December 25, 2013
A Thought for Christmas
The King of the Universe born in a stable can mean nothing less than the total subversion of the established social order. As I was contemplating this point this morning, I was reminded of a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail: as King Arthur rides by, one peasant says to another, "look! It must be a king." When the second peasant asks, "how do you know?" the first responds, "he's the only one who hasn't got [dung] all over him." The image of the king is of the clean, the privileged, the wealthy, the insider. But the story...
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November 19, 2013
Some Historical Context to Locke on Faith and Reason
Most debates about faith and reason in the Western tradition carry the background assumption that 'faith' is or involves believing the teachings of the Bible. This gives rise to a rather obvious strategy for resolving any apparent conflicts between faith and reason: reinterpret the Bible. Much of what Locke says in "Of Faith and Reason, and their distinct Provinces" (EHU 4.18) depends crucially on this assumption, and this is why, in the 4th edition, Locke saw fit to add a chapter "Of Enthusiasm" (4.19) against those who claimed a direct revelation from God not mediated by language. In this post,...
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Philosophy of Religion
Steven M. Nadler
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September 5, 2013
Quote of the Day: Childs on Miracles
[I]n the Old Testament a miracle is not some purely supernatural event, but rather something that evokes surprise and astonishment by which God is revealed as its source.
- Brevard S. Childs, commentary on Isaiah 29:13-14
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January 11, 2013
The Bible as Dialogue?
Over the holiday, I read Peter Enns' Inspiration and Incarnation. (Enns also writes an excellent blog.) I have also been reading Brevard Childs' commentary on Isaiah. These two books have set me off on an interesting train of reflections. I'll first summarize the relevant points from each book, then proceed with my own reflections. The central point of Enns book is a familiar but important one: the Bible simply isn't the sort of book the fundamentalists want it to be. That is, fundamentalists (and, interestingly, certain atheist polemicists) have a certain a priori conception of what a revelation from God...
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November 6, 2012
Quote of the Day for Election Day
Woe to those enacting crooked statutes and writing oppressive laws to keep the poor from getting a fair trial and to deprive the afflicted of my people of justice, so that widows can be their spoil and they can plunder the fatherless. What will you do on the day of punishment when devastation comes from far away? Who will you run to for help? Where will you leave your wealth? - Isaiah 10:1-3, HCSB In the present American context, this passage demands to be combined with 1 Peter 4:17: "the time has come for judgment to begin with God's household."...
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June 13, 2012
Quote of the Day: Augustine on Bad Science and Bad Biblical Interpretation
In fact, it often happens that even a non-Christian has views based on very conclusive reasons or observations about the earth, heaven, the other elements of this world, the motion and revolutions or the size and distance of the stars, the eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of years and epochs, the nature of animals, of plants, of rocks, and similar things. Now, it is very scandalous, as well as harmful and to be avoided at all costs, that any infidel should hear a Christian speak about these things as if he were doing so in accordance with...
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December 19, 2011
Christmas in Platonic Context
The important cultural background to the rise of Christianity includes both the Hebrew context of the Old Testament and the context of the Greek culture which was dominant in the Eastern Roman Empire at the time. From the Christian perspective, Athens has quite a lot to do with Jerusalem. I believe there is adequate evidence for this (admittedly controversial) claim in the New Testament; if one is sufficiently traditional to allow the testimony of the Greek Fathers of the early church, then the matter should be beyond any doubt. Christmas is the celebration of the Incarnation, of God becoming man...
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May 16, 2011
Quote of the Day: Polkinghorne on the Creation Story
The Bible is often rightly said not to be a book but a library. It contains a great variety of different kinds of writing: poetry and prose, history and story, letters, laws, and so on. Very great mistakes can be made, and much disrespect shown to Scripture, if a reader carelessly confuses one genre with another. Those who attempt to read Genesis 1 and 2 as if these chapters were divinely dictated scientific texts, kindly provided by God to save us the trouble of attempting to read the book of nature for ourselves, are committing just such an act of...
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July 6, 2010
Implicature and the Interpretation of Foreign Language Texts
I've just read Grice's "Logic and Conversation" (ch. 2 in Studies in the Way of Words) for (I'll admit) the first time. Something that struck me while reading it, which Grice does not explicitly recognize, is that his model helps to explain a phenomenon that causes a lot of trouble when one tries to interpret texts (or speech) in a language in which one is not fully fluent. Grice's basic model works like this: sometimes a speaker says something which, taken in its perfectly straightforward sense, seems quite odd. The oddness (at least in the cases in which Grice is...
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April 2, 2010
Quote of the Day for Good Friday
In honor of Good Friday, I offer the following original translation of some excerpts from the Gospel of John: In the beginning Reason was - Reason was directed toward God, and Reason was God. He was directed toward God in the beginning. All things came about through Him, and none of the things that came about came about apart from Him. In Him was life, and the life was the light of human beings. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not grasp it. ... [Reason] was the true light, which, coming into the world, enlightens every...
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February 24, 2010
Biblical Literalism as Hyper-Perspicuity
Last night I was at a lecture on science and religion at USC's Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies
. (Evidently, we have an Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies. Who knew?) In the course of a lecture with which I otherwise mostly agreed, Fr. Paul Heft connected radical Biblical literalism with the Reformers. This is, of course, strictly false: the Reformers were not literalists in anything like the sense in which twentieth century fundamentalists were. However, it got me thinking about what connection the doctrine of perspicuity, which I was recently discussing on Called to Communion
, might have to radical literalism...
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Roman Catholic Church
Scripture and Tradition
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August 23, 2009
The Biblical Origin of Hobbes's State of Nature Theory
Thomas Hobbes is famous for his pessimistic state of nature theory. According to Hobbes, the 'state of nature' (i.e. anarchy) is a "warre of every man against every man" (Leviathan
, p. 63 of the 1651 'Head' edition). The concepts of justice or injustice are, according to Hobbes, not applicable in this state of war. This is because injustice is defined as "the not Performance of Covenant
" (p. 71). However, "If a Covenant be made, wherein neither of the parties performe presently, but trust one another; in the condition of meer nature ... upon any reasonable suspicion, it is Voyd"...
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June 29, 2009
Quote of the Day: If the Septuagint was Good Enough for Abraham, It's Good Enough For Me!
I'm fond of reminding people that long before there was KJV Only-ism there was LXX Only-ism: a great many early Christian writers (though probably not a majority) not only thought that the LXX was inspired, but that the Hebrew texts had been subsequently corrupted. (LXX, the Roman numeral for 70, is the abbreviation used for the Septuagint, and ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament made a few centuries before Christ.) A few even went so far as to claim that they had been intentionally corrupted by a Jewish conspiracy. Really, nothing is new under the sun. An example which...
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January 7, 2009
'Contemning the Shame'
I was reading Hobbes today, and came across a word I'm not sure I've ever seen before. At Leviathan 1.6 (p. 24 of the original edition), Hobbes writes: Those things which we neither Desire, nor Hate, we are said to Contemne: CONTEMPT being nothing else but an immobility, or contumacy of the Heart, in resisting the action of certain things; and proceeding from that the Heart is already moved otherwise, by other more potent objects; or from want of experience of them. The word I am talking about, 'contemne' (which was later spelled 'contemn' - I will use this spelling...
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December 24, 2008
Valicella on Private and Public Morality
Bill Valicella of The Maverick Philosopher
has an interesting discussion on the distinction between private and public morality
. Valicella supposes that there is an inherent tension between any Socratic, Platonic, or Christian ethics and the requirements of a stable state. A couple years ago, in my post on rights, obligations, and abortion
(which continues to be one of the most popular posts on this blog) I argued that there was no inherent contradiction, or even tension, between the idea that I have a libertarian right to retaliate for an offense against me, but an obligation of private morality not to exercise that right...
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November 25, 2008
What the ESV is Good For
It's been a long time since I wrote much about Bible translation, but I thought I'd step up on this one. There has recently been a long series of posts on Better Bibles Blog
containing a paper Mark Strauss presented to the Evangelical Theological Society entitled "Why The English Standard Version Should Not Become the Standard English Version."
There is now a brief response
from Bill Mounce
, the New Testament Chair of the ESV translation committee.
I, on the one hand, agree with Strauss that some of the ESVs decisions make for misleading or awkward English text. On the other hand...
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September 2, 2008
"Streams of Living Water"
«ἐάν τις διψᾷ, ἐρχέσθω πρός με καὶ πινέτω. ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμέ, καθὼς εἶπεν ἡ γραφή, ποταμοὶ ἐκ τῆς κοιλίας αὐτοῦ ῥεύσουσιν ὕδατος ζῶντος.» - John 7
"If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him." - John 7:37b-38, HCSB
"But where hath the Scripture said that 'rivers of living water shall flow from his belly'? Nowhere. What then meaneth, 'He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture saith'? Here we must place a stop, so that the, 'rivers shall flow from his belly,' may be an assertion of Christ." - St. John Chrysostom (tr. Philip Schaff), Homily on John 7:37-44
I just read this in Chrysostom, and I don't think I've ever seen this resolution anywhere...
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March 7, 2008
Quote of the Day: Chrysostom on Private Scripture Reading
I desire to ask one favor of you all, before I touch on the words of the Gospel; do not you refuse my request, for I ask nothing heavy or burdensome, nor, if granted, will it be useful only to me who receive, but also to you who grant it, and perhaps far more to you. What then is it that I require of you? That each of you take in hand that section of the Gospels which is to be read among you on the first day of the week, or even on the Sabbath, and before the day...
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March 3, 2008
"'Trust' without action is dead"
I was listening to a sermon on James 2 last night, and I was thinking about how much clearer the passage would be if pistis and it's cognates were translated consistently by "trust" and its cognates rather than by "faith" in the noun form and "believe" or "have faith" in the verb. Let me demonstrate. Here is my translation of vv. 14-25: What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to trust, but does not perform [any] actions? Is that 'trust' able to save him? If there exists a brother or sister and they are naked and...
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February 18, 2008
A Moderate and Plausible Arminianism, Based on John 6:40 and Romans 8:29
My position on the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism is that the more moderate forms of each are both plausible and orthodox. Hyper-Calvinism can slide into the heresy of fatalism, or the denial that God loves all people; hyper-Arminianism slides, of course, into Pelagianism. It is only the moderate forms of each which are, I say, plausible and orthodox. These moderate forms, I hold, represent two different man-made philosophical and theological systems designed to uphold the same doctrines revealed in Scripture. I believe that when the disagreement actually reaches all the way down to Biblical hermeneutics, rather than staying in...
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September 21, 2007
On Theological Method
Last night, I had a brief friendly debate with some Calvinists, which has me thinking about theological method. Briefly, I approach the issue of Calvinism and Arminianism from the perspective primarily of philosophy rather than revealed theology. That is, I argue that libertarian free will, which is incompatible with most (but, surprisingly, not all) versions of Calvinism, but is central to Arminianism, is a philosophically attractive thesis on grounds of, for instance, human moral responsibility, the problem of evil, and the phenomenology of choice. (I don't claim that Calvinists can't provide accounts of these things, I simply claim that Arminians...
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August 17, 2007
Why Believe the Bible?
Part 4: The Church's Witness to the Scriptures
Here it is, finally! Almost exactly 13 months after the last post, I am finally continuing my series. For those of you who have forgotten (probably most of you), in May of 2006 I outlined a proposed series providing an argument for belief in the Bible. I'm going to give a fairly detailed recap here because it has been so long since my last post. In Part 1: Plan of Attack
I outlined the argument I intended to give. The basic claim of the argument is that historical investigation renders the idea that the canon of Scripture as we have it is divinely inspired a live option...
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Part 4: The Church's Witness to the Scriptures"
August 15, 2007
logikos Doesn't Mean "Spiritual"
John at Locusts and Honey
where the NASB's translation of 1 Peter 2:2 ("long for the pure milk of the word") came from, as compared with the NRSV which has (like many other modern translations) "long for the pure, spiritual milk." The NASB translation led John to suppose correctly
that some reference to logos
was present in this verse, and I'm sure that's exactly what the NASB translators intended in translating logikos
as "of the word." This is precisely what the Greek suffix ikos
(from which we get "ic") does: it forms an adjective meaning "having to do with." Now, the thesis of this post is that that word doesn't mean "spiritual."
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August 13, 2007
Original Sin-Original Guilt, Christ's Righteousness-Imputation of Righteousness
has posted a discussion of the Latin text Augustine was familiar with and its effect on his doctrine of original sin.
The claim is, effectively, this: Augustine believed in the doctrine of original guilt because of an ambiguity introduced by an excessively literal Latin Bible which persists in the Vulgate and later theologians have a propensity to read original guilt into the text of Scripture because Augustine did. The passage in question is the end of Romans 5:12. The English translations are pretty much all the same: "in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned." But Augustine's translation says...
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Eastern Orthodox Church
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June 6, 2007
Discussions on Scripture and Tradition
Just a couple quick links: John Fraiser of Chaos and Old Night
discusses the attitude Evangelical Protestants ought to take to Church tradition in his post, Sifting Through Church Tradition
. Fraiser argues that we need to recognize the influence tradition has on us, and we ought not to try to escape from that influence, but, at the same time, we need to recognize that it is Scriputre and not tradition which is authoritative. I mostly agree with what Fraiser said...
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April 18, 2007
On Methodologies of New Testament Textual Criticism
Not long ago, I was finally able to read the debate between Gordon Fee and Zane Hodges, which took place in a series of articles in the March and June 1978 editions of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
. (Fee's article
, Hodges' response
, Fee's rejoinder
, Hodges' "surrejoinder"
) The debate concerns the general methodology of New Testament textual criticism. Fee supports a method known as "reasoned eclecticism," whereas Hodges supports what is known as the "majority text method" or some such. (Contrary to the charges sometimes leveled against it, the majority text method is not
just a rationalization for...
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April 11, 2007
Translating Revelation 11:15
In Revelation 11:15, a loud voice from heaven says something which the HCSB translates as "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever!" The other translations I had handy (NKJV, NIV, NASB, KJV, RSV) were all very similar. The agreement of the translations makes me wonder if I'm missing something, because it appears to me that there is another reading, which actually seems to me to deal with the grammar better. I would translate this reading as: "The Kingdom of the Universe, [the Kingdom] of...
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March 23, 2007
1 Timothy 2:12
Over at Better Bibles Blog
, Suzanne has been doing a series on Bible passages relevant to women in leadership. 1 Timothy 2:12 is of course an important verse to deal with on this subject. She hasn't actually got to it yet, but it came up in the comments to the post on 1 Corinthians 12:27-31
, and I felt that I needed to say more about it than could reasonably be said in a comment, so here it is: 1 Timothy 2:12 is a very difficult verse. When taken with the following few verses it appears at first glance to make some argument like...
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March 21, 2007
Sola Scriptura in Augustine
As previously promised
, this post will treat the presence of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura in Augustine. First, let me state that by Sola Scriptura I do not necessarily mean a particular formulation by Luther or Calvin or any particular church, but rather I mean to show that the cluster of doctrinal positions into which all of these fall exists in the early church. So I really mean the doctrines
(plural) of Sola Scriptura, and not some particular doctrine. I define these as follows: A teaching is a Sola Scriptura doctrine
if and only if it asserts that the contents of the canonical books of Scripture possess divine authority
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March 17, 2007
The Historicity of the Doctrine of Inerrancy
Jeremy Pierce of Parableman
has an excellent post refuting the claim that the doctrine of inerrancy was invented in the 19th century as a response to theological liberals.
I intend someday to get back to my long-stalled Why Believe the Bible?
series, and when I do some of what Jeremy says here will be important for the next post, which is supposed to be on the witness of the Church to the Scripture. My one complaint about this post is that, in a fashion that is unfortunately typical of my fellow Protestants, it jumps through Church history from the New Testament, to Augustine, to Luther and Calvin, as though there was nothing in between...
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February 28, 2007
Quote of the Day: Augustine on Reading the Bible in Translation
An important antidote to the ignorance of literal signs is the knowledge of languages. Users o the Latin language - and it is these that I have now undertaken to instruct - need two others, Hebrew and Greek, for an understanding of the divine scriptures, so that recourse may be had to the original versions if any uncertainty arises from the infinite variety of Latin translators ... There are certain words in particular languages which just cannot be translated into the idioms of another language. This is especially true of interjections, which signify emotion rather than an element of clearly...
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February 11, 2007
Degrees of Literalness in Bible Translation
Jeremy Pierce's review
of Leland Ryken's book Choosing a Bible
, has me thinking about degrees of literalness in Bible translation, and I want to offer a few comments on that subject. The first thing I want to say about degrees of literalness is that this is a spectrum
. It is not a modal; that is, it is emphatically not the case the every Bible translation is either "essentially literal" or "dynamic equivalence" and all the translations within a category are the same. Let me illustrate ...
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January 27, 2007
Scripture and Tradition in Protestantism
At the new blog Metaphysical Frameworks, Johnny-Dee (also of Fides Quaerens Intellectum fame) discusses the meaning of sola scriptura in its application to the practical methodology of Protestant theology. His suggestion is that "protestants consider the Bible to be like the Constitution, and the theological tradition to be like legal precedents from the Supreme Court." In other words, the determinations made by previous generations of Christians as to the teaching of Scripture are to be given great weight and not overturned lightly, but, ultimately, they are interpretations of Scripture and it is Scripture that is ultimately authoritative. Therefore, as much...
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January 1, 2007
Plato on Homosexuality
A month or so ago, I published a post which has been rather popular on Christianity and Homosexuality
. In it, I discussed Paul's statements on homosexuality in contrast to the "received view" in Greco-Roman "polite society." I referred then to Plato's Symposium
, early and middle dialogs, respectively, which contain useful information on the practice of pedaresty in classical Athens. (If you are interested in interpreting Paul, it is important to note that classical Athens is some 400 years earlier...
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December 22, 2006
Philosophical Language in Hebrews 11:1
Over at Better Bibles Blog
, Wayne Leman is discussing the difficulties involved in producting coherent English from Hebrews 11:1.
I want here to produce some considerations on the use of a couple of unusual (in the NT) words in this verse that will hopefully help us to produce a better translation of the word. Wayne made it clear that his post was primarily about the coherence of the English. However, I think part of the reason we have difficulty rendering this verse in English is that we're not totally clear on what we are trying to communicate...
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November 1, 2006
Quote of the Day
ALCIPHRON: ... But what apology can be made for nonsense, crude nonsense? ... Look here, said he, opening a Bible, in the forty-ninth Psalm : ... "Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the wickedness of my heels shall compass me about?" The iniquity of my heels! What nonsense after such a solemn introduction! EUPHRANOR: For my own part, I have naturally weak eyes, and know there are many things that I cannot see, which are nevertheless distinctly seen by others. I do not therefore conclude a thing to be absolutely invisible, because it is so to...
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September 17, 2006
A Quick Note on the Particle de in Titus 1:1
I'm quite busy right now and haven't had much time for blogging, but I wanted to give a quick note about an issue I found that troubled me today. The first line of the book of Titus reads Paulos, doulos theou, apostolos de Iesou Christou kata pistin kai epignosin aletheias tes kat' eusebeian ep' elpidi zoes aioniou. The particle de is a bit troubling, as it ordinarily has at least a slight adversative meaning. That is, it sets up at least some slight opposition between what comes before and what comes after. It is true that Matthew and many other...
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September 6, 2006
Biblical Studies Carnival IX
I've just discovered that my post on dealing with OT quotations in NT translation
was spontaneously assimilated (at least I don't remember submitting it) into Biblical Studies Carnival IX
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August 21, 2006
Dealing With Old Testament Quotations in New Testament Translation
One of the great difficulties in translating ancient and Medieval works is dealing with quotations. The rules and conventions of quotation we have today were developed relatively recently, so it is sometimes difficult to say what is and isn't a quote, and it is even more difficult to figure out how to mark these in a modern translation with modern punctuation. In New Testament translation, the issue gets even more complicated, because New Testament translations are generally bound together with Old Testament translations, and one must decide whether to harmonize them (that is, whether to translate quoted passages identically, even...
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August 16, 2006
Inerrancy of the Autographs: Does it Matter?
A common argument levelled against Evangelicals (most recently by Neal
in the comments to my post on Jesus' witness to the Hebrew Bible
) is that if, as most Evangelicals believe, it is that autographs
of the Biblical books that are inerrant, then the doctrine of inerrancy is irrelevant since the autographs no longer exist ... What this amounts to is the claim that the inerrancy of the autographs is irrelevant because there is uncertainty
about what the autographs in fact said. This is very similar to the claim that inerrancy is made irrelevant by the uncertainty in our interpretation. Both of these arguments are seriously flawed in precisely the same way. What I hope to do here is, by making some very simple applications of the Bayesian probability calculus...
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August 5, 2006
In Defense of Moderate Complementarianism
Peter Kirk at Speaker of Truth
(also of Better Bibles Blog
fame) has recently completed
a fascinating six-part series on "Scholarly and Fundamentalist Approaches to the Bible."
The series begins
with a discussion of Al Mohler's ("fundamentalist") claim that permitting female elders and deacons contradicts the "clear teaching" of Scripture. Taking the fundamentalist approach, Peter says, we take a few verses as our standard, without seriously inquiring into their context, call the most obvious interpretation of these few verses (in English, out of context) the "clear teaching of Scripture," and then find creative ways to explain away every verse that seems to contradict this teaching. Peter goes on to compare this with a scholarly interpretation of Titus 1:6, and argues convincingly (he convinced me, at least) that in context and with proper lexicography and hermeneutics, this verse has little or nothing to do with the gender of overseers, and doesn't necessarily preclude women from taking the position. Peter rightly points out that those he calls 'fundamentalists' often refer to various doctrines as "the clear teaching of Scripture" when they are anything but clear, and I would not charge Peter, who is a gender egalitarian, with denying the authority of Scripture or ignoring its teachings. This is a complicated issue, and there is room for some disagreement. However, I do think that the teaching of Scripture is, on the whole, clear enough for the Church to base its structure on, and I will argue here that that teaching is in favor of what I will call a moderate complentarian position...
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July 24, 2006
William Lane Craig on the Historicity of the Resurrection
Over the course of this summer, I've been forming an argument for belie in the Bible
. Part 2
of my argument was critically depndent on the claim that "if we accept ... [the] postulate ... that a very powerful being is trying to get our attention, then the most coherent ... [explanation] ... is that ... Jesus did in fact rise from the dead." This is, of course, a fairly modest claim, as it explicitly presupposes a pretty substantial chunk of theology (there is a God, he actually cares what we think/do, he wants us to know about him, etc.). However, some would still dispute it. Some time ago, after reading this post
on The Prosblogion
, I downloaded the transcript of the debate between William Lane Craig and Bart D. Ehrman
on the historicity of the resurrection, and I've just now got around to reading it...
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July 22, 2006
Ekklesia and the Etymological Fallacy
Not long ago, I wrote a post suggesting that the New Testament may have consciously made use of the language of Athenian democracy
, especially in its usage of the words ekklesia
has now posted on the etymological fallacy in our understanding of the ekklesia
). The etymological fallacy occurs when an interpreter uses a piece of information about the history of a word which was unknown to the author or, at least, which the author was not thinking about in his usage of the word...
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July 18, 2006
Why Believe the Bible?
Part 3: Jesus' Witness to the Hebrew Bible
Here, finally, is part 3 of my series on divine revelation
. The story so far: part 2
argued that the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth constitute a self-revelation of God to mankind, and that the New Testament documents, and especially the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), constitute generally reliably historical sources as to the content of that revelation. These points will be assumed to have been established (but feel free to comment on the previous post if you want to contest them), and I will now argue that the entirety of the Hebrew Bible is included by reference in this revelation...
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Part 3: Jesus' Witness to the Hebrew Bible"
July 11, 2006
June 18, 2006
I'm leading a Bible study this summer on the book of Hebrews, and I've just switched to using the HCSB as my primary Bible translation, so right now I'm studying Hebrews in preparation, and comparing the HCSB (and some other translations) with the Greek. There will probably be more posts related to the translation of Hebrews over the course of the summer. Today, I want to deal with Hebrews 2:2, and maybe some of you can help me figure out what it means! The HCSB renders vv. 2-3a as "For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding, and...
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June 17, 2006
"He did not consider it robbery..."
In the New King James Version, Philippians 2:6 says that Jesus, "being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God." Because of having seen the NIV translation, which says that he "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped," and because of the relations of the clauses in my English translations, I always thought that the idea here was that Jesus, even though he was "in the form of God" did not try to take advantage of his inherent equality with the father, but instead took on a subordinate role while...
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June 6, 2006
Why Believe The Bible?
Part 2: The Life and Teachings of Jesus of Nazareth
Welcome to part 2 of my promised series on divine revelation! My apologies for the long delay (it's been over a month since I first posted my plan of attack), but I've been very busy moving here there and everywhere, and I still don't have all my books and stuff unpacked (nor do I have a desk). According to the plan of attack, this part of the argument "will argue in a manner based heavily on Swinburne that there is good reason to suppose that the life and teachings of the historical person Jesus of Nazareth represent a revelation of...
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Part 2: The Life and Teachings of Jesus of Nazareth"
May 31, 2006
HCSB Review at This LAMP
Rich Mansfield of This LAMP has finally begun his long awaited series on his top ten Bible versions with a thoughtful and detailed review of the Holmann Christian Standard Bible. It's a good read. Something I didn't know: the HCSB began as a personal project of Arthur Farstad, who was involved in two of my other favorite Bible projects, the New King James Version and The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text. (A digression on the majority text: most of the textual criticism articles I've seen have been from a pro-Byzantine perspective, and I got the impression that...
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May 21, 2006
Translating epieikes in the New Testament
I went today to the evening service at Tenth Presbyterian Church here in Philadelphia (not my normal church), and one of the evening's readings included Philippians 4:5. Tenth Pres. uses the ESV, which renders the beginning of this verse as "let your reasonableness be known to everyone." Now, I've definitely read Philippians several times, and never came across anything about letting your 'reasonableness' be known, so this immediately stuck out to me, and I looked it up in the NKJV New Testament I had with me. NKJV reads "let your gentleness be known to all men." Are gentleness and reasonableness...
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May 10, 2006
Opheilema in Matthew 6:12
Wayne Leman is aksing the question should we forgive our debtors? As those of you who have spent some time in different churches will have noticed, there are a wide variety of translations of Matthew 6:12 used in the Lord's Prayer as recited in various congregations and traditions. The most common seem to be "debt" (from KJV), "trespass" (from Tyndale), and "sin" (some more recent translations). Which of these is correct? Well, as usual in Bible translation debates, none of the major translations is flat out wrong, but some are more accurate than others. Which should we use? Well, to...
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May 4, 2006
Why Believe the Bible?
Part 1: Plan of Attack
There has been a lot floating around about the doctrine of inerrancy recently. I posted on this subject not long ago, responding to a post at World of Sven and a lengthy series at Chrisendom. Since then, there has been a second World of Sven post, and also a post from the No Kool-Aid Zone about just how important inerrancy is. This is a problem that I've been thinking seriously about for some time. Actually, I started by asking the question "just why do I believe in the Bible?" then realized that the answer to that question would have a...
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Part 1: Plan of Attack"
May 2, 2006
"Three Persons, One Substance" - Paradox or Solution?
I seem to have opened quite the can of worms in my post on Church dogma the other day when I said: There seem to be some clear (to me) cases of Christian dogma that are not obviously uniquely deriveable from Scripture. For example, consider the formulation of the trinity as three persons (Greek hupostaseis and/or prosopa, Latin personae) in one substance/essence (Greek ousia, Latin essentia and/or substantia). This type of formulation is extremely common in the Christian tradition, and is derived primarily from the Chalcedonian Creed. However, I don't think we can say that it is obviously uniquely deriveable...
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Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy of Religion
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April 18, 2006
A Quick Note on Church Government
Suzanne has posted some brief comments on my post on The Language of Athenian Democracy in the New Testament, wherein I have learned that the Exclusive Brethren denomination has used similar arguments for their decision not to name elders. I don't have time to deal with Church government in great detail right at the moment, but I do want to point out that I did not intend to deal with that question in my previous post on the 'democratic' nature of the Church. What I did mean to point out was that the early Church accepted everyone regardless of their...
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April 17, 2006
Update (4/17/2006) There seem to have been some errors in my post on inerrancy. (How ironic!) I would like to take some steps to correct these. First: the Council of Nicaea did NOT proclaim that canon of Scripture. This is a widely circulated myth (google it, and see esp. this article). In fact, the canon of Scripture we have was never proclaimed by any ecumenical council, and several books continue to be disputed (see the Catholic Encyclopedia article on "Canon of the New Testament". I'm still working on what this means theologically. Second: as you can see from the comments,...
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April 13, 2006
Translation v. Transliteration: Hypocrites!
A repeated issue on this blog has for some time been the difference between translation and transliteration and the way that the vast majority of Bible translations have failed to actually translate a large number of critical words, simply writing out the original Greek words instead. One such example that I've been thinking about recently is the word 'hypocrite.' Unlike the other words I've been discussing, this one was not first introduced into English in a Bible translation, but it remains the fact (or so I am convinced) that the English word 'hypocrite' does not have the same meaning as...
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April 12, 2006
The Language of Athenian Democracy in the New Testament
So I've just given a presentation on the workings of the ancient Athenian ekklesia at the Pnyx, and I thought I'd use up a little precious time which I ought to use reading about Plato and Aristotle on the role of tragic theater in society discussing the appropriation of the language of the Athenian democracy by the early Church, including the authors of the New Testament. There are two particular words I am thinking of here: ekklesia and kerux. It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that these words are consistently translated one way in 'Bible Greek' and another way in...
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March 15, 2006
"Tradition as the 'Platonic Form' of Christian Faith and Practice in Orthodoxy"
I have just posted on my writings page a new essay, "Tradition as the 'Platonic Form' of Christian Faith and Practice in Orthodoxy." This served as my mid-term essay in my class on the Greek Orthodox Church here at DIKEMES in Athens where I am studying this semester. I have attached a short preface explaining the relationship of the views presented in my essay (realizing that the essay is supposed to explain the teaching of the Orthodox Church) to my actual beliefs and my reasons for deciding to publish the essay. Please post here with any comments or objections. If...
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Eastern Orthodox Church
Philosophy of Religion
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'Third Language' Idioms and the Goal of Translation
Wayne Leman is blogging on translation of Luke 1:34. He notes here that the ESV departs from strictly literal translation here and is more accurate as a result. What I find interesting in his note is that the idiom in the Greek of this verse is imported from Hebrew. Call this the use of a 'third language' idiom (Hebrew being a third language in addition to the source language - Greek - and the target language - English). In translations, should we treat third language idioms differently than source language idioms? I think that there is good reason to suppose...
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March 2, 2006
Wayne Leman on ESV and HCSB
A while ago I posted some preliminary thoughts on evaluating the Holman Christian Standard Bible. At the time I was only able to look at a few NT verses, and I compared it to the NKJV and the Greek. Recently, Wayne Leman at Better Bibles Blog has posted a comparison of the HCSB with the ESV. Wayne's conclusion is that the two translations are very similar in terms of their degre of literalness and consistency, but the ESV retains the stylistic conventions of the Tyndale-KJV tradition, whereas the HCSB substantially departs from it. This departure is one of my favorite...
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February 14, 2006
J.I. Packer on the NIV
Better Bibles Blog has a segment from Suzanne McCarthy's recent interview with Dr. J. I. Packer regarding Bible translations. In it, Dr. Packer states quite nicely the problem that I have always had with the New International Version: [The NIV] is an in and out version, when a literal translation is clear they give you a literal translation. When they think they are confronted with a form or words which, if literally translated, or should I say, directly translated, wouldn�t communicate very well, without warning of what they are doing they go off into paraphrase. The NIV tends to give...
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February 10, 2006
For some time now, I have been curious about the fact that, although I have been taught, and it always seemed to me, that the most straightforward interpretation of Genesis 1-3 was that God created the earth in 6 astronomical days (I never understood why they necessarily had to be 24 hour days, but whatever), many commentators, both Jewish and Christian, writing before the development of the modern scientific theories which Evangelicals often accuse of prejudicing intepreters, have adopted a "day-age theory" understanding of the text. Augustine and Nachminides are supposed to be good examples (I haven't read the primary...
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February 7, 2006
How Did Early Christians Interpret 1 Corinthians 11:10?
1 Corinthians 11:10 is a rather controversial verse. The classic KJV renders it "For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels," but the NKJV team seems to have determined, quite correctly, that this doesn't make any sense to modern speakers of English, and so gave the modern rendering, "For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels." HCSB, a translation I've recently been evaluating, gives the translation, "This is why a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head: because...
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January 14, 2006
Tying Up Some Loose Ends: Greek Musterion in the New Testament
I've been meaning for some time to write a post tying together two topics that I had previously discussed. The items in question are my discussion of translation and transliteration and my suggestion in this post that Pagan religion might have had an influence on the New Testament's mode of expression. The common tie? The word "mystery." This word, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is first attested with the definition "A religious truth known or understood only by divine revelation; esp. a doctrine of faith involving difficulties which human reason is incapable of solving" in the Wyclif Bible of...
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January 9, 2006
The Holman Christian Standard Bible
I am considering switching my primary Bible translation. For some time, I have been using the New King James Version, which I favor for its formal equivalence translation philosophy and its English style. However, I am increasingly reevaluating my opinion of it as I begin to look more at the original Greek of the New Testament and to question some of the principles of translation theory that I had previously believed. The points on which I am becoming dissatisfied are as follows: (1) the NKJV is incredibly hidebound to the Tyndale tradition, so that mistakes made in translations long ago...
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December 30, 2005
Are Linguistic Facts Theologically Significant?
Gerald at iustificare has recently been doing a series on the theological consequences of "gender neutral" Bible translations. Gerald holds that the use of "male-representative language" - that is, the use of male terms to designate mixed gender groups - is significant to the Bible's view of God. Commentors (primarily the authors of Better Bibles Blog) have repeatedly pointed out that the male-representative language found in the Bible is simply the normal way of saying things in Greek and Hebrew. Gerald acknowledges this, but continues to believe that male-representative language is theologically significant, and therefore should continue to be used,...
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December 25, 2005
Meditations on the Incarnation
We will all, I'm sure, be hearing the story of the birth of Christ read from Matthew's or Luke's Gospel in the near future (most likely, in fact, we'll all be hearing Luke's account of the birth of Christ and the events preceding it, and Matthew's account of the visit from the Magi). These stories are wonderful, traditional, and inspirational (and also, importantly, TRUE). However, these are, in important ways historical
accounts of the coming of Christ, and as such, at least for me, they fail to impart the true magnitude of the event. They are tip-of-the-iceberg Ernest Hemingway types of accounts and it requires long hard consideration for us to even begin to understand their import. On the surface, Matthew and Mark tell a simple story of a peasant girl giving birth to her peasant son in a barn in a backwater province of the Roman Empire in the first century AD. Other children have been born in barns in backwater provinces. Sure, Matthew and Luke record various signs and portents surrounding the birth, but history claims the same for such figures as Alexander the Great. What is so special about the birth of this Jesus of Nazareth fellow? For years, I believed that Christmas was greatly overemphasized in the church. I often stated quite explicitly that Christmas was important only insofar as it was a necessary prerequisite for Easter. I no longer believe this; I believe that this event of the Incarnation is deeply meaningful in its own right, independent of the further important events in the life of Christ. This realization could, I'm sure, have been made by a deeper reading of Matthew and Luke in the broader context of Scripture, but, for me, it came through John's account ...
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December 24, 2005
Where Do Languages End and Cultural Assumptions Begin?
Better Bibles Blog has a discussion of the wording of Luke 2:40 in various Bible translations. The NKJV, the translation I normally use for devotional reading, etc., reads, "And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him." The BBB discussion centers on the fact that "filled with wisdom" is not very natural English (neither is "strong in spirit," for that matter, but the translations being discussed are all from the Alexandrian text family, which omits "in spirit"). "The grace of God was upon him" is not very natural English either. I agree with all of these statements, but some of the discussion in the comments has me asking a new question: where do languages end and cultural assumptions begin? ...
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December 6, 2005
"Talents" in Matthew 25
Peter Kirk has a post on Better Bibles Blog concerning the TNIV's decision to render the Greek word talanton as "bag of gold," instead of the traditional "talent." This is another translation vs. transliteration issue, so let's go back to the Oxford English Dictionary and look at some more etymology. The word talent is first attested in 893, in the usage which is the proper interpretation of this verse: that is, it was transliterated (not in a Bible translation!) apparently from the Latin talentum, to mean a certain measurement of weight. Most of the cultures of the ancient eastern Mediterranean...
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November 28, 2005
Can The New Testament Be Both Influenced By Plato and Inspired by God?
The God Or Not Blog Carnival is a cool idea. It happens once or twice a month. For each carnival, there is a theme and the carnival host selects an approximately equal number of posts on that theme by atheists and theists for inclusion. The theme of the December 12 carnival is miracles. I have dealt substantially with miracles on this blog in a general way already, and so I've decided to post on applying my views to one very specific miracle which is central to the claims of Christianity and especially Evangelicalism: the inspiration of Scripture. The story so...
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November 13, 2005
Translation vs. Transliteration
Transliteration is the practice of taking words from one language, written in one alphabet, and putting them in another language with another alphabet. Bible translators often choose to transliterate words and thus create new words in English, instead of using existing English words with equivalent or nearly equivalent meanings (sometimes because they don't think English has a nearly equivalent word). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the following words entered the English language through (or at least are first attested in) translations of part or all of the Bible ...
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October 12, 2005
Leibniz on "Efficient" vs. "Final" Causes in Physics: Its Application to God, Science, and Miracles
So I'm taking this class on Leibniz this semester (for those of you who may be unfamiliar, that is Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the 17th century philosopher/scientist/mathematician, and the "other" discoverer of calculus), and I was reading his Discourse on Metaphysics today and came across this fantastic passage in section 19: Moreover, it is unreasonable to introduce a supreme intelligence as orderer of things and then, instead of using his wisdom, use only the properties of matter to explain the phenomena. This is as if, in order to account for the conquest of an important place by a great prince, a...
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September 6, 2005
Using Classical Greek Resources to Study the New Testament
A post on the Logos Bible Software Blog (HT: Better Bibles Blog) recently argues for the use of classical Greek resources, specifically the LSJ lexicon, in the study of the New Testament. As I have said before, I am personally of the opinion that this is critically important if we are to properly understand the NT, and especially if we seek to emancipate ourselves (as far as it is possible) from theological bias in NT studies....
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August 31, 2005
Ecclesiology in Swinburne's Revelation
I've just finished reading Richard Swinburne's Revelation: From Metaphor to Analogy
, in which he strives to create a rational foundation for belief in (a particular understanding of) "the Christian revelation" (which, on Swinburne's account is not exactly equivalent with the Bible, but we'll get there). The beginning of this book is very good. Swinburne argues forcefully that if the God of traditional Western monotheism exists, then there is good reason to expect that He would reveal Himself to mankind, and, of course, if we have an a priori
expectation that there is probably a revelation out there somewhere, then much less evidence is required to identify some specific item as that revelation than if we had a view of the world which makes such a revelation unlikely (note that Swinburne establishes the authority of the Bible on the basis of the existence of God, not vice versa). However, as one moves on further in Swinburne's book, into the specifics of his theory of revelation, his statements become increasingly problematic (read: false). Swinburne's departure from sound doctrine is not due to flawed philosophical reasoning, but rather to correct reasoning from a false premise. The departure occurs at a very definite point and comes from a very definite cause: the horrible ecclesiology assumed, not argued for, in chapter 8...
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August 29, 2005
Christos as a Proper Name in Matthew
So I was looking at the Greek text of Matthew 27 today (for those of you who have not read my posts on these subjects before, I have been studying classical Greek at Penn for two years now and have been taking some time on my own to look at the text of the NT), and I noticd that Pilate twice (vv. 17, 22) identifies Jesus of Nazareth with the phrase, Iesous hos legomenos Christos, "Jesus, who is called 'Christ.'" The reason I thought this was curious is that it lacks the article (equivalent of the English word "the"). My...
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August 14, 2005
The Cotton Patch Bible, Online
I first heard of The Cotton Patch Bible years ago from a pastor who found it most entertaining, but I had never been able to look at it until today. Better Bibles Blog has a link to where the Cotton Patch Bible is now available online! For those of you who are not familiar with it, the Cotton Patch Bible is a paraphrase written in Souther (US) English vernacular. Jerusalem has been replaced by Atlanta, Bethlehem by Gainesville, GA. Tons of fun. Enjoy!...
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August 13, 2005
2 Timothy 2:2 - Conclusions (or Lack Thereof)
Last week, I posted on the translation of the prepositon dia in 2 Timothy 2:2. I want to thank everyone for all the responses and the links (particularly the links from Better Bibles Blog and PastoralEpistles.com). Thanks to lengthy email discussions with commenters John Kendall and Stephen C. Carlson, (which I apologize for my limited participation in and late response to), I think that a basic understanding has been reached on which both translations can be seen to be justified (which is what I had hoped for; I didn't particularly want all of the major translations to be wrong). The...
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August 6, 2005
Translation of 2 Timothy 2:2
This summer, I've been leading a weekly Bible study here at Penn. Two of us in the study read classical Greek (the other one is a senior majoring in linguistics and reads a truly absurd number of languages for someone still in undergrad - or, indeed, for anyone), and we often take time to pick apart the original text, and compare the various translations that people bring (mostly NIV, NKJV, ESV, and occasionally NLT). This past week, Steven and I were rather perplexed by the way in which the standard translations have chosen to render 2 Timothy 2:2, and had...
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July 27, 2005
The Source New Testament on Gender Roles
Better Bibles Blog
now has more excerpts
from The Source New Testament
, this time on the contentious subject of gender roles. Dr. Nyland's last book
was subtitled "The Campaign to Control Gender Translation in Bibles," and in her BBB interview
she asserted that "most people do not want to know what the Greek .... really says" in "the women passages." These comments, combined with her background as a lexicographer, and the new archaeological research she has access to, made me very interested in what she had to say here.
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July 26, 2005
More on The Source New Testament
A list of verses, with comparison to the TNIV (apparently chosen as a point of comparison because both eschew the use of gender-indefinite masculine pronouns and sometimes use singular "they"), is now available from Better Bibles Blog here. A few short reactions: The Source translates less literally than the English translations that I ordinarily use (NKJV and NASB), which attempt to go so far as even to reproduce the sentence structure of the original language (this attempt sometimes fails completely due to differences between Greek and English grammar and sometimes, especially in the NASB, leads to sentences that can be...
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Breaking Translation Traditions
I blogged earlier on how the tradition of English language Bible translation has sometimes led to inaccurate renderings of the Greek New Testament (I assume this affects the Hebrew Bible as well, but I don't read Hebrew). Wayne Leman of Better Bibles Blog has been talking recently about a new translation called The Source New Testament which was made by a sole translator, Greek lexicographer Dr. Ann Nyland of the University of New England, Australia. Today, Wayne has an interview with Dr. Nyland in which she makes an argument similar to mine, though much more compelling. Where I happened across...
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May 14, 2005
How Old Bible Translations Affect New Ones
I'm a fan of the New King James Version. It's a solid, accurate, literal translation of the original languages into standard English as written by today's educated native speakers. It flows well, and it accurately represents the original. But it has a problem. The problem is that, as the name suggests, the NKJV is heavily influenced by the history of English language Bible translation. This doesn't sound so bad, but there are a couple of serious problems with it. The first is that the King James Version of the Bible (aka the Authorized Version of 1611) was one of the...
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May 7, 2005
The Future of This Blog
In case you hadn't noticed, this blog has been awefully sparse for the past few months. I had an extremely busy semester and not much time for blogging. It is now summer (that is, the spring semester of school is over), and working 40 hours a week and having Saturdays and Sundays off and not taking work home in the evenings is sounding restful. So, in this post I'd like to give some idea on what sorts of things will be influencing my topics over the course of the summer, and then comment briefly on a few issues I missed.
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January 26, 2005
"Feminism is Demeaning to Women:" Some Remarks on Christianity, Feminism, and Gender Roles
I recently asserted
parenthetically, without any real explanation, that "I think feminism is demeaning to women." I also referred to "this 'Christian feminism' crap." Well, I finally succeeded in generating some contentious dialog, which has motivated me to offer some explanation, to make sure I'm not being misread here. So, in case you're wondering, this is what I really
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January 21, 2005
TNIV: The Neutered International Version
World Magazine's Blog and Wesley Blog are reporting on the impending release by Zondervan of the TNIV ("Today's New International Version"), a "gender-neutral" update of the NIV. Discussion about such an edition has been floating around for years, to a wide variety of responses. WorldMag's reader comments are positively virulent. Shane Raynor (author of WesleyBlog) sounds less than enthused, but thinks that the way today's young people have learned to speak English may actually have necessitated this sort of translation. I'm overall inclined to agree with Shane, but I'm none too happy about it, and am concerned that it could...
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December 21, 2004
I've been talking about miracles a lot lately, and the subject has also come up in an otherwise excellent essay I was reading, "On Being a Christian Academic" by William Lane Craig. Dr. Craig unfortunately makes the mistake of assuming that several philosophical doctrines (e.g. platonism in philosophy of mathematics) are clearly repugnant to Christianity, when, in fact, they may have Christian interprettations. To this end, I am writing today about miracles and, in particular, my own view; a sort of Christian naturalism. By naturalism I do not mean materialism (my metaphysics, at present, is neo-Berkleyan in nature, and as such I believe not only that minds exist non-physically, but that the physical exists only insofar as these minds perceive it). Nor do I mean the denial of a "first philosophy" ontically prior to natural science (this sort of move is patently ridiculous, despite its current popularity. A sound metaphysics and philosophy of science are needed in order to interpret scientific evidence, and so natural science is clearly dependent on them). What I do mean, is the belief that every occurence in the physical world is governed by a set of fundamental laws to which there are no exceptions. This has been argued from a purely secular philosophical perspective countless times, so I will not repeat these arguments. Rather, I will argue from Scripture in favor of this view, and then provide a theory of miracles based upon it.
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July 27, 2004
"A Philosophical Discussion of the Christian Doctrines of the Fall of Man and the Regeneration of the Holy Spirit"
I've just posted a new paper to my writings section
. The name of the paper is "A Philosophical Discussion of the Christian Doctrines of the Fall of Man and the Regeneration of the Holy Spirit". This is a first first first draft (not yet seen by anyone but me) so any input would be much appreciated and can be posted here or e-mailed to me
. That goes for any kind of feedback, whether on form or content. As before, I'll post my responses here and if I alter the paper in any way I will make note of that here. Check it out here
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November 29, 2003
The Theory of Pauline Exceptionalism
...The primary reason for the [widespread Christian] misunderstanding [of the Jewish Law] seems to be the Apostle Paul's statements about Law and how he rejected the Law when he came to Christ. However, this was the exception and not the rule, and a careful reading of his letters will reveal that even Paul admitted that this ought to continue to be an exceptional case rather than it being the norm for Jewish believers in Jesus to reject the Law. In fact, Paul was an exception to a number of general rules in early Christianity, and I believe that realizing this can help us to better understand the teachings of the New Testament without taking away from the divine inspiration and authority of the New Testament. You may be familiar with the Theory of American Exceptionalism in political science, which says that the political situation in the United States is so different from any other country that it cannot be used to study worldwide political trends. It is my assertion that, similarly, the Apostle Paul's life is so different from the life of the average Christian that, while there is much to be learned about it and much to be imitated, there are certain areas in which it would be foolish and contrary to Scripture to suggest that every Christian should behave as Paul did. I shall call this the Theory of Pauline Exceptionalism...
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November 7, 2003
"According to the Majority Text..."
A new post, by popular demand! Ok, so actually it was just my neighbor Melody ( check here
Anyway, I got my Greek New Testament in the mail the other day. I wouldn't say I can exactly read
it. "Decipher" would be a better word. Roughly fifteen minutes per verse, with a dictionary. Still pretty impressive for half way through my first semester of classical Greek, I think. The insane Greek curriculum here has students reading Plato in the third semester, Homer in the fourth.
Ok, back to the New Testament. I actually wasn't planning on buying it. I just was curious and wanted to waste some time so I went to look and see how much the text I wanted would cost me...
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