Holy books, wholly understandable

I try, every year, to read the scripture of some other faith. That is, read the books themselves, not just a second-hand analysis of them

In 2016 it was the Koran, which I found well worth the read, if a little repetitious. It is about 4/5 the length of the New Testament.

In 2017 I have read the Bhaghavad Gita, which is a substantially shorter book. And I have just started the Book of Mormon, which is twice as long as the New Testament.

The two books I did as Audible recordings, of which I am a major fan, the Book of Mormon on LibriVox.

My observation here has to do with clear communication:

The Koran I read was the Penguin edition (1956) by N. J. Dawood; it is meant for non-specialists and was very understandable. Click HERE.

The Bhaghavad Gita I accessed two ways; first through then through the wonderful introduction and translation by Eknath Easwaran. And much, but not all, of the 2000-page commentary by Swami Ramsukhdasji, a gift from a dear Hindu friend.

Especially in the case of the Eknath Easwaran edition (click HERE), the rendering is very clear, with technical terms carefully explained; and then before each chapter, the author sums up the previous context, then gives a summary of the new chapter. In other words, it couldn’t be easier for the non-Hindu.

Foment curiosity and independent thinking? Sure! Create confusion? No!

All to say that, in both cases, someone exerted a great deal of effort to make clear to me the basic message of the holy books of another faith. In neither book was I ever lost, although of course my understanding of them remains superficial.

The application for the Christian should be clear.

How much more should someone who is interested in communicating our true message take great pains to

  • study it seriously,
  • meditate on it deeply,
  • pray about it thoroughly,
  • rely on God’s grace to live it authentically, and
  • seek God’s direction to proclaim it truthfully and powerfully.

Also, I would add, use straightforward language instead of flowery or technical; and to employ good English – rather than Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, or Bohairic, or who knows what. (See my long article on this issue HERE). To give Paul’s statement a different but legitimate application: “in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” And out of the church, even more so.

These versions of holy books remind me of our dear late professor, I. Howard Marshall; the first sermon I heard him preach, in Kings College Chapel in Aberdeen, was on the theme of “repentance” from Romans 2: “Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” He was speaking to a mixed group, some of whom were not very familiar with the Bible. I paraphrase him: “Repentance is not making ourselves out to be the worst person that ever lived,” he began, and then gave us a simple short sentence on what it does mean to repent. Clear as a bell. The handful of times I went to hear John Stott preach, same thing.

That is the apostolic way, it is the way of love.

“Holy books, wholly understandable,” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

Thoughts on Hebrew and Greek from a Scholar: Will Varner

Thanks to Dr. Will Varner for this article, to which I here post a link. It’s a topic that interests me, but once in a while I come across an article and have to conclude, “This person expresses it so much better than I could, so I’ll just link to their article!”

DO WE NEED TO GET INSIDE THE HEBREW MINDS OF THE NT AUTHORS?

I also recommend my own series that starts with my essay: “But the Greek REALLY says…”: Why Hebrew and Greek are not needed in the pulpit, Part 1

Strong’s Concordance – a Good Tool Gone Bad

To download the entire article, click here Shogren_Strongs Concordance or take a photo

static_qr_code_Strongs Concordance

 

Strong's Concordance - a Good Tool Gone Bad

Strong’s Concordance – a Good Tool Gone Bad

For Bible students who don’t use Hebrew and Greek, the Strong Concordance is a popular tool, available online. [1]

But it has a serious limitation – namely:

the “dictionary” in the back of Strong’s is not really a dictionary at all, and should not be used to find the “real, true, or root meaning” of a word

I will use the KJV version of Strong’s, since that is the one version I have on hand, but the same thing applies with the ESV or NASB editions.

We are all familiar with Matthew 1:20 –

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

Let’s say I want to learn more about the words angel (Strongs #G32). (more…)

Thou Shalt Not Bully Those who use a Different Bible Translation!

There are now hundreds of versions of the Bible in English, and more come out every year. And there is great benefit from comparing version with version. Still, if I were king, I would impose a moratorium on new Bible versions for at least a decade. If I were king.

But, let’s see what hand life has dealt us. First, there do exist twisted versions; the New World Translation is the most jarring example (available, btw, in 129 languages), as is the Queen James Bible (and no, the “Pink Cross” is not putting gay Bibles in hotel rooms, that one is just a rumor).

But once we eliminate the obvious problems, people continue to have strong opinions about Bible versions. When I write about the NIV or issues of Bible translation, on this blog or on my Spanish blog Razondelaesperanza.com, there are always a few who respond with vitriol. I have been accused of being in league with the Pope, of being part of the imaginary conspiracy (see, for example, the comic books of Jack Chick; New Age Bible Versions by Gail Riplinger; the site http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/), of being an apostate, a wicked sinner, and who knows what else.

Those are at the one extreme.

But in the more moderate camp I found out, to my surprise, that there exists a whole list of nicknames that Christians use for versions they do not like. I guess this has been going on for a while but, well, I’ve been out of the country.

Have you heard these?

“Ah, I see you use the ______!”

  • Newly Incorrect Version, or Nearly-Inspired Version (NIV; get it?)
  • New Liberal Translation (New Living Translation)
  • Hard-Core Southern Bible (HCSB, published by the Southern Baptists)
  • Bad News for Sinful Man (Good News for Modern Man)
  • Elected and Saved Version (the ESV, I guess because Calvinists like John Piper like it?)
  • King Junk Bible (KJV)
  • Newly Reviled Substandard Version (New Revised Standard Version)

And on and on. See a full list here.

"Okay, so like, Heather pulled out a Good News Bible at youth group, and Kendra said like, "Eww, what's that?" and Linda told Meghan who told Lisa's Mom, and now Lisa's Mom said she can't come to our sleepover!"

“Okay, so like, what happened is, Heather pulled out a Good News Bible at youth group, and Kendra was like, “Eww, what’s that?” and Mrs Andrews was all like, “Not on my watch you don’t!” and then Linda told Meghan who told Lisa’s Mom, and now Lisa said her Mom said Heather like totally can’t come to our sleepover!”

Please: might we “cool it” with these the jokes? I have my reasons:

  1. Because some of our judgments are based on misinformation.

Have you heard that the new NIV (2011 edition) is pro-gay? That only liberals use the NRSV? (more…)

The Emperor Constantine the Great – a villain or a hero, or something in-between?

Download the article as a pdf: Shogren_The Emperor Constantine the Great – a villain or a hero, or something in-between

To many, the Emperor Constantine was a saint: in the Orthodox church he is one of the “Equal-to-Apostles” (isapóstolos) a title given to people (such as Patrick, Cyril the evangelist of Russia and others) who were especially effective in establishing the gospel.

constantine

To others, Constantine is Great was a tool of evil, a corrupter of the church.

The attacks against Constantine come from several quarters. Some Messianic believers imagine that he turned the church into a Gentile movement. Others charge him with introducing pagan practices into the church. Seventh-Day Adventists credit him (or some pope) with changing the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.[1] Jehovah’s Witnesses think he turned Jesus into God, made the cross a symbol of Christianity, and established Easter and Christmas. All of these parties tend to gang up and use the same materials as the basis for their attacks – for example, many anti-Constantine groups hale back to Babylon Mystery Religion – Ancient and Modern, by Ralph Woodrow (1966). And they and Woodrow borrow much of their “information” from Alexander Hislop’s The Two Babylons (1858), another sketchy attempt to connect Catholicism with Babylonian religion.[2] More on this later.

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Who was Constantine? (more…)

“The Paranoid Style in American Politics” has its 50th Anniversary

[One of my few blog entries on politics, and how it relates to psychology, sociology, and modern apocalyptic eschatology. Here is a full pdf version: Paranoid Style Turns 50_Shogren]

Because of his ability to describe and predict American political behavior, Richard Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” should be required reading for the citizen. And except for Sacred Scriptures and the US Constitution, I never say any text should be mandatory. “Paranoid Style” was a short, dynamite article in the November 1964 issue of Harper’s, and is still available on their website archive. [1] We will look at some of its insights for today, and in particular, its implications for the evangelical church.

His immediate interest was the conservative movement that backed Barry Goldwater for president in the 1964 election. As a confirmed liberal of the old style, that is, to the left of typical Democrats of today, Hofstadter argued that he was not simply being anti-conservative – and that he was! – but rather: “I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing.”

I offer my own summary of the script of the “paranoid style”:

Nothing is what it seems to be: there are evil forces at work, carrying out their treacherous actions and shielding themselves from the attention of the general public;

I and a small group of whistle-blowers are even now revealing this hidden reality;

the proofs are extraordinarily complex and interwoven, but the central truth is simple and can be explained in a few sentences;

we who are “in the know” are continually hampered or even checkmated due to powerful enemies and widespread public apathy and gullibility.

“Nothing is what it seems to be – there are evil forces at work, carrying out their treacherous actions and shielding themselves from the attention of the general public”

conspiracy-theory-top-secretExamples from recent decades would have to include Senator Joe McCarthy, who argued that the loss of Eastern Europe and China to the Reds could not reasonably have happened by accident, or by normal political (more…)

Published in: on December 19, 2014 at 7:29 pm  Comments (16)  
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The Eclectic Text of the New Testament – a conspiracy against the Word?

God’s beloved Word – you’d better believe I study it daily. Yes, as a Bible teacher, since my ministry is teaching the New Testament in Spanish and English, and also from the Greek. But more fundamentally I read the Bible simply as a Christian, because it is through the reading, meditation, and obedience of God’s Word that we grow as believers. [1]

Therefore it concerns me when I read about a supposed conspiracy, made up of people who secretly despise God’s Word and are paving the way for antichrist, out to destroy the Bible and leave us in spiritual darkness. These charges are leveled against the Nestle-Aland edition of the Greek New Testament, the exact same “critical” edition I and my students read and interpret. [2]

That’s why I am impelled to read up on the so-called Alexandrian Conspiracy to ruin the Bible. If it is a real and present danger, I want to know. If it is a false alarm, then I must communicate that to you, the readers.

“Don’t destroy God’s Word! Or change it!”

My conclusion:

If the critical edition of the New Testament be treason against God’s Holy Word, then it’s the most poorly executed conspiracy in the history of Bible study.

Let’s see why. One extreme theory has it (more…)

Published in: on October 9, 2014 at 2:37 pm  Comments (20)  
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2 Thessalonians, Shogren translation for ZECNT

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Here is my own translation of 2 Thessalonians from the original Greek, which I produced over a long  period of time as part of my Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians. The book may be purchased from Amazon and now on pre-pub from Logos. Zondervan had asked that I provide an “expanded” translation. One thing to note about this letter is that it cites the Old Testament much more than does 1 Thessalonians; we mark it with red ink.

2 Thessalonians ZECNT translation

A few observations

ONE: 2 Thess 2:3 says that “the Day of the Lord will not come if there has not first come the Apostasy [from the Greek apostasia] and the Man of Lawlessness has been revealed.” Some translate the word apostasia as the rapturing away of the church, but this is untenable. This passage is no proof of some pretribulational rapture before the tribulation. See proof HERE.

TWO: 2 Thess 2:6 says “and as you know you know what it is that restrains the Man of Lawlessness…only the one who restrains it will do so until he is taken out of the way.” Many Christians automatically assume that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit, present in the church. This is by no means clear; I lean toward the view that it is a powerful angel (see Dan 10:13 – “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia”).

THREE: Some versions translate 2 Thess 3:11 and import their own ideas of what was going wrong in the church. For example, the Good News Bible says that “we hear that there are some people among you who live lazy lives and who do nothing except meddle in other people’s business.” In fact, the text does not mention laziness at all; the word is best translated “in a disorderly manner”.

Related posts:

Studies in Thessalonians Series

“2 Thessalonians, Shogren translation for ZECNT,” by Gary Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

1 Thessalonians, Shogren translation for ZECNT

zecnt-cover.jpg

I invite you to read my own “expanded” translation of 1 Thessalonians from the original Greek, part of my Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians. The book may be purchased from Amazon and now on pre-pub from Logos.

1 Thessalonians ZECNT translation

While the commentary is based on the Greek text, we place a great deal of emphasis on how the pastor might preach the epistle, and how it might be applied to today.

Zondervan asked me for this type of translation, as will be seen in 1 Thess 1:3 where I unpack “your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope” (so the ESV).

Here are some interpretative questions:

ONE: “Without fail we remember before God your work that arises from your believing, and your hard labor that comes from your love for others, and your endurance that comes from the hope you have, faith, love and hope in our Lord Jesus Christ as you live in the presence of God our Father” (1 Thess 1:3). I render “love” as “love for others” rather than love for God. In these letters Paul speaks much of mutual love, and I believe he is concerned about the sign of the end times when “the love of many will grow cold” (Matt 24:12).

TWO: 1 Thess 1:9b-10 I take to be an outline of Paul’s gospel, one that the Thessalonians would have memorized. It is thus similar to his preaching outline in 1 Cor 15:3-5.

THREE: “We took the position of little children among you” (1 Thess 2:7). Most English versions have “we were gentle” among you. The difference between the two readings is based on the Greek text: the oldest manuscripts have the Greek nēpioi, “little children”. The majority of the manuscripts have ēpioi, “gentle”. When read aloud they would have sounded exactly the same, and this is what led to two readings. By “little children” Paul means that his team did not use adult guile to deceive his audience.

FOUR: “We who are alive and remain will be taken up together with those who were dead in the clouds to welcome the Lord in the air” (1 Thess 4:17) I translate the word apantēsis as “welcome.” The word was commonly used when a king or dignitary was going to visit a city, and the inhabitants went out to meet him and accompany him back. That is, the saints will ascend to meet Christ and then accompany him back to the earth at the beginning of his kingdom; this would all take place at the very end of the tribulation. I see no proof in the passage that the rapture will take place before the tribulation. See article HERE.

We will share the translation of 2 Thessalonians in another post.

Related posts:

Studies in Thessalonians Series

“1 Thessalonians, Shogren translation for ZECNT,” by Gary Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

“But the Greek REALLY says…” Why Greek and Hebrew are not needed in the pulpit, Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 I offered one individual’s philosophy of Expository Preaching without Ancient Words:

  • I use the biblical languages, virtually daily. [1]
  • I cannot remember the last time I did not study the Hebrew or Greek when I was preparing a sermon.
  • I cannot remember the last time I did use a Hebrew or Greek word when I was preaching a sermon.
  • The better I study the original text, the easier I find it is to explain its meaning in plain English/Spanish.
Preaching: an open Book, not a sealed scroll

Preaching: an open Book, not a sealed scroll

The exception is that when I give devotionals to my own Greek students, I will often show how a knowledge of the original languages is helpful. But now let’s focus on the positive, and think of times when it is illuminating to mention the Hebrew or Greek while preaching to a “regular” church audience.

The following list might make a start:

HEBREW WORDS:

  • Shema confession in its entirety from Deut 6:4, including the meaning of “one” (echad) as unity, not singularity (more…)