March 11, 2013
. . . I must register one strong protest against one particular translation. When the New International Version was published in 1980, I was one of those who hailed it with delight. I believed its own claim about itself, that it was determined to translate exactly what was there, and inject no extra paraphrasing or interpretive glosses. This contrasted so strongly with the then popular New English Bible, and promised such an advance over the then rather dated Revised Standard Version, that I recommended it to students and members of the congregation I was serving. Dissolusionment set in over the next two years, as I lectured verse by verse through several of Paul’s letters, not least Galatians and Romans. Again and again, with the Greek text in front of me and the NIV beside it, I discovered that the translators had another principle, considerably higher than the stated one. . . . I do not know what version of Scripture they use at Dr Piper’s church. But I do know that if a church only, or mainly, relies on the NIV it will, quite simply, never understand what Paul was talking about (Wright, Justification, 51-52).
If I had to guess what Bible they use at Dr. Piper’s church–as Wright phrased it–I would say ESV, although I really have no idea. I get the impression that the ESV is quite trendy right now in many circles, not the least of which include Baptist and Calvinistic. And, I recently had a discussion (actually, it was more of a monologue) in which a quite educated theology student praised the various qualities of the ESV, making claims about this translation that are very similar to the above claims about the NIV. “The ESV translates the Bible literally, word for word. And, the translators attempt to render a word the same way each time, so that the English reader knows exactly what is going on in the Greek. What’s more, this translation was done by those from the reformed camp!”
Wright’s claim, that one can never understand Paul’s words if one relies on the NIV, is quite bold. I think it is an overstatement. But, there is also truth behind his words. Translations can make high claims, as they are prone to do, but in the end they remain translations. This point may be lost to many people who only speak one language, and therefore don’t have an appreciation for the differences of language, or perhaps cannot understand why a literal translation is not always the best.
For example, my wife and I were talking last night about the common German phrase, “Wie geht es Ihnen?” A literal translation would be “How goes it to you?” But that makes no sense, the better translation would be the less literal one: “How are you?” or “How are things going?” But then, of course, you need to figure out how to translate “Ihnen,” which is used when speaking formally, often to a superior. So then, you might need to translate the phrase something like, “How are you, Sir?”
Personally, when I read my favorite authors, I prefer to read them in their own language, rather than in translation. So, for example, I recently read Harry Potter in German. Since I didn’t really care about capturing Rowland’s tone and style, I gladly used the books as a chance to improve my German. When I read C. S. Lewis (my favorite author), I cannot imagine wanting to read him in German. Lewis is such an artist with words, so eloquent, with such a style all of his own. To read him in another language, one would lose the feel. Much of the thought would be Lewis, but to really appreciate Lewis, he must be read in English. I think this is true about the great authors in general, they must be read in their original language.
And this brings me back to my point about Bible translation. If one really wants to capture the feel of the authors (in the Gospels, for example, if one wants to sense the casual, vivid style of Mark versus the more lofty style of Luke), one must read the original. Or, if the Bible is really a treasured book, God’s word, then to really appreciate it for all its worth, one must read the original. There is simply no comparison. I think of the often quoted phrase: “reading the Bible in translation is like kissing the bride through the veil.”
March 2, 2012
Check out this video (click HERE) over at secundum Scritpuras in which N. T. Wright offers his advice on how to read the Bible. He compares it to listening to a symphony and being swept away in the flow; what a great description!
February 29, 2012
Do you find that you often think about certain passages of Scripture over and over again? If so, which ones do you keep coming back to? I realized this week that there are some passages which I regularly think about. I would say this is because I have been most impacted in one way or another by these three passages:
- Genesis 3. This passage profoundly describes the nature of sin. When I’m being tempted, or when God is convicting me about sin, I often think about Genesis 3. The fruit was pleasing to the eye and seemed to offer something. Ultimately, however, sin questions God and his knowledge: “Did God really say?” Sin, even if it seems as innocent as eating a little piece of fruit, is an affront to a holy God, and therefore has drastic consequences — including death.
- 1 Corinthians 13 (especially vv. 1-4). This passage describes the nature of love. I’m often challenged by the first verses, which teach that even the seemingly great things I do for God, things such as using my spiritual gifts, doing deeds of faith, or having unflinching devotion, are meaningless if I lack love. I’m continuously challenged to examine whether or not love is my motive.
- Philippians 2:5-11. This passage describes the nature of God. I’m blown away that Christ chose to empty himself: to become a man, as a man to become a servant, and as a servant to die on the cross. And this he did because he existed in the form of God (v. 6). The fact that God is a giver and not a grasper is almost too much for me to comprehend.
What about you, are there certain passages you keep coming back to?
February 22, 2012
Recently I received Logos 4, a Bible study software for the computer. I received this software as payment for some articles I wrote a while back. Now the challenge is to figure out how this software works. I’m thrilled about many of the books in my Logos library; here are some that I had been wanting and now own:
- Synonyms of the New Testament (Trench)
- A Short Syntax of NT Greek (Nunn)
- A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Metzger)
- TDNT (Kittel)
- The Works of Josephus
- A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the NT (Barclay Newman)
- The Genre, Composition and Genre of the Epistle of James (Cheung)
- GKC: Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar
- Greek-English Lexicon of the NT Based on Semantic Domains (Louw-Nida)
- A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (Lust)
- An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (Liddell)
What resources do you find most helpful to your study of the Scriptures, which source do you use the most, and which should be found in every Bible student’s library? Let me know and I’ll be sure to add them to my new electronic library.
April 17, 2011
Identify which of the following statements were said by Jesus in the Gospels. We’ll go over the answers at the end:
-If anyone comes to me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
-Sell everything you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me.
-Before Abraham was born [hundreds and hundreds of years ago] I was already existing.
-Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life.
-Whoever wants to come after me must deny himself, pick up his cross [upon which the Romans brutally execute slaves and non-citizens], and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
-You all are from your father, the devil!
-I am the way, the truth, and the life; anyone who wants access to the Father must come through me and me alone.
-Your sins are forgiven.
-I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!
Are you ready now for the answers? All of these are genuine statements of Jesus (see Luke 14:26; 18:22; John 8:58; 6:53; Luke 9:23-24: John 8:44; 14:6; Mark 2:5; Luke 12:49).
Does this surprise you? Many people think that Jesus was simply a nice teacher who went around doing good things and helping people and offering kind advice. But the Jesus of the Bible was quite different. He was radical, and he made it extremely clear that following him was very difficult. In fact, Jesus was so radical that on numerous occasions people tried to kill him. And he often said such difficult things that almost all of his followers left him. He was not afraid to mince words. So, does your notion of Jesus correspond to the picture painted about him in the Bible? If not, perhaps its time to see what the Scriptures say about him. In your Bible, find the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, read this in whatever language you can, and then ask yourself what Jesus was like, and how your idea of him might need to change. And if you do not own a Bible and need help getting one, please let me know and I will do everything I can to help you get one.
February 6, 2011
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing
psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God in the Sunday morning worship service: three songs led by the music minister, the first should be upbeat to get people energized, the third should be soft and contemplative” (Col 3:16).
See Alan Knox’s blog for the origin of “Scripture as we live it.” I assure you, I wrote this post this morning before checking Alan’s blog, only to discover that he had written a post on the very same thing! What a coincidence.
January 9, 2011
“The first time I ever read a book of the Bible from end to end it was, oddly enough, the book of Revelation. I was fourteen at the time . . . . I can still remember the explosive power and beauty of it, the sense that the New Testament I held in my hands had a thunderstorm hidden inside it that nobody had warned me about.”
-N.T. Wright, Following Jesus, 55
“Followers of Jesus sometimes imagine that the victory of their cause is all that matters, whatever means they use to that end. But this is a travesty of the whole meaning of the ascension, and of the cross and resurrection which give to the ascension its depth and resonance. God’s exaltation of Jesus vindicates not only him and his cause, but his way; and that way is the way by which his followers too must walk.”
-N. T. Wright, Following Jesus, 103
December 2, 2010
I could not believe it when I read it, The Action Bible, “215 fast-paced narratives,” with “attention-holding illustrations . . . dramatic shading . . . bold and energetic designs, and emotionally charged figures.” Marvel and DC comics artist Sergio Cariello puts a whole new spin on the Bible.
I knew there were Bibles being produced for nearly every niche, such as the cowboy Bible, or the army Bible, but really, a marvel action Bible? I thought there was enough action in the Bible without the help of Marvel comic artists!
November 2, 2010
This past Sunday, JAY preached on Deuteronomy 12-24 and our relationship to the law. It was a great message, but one part really stuck out to me. Jay was explaining that we tend to pick and choose which OT laws apply today and which don’t. He referred to Leviticus 19:28:
“Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”
Christians often refer to this verse as proof that it is wrong to get tattoos. Jay asked why v. 28 still applies as law, when we obviously do not feel obligated to obey 19:27–the verse which immediately precedes:
“Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.”
If it is wrong based on the law to get a tattoo then it is also wrong to trim your hair and beard. Pretty convincing example, if you ask me, of how Christians tend to treat the law inconsistently. Paul’s words ring true, “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly” (1 Tim 1:8).
November 1, 2010
Wow, amazing or what:
“Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell you of them,
they would be too many to declare.”
-Psalm 40:5 (NIV, emphasis added)