it very right.  The peak of his skills are manifested when he translates 2 Thess 3:1-2 –

Here’s the text:

Τὸ λοιπόν, προσεύχεσθε, ἀδελφοί, περὶ ἡμῶν, ἵνα ὁ λόγος τοῦ κυρίου τρέχῃ καὶ δοξάζηται καθὼς καὶ πρὸς ὑμᾶς, καὶ ἵνα ῥυσθῶμεν ἀπὸ τῶν ἀτόπων καὶ πονηρῶν ἀνθρώπων· οὐ γὰρ πάντων ἡ πίστις.

Here’s what Luther et al do with it- with the very best bit boldfaced:

Wejter, lieben Brüder, betet fur vns, das das wort des HErrn lauffe, vnd gepreiset werde, wie bey euch, Vnd das wir erlöset werden von den vnartigen vnd argen Menschen. Denn der glaube ist nicht jedermans ding.

Litherally, ‘For faith is not everyone’s thing‘.

The 2017 edition of the Luther Bible retains the genius:

Weiter, ihr Brüder und Schwestern, betet für uns, dass das Wort des Herrn laufe und gepriesen werde wie bei euch und dass wir gerettet werden vor falschen und bösen Menschen; denn der Glaube ist nicht jedermanns Ding.

The Zurich Bible gets the sense of the Greek better than Luther does- but Luther gets the sheer beauty of the idea perfectly:

Im Übrigen, liebe Brüder und Schwestern, betet für uns, dass das Wort des Herrn seinen Lauf nehme und überall in Ehren gehalten werde, wie auch bei euch, und dass wir gerettet werden aus der Hand der verkehrten und bösen Menschen; denn der Glaube ist nicht jedermanns Sache.

The New Jerusalem misses it:

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the Lord’s message may spread quickly, and be received with honour as it was among you;  and pray that we may be preserved from bigoted and evil people, for not everyone has faith

So does the CSBO:

Finally, pray for us, brothers, that the Lord’s message may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not all have faith

Even the otherwise brilliant REB has ‘for not all have faith.

The moral of the story?  Sometimes you have to read German in order to get to the sense of the underlying text and not rely on English alone.

And So It Begins

Now it happened that at this time Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be made of the whole inhabited world. This census — the first — took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.  So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee for Judaea, to David’s town called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  (Lk. 2:1-5)

Christmas Commentary Sale

The ‘Person in the Pew’ commentary series is the only series of Commentaries in modern history written by a single person on the entire Bible and aimed at layfolk .  Everyone needs a commentary on the Bible that they can understand and that answers their questions about the meaning of the text.  So I wrote one.

If you or someone you know wants to get a copy of the entire 42 volume collection in PDF format, you can do so from yours truly for the Christmas season sale price of  $50 (that’s a third off)  by clicking my PayPal Link.  Leave your email in your paypal payment note so I can send it to you right away.

This sale ends Christmas Day, so take advantage of it while you can.

Here’s what one reader has to say:

Jim West is a man of very decided opinions. However, and this is much to his credit, in the Commentary I’ve read he does not advocate his opinions about Scripture. What he does is explain and simplify, working from the original language, without being simplistic. And this is to be commended. – Athalya Brenner

Remember!

Ein Sohn ehrt den Vater und ein Diener seinen Herrn. Und wenn ich Vater bin, wo ist meine Ehre? Und wenn ich Herr bin, wo ist die Furcht vor mir?, spricht der HERR der Heerscharen zu euch, ihr Priester, die ihr meinen Namen gering schätzt. Ihr aber werdet sagen: Wie haben wir deinen Namen gering geschätzt? 

Auf meinem Altar bringt ihr besudelte Speise dar, und dann sagt ihr: Womit haben wir dich besudelt? Dadurch, dass ihr sagt: Der Tisch des HERRN ist nicht wichtig!  Und wenn ihr blinde Tiere bringt, um sie als Opfer zu schlachten – ist das nichts Schlechtes? Und wenn ihr Lahmes und Krankes bringt – ist das nichts Schlechtes?

Bring es doch deinem Statthalter dar! Wird er Gefallen an dir haben oder dein Angesicht erheben?, spricht der HERR der Heerscharen.  Und nun besänftigt doch das Angesicht Gottes, damit er uns gnädig sei. Dieses kam aus eurer Hand – wird er euretwegen das Angesicht erheben?, spricht der HERR der Heerscharen. 

Gibt es bei euch auch nur einen, der die Türen verschlösse, damit ihr meinen Altar nicht vergeblich erstrahlen lasst? Ich habe kein Gefallen an euch, spricht der HERR der Heerscharen, und Gaben aus eurer Hand gefallen mir nicht!  (Mal. 1:6-10)

The Senseless

The adulterer has no sense; he works his own destruction. All he will get is blows and contempt, and dishonour never to be blotted out. For jealousy inflames the husband who will show no mercy when the day comes for revenge; he will not consider any compensation; lavish what gifts you may, he will not be placated. (Prov. 6:32-35)

Who Can Be Silent when Yahweh Speaks?

The lion roars: who is not afraid? Lord Yahweh has spoken: who will not preach?  From the palace roofs of Assyria and from the palace roofs of Egypt, proclaim aloud, ‘Assemble on the hills of Samaria and observe the grave disorders inside her and the acts of oppression there!’ Little they know of right conduct -declares Yahweh- who cram their palaces with violence and extortion.  This is why — Lord Yahweh says this- an enemy will soon besiege the land, he will bring down your strength and your palaces will be looted. (Amos 3:8-11)

Spears to Plows… Plows to Spears…

They will hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into bill-hooks. Nation will not lift sword against nation or ever again be trained to make war. But each man will sit under his vine and fig tree with no one to trouble him. The mouth of Yahweh Sabaoth has spoken. (Mic. 4:3-4)

And since we’ve never managed to do that, we’ll eventually get to do this instead:

Hammer your ploughshares into swords, your bill-hooks into spears; let the weakling say, ‘I am tough!’ Hurry and come, all the nations around, and assemble there! (Yahweh, send down your champions!) ‘Let the nations rouse themselves and march to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I shall sit in judgement on all the nations around. Ply the sickle, for the harvest is ripe; come and tread, for the winepress is full; the vats are overflowing, so great is their wickedness!’ (Joel 4:10-13)

We seem incapable of peace. So our only future is destruction.

The Tyndale House (Cambridge, so the real one) Reader’s Edition of the Greek New Testament

This is good news:

The highly anticipated Reader’s Edition of the Greek New Testament text combines the Tyndale House Greek New Testament with a running list of glosses of every word in the Greek New Testament that occurs 25 times or less.

Published by Crossway, the THGNT Reader’s Edition is the next stage in the work undertaken by the Editor, Dr Dirk Jongkind, and Associate Editor, Dr Peter J. Williams, to provide a text of the Greek New Testament that reflects as closely as possible its earliest recoverable wording.

Crossway have graciously sent along a review copy.

The edition I received was the hardback in slip cover, black.  The Preface tells the particulars of the coming into existence of the reader’s edition.  In great detail.  And was written by one Drayton Benner, whom I take to be the chief computer whiz behind the compilation and insertion of the thousands of lexical notes which make the earlier published Tyndale Greek New Testament even more useful and endearing than the first iteration of the edition.

The biggest change between the reader’s edition and the regular (!) edition is that the reader’s has no textual apparatus.  The bottom of the page is instead filled with lexical entries (which only makes sense given the purpose of the edition).

The Introduction is the same as the Introduction to the earlier Tyndale GNT, leading readers into the particulars of the volume’s construction and execution.

The order of the New Testament books is the same as the Tyndale GNT. The beautiful font has also been retained in the new iteration as has the page layout.  Here’s an example:

Notice the way that each line begins, where appropriate, with the same Greek word.  This visual makes it very easy to see the form and format of the passage in question in an immediate and gripping way.  The list of those greeted pops off the page.

The lexical glosses themselves are quite good and I have yet to find any error among them.  Though as always, users of reader’s editions must be cautioned that words have very wide ranges of usage and the gloss chosen by the glossator may not always be the best choice.  It behooves students of Scripture to take advantage of full-blown lexica and not rely solely on a single glossed meaning.  Still, when simply reading is the aim, such a system of single-meaning glosses is quite acceptable.

The present volume is a great addition to any New Testament reader’s toolbox of intellectually stimulating implements.  Crossway is to be congratulated for producing and publishing such an exemplary work.

What Have We Become?

Our country has come to a place in its lifespan where it is little more than a septic tank of indecency and greed. God once regretted making humanity and destroyed the world by a flood. It looks to me like we well deserve that same kind of divine intervention.

Yahweh saw that human wickedness was great on earth and that human hearts contrived nothing but wicked schemes all day long.  Yahweh regretted having made human beings on earth and was grieved at heart.  And Yahweh said, ‘I shall rid the surface of the earth of the human beings whom I created — human and animal, the creeping things and the birds of heaven — for I regret having made them.’   But Noah won Yahweh’s favour.  (Gen. 6:5-8)

I would be surprised if God could find a Noah these days.  And even if he could…

The word of Yahweh was addressed to me: ‘Son of man, when a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I point my finger at it and destroy its supply of food, inflicting famine on it and denuding it of human and animal, even if the three men, Noah, Danel and Job, were living in it, they would save no one but themselves by their uprightness — declares the Lord Yahweh. 

Were I to unleash wild beasts on that country to rob it of its children and reduce it to a desert which no one would dare to cross because of the animals, even if these three men were living there, as I live — declares the Lord Yahweh — they would not be able to save either son or daughter; they alone would be saved, and the country would become a desert.  

Were I to bring the sword down on that country and say, “Sword, cross the country!” so as to denude it of human and animal, even if these three men were living there, as I live — declares the Lord Yahweh — they would not be able to save either son or daughter; they alone would be saved.  

If I were to send the plague on that country and vent my fury on it by bloodshed, so as to denude it of human and animal,  even if Noah and Danel and Job were living there, as I live — declares the Lord Yahweh — they would be able to save neither son nor daughter, only themselves by their uprightness.  (Ezek. 14:12-20)

Isaiah the Impatient

Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence– As fire burns brushwood, As fire causes water to boil– To make Your name known to Your adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Your presence! When You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down, The mountains shook at Your presence.

For since the beginning of the world Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, Nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him. You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways.

You are indeed angry, for we have sinned– In these ways we continue; And we need to be saved. But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.  And there is no one who calls on Your name, Who stirs himself up to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us, And have consumed us because of our iniquities.  But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand.

Do not be furious, O LORD, Nor remember iniquity forever; Indeed, please look– we all are Your people!  Your holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and beautiful temple, Where our fathers praised You, Is burned up with fire; And all our pleasant things are laid waste. Will You restrain Yourself because of these things, O LORD? Will You hold Your peace, and afflict us very severely?  (Isa. 64:1-12)

Quote of the Day

If this doesn’t sound like contemporary life, nothing does-

Now they are steeped in all sorts of injustice, rottenness, greed and malice; full of envy, murder, wrangling, treachery and spite, libellers, slanderers, enemies of God, rude, arrogant and boastful, enterprising in evil, rebellious to parents, without brains, honour, love or pity. They are well aware of God’s ordinance: that those who behave like this deserve to die — yet they not only do it, but even applaud others who do the same.  (Rom. 1:29-32)

Robert Alter’s Translation and Commentary on the Hebrew Bible is About to Be Published

Details here.  It’s three volumes…

A landmark event: the complete Hebrew Bible in the award-winning translation that delivers the stunning literary power of the original.

A masterpiece of deep learning and fine sensibility, Robert Alter’s translation of the Hebrew Bible, now complete, reanimates one of the formative works of our culture. Capturing its brilliantly compact poetry and finely wrought, purposeful prose, Alter renews the Old Testament as a source of literary power and spiritual inspiration. From the family frictions of Genesis and King David’s flawed humanity to the serene wisdom of Psalms and Job’s incendiary questioning of God’s ways, these magnificent works of world literature resonate with a startling immediacy. Featuring Alter’s generous commentary, which quietly alerts readers to the literary and historical dimensions of the text, this is the definitive edition of the Hebrew Bible. 3 maps

I know publishers like to puff their products but exaggerations like ‘the definitive edition’ are troubling nonetheless. Let’s see what it’s really like and give it some time before we make such sweeping claims, shall we?