July 14, 2016
On Christianity and Donald Trump
It's been a long time since I've written anything about politics, religion, or the intersection of the two that was not directly connected to my philosophical work, but I feel the need to say something about the present US election. Perhaps I should have overcome my reluctance to say this during the primary season, but I didn't, so here it is now. Years ago, when I was a student leader of a campus Christian group back at Penn, I was constantly fighting against the idea, held by a certain vocal group of my peers, that being a Christian meant supporting...
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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March 15, 2006
'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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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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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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