Is the Nestle-Aland Bible against the deity of Christ? No!

It is the narrative in a few remote corners of Christendom that only the Textus receptus reflects the original text of the New Testament. Some would add a second chapter, that newer critical editions – which, in fact, are based on almost 6000 manuscripts, let alone ancient versions and church fathers – are part of a conspiracy to destroy the church’s faith. Their editors are supposedly hell-bent on erasing any Bible verse that affirms the trinity, the deity of Christ, redemption by his blood, justification by faith, and other cardinal doctrines. Or so the legend goes.

The evidence for this curious notion simply does not add up. Take a look at the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, and you will find all of those doctrines fully and clearly taught; and you will find no evidence of any systematic dismantling of the faith once for all handed down to the saints. This will be evident to those who can read Greek: they can freely access the NA28 online, as well as other information. [1] English readers might look over the ESV on the same quest.

And in fact, there is some nice counter-evidence to the theory. It appears in the little epistle of Jude, where the deity of Christ is more clearly set forth in the latest critical edition than it has been in previous ones.

First, let’s place the critical version in context. The Nestle-Aland 28th edition (published 2012) has the exact same text as the United Bible Societies 5th edition (published in 2014). They differ in the amount of detail in the textual notes. The NA28 is the standard international text for Bible scholars, while the UBS5 edition presents the text in a format more suitable for Bible translators. Contrary to rumor, NA28 and UBS5 are not the same as the Westcott-Hort edition (1881).

This was the first time since the 26th edition of 1979 (and the UBS 3rd edition of 1975) that there were any modifications to the Bible text itself; the intervening editions included updates of the textual apparatus. The new editions have changes in 34 passages, and only in the Catholic Epistles (James through Jude). Most of these are tiny variants, which would not even be noticeable in an English translation (for example, the addition or omission of a definite article, which often is untranslated either way). [2]

These 34 changes were not made willy-nilly, nor in order to forward some theological or cultural agenda – they were based on scholarly analysis of all the data available, put forward in the new edition because the editors concluded that they better reflect what the apostles originally penned.

We said that the deity of Christ is advanced more in the NA28 than in NA27 and other editions. This rests on the revised text of Jude 5, shown here in the Greek and then in representative English versions.

NA28 = ἅπαξ πάντα ὅτι Ἰησοῦς

NA27 = πάντα ὅτι [ὁ] κύριος ἅπαξ

Stephanus Textus receptus = απαξ τουτο οτι ο κυριος

Hence:

KJV, based on the TR, has: “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.”

NASB 1995, based on the NA26: “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt…”

ESV, anticipating the NA28: “Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe…”

Again, all three translations have a basis in Greek manuscripts, but the critical text now states that after a consideration of all evidence, “Jesus” now seems the best reading, and “the Lord” a later scribal change.

Let’s give some thought as to what this means. In earlier editions and in the Textus receptus, Jude is saying that “the Lord” (Greek kyrios) is the God of the exodus; he uses the same Greek word that the Septuagint uses to translate both Yahweh and Adonai.

On the other hand, the NA28 states that the evidence points to Jude having written “Jesus.” He is saying that Jesus – of whom Jude is the servant (Jude 1), the Son of God (2), the only Lord and Master (4), the Lord of the apostles (17), the merciful Lord (21), the Lord who is to be praised along with God (25) – that this same Jesus is none other than the Yahweh God who led Israel out of Egypt. Jesus is fully God.

This has a parallel in 1 Cor 10:4 – Israel “drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” This is based on the ancient teaching that Yahweh himself is the rock of Israel: “I will proclaim the name of the Yahweh. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just” (Deut 32:3–4); and as for the pagans: “For their rock is not like our Rock, as even our enemies concede … [Yahweh] will say: ‘Now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in …?’” (Deut 32:31, 37). For Paul, the rock of salvation is Christ; it was he who went with his people through the desert. As the chorus says: “Jesus is the rock of my salvation” and Jesus is Yahweh God.

Jude 5 unmistakably teaches the “pre-existence” of Jesus, that is, that he existed before his incarnation. Deserving to be ranked up with John 1:1 and John 20:28 and Titus 2:13 and others, Jude 5 is now one of the clearest New Testament proofs of the deity of Jesus: Jesus is Yahweh, Jesus is the God of the exodus.

We can delve even deeper: if, as I think is likely, the author of this epistle was Jude son of Joseph and Mary of Nazareth, then he is saying that his older brother Jesus is the God of the exodus – the same exodus that Jude and his brothers heard about every single Sabbath in the synagogue!

If the editors of Nestle-Aland had as their goal the obliteration of the deity of Christ from the Bible, then they have fatally – and stupidly! – sabotaged their own efforts. A simpler explanation of the facts is that they are not on a jihad against that doctrine; that they are not some hidden cabal trying to usher in the antichrist; and that where the apostles wrote about Jesus’s deity, they wanted to represent that precisely in their Greek New Testament, the Nestle-Aland 28.

God is the author of Scripture; let’s read it, uphold it, obey it, share it!

NOTES:

[1] http://www.nestle-aland.com/en/home/. One of the editions of the Textus receptus – and there are various, and the TR editions all differ one from the other, is the 1550 Stephanus edition, available here – http://www.bibles-online.net/1550/.

[2] The list of all the 34 changes can be read here: http://intf.uni-muenster.de/NA28/files/TextChangesNA28.pdf. 2 Peter 3:10 NA28 contains the second most interesting new reading. In some manuscripts it says the earth and the works done in it “will be burned up” (so KJV; NKJV; NASB; NJB; RSV); in others “will be found” (perhaps meaning “exposed before God’s judgment” – CEB; ESV; GW; GNB; HCSB; NET; NAB; NEB; NIV; NLT; NRSV; REB); but the critical text now reads “will not be found.” Some object to the new reading of NA28, given that it is contained in no Greek manuscripts, but only in some ancient versions; this is an interesting discussion, but not relevant to our topic here. By the way, since someone might bring this up, the critical text is as clear as the Textus receptus on another point: “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 7, as rendered by the ESV)

“Is the Nestle-Aland Bible against the Deity of Christ? No!” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

What I read in 2016, the short list

I have always been a big reader, but never anything close to my list for 2016. That’s when I began to use the wonderful online group, Goodreads.com, to log the books that I have read, am reading, and want to read. I am up over 1900 books that I have logged as “read” in my lifetime, so far, but I know there are hundreds I cannot remember; I imagine the number should be more like 2500.

“Do you want that reading list Super-Sized?”

Over Christmas break 2015 I decided to join their Reading Challenge for 2016, and set a (as it turns out, too ambitious!) personal goal of 150 books/plays this year, including the complete works of Shakespeare, the Koran, and others, let alone material for class prep. Typically I am reading eight books at a clip; some short documents, some long tomes, some Audible recorded books from Amazon.

Overall, I read a lot more non-fiction this year than I usually do, although I also read some marvelous fiction.

Here are some of the highlights, in no particular order:

Russian themed. Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons (1862) was excellent. I am about a third of the way through the fictionalized biography of Trotsky by Leonardo Padura, The Man who Loved Dogs. Dostoyevsky, The Idiot (1868-69) is a Christ-allegory. All are available on Kindle.

George Orwell beyond 1984 and Animal Farm. I have read 1984 a dozen times since Junior High, and decided I should branch out. Keep the Aspidistra Flying is a novel (more…)

Bible study – a work of prayer!

This is a prayer of the great church father Augustine, which he was accustomed to use after his sermons and lectures. I have updated the version found in NPNF 1,8, p. 683.

We now turn to the Lord God, the Father Almighty, and with pure hearts we offer to him, so far as we can with the little we have, great and sincere thanks.

With all our hearts we pray for his exceeding kindness:
– that of his good pleasure he would condescend to hear our prayers,
– that by his power he would drive out the Enemy from our deeds and thoughts,
– that he would increase our faith, guide our understanding, give us spiritual thoughts, and lead us to his bliss,
through Jesus Christ his Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Gary again: I don’t care how well you know the original languages, or what study method you use, or how many commentaries, and what preaching method – and I affirm them, one and all! – without prayer, there is no authentic Bible study or teaching.

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“Bible study – a work of prayer!” by Gary S. Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

Lady Apostle Lands in Jail!

If I asked you “Who were the martyrs of the early church?” you would, quite properly, begin with Stephen in Acts 7; James in Acts 12; and then go on to Peter and Paul.

“Brave, godly men were early martyrs” = a right answer

But not a complete answer.

Why not? Because we all, simply by being human, look at history through our own set of lenses. Because of such “cognitive bias,” the data that confirm our expectations stand out in bold print, and the data that don’t fit into our grid fade into the background. To answer our question, may I suggest that:

“Brave, godly men and women were the early martyrs of the church” = a better answer

Christian women were singled out for persecution in a way that their Jewish and Gentile contemporaries were not.

lady-martyr

Let us first honor those Jewish women who were victims of (more…)

Will it Kill your Pastor if he Visits You? A Response to Thom S. Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources and has a very popular blog on church life. Having read with approval a number of his other articles, I was surprised to find one that I roundly disagreed with.

It is titled “FIFTEEN REASONS WHY YOUR PASTOR SHOULD NOT VISIT MUCH”

And he is serious. He is really not happy with churches which expect to see their pastor in their home any time soon. Unless it’s an emergency. A big one.

So with all due respect, I responded to him on his blog, and will offer much the same thoughts here. (Here is another, very useful, response, by Andrew Roy Croft, who offers a positive argument for pastoral visitation).

To begin with, I thought this was one of those stealth articles that start off, “10 Reasons to Vote the Socialist Ticket,” but turn out to be pro-Republican. But no, I read it through a number of times, and it’s not ironic.

His point is that pastoral visitation a newfangled idea, that there’s altogether too much visitation going on, and it should be slimmed down and (perhaps) limited only to extreme situations. Otherwise pastor visitation is the Zika virus that will kill your church, leave your pastor burned (out) beyond recognition, and make him/her leave! Oh yes he will!!

Don't answer the door! It might be the pastor, and it will lead to him burning out, quitting, and destruction for your church!

Don’t answer the door! It might be the pastor, and it will lead to him burning out, quitting, and apocalyptic destruction for your church!

Pastor Rainer has 15 objections to pastoral visitation, many of which are, upon closer examination, the same reason stated differently. To quote:

  1. It’s unbiblical. 2. It deprives members of their roles and opportunities. 3. It fosters a country club mentality. 4. It turns a church inwardly. 5. It takes away from sermon preparation. 6. It takes away from the pastor’s outward focus (the same as #4, right?) 7. It takes away vital leadership from the pastor. 8. It fosters unhealthy comparisons among the members. 9. It is never enough. 10. It leads to pastoral burnout (see #9). 11. It leads to high pastoral turnover (see #9, 10). 12. It puts a lid on Great Commission growth of the church (see #4, 6). 13. It leads pastors to get their affirmation from the wrong source. 14. It causes biblical church members to leave. 15. It is a sign that the church is dying (see #14). And then later: It’s a key sign of [church] sickness. It’s a clear step toward [congregational] death.

So, it is no exaggeration that his message is that pastoral visitation may even now be killing your church!

Let’s define “pastoral visitation” as, where one or more of the leaders of the church go to where their people are, traditionally but not necessarily in the home, hospital, or long-term care facility, in order to spend time with them and to conduct pastoral ministry (exhortation, encouragement, correction).

Here is part of the response that I wrote on his website, that there were three weaknesses to the argument; I address the author as “you.”

First, the historical. You write that “‘Visitation of the members’ became a common job description of pastors about a century ago.” You imply that it is a recent innovation.

While it may have become more conventional these days to write the thing out in a job description, visitation of the members has been part of the pastoral task since the beginning. In fact, it was a vital aspect (more…)

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

‘Christianity-without-Christ’ and Other Pointless Projects

This was a commencement address that I gave in 1998 at Biblical Theological Seminary. You can download the text here. Shogren_Christianity without Christ

In the last century, during the heyday of Liberal Christianity, a fringe group of thinkers raised the question, “Does a person really have to believe in Christ in order to be a good Christian? Does the absence of Jesus do any real damage to the Christian faith?” Theodore Parker, for example, preached:

If it could be proved…that Jesus of Nazareth had never lived, still Christianity would stand firm, and fear no evil.[1]

Shouldn’t it be possible, they conjectured, to go forward with the lovely system of ethics that Jesus might have taught, but not accept all that religious baggage about miracles and the virgin birth and the resurrection?

One wonders, parenthetically, what charming ethical points they were talking about. Surely not the one about hating your mother and father for Christ’s sake? Or the warning about going to Gehenna if you slander someone? Well, no matter, let’s just run with the theory as it stands.

Now, if I were really lazy, I could raise that theory today, that is, can there be Christianity without Christ. With this crowd, I could probably knock it down with a one-word rebuttal (or two, if I wanted to use my boys’ lingo and say, “Well, duh!”). And we could all go downstairs for punch and cookies.

Instead, let me point out a few truths, old truths that are worth repeating.

First, yes, of course, we must reject a system “without Christ,” one in which Christ plays no part at all. Second, having repelled the obvious error, might we succumb to a subtler one? Might we settle for a Christianity in which Christ plays not large enough a role? We could strain at a “Christianity without Christ” and swallow a Christianity without, well…quite enough Christ.

Is this man dispensable?

Is this man dispensable?

Could your existence actually degenerate into a farcical stage play in which the really memorable characters are named Committee, Strategy, Effort, Advancement – and in which a minor character named Jesus Christ occasionally makes a walk-on appearance to bail you out whenever you get panicky enough to try prayer?…What if we have a heart in which Christ is present, our best God, if you will, but not all-consuming? (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…)

Is There Prophecy Today? John Piper, along with John MacArthur, John Wesley, John Calvin, and John/Joan Q. Christian

Download a pdf version here: Prophecy and John Piper or take a picture here:

static_qr_code_is there prophecy today

Is the New Testament gift of prophecy operative in the church today? Many say Yes; [1] many, No, famously John MacArthur in 2014, in his Strange Fire conference and book. [2]

There is third response, a Yes, but viewpoint which has been popular among some non-charismatic evangelicals, and affirmed in recent times by John Piper: the gift of prophecy is a special experience that befalls a preacher while in the act. In an essay that synthesizes and defends Piper’s view:

 “I pray for the gift of prophecy almost as often as I pray for anything, before I stand up to speak.” This prayer for prophecy is a desire to preach under an anointing, in order to “say things agreeable to the Scriptures, and subject to the Scripture, that are not in my manuscript or in my head as I walk into the pulpit, nor thought of ahead of time, which would come to my mind, which would pierce in an extraordinary way, so that 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 happens.” [3]

The Corinthians text is he refers to is:

But if all prophesy, an unbeliever or outsider who enters is reproved by all and called to account by all. After the secrets of the unbeliever’s heart are disclosed, that person will bow down before God and worship him, declaring, “God is really among you.”

imagesThe difficulty here is the fact that in the New Testament the sina qua non of prophetic utterance is that the prophets passes along information from God which is not knowable from mere human observation or reasoning. [4] (more…)

Heresy = Bible verses twisted just a couple of degrees off center

If someone desires to give the church a certain percentage of their net or gross income, I honor that as their right and privilege. As for me, I promote that all Christians should give generously and cheerfully.

But first, a full disclosure – I believe that tithing was an Old Covenant rite by which about 23% of goods, usually agricultural products, were given to God for the maintenance of the priests, for the poor. I see no comparable requirement for the church, which is supposed to “honor” its leaders (1 Tim 5:17) and make voluntary pledges to special projects (Paul’s Jerusalem Fund). [1]

I have no argument with tithers so long as they have no argument with me. And I’m not speaking here about legalistic tithing or carnal non-tithing.

But in the past few weeks I have found people preaching what must be held up and labeled perversions of the gospel and of the practice of tithing. I’m not even talking about the protection racketeers like Benny Hinn (more…)