Christians and “Coincidences” or Is There a Hex in the Patternicity?

This article has many images and footnotes; I encourage the reader to download it as a pdf here: Shogren_Christians and Coincidences

It happened just the other day: I had been thinking about James Bond, and later when I pulled out a form of identification for the bank teller, I noticed that my ID number began with 007! Was I a secret agent? Perhaps one suffering from amnesia?

Or, let’s say a man “has a system” for beating the Vegas roulette table. He has noticed that black has come up eight times in a row. So he bets everything on black, because “there’s clearly a pattern to the wheel tonight.” Meanwhile, a man across from him is thinking to himself, “I’d better put everything on red, since it looks like it’s due to come up.”

A child and her companion lie on their backs, looking up at the clouds. “That one looks like a giraffe!” she says. “And that one a camel!” “No, not a camel, look at it upside-down, it looks just like an octopus.” One child says, “An angel!”; another says, “Actually, it looks quite like Charles Darwin!”

We have all played this game without realizing that we were doing pattern recognition. As Paul Simon wrote many years back, in the song “Patterns”:

The night sets softly
With the hush of falling leaves,
Casting shivering shadows
On the houses through the trees,
And the light from a street lamp
Paints a pattern on my wall,
Like the pieces of a puzzle
Or a child’s uneven scrawl.

Leaves, shadows, trees, indecipherable scrawling – these can all seem like messages because of our human tendency for patternicity. So can tortillas and numbers and corporate logos, as we shall see.

This is why astronomers speak of the Horsehead Nebula, which was not modeled after a terrestrial animal, but just sort of looks like a horse!

From ages past, people have imagined patterns in the stars and constructed “constellations” of animals, gods, heroes. And we can get a cross-check on patternicity by seeing how different cultures “read” the same stars –  it’s Orion in European legend, but the same stars are a hunter and his dogs chasing a deer in India. Mr. Rorschach invented his famous ink blots on the basis of human pattern recognition (“Ummm…is it, maybe, two ducks kissing?” “Okay, Mr. Anderson, we’d better make it three sessions per week!”)

We are wired to quickly detect patterns in the data we see and hear. This is a huge help to get us through the day: when our alarm clock goes off, we don’t have to puzzle over, “Now, what could that buzzer possibly mean?”

But for some people, that recognition faculty goes beyond what is useful (more…)

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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…)

Two of my essays included in a new collection!

They have just published a pair if my essays in Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture. It’s now available on Amazon. You might recognize the title as a response to John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship.

download

The contributors of these 35 essays are not the sort of televangelists I usually object to, but top Pentecostal scholars who are taking a stand against abuses such as faux apostles, the Prosperity Gospel, and Onenness Pentecostalism. They are exactly the guys who (more…)

1 Cor 13 – when and how will “the perfect” come?

Shogren_1 Cor 13 Perfect in Patristic Exegesis

This article is a technical study of how the Church Fathers interpreted Paul´s prediction that tongues, prophecy, and knowledge would pass away when “the perfect” comes. My conclusion is that nearly all orthodox fathers believed it referred to the age to come, whereas Marcion, Mani, the Gnostics and others believed that their particular groups now possessed a more perfect revelation.

This article was originally going to be re-published in the forthcoming anthology, Stranger to Fire, the refutation of John MacArthur´s Strange Fire. Unfortunately there were copyright issues. Two other articles of mine will be included instead.

Get my full-length commentary on 1 Corinthians HERE, along with two other free books!

 

“HOW DID THEY SUPPOSE ‘THE PERFECT’ WOULD COME? 1 CORINTHIANS 13.8-12 IN PATRISTIC EXEGESIS,” by Gary S. Shogren, Ph. D., Professor of New Testament Exegesis, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

“But the Greek REALLY says…”: Why Hebrew and Greek are not needed in the pulpit, Part 2

“…Okay, wait, so then, hah, hah, so then the second guy says to the first one, ἐκεινος οὐκ ἐστιν ὁ κυῶν μου!! Oh, that one gets me every time!"

“…Okay, wait, so then, hah, hah, so then the second guy says to the first one, ἐκεινος οὐκ ἐστιν ὁ κυῶν μου!! Oh, mercy, that one gets me every time!”

In Part 1, I argued in favor of a sharply minimalist use of ancient Hebrew and Greek words during a sermon, especially if there is no compelling purpose or, worse, if the goal is to impress the crowd: it is a pitiable housepainter who departs the job with his scaffolding still up, hoping you’ll notice how far he had to climb. See “But the Greek REALLY says…”: Why Hebrew and Greek are not needed in the pulpit, Part 1 and Part 3.

Now, I believe an interpreter of the Word should invest the time necessary to work through it in the original, just as you would learn Spanish if you were going to teach Don Quixote, week in and week out, for the rest of your life. However, in our sermons we should avoid Hebrewfying and Greekitizing, simply because it is rarely of help.

Now we will explore some issues with the Greek language (more…)

Published in: on June 29, 2013 at 11:15 am  Comments (22)  
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“But the Greek REALLY says…”: Why Hebrew and Greek are not needed in the pulpit, Part 1

Para la versión castellana, vaya AQUI.

Come with me to ESEPA Seminary in Costa Rica: we meet at night around a table, and with me are all my advanced students of Greek. Throughout four semesters we have studied the ancient dialect, koinē, and they have found blessings as they read the New Testament in the original.

Tonight we’ll take a different tack: “I’m about to impart something very important to you,” I alert them. Nodding, they lean forward.

“Here’s the mystical wisdom: (1) With almost no exceptions, whenever I preach, I study  deeply the passage in the original language. But, (2) I almost never mention a Greek or Hebrew word from the pulpit. In fact, I go for years without making a peep in those languages.”

I let that sink in.

Then: “If you cannot state in plain, precise Spanish what you have found in the text, then you don’t really understand the passage and you shouldn’t be preaching on it.” (more…)

Studies in 1 Corinthians by Gary Shogren

Free commentary!

Free commentary!

These posts are adaptations of my commentary on 1 Corinthians, based on my own study of the critical Greek text, the early church fathers and the best of contemporary scholarship. It is available from Logos, and downloadable free from this blog: FREE Commentary on 1 Corinthians! by Gary Shogren

ENJOY!

Why you’ve never heard of the Second Corinthian Church [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Terminal Uniqueness: a spiritual disease [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Pastor, tell your flock the truth about itself

The theology of the chocolate sampler [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

“Dear Paul: We are sorry, but you are unqualified to be our apostle…” [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Where is MY special someone?? [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

The Lord’s Supper: one invitation you don’t want to miss [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

The Sheep and the Goats on Sunday Morning [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Zombies and the Bible [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Published in: on April 19, 2013 at 10:50 am  Comments (10)  
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Is the NIV 2011 a Satanic, Homosexual, PC Bible? Part II

Click here to read Part I, which is necessary to understand this Part II.

Some take issue with the 2011 update of the New International Version. For example, here’s the official statement from the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:

As the evangelical community turns to CBMW for trusted counsel on contemporary Bible translations that are faithful and accurate in their rendering of gender-language, we will continue to point them to the many translations available today that do a better job than the TNIV and new NIV (2011) – translations like the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), the New American Standard (NASB), the New King James (NKJV), and the English Standard Version (ESV).

I do not agree with the CBMW’s position, but I appreciated the measured attitude.

But if you listen closely, you can also hear sounds of breast-beating, garment rending, bursts of outrage and charges of blasphemy and apostasy. You can hear slogans in place of careful study. And I’m afraid that the alarmists are outshouting those who are reasonable:

The Bible teaches a masculine Godhead….[But feminists] have fabricated their own theology that attempts to portray God as having a feminine side. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible speaks of God the FATHER, and of Jesus Christ the SON, and of the Holy Spirit Who is referred to with the pronoun HE in the faithful King James Bible (John 16:13)…The NIV 2011 attacks the masculine authority of God, the ruling husband, and the authoritative preacher.

The Devil’s feminist, homosexual, abortionist crowd wants to produce a unisex Bible that doesn’t condemn the sin of homosexuality.

The NIV 2011 attacks the masculine authority of God…The NIV 2011 is evil, catering to the homosexual agenda.

The new gender-inclusive NIV…contains thousands of changes to the Bible’s male-gendered language. Having a gender-inclusive Bible appears to be the latest trend amongst cutting-edge, cappuccino-slurping Christian hipsters.

And while I dislike posting another site online, the page http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/ is about the worst example I have seen of disinformation, ignorance, exaggeration, backwardness, and uninformed writing that I have seen with respect a whole range of themes, and to Bible translating and the NIV in particular; I mention the site because, unlike most reputable bloggers, they do not provide any means for people to comment on their posts – otherwise I would have interacted with them on their own turf.

Now, when people say that a Bible is “evil” and the work of Satan, they had better tread with extreme caution. If you dislike a particular version – as does the CBMW – that’s fine; but you had better do your homework. You had better be certain that God stands with you before holding up a Bible and calling it a product of hell or, as one site instructs its readers, to use the Bible as “toilet paper”. This is God’s precious Word we’re talking about.

I cannot imagine that those who have written such comments have given any serious attention to the text of the NIV 2011, which is freely available online. Let’s begin by sweeping away the wilder claims:

Does the NIV 2011 remove God’s “masculinity” and replace it with a feminine goddess? Goodness, no! Our proof: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV 2011) and every other relevant verse throughout the Bible. (more…)

What comes before the Day of the Lord: the final “apostasy” or the “departure” of the church? [Studies in Thessalonians]

According to 2 Thessalonians, Timothy brought Paul a question from a panicky church: Has the Day of the Lord come? Paul ties together language of the return of Christ from his own oral teaching, the Matthean tradition, Daniel and 1 Thessalonians. No indeed! he says, and I can prove it. Has the Man of Lawlessness appeared? Then no, the Day of the Lord has not come (2 Thess 2:3).

The other marker is more controversial: an “apostasy” or “falling away” (apostasia, ἀποστασία). The word might denote a political rebellion. Nevertheless, “falling away” in Judeo-Christian contexts usually refers to a spiritual apostasy. In the Apocrypha, many Jews apostatized from Yahweh in 1 Macc 2:15 (NRSV) – “The king’s officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein to make them offer sacrifice” to Greek gods. Paul himself was accused of teaching Diaspora Jews “apostasy from Moses” (Acts 21:21). The verb form also appears in a warning against apostasy in Heb 3:12 and in the Lukan version of the Parable of the Sower to speak of those who fall away because of persecution (Luke 8:13). Paul uses the verb (aphistemi, ἀφίστημι) of the end-time falling away once in 1 Tim 4:1; he uses the noun form (apostasia, ἀποστασία) only here in 2 Thess 2:3.[2] Most Bible versions render the term correctly: “falling away” (ASV, KJV, NKJV); rebel, rebellion (CEV, ESV, GNB, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV), revolt (GW, NJB), apostasy (HCSB, NASB).

But wait! A few Bible students have suggested that 2 Thess 2:3 should be translated not as the “apostasy” but as a “removal” or “departure.” That is, the church is taken away from the earth, with the rest of the population “left behind” for the tribulation.[3]

Can this interpretation hold up? (more…)

The Spanish New Testament version known as the “Código Real”

In October 2009, someone sent an email among us professors of ESEPA Bible College and Seminary in Costa Rica to ask, had anyone heard of a Hebrew-Spanish New Testament known as the “Código Real” (the “Royal Code of Laws”; not to be confused with the Hebrew Roots Bible or the Hebraic New Testament)? He said that its message was being taught in some rural churches in our country, and that pastors were asking questions. When I first looked up the two websites that promote the material (one by Maor Hayyim Publishing in Florida, the other www.codigoreal.com), I became seriously alarmed. Nonetheless, a theologian should not rush to judgment, even when he senses that a great danger might be at hand. But now my copy of the Código Real (CR) has come in the mail; I can speak in an informed manner. It is only available in Spanish, so I will translate.

Is the “Código Real”, that is, the New Testament in the “Hebrew Text Version”, a legitimate translation? No; it is no more legitimate than the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is a real Bible.

In fact, it is much more deceptive than the NWT: it purports to be a “textual reconstruction” of the New Testament. That is, the editor D. A. Hayyim has re-written it according to how he thinks it should be, without any historical basis. [Note: there are interesting revelations about the man known as “Doctor” D. A. Hayyim, for example, that he is not Jewish, that he once followed the Messianic Jewish movement but then left because of his new doctrines; also, that he has changed his name several times. Nevertheless, our focus here is not on the Cuban man Daniel Hernández – alias Dan Ben Avraham, alias Daniel A. Hayyim – but on the book that he edited. We invite the interested reader to search for other information by the internet.]

In short, I am appalled by what I’ve read. It is a delusion, based on false “facts” and yet another conspiracy theory – remember the Da Vinci Code! – which pretends to rewrite the history of the early church. Normally, I wouldn’t spend the hours and hours it takes to work through such an odd publication. Nevertheless, I had been told that my fellow believers in Latin America had been ensnared by its claims. What would be of only minor interest to me as a professor has now become a serious concern to me as a pastor.

What is the guiding principle behind the CR? Why the need for a fresh “translation”? It starts out innocently enough. We are told in the Introduction by editor and “translator” Prof. D. A. Hayyim:

  1. That Jesus originally taught his disciples in Hebrew;
  2. that they in turn went on to teach the gospel in Hebrew;
  3. that the New Testament books were all written in Hebrew by Jewish Christians and to a great extent for Jewish Christians;

Although these points are all dubious, they aren’t dangerous. However, it then turns sinister with the next two points:

  1. that when gentile Christians got control of the church, they translated the NT into Greek and then destroyed all the Hebrew originals;
  2. that they did so in order to rewrite the Bible and introduce new pagan doctrines into the church, for example, the deity of Christ and the person and deity of the Holy Spirit.

Further, Hayyim remarks that Spanish-speaking Christians have not had the real New Testament, and for that reason are missing out on God’s blessings. He also claims that the end of the age depends on this restoration of the New Testament (CR p. 64).

We will begin with the misguided “translation” and then move on to uncover what doctrines it is trying to promote.

First, let’s briefly note some of the many, many factual errors that are found in the book. I am not speaking of differences of interpretation, but of data that may be found in any history book. These mistakes reveal that there is a basic carelessness with facts. Some examples: according to the CR on p. 10, Jesus was born after the revolt against Herod Archelaus in AD 6 (no, he was born some years before that revolt, between 6-4 B. C.); p. 11, all the scribes mentioned in the NT are always Sadducees (no, as we see in Mark 2:16, for example); p. 18, the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem fled to a town called Pella in AD 130 (wrong! the flight to Pella happened in AD 66 or 67, during the first Jewish revolt, as notes Eusebius, Church History 3.5); p. 19, the council of Nicea took place in AD 323 (wrong; it was in AD 325). We could also mention things that simply have no historical evidence: p. 10, Jesus was born during the feast of Succoth or Tabernacles; p. 11, Jesus was officially “on call” as a theological advisor to the Sanhedrin; p. 17, gentile Christians abandoned the synagogue (no, gentile Christians had never been welcome within the synagogue, and the Jewish Christians were evicted from the synagogue by its leaders). These are seven errors in five pages; there are many more, but I do not have the time to invest in editing another author’s work.

Second, let us examine the idea that there was originally a “Hebrew New Testament”, looking at the points mentioned above:

  1. There is no evidence that the Lord ever taught in Hebrew.

Hebrew was used in the synagogue liturgy, but like Latin until the 1960s, it was usually reserved for Bible study and liturgy and for some gravestone engravings. If someone had taught in Hebrew, only the theologians would have made any sense of it. The gospels on the other hand, do clearly indicate that Jesus spoke Aramaic, another Semitic language that the Jews had picked up while in Exile (Neh 13:24 says many Jews could not speak Hebrew; they spoke Aramaic). This, by the way, is why certain sections of Ezra and of Daniel were written in Aramaic, not Hebrew. At some point the Jews composed a paraphrase of the Hebrew Bible in Aramaic known as the Targums; they were used in the synagogue so that the attendees could understand the Word in their own tongue. There are inscriptions in Judea and in Samaria that show that Aramaic was widely attested. Despite what CR implies, both versions of the Talmud were largely composed of Aramaic.

Most importantly, we have certain proof that Jesus used Aramaic, because the gospels preserve some of his direct sayings: Talitha cumi (Mark 5:41); Ephphatha (Mark 7:34); Abba is Aramaic; Rabbouni is as well (John 20:16).

Jesus is never said to have spoken Hebrew, nor is there clear proof that anyone in the NT story spoke it. When the word “Hebrew” occurs in the New Testament to speak of a language, it seems to mean “the language spoken by the Hebrews, that is Aramaic” but not the Hebrew language as such (see John 19:18, 20; Acts 21:40, 22:2). On the Damascus road, Jesus spoke to Saul in the Hebrew’s language (again, probably Aramaic) according to Acts 26:14.

  1. There is no evidence that Jesus’ disciples ever preached the gospel in Hebrew.

When Peter spoke on the Day of Pentecost, what language did he use? It was clearly Greek, not Hebrew. After all, people had gathered from around the nations to Jerusalem for the feast. The only language that they would have had in common in the 1st century AD was Greek – not Aramaic, not Hebrew. Later on, many of the new believers in Jerusalem itself were “Greeks”, that is, Jewish people who spoke Greek but not Aramaic and certainly not Hebrew (Acts 6:1). The Seven whom they chose to handle practical matters in the church all bore Greek names (Acts 6:5). For that matter, two of the twelve apostles are consistently called by Greek names, that is, Andrew and Phillip (see Acts 1:13).

When Jewish Christians went to evangelize Antioch, the believers received a Greek name, “Christians” (Acts 11:26). Hebrew was not spoken at Antioch!

It would have been impossible to preach the gospel in Hebrew to non-Jewish people, and extremely difficult to do among all but a very few Jews. In fact, the Jews themselves produced one Greek translation after another so that non-Hebrew speaking Jews could read the Bible in the language they did know, that is, the dialect of Greek known as koinē. This began in the 3rd century B. C. with the famous Septuagint version (sometimes nicknamed the LXX); but then when Christians adopted the Septuagint, the Jews spurned it and produced three other versions in the 2nd century AD (by Aquila, Theodotion and Symmachus). Why four versions of the Bible in Greek if the Jews themselves did not need the Bible in the Greek language in order to understand it?

  1. There exists a small amount of evidence that Matthew might have first written his gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic; there is a tiny amount of evidence that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews in Hebrew; there is no evidence whatever that any of the other 25 books were written in anything other than koinē Greek.

There are 6000 ancient manuscripts of the Greek New Testament. Besides that there are thousands of ancient copies of the Latin translation, and copies of many other versions. One of these versions is in the ancient dialect of Syriac. Contrary to what some claim, the Syriac New Testament is not the “original Aramaic”. In fact, it isn’t Aramaic at all, but a cousin to that dialect. The Syriac version was translated from the Greek. There are only two manuscripts: “Two witnesses to the Old Syriac text survive, both belonging to the 5th century AD, known as the Curetonianus and the Sinaiticus. In neither manuscript is the text of the gospels complete.” (“Ancient Versions” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary 6:796). All known versions of the New Testament are clearly translations from the Greek.

What about Matthew? The church father Papias (early 2nd century AD) claimed that Matthew wrote his gospel “in the Hebrew language”. Several other church fathers said the same thing (see the reference to Iraeneus in CR p. 189), but because they were dependent on Papias’ word, his is the opinion that matters. He makes the enigmatic statement, “So then Matthew wrote the oracles [teachings of Jesus] in the Hebrew language, and every one interpreted (or “translated”) them as he was able” (Papias’ work is lost, but this quotation is found in Eusebius, Church History 3.39.16 and 5.8.2, and should be regarded as genuine). First, it is possible that Papias was simply mistaken; linguists have shown that Matthew is almost certainly not a translation from Hebrew or Aramaic, that it shows strong signs of having been composed in Greek. But leaving that aside, if Papias was correct, it is still not clear what he meant to say; the possibilities are: (1) Matthew wrote in the Hebrew people’s tongue, that is, Hebrew; (2) Matthew wrote in the Hebrew people’s tongue, that is, Aramaic; (3) Matthew wrote in a Jewish literary style but in Greek. This last option seems the more probable, but all three are viable. Another more probable interpretation is that Papias is referring only to a collection of teachings of Jesus, that is, that he isn’t referring to Matthew’s gospel at all but merely an early collection of Jesus’ words (“oracles”) in Aramaic. Whatever the historical truth, the gospel of Matthew that we have is represented by piles of ancient manuscripts in Greek.

But what of this claim that Matthew was written in Hebrew and that someone discovered it in Europe? This sounds like amazing proof, but in fact the theory is very weak. Yes, a copy of a Hebrew version of Matthew exists and is today in Paris in the Bibliotèque Nationale. Nevertheless, it is not ancient, and in fact might be a translation of Matthew from Latin into Hebrew by a Jewish writer named Shem-Tob in the 13th century AD. I have before me a copy of a standard work on the topic by Hugh J. Schonfield, An Old Hebrew Text of Saint Matthew’s Gospel, published in 1927. While Schonfield believed that Hebrew Matthew version is much older than the 13th century, he offered no proof other than to say that it looks to him more authentic than the Greek text. Schonfield also suspected that Matthew, Mark, Luke and the Revelation were originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic, but produced no evidence for any book but Matthew. So, what do we have? One single manuscript, discovered in the 16th century, perhaps from a translation made in the 13th century or perhaps earlier, but no-one can tell with any certainty. But the CR depends on this one manuscript to redo Matthew and by extension the entire NT. On its say-so, for example, the CR cuts Matt 28:19 (“baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”) from the Bible because a single manuscript of a Hebrew version of unknown origin doesn’t have it! Compare this, then, with the 6000 manuscripts in Greek alone – and every manuscript that contains Matthew 28 has verse 19!

In order to appreciate what we have by way of Greek manuscripts, let us turn from Matthew to John, one ancient manuscript dates from around AD 125, a scrap of John that contains a few verses from ch. 18. AD 125! That means it was a copy made very few years after John composed his gospel. That is, the Greek New Testament, which teaches that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God, was not something invented later on to teach new doctrines. The huge bulk of evidence points to all the books of the NT being written originally in Greek and only then translated into other languages.

What a distortion, this implication that the CR wants to give out: “This Hebraic version is a restoration of the original writings, following the most ancient Hebrew and Semitic sources available and the Hebraic thought that is found behind the Greek translations.” In another place we are told that the CR is a “translation made from the earliest Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts, in the light of the Hebraic thought of the first century.” Now, does this not sound as if we had thousands of Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts, based on which the Código Real was translation? But in reality they are a phantom, an illusion…THEY DO NOT EXIST!

The CR also misquotes and misapplies a few comments made by early church fathers from the 2nd-5th centuries AD and uses them to “prove” that the NT was written in Hebrew. For example, it claims that according to the church father and Bible translator Jerome, Paul wrote all of his epistles in Hebrew: “He being a Hebrew wrote Hebrew, that is his own tongue and most fluently while the things which were eloquently written in Hebrew were more eloquently turned into Greek” (CR p. 43). This too sounds impressive…at first glance. The CR does not give the reference of where Jerome says this, and I had to trace down the quote and with some difficulty. It can be found HERE. I have to wonder whether the editor of the CR wishes to prevent their readers from looking it up themselves. In fact, most people who quote this passage from Jerome on the internet seem to be quoting each other’s quotations of Jerome, rather than look it up directly.

But please, let’s do justice to Jerome and look at his statement in context. He starts by naming the various epistles that Paul wrote. He then comes to the Epistle to the Hebrews, and observes that some do not think that Paul wrote it, because of its different style and language. Jerome mentions that some think Barnabas, or Luke, or Clement of Rome wrote it. Jerome then wonders whether perhaps Paul wrote it, but omitted his name because “Paul was writing to Hebrews and was in disrepute among them; he may have omitted his name from the salvation on this account and this is the reason why it seems to differ from other epistles of Paul.” That is to say, Paul, according to Jerome, may have written the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the language of the Hebrews (Hebrew? Aramaic?) and that some parts of that epistle were later translated into Greek. Jerome, therefore, says absolutely about Paul’s regular language for teaching and writing; he only theorizes that he wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews in Hebrew or Aramaic. This is the same view taken by Clement of Alexandria, as records Eusebius in his Church History 6.14.2 – “[Clement] says that the Epistle to the Hebrews is the work of Paul, and that it was written to the Hebrews in the Hebrew language; but that Luke translated it carefully and published it for the Greeks, and hence the same style of expression is found in this epistle and in the Acts.”

In the case of a Hebrew-language Gospel of Matthew or Epistle to the Hebrews, keep in mind that these are not opinions independently expressed by a number of early church fathers. Rather, one father expressed the opinion, and later others picked up and repeated what the first person said.

While I doubt that Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic; and while I seriously doubt that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews in Hebrew or Aramaic; there is nothing great that rises or falls with those theories. So what if the claims are true? No, what does become dangerous is to claim that (1) the whole New Testament was written in Hebrew and that (2) when gentile Christians translated it into Greek they perverted the message of the original and left us a faulty and perverted Bible. This takes a leap of logic into the realm of fantasy and speculation…into the world of conspiracy theories.

A person looking at all the manuscript evidence and testimonies of the church fathers might honestly ask, why are there only a couple of muted references to Paul or Matthew writing in the language of the Hebrews? It’s at this point that the editor of the CR leaves reason behind and cries out, it’s because of an anti-Semitic conspiracy! There’s a cover-up, and all the Christian scholars (who are gentiles) are in on it! Why don’t we have thousands and thousands of Hebrew copies of the original New Testament, as we do with Greek copies? Conspiracy! Because the gentiles conspired to burn them all and to rewrite the New Testament as a Greek book! That’s right…the lack of evidence for of the Código Real is in itself taken as evidence: because there are no Hebrew manuscripts…well, that proves that someone torched them! (see CR p. 19)

A conspiracy theory may be defined as: “A hypothesis alleging that the members of a coordinated group are, and/or were, secretly working together to commit illegal or wrongful actions including attempting to hide the existence of the group and its activities…” (from Wiktionary.org). The CR explanation of why we have a Greek New Testament and not a Hebrew one is a classic example of conspiracy thinking.

___

We must not neglect the actual teaching of the Código Real “translation”. It would be relatively harmless to read a New Testament that uses Hebrew names instead of Spanish or English. But the doctrine of the CR turns out to be heretical and sectarian. When any group claims to give the only access to the true Word of God, and disqualifies all other Bibles or ways of interpreting the Bible, we are dealing with a cult, be it the Mormons or others. Many people have written about the characteristics of a sectarian movement, and the following are clearly applicable to the CR movement:

  1. Claims of special discoveries. Some sects claim new visions; others, as in the CR, claim to have dug up neglected information, as we have seen above. To give a trivial example in the CR, instead of Luke (the only name we know of for the author of the third gospel, and a Greek one!) the CR calls him “Hillel”. There is absolutely no evidence that this gentile man ever used a Hebrew name or that he used Hillel. The same goes for Mark, whom the CR renames Meir rather than use his real, Latin, name of Marcus; it speaks of Shaul instead of Paul, who usually used his Latin name, Paulus. These are of course mere details; nevertheless, their function is to give the impression of an historical authenticity that the other Bible versions do not have.
  2. Tendentious translations of the Bible. Finally, the CR claims, Spanish speakers have the real New Testament! All others are defective and will short-circuit the believer’s relationship with God. But as we have seen, the CR removes verses at will and mistranslates others. It throws out Matthew 28:19. It mistranslates verse after verse; it would be impossible to give even a glimpse of the errors. What give them the right to do so? Well, the CR claims a God-given authority for rewriting the Bible! “The Eternal One has given us the honor of being responsible with what we have received from our forefathers and of doing all that within our reach to preserve it, transmit it and teach it in the form that is more pure and intellectually acceptable to every generation. This reconstruction of the [New Testament] text that we offer is based on these premises” (CR p. 35). Did you catch that? The editor of the CR has taken upon himself the authority to “reconstruct the text” of the New Testament in a way that he perceives to be more pure and more acceptable to this generation! And why does he feel free to do so? Because the Greek New Testament is a fake, it has been corrupt since the conversion of Constantine, when the church came into imperial power: “With so much power available, the Christian leaders of the Holy Empire made sure that the apostolic writings that they had in their hands would correspond to their own doctrinal interests rather than to the reality of the text from which they came. And so instead of asking what the original text really meant, they wondered, how can we make this affirm our own position? The result was the corruption of the New Testament…[We are talking about] premeditated abuses, eliminating or adding words in key texts, in order to bolster the doctrine of the church that now, united with imperial power, had total and absolute power in its hands to do and to decide whatever it wanted” (CR p. 19). This sort of conspiracy thinking would make Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, jealous of the intricacy of its intrigues and bogus theories! But to make the CR’s viewpoint null and void, all we have to do is remember the manuscripts that exist today that were made beforethe conversion of Constantine in the 4th century AD…and they do not agree with the Código Real!
  3. Defective doctrine of Christ (christology). Almost any heresy one could name has at its heart a lessening of the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. The CR, in its preface and throughout its translation, obliquely but firmly rejects the deity of Christ. It lays emphasis on the idea that God knew the name of the Messiah from eternity; but it does not believe that Jesus Christ existed before his birth. In fact, the doctrine of Christ in the CR is that Jesus was a “Tzadik” (p. 58). This Hebrew word is a title given by Hasidic Jews to rabbis of special holiness and learning. In other words, Jesus was a wonderful teacher, but not God, not the Son of God from eternity, not even a being as powerful as an angel! How far this is from the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews that is genuinely preserved in the New Testament: “his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Heb 1:2b NIV); that is, God created the universe through his Son, who was present at creation. But, what a travesty the supposed “translation” of CR…which is based on no Hebrew manuscript, but is simply paraphrasing what the Greek says in order to support its theology: “whom he made heir of all things, since having him [Jesus] in mind, it was He [God] who created the universe”. That is, God was looking forward and thinking about the son when he created the universe…but the son really did not participate! The CR does something similar with John 1:1 and mistranslates Titus 2:13. It also clouds most key texts having to do with the deity of Jesus, for example, John 8:58 (which the CR renumbers 8:46), which in the NIV says, “before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus is saying that he existed before Abraham, and he also uses the name of Jehovah found in Exod 6:2b – “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty.” As it does in many key verses, the CR balks from translating what is clearly written and simply inserts some Hebrew words: “Before Abvraham was born, aní jú” (CR p. 278). What, is the use of “v” instead of “b” in Abraham (or Abvraham if you wish) meant to impress us with the aura of some mystical knowledge? And why does the CR erase the clear sense of the text by refusing to translate it into plain Spanish, instead making up what Jesus supposedly should have said in Hebrew? Again, why doesn’t it properly translate Jesus’ title “Son of God”, instead of making it sound as if it’s a name, Ben-HaElokim (see Mark 3:11)? Why does it translate the Greek theosas “G-d” when it refers to the Father but in other ways – for example “judge” – when it refers to Jesus? Why does it translate Rom 10:9 as “confess in your heart that Yeshua is Adón” (Greek kurios, “Lord”), while later in 10:13 it translates it entirely differently: “everyone who invokes the name of YHWH (again in the Greek, kurios) will be saved”? They give a footnote that says that, well, the original readers would have understood it in the way that the CR has helpfully restored what it thinks Paul would have said in the original Hebrew.
  4. Defective teaching about the Holy Spirit.The CR makes the Spirit into the “power of God”, but not a person. This is also the position of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The CR rejects the Apostles’ Creed and also the Nicene and Chalcedonian Creeds (CR p. 22), which says that Christ is God and that the Spirit is a person and God. That’s right, we must turn away from the following as the heresy of the gentile conspirators!

“And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified…”

And we must also repudiate the Nicene Creed’s statement that Christ is God, that is:

“I believe… in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”

  1. Defective doctrine of salvation.The CR simply eliminates the gospel of salvation solely through faith in Christ. Typically it adds the concept of “obedience” to the simple word “faith”, for example: “a man is justified by obedient faith that has nothing to do with the legalistic observance of the law (Rom 3:28). There is a footnote: “those who obey the Torah [Law of Moses] are those who have the promise of receiving divine righteousness as a gift.” That is…a man is justified by obeying the Law of Moses. We could also mention the beloved passage Eph 2:8-9: in the CR, we are not saved by faith, but by “obedient faith…not based in legalistic works.” That is – we are saved by works! Also Gal 3:2, which in the NIV says: “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” that is, they received the Spirit as the sign of God’s acceptance. But see what the CR does: “Did you receive the spirit by subjecting yourselves to legalism or when you ordered your heart to hear and obey the word that we preached to you?” That is: salvation comes through obedience, not by faith; at the same time, it eliminates the person of the Holy Spirit!
  2. Making their movement critical to the return of Christ: with this Hebraic version, the Jewish missionaries will now be able to fulfill Matthew 24:14, and the end will come. Without it, Christ cannot return! (p. 64) This is a common trait of many sects; again, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are an excellent example.

We could keep going, giving example after example of this type of distortion, but it’s better that we conclude. The Código Real leads people away from the God of our Lord Jesus Christ and teaches them to look down on their “uninformed” brothers in Christ. The issues that surround the Código Real are not the typical arguments one hears about which is the better Bible translation. In this case, the choice is between God’s true Word and a word of lethal deception.

Código Real website

Código Real website

 

 “The Spanish New Testament version known as the Código Real,” by Gary Shogren, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica