Category Archives: Bible

David and the Philistines

Gershon Galil has a new essay with that title in the December issue of Segula.

Though scholars argue bitterly over the historicity of the Davidic kingdom, new archaeological discoveries are shedding surprising light on King David’s allies. The remains of a northern Philistine kingdom ruled by Toi of Hamath hint at some unexpected regional ties dating back three millennia.

 

Quote of the Day, Again

So because of Christ, I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:10)

Quote of the Day

‘Alas for you when everyone speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets. (Lk. 6:26)

This is Literally the Stupidest Thing Anyone Has Ever Tweeted About the Bible

The stupidest tweet about the Bible.  Ever.  I can’t conceive of a dumber remark.

Sodomites

The crime of your sister Sodom was pride, gluttony, calm complacency; such were hers and her daughters’ crimes. They never helped the poor and needy; they were proud, and engaged in loathsome practices before me, and so I swept them away as you have seen.

And yet Samaria never committed half the crimes that you have. “You have done more loathsome things than they have. By all your loathsome practices you have made your sisters seem innocent, and now you bear the shame of which you have freed your sisters; since the sins which you have committed are more revolting than theirs, they are more upright than you are. So now, bear the disgrace and shame of having put your sisters in the right.   (Ezek. 16:49-52)

Sodomites, then, are those who are prideful, gluttons, complacent, dismissing and ignoring the poor and needy, and such like loathsome practices.

Washington is filled with them.

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 to aid him: 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.

Sirach Speaks

Spinti has it.

Jérusalem des Mystères, le 17 déc sur RMC Découverte

More from my best friend Michael Langlois

Le documentaire présente 10 lieux, à ou autour de Jérusalem, associés aux évangiles, tant dans leur contexte historique que dans les diverses traditions chrétiennes qui se sont développées au cours des siècles.

Je ne l’ai pas vu et ai donc hâte de le découvrir ! Rendez-vous ici pour la première partie,  pour la seconde.

Je remercie Fanny Belvisi, qui a dirigé ces films et m’a interviewé au printemps dernier avec Franck Rabel. Voici quelques photos mises en ligne sur Facebook à l’époque :

Give it a look!

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)

Hendrickson’s ‘Book By Book’ Guides

Hendrickson has recently published A Book by Book Guide to Septuagint Vocabulary and A Book by Book Guide to New Testament Greek Vocabulary.

These two works are described by the publisher thusly:

A Book-by-Book Guide to New Testament Greek Vocabulary is intended to help students, pastors, and professors who wish to read a particular book of the Bible in its original language to master the vocabulary that occurs most frequently in the book in question. In contrast to typical Hebrew and Greek vocabulary guides, which present vocabulary words based on their frequency in the Hebrew Bible or New Testament as a whole, this book presents vocabulary words based on their frequency in individual New Testament books, thus allowing readers to understand and engage with the text of a particular book easily and quickly.

The book also includes an appendix listing difficult principal parts for selected verbs that occur in the vocabulary lists and providing other advanced notes for additional words in the lists.

And

This book-by-book vocabulary guide provides an unparalleled resource for anyone interested in more effective reading and study of the Old Testament in Greek, commonly called the Septuagint. Aside from two full-scale specialist lexicons for the Septuagint, no other printed resource exists that provides concise and strategic guidance to the language of this important ancient corpus. With word lists organized by frequency of appearance in a given book or section of the Septuagint, this guide allows users to focus their study efforts and thus more efficiently improve their breadth of knowledge of Koine vocabulary. Furthermore, the vocabulary incorporated into the lists in this guide integrates lower-frequency New Testament vocabulary in a manner that enables the user to easily include or exclude such words from their study. Other key features of this vocabulary guide include carefully crafted lists that allow users to refresh higher-frequency New Testament vocabulary, to strategically study higher-frequency vocabulary that appears across the Septuagint corpus, and to familiarize themselves with the most common proper nouns in the Septuagint. Moreover, each chapter in this guide has been statistically tailored to provide the word lists necessary to familiarize the user with 90 percent of the full range of vocabulary in each book or section of the Septuagint.

The publisher has sent review copies of both, with no expectations of or requirements for the outcome of my review.

The volumes are what we used to describe as ‘word frequency lists’ but unlike the word frequency lists of olden times, when I was a lowly grad student, which were organized by frequency regardless of the books of the Bible in which they occurred, these lists follow the canonical order of the LXX and New Testament respectively.

In the LXX volume we begin with words that occur 88,461- 4,907 times in the entire LXX.  Then we whittle the lists down until we finish up with list 20, which lists words occurring 12 or fewer times.  Then our authors (Lanier and Ross) give us a collection of lists containing what they describe as ‘high frequency Septuagint vocabulary.  Next, lists of common Septuagint proper nouns.  And then, and only then, do we come to the lists of words which are found in the various books collected in the LXX.

This kind of resource is ideal for those wishing to expand their vocabulary (of Greek words that are found in the LXX).  The drawback, of course, is that one or two word ‘definitions’ are only helpful in a general way.  Further, there’s lots of repetition.  That is, if σακκος occurs in sufficient numbers in Ruth it is also listed in the vocabulary lists of other books as well.  Repetition isn’t a bad thing.  Indeed, it’s quite helpful to see a word presented in several lists over the course of the volume.  But it does add to the overall length of the work.  And that space, in my view, could have been occupied, for instance, by the words that occur in Job but one or two times.  Those are the words that generally cause problems for readers, rather than the words that occur 88,000 times.  Indeed, if a reader of the LXX isn’t familiar with words in Greek that are found tens of thousands of times, it’s highly unlikely that they are very familiar with the Greek language at all and probably aren’t trying to read the LXX in Greek anyway.

The New Testament guide is laid out in the same fashion, beginning with high frequency vocabulary – 19,865 times to 40 times.  Then our author leads us through each book of the New Testament in canonical order.  This time, however, we are introduced to words that occur 17 times and going all the way down to 3 times (for Matthew).  Other books begin at other frequencies and end at others as well.  Acts, for example, begins with words at 23 occurrences and finishes up with words found 3 times. 2 Timothy, on the other hand, begins at 4 occurrences and finishes up with words making only 1 appearance.  The New Testament volume also ends with a glossary.

Words are provided one or two word glosses here as well.  Which, again, though helpful, is also partially misleading (since words – as we all are aware- can have quite a range of meanings according to the context and the use to which they are put in that context).   To be sure, this is not a criticism, it is merely an observation and users of these two very helpful works need to remember (or perhaps be taught) that one word or two word definitions must always be investigated with a particular context in mind.

Greek, in short, is resistant to oversimplification.  As is, by the way, Hebrew.  And readers of the biblical text are beholden to keep that very simple yet very important fact in mind.

The great advantage of these two works is that they build basic vocabulary.  Basic.  Vocabulary.  And that is critical for readers of the biblical languages and students of the biblical text.  Their authors are to be thanked for them.

The Lexham English Septuagint (LES), Print Edition

The Lexham English Septuagint (LES) is a new translation of the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament writings used during New Testament times and in the early church. The LES provides a literal, readable, and transparent English edition of the Septuagint for modern readers. Retaining the familiar forms of personal names and places, the LES gives readers the ability to read it alongside their favored English Bible. Translated directly from Swete’s edition of the Septuagint, the LES maintains the meaning of the original text, making the Septuagint accessible to readers today.

The publisher has provided (kindly) a copy of the print edition, which I’ll review and report on in due course.  More anon.

You Need a Commentary That Helps Make Sense of the Bible: On Sale for Christmas!

Christmas Sale- $50 per Set Now Through December 24!!!!!!

the-person-the-pew-commentary-seriesThe ‘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 exceptionally reasonable price of  $75 $50 through December 24 by clicking my PayPal Link.  Leave your email in your paypal payment note so I can send it to you right away.

Should you only wish one volume, email me and we can arrange it.

***

The commentary on the Bible by Jim West, a theologian who is lecturer in Biblical and Reformation Studies at Ming Hua Theological College in Hong Kong and is also Pastor of a Baptist Church in Petros, Tennessee, explains every chapter from Genesis to Revelation to “the person in the pew”: the ordinary member of a church, who, when reading the Bible, encounters a desperately foreign culture and therefore needs some guidance to understand it.

West’s approach is straightforward: he offers the Bible in a translation (American Standard Version) and interrupts the narrative every now and then to explain a couple of verses. His comments are aimed “at English speaking and reading members of the community of faith”: in other words, he makes the ancient texts accessible for believers.

As a pastor, West has an additional task: he needs to present the text in such a way that the faithful can use the Bible as a guideline. As I said, West’s approach is straightforward. The fact that he succeeds is encouraging for everyone who thinks that the study of ancient texts is meaningful.

I am no theologian and cannot judge the theological merits, but I can say that it is a pleasant read. I am currently reading a text I know quite well, Daniel, and West has pointed out many aspects I had not recognized before. The PDFs of West’s Commentary for the Person in the Pew are on my tablet, allowing me to go through the entire Bible when my train is delayed or has been cancelled. Given the quality of Dutch public transport I expect to have renewed my encounter with the Bible within a few months. – Jona Lendering

If You Don’t Read Greek and Hebrew, This Is the Bible You Need to Read

rebIt is, in all sincerity, the very best English translation of the Bible that has yet been produced.  And, yes, I’ve looked at every English translation of the Bible and it really is the best.  It is the most faithful to the underlying originals whilst maintaining a readability unsurpassed.  Get it.

Three Things

There are three things my soul delights in, and which are delightful to God and to all people: concord between brothers, friendship between neighbours, and a wife and husband who live happily together.

There are three sorts of people my soul hates, and whose existence I consider an outrage: the poor swollen with pride, the rich who is a liar and an adulterous old man who has no sense. (Sir. 25:1-2)

Honest Sermons v. Dishonest Sermons

Honest sermons rightly reflect the biblical text’s own message.

Dishonest sermons distort the biblical text’s own message.

If your ‘Christian sermon’ requires you to distort the biblical text, it isn’t Christian.

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.

Conference Announcement: The God Who Speaks- The Bible in Today’s World

It should be a fantastic day!  We hope you can join us.

9th January 2020
13:30 – 19:30
Newman University

Starving Christians in America

Not that kind of starvation- the starvation that comes when worship, prayer, scripture reading, and ministry are either wholly ignored or only occasionally enjoyed.

There’s a famine in the land- but one of our own making and it has resulted in the spiritual emaciation of the vast majority of Christians in this country.  It’s why so many are powerless, weak, and incapable of the smallest spiritual victory.

And worst of all, most Christians know they are spiritually malnourished and they simply do not care.  They’re starving their souls to death, and it does not matter to them.

It’s sad.  But at the end, unsurprising, since none less than Amos spoke about this very sort of famine in the 8th century BC-

The days are coming- declares the Lord Yahweh- when I shall send a famine on the country, not hunger for food, not thirst for water, but famine for hearing Yahweh’s word.  People will stagger from sea to sea, will wander from the north to the east, searching for Yahweh’s word, but will not find it.  ‘That Day, fine girls and stalwart youths will faint from thirst. (Amos 8:11-13)

Those days have come, not because God has sent it but because Christians have made it happen themselves.  We are reaping what we have sown.

The Stranger

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and at you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:33-34