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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Bible Translations and Manuscript Issues

A new Bible Translation, The Pure Word, is out. Looks interesting. I read a sample of its scholarship. Very helpful, but while being literal, it appears to me to fall short where other literal translations succeed.

I think it's a great complement to those works and a valuable resource, but not the end-all. The publishers recommend it be used as a complement to a readable version because it is awkward in English. Sounds good to me.


I'm a little disappointed that they kept apologizing to the KJV. One of the members of the committee was a KJV-only guy until he realized (as many have argued) it suffers from political and ecclesiastical compromises. They write that he wept when hit with the truth.

Rather than cry, he should praise God for delivering him from his false worship. Eh, I'll take all the kissing of the KJV as long as they acknowledge it's not inspired above the original manuscripts.

(I hope I can get a copy of the Pure Bible by the end of this year.)

I should say, in the example they give on the order page, they use at least one word I can't find in any Greek manuscript or in any literal translation. This piqued my interest.

I don't pretend to know Greek, but there are so many great resources, on occasion I've tried my hand at translating. You may have seen some of my attempts followed by "The Michael Scotto translation, which we do not recommend."

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Since I commented on translations, I thought I'd share my very little knowledge on the subject. Big picture stuff. VERY generalized for those starting at square one.

There are essentially three kinds of translations: Literal (L), Dynamic Equivalence (DE), and Paraphrase (P). Many translations are a combination, leaning more one way than another. (Another phrase for the L is "formal equivalence," in case you ever see that.)

L- Literal (Formal Equivalence)
DE - Dynamic Equivalence
P - Paraphrase

The KJV, for example, is a literal translation (L). That is, it tries to translate the original manuscripts directly to English. If you'll notice, some words in the KJV (NKJV) are in italics. That's their way of saying they added words for English context. I'd say that reveals it has a slight bit of DE. There are certainly more "literal" translations (like Young's Literal), but the spirit of being L is in translations like the KJV. A slightly more readable L is the ASV (American Standard Version).

The NIV is a dynamic equivalence. That is, it takes the original text and arranges it more "dynamically" (changes it). They add more to try and have it communicate more closely to modern English. It attempts to give the "thought" behind the words, rater than the words themselves, while employing some of the words. Comparatively, The Good News Translation (GNT) is a looser DE than is the NIV (IMHO)

As we get farther away from the L, we are getting away from translations you would want to use for a "word study" or similar.

Finally, something like the New Living (NLT) or the Message Bible (MSG) would be a paraphrase. To me, they're more like commentaries. They might be helpful for reading comprehension, but certainly somebody's bias is present. I would not recommend P as a study Bible, but it may help with simple reading.

Some like the Holman (HCSB) are combo versions (L, DE in this case).

Here are some comparative examples:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was waste and void (ASV) L 
In the beginning, when God created the universe, the earth was formless and desolate (GNT) DE 
First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. (MSG) P 
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty (HCSB) L/DE

Biblegateway.com allows you to see 56 different English translations. The continuity is sometimes amazing. Studylight.org has an "interlinear" option which shows you the original language and as you roll over the words you can see the English word used. If you click on the word, the Strong's Concordance definition (with others) comes up and you can see how many times it's used and how it is translated in other verses.

You will also see options for manuscripts. I'll give a big picture overview below.

Versions I use the most (in no order):

NKJV - New King James Version
NIV - New International Version
ESV - English Standard Version
ASV - American Standard Version
YLT - Young's Literal Translation
EBR - Rotherham's Emphasized Bible
KJV - King James Version
RSV - Revised Standard Version
DARBY - Darby Translation

That's certainly not exhaustive. I've recently started to check the MEV (Modern English Version)

I recommend The Companion Bible (which is KJV) which has excellent notes breaking down words and patterns in scripture. There is also a condensed version available online.

Finally, I HIGHLY recommend "How to Enjoy the Bible" which is an excellent resource for studying scripture written by a brilliant, yet humble scholar, E.W. Bullinger (DBG).

Used copies are very inexpensive: CLICK HERE

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I've decided to go ahead and comment on manuscripts since I mentioned it. Believe me, this won't take long. I've read and listened to a bunch on this topic. I've read scary books about "New Age" texts, etc. But upon closer inspection, I've never really seen the reason for the hub bub.

[I won't go too deep into the Old Testament and New Testament. Just know that with the OT there exits a Greek version (the Septuagint) which is helpful with understanding how some Greek words can be used, but it is sometimes less reliable than Hebrew (Chaldean) Jewish texts (but only marginally so). The Septuagint, as with all honest translations, certainly can be called "the Word of God" in regard to the inspired books (not the Apocrypha). The Lord and the Apostles quoted from it in the New Testament Greek texts. ]

The differences that do exist in the accepted manuscript evidence do not affect any major doctrine (and really very few minor doctrines if we want to quibble). I'd even argue there are more "problems" among the English translations than among the bulk of the manuscript evidence (and really not much there). IMHO.

Compared to other ancient documents we take for granted as accurate (e.g. Greek philosophers), the biblical manuscripts are incredibly more numerous and reliable.

Here's pretty much what you need to know if you're just a beginner: there are essentially two sets of texts. The first represents the vast majority of what we have. These make of the "Majority" or "Byzantine" texts. You may hear of the Textus Recptus (TR) or the "Received Text." Well, the Majority Text is a compilation of medieval texts and the TR is similar (though not as complete). Although not interchangeable with "Byzantine", they're essentially the same for our purposes in regard to the different translations. When I use the interlinear function in StudyLight, I choose the Byzantine texts box (BYZ).

The Byzantine text is the form found in the largest number of surviving manuscripts, though not in the oldest.

We've now covered about 95% of available texts (Majority). So why bother with the rest? Well, the other texts (Minority) are older. So, you can see the value in being closer to the originals. Closer, but we know less about their origins. Some prefer the Minority as there is some concern the state church may have not protected (or corrupted) the TR over the centuries. Some of the TR draws from the Vulgate (Latin) which may have added material for "clarification" or simply commentary.

One of the reasons the TR is "younger" was the practice of preservation by which new copies were made and older copies used for study (thus wearing them out). Since we don't know for certain the origin of the Minority texts, we're left to compare them with the Majority texts (these comparisons are healthy).

There are a couple of stark differences, mostly in terms of omissions. Some of the Minority Texts do not have Mark 16, for example.

If you care, the prominently used Minority texts are the Neste-Aland; the Westcott-Hort'; and Syriac-Peshitta. You may also hear of the "Alexandrian" texts. This is essentially to distinguish from the "Byzantine" texts.

Whatever translation you use will probably note the primary text used. It may also list differences in texts in the notes. Again, The Companion Bible (KJV) has a number of these notes. As noted in my last missive, I look at a lot of English translations taken from different texts, and I've never really seen a great chasm. Again, the problems I've seen in the English arise mostly from the prejudice of the translators. The fear-mongering from some quarters (from either side) is unwarranted, in my opinion. I wouldn't trust a translation solely from the Vulgate or from The Codex Vaticanus (kept in the Vatican library) primarily because we can verify neither outside a Catholic frame.

I believe John Darby saw the original Codex Vaticanus (CV) on a visit to Rome, but mostly what we have are reprints from the Catholic Church. It's all in Greek. I believe Westcott and Hort (WH) relied heavily on printed texts of the CV. Some say it differs "significantly" from the TR, but I leave that to others who have done far more extensive work than I. In my experience (admittedly anecdotal), I have seen translations from the BYZ, TR, and WH be used to glorify the finished work. Perhaps if I looked further, I would find more problems with the WH. But as of today, I would not speak authoritatively on its veracity or lack thereof.

Finally, the worst the Enemy has ever done to attack the Word of God has been done by people purposefully mistranslating it into English. The problem is not with the original texts themselves. And even if we had a perfect English translation, man and his traditions would twist it and use it to deceive. The people who worship the KJV never bother to note that so many heretics and false teachers use it (I've called it the Heretic's Bible of Choice). Not the KJV's fault, but the translation won't keep people from mishandling the Bible.

Satan and Eve both had the pure Word of God; but one twisting it and the other not believing it was the problem. It wasn't the text. As has been said, it's not the few differences that should trouble people, it is the clear declaration of what the manuscripts do teach that men should consider. These make up what men reject. They may use the manuscript differences as their excuse, but it is a rejection of light which lies at the core of their rebellion.


"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The
light shines in the darkness, and the darkness could not comprehend it... And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."
 
-John 1:1-5; 3:19

Some used Companion Bibles out there, but I've linked free online versions above. The appendices in the back of the book are readily available in many places. If you want a hard copy, try:

Used Companion Bible: CLICK HERE
The Appendices to the Companion Bible: CLICK HERE


Addendum: Just a note on the Minority texts. The primary problem is that no one knows about theor origins, who did the translation or why. They are all incomplete. They are older, but we have no way to tell what method they used. The TR texts are not as old (by design), but have been "received" from older translations utilizing a very strict method of copying. The layers of protection were known. A major change would be easily detected. This is not true of the older Minority texts. God does preserve His word. I feel more confident this is true of the Byzantine texts.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

More on the Traditional Doctrine of "Hell"

As we prepare for the parables of Matthew 24-25, it is good to review again the implications of the traditional doctrine of "hell."

David Hocking (whom I like) was telling the story on his radio broadcast of his wife's aunt for whom they had been praying for many years. At a family gathering, she asked David about his knowledge of eternal life.

David shared with her the glorious gospel of the free grace of God and the woman surrendered her destiny to Christ. Obviously, that's a story I like to hear!

David said it was wonderful to be able to lead "that precious lady" to Christ. The Aunt died just a few days later (age 84). Did she become a "precious lady" to him on that day? No. But in his, and in most professing Christendom's theology, had she died the night before, God would be torturing her by fire, without hope, without end (worse than the Nazis could envision)... and we'd have to praise him for it.

I abandoned that doctrine about 15 years ago. I didn't abandon it because I didn't like it, but because it's not scriptural. It is monstrous and an attack on the character of God. Torturing people by fire serves no purpose. Even torturing Satan serves no purpose of God.

In logic, we understand that there is a point where extreme heat and pain are indistinguishable. There is no way to differentiate the fiery torment Satan would receive and the fiery torment his wife's aunt would receive.

Imagine a doctrine which takes someone burned alive in the ovens of Dachau only to open his eyes in the far worse, never-ending, fiery torture of God's torture chamber. And, again, as RC Sproul taught, we will find ourselves praising him for it? Sproul said this of his own mother being tortured. Monstrous.

The wages of sin is death. The choice we have is between life and perishing (Jn 3:16). There are also temporal ramifications for sin. Sin is a dead end. It is pleasurable for a season, yet leaves its slave empty. Faith offers us the ability to free ourselves from enslavement now and offers us the promise of incorruptibility and immortality in the resurrection.

"God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them."
-2 Cor 5:19

The work is complete, God only asks that it be appropriated by faith. Our ministry is to share the gospel of reconciliation.

"We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God." -2 Cor 5:20

That is our ministry, not scaring people into false professions to get "fire insurance." That's cheap preaching and the greatest evangelist of the age, Paul, never used it (for it is false).

To the religious, he offers life, if they will come:

"You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life."
-John 5:39-40

To the wayward, he offers life, if they will come:

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”-John 8:12 
“I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life"-John 5:24 
"Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live."-John 11:25
That only makes sense if men are mortal and eternal life is only for those who are in the resurrection.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Brief Note on Dispensationalism

This blog seeks to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15) and the approach I take (after years of applying other approaches with great dissatisfaction) has been called "Hyper-Dispensationalism" or "Ultra-Dispensationalism" by some. I prefer "Consistent Dispensationalism." With that in mind, I wanted to briefly discuss "dispensations."

What is a Dispensation?


It is important to understand the biblical word "dispensation" (Eph 1:10; 3:2; etc.). When we speak of dispensations we are not speaking necessarily of time. Of course, a dispensation can be limited to time, but that is not its primary meaning.

A dispensation is a stewardship or an administration. Joseph was given stewardship over Pharaoh's house, for example. It is how things are run.

Two dispensations, then, can run simultaneously. There are laws in England and laws in France. They are independent yet not mutually exclusive. That is, it is illegal in both nations to murder, but that does not mean all laws are the same.

If you leave France driving on the right side of the road, pass through the Chunnel, and then decide to continue to drive on the right side of the road in England, you will have gone from being lawful to being unlawful despite practicing the same action.

In some of my entries I have noted that Jewish believers functioned under different directives than did Gentile believers in the Acts age (while all were saved by grace). In recent posts, I have noted the difference between several "administrations."

Things in this age are different from the Acts age, and we saw last time that there is a group of believers who will be "guests at the wedding." This is a truth we need to apply in other areas as well.

ALL people in all ages and dispensations receive the gift of eternal life the same way: by grace alone through faith alone. But rewards and hopes differ between dispensations.

Our churches often teach "Old Covenant" and "New Covenant" as the only two separating administrations of God (even some Replacement Theologians who say they reject dispensationalism). It is believed that somehow all men were under the OC of works and now all believers are under the NC of grace (we have covered how both covenants are for Israel and how the NC is yet future eleswhere).

This is gross distortion of scripture and has done more damage to the cause of Christ than almost anything else within Christendom.

Obviously, hundreds and thousands of years before the OC was given in Exodus 19, no one could be under it. Paul said it could never save. And in Nineveh we saw an entire Gentile people spared by faith who had no concept of the Feasts and sacrifices required of Israel, for example.

The OC is for "the children of Israel" (Ex 19); The Gospel of the Kingdom is for "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt 10); and the NC is "with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah" (Jer 31; Heb 8). We must make these distinctions to truly understand the will of God. We must "rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15).

Today, throughout Christendom, truths from other dispensations are being dragged into the current dispensation. The Book of Matthew (a Jewish book given to Israel alone) is often the source of many of these errors. That is why we have been examining the Parables of Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount, etc.

We must distinguish the hope of the earth, the hope of the New Jerusalem, and the hope of blessings, far above the heavens. We must function under the present administration (the calling to which we have been called - Eph 4) and not fall into the trap of trying to function under other administrations.

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
-Phil 3:13-14

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh [Gentiles], He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
-Col 2:13-23

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Guests at the Wedding Feast in Matthew 22

We now briefly look at the Parable of the Wedding Feast in Matthew 22. We are again told by our Lord that this parable concerns “The kingdom of heaven” as we saw in the kingdom parables of Matthew 13.

 The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding-Matthew 22:2-3a

As we had in The Parable of the Sower, we see here an invitation going out to different groups and we see rejection (“and they were not willing to come”). The sacrifice had been made and the wedding supper was ready (“See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding”).

We have referenced this wedding supper in other studies. In this short note, we want to concentrate on the final group who accept the invitation. As we’ve seen previously, the Lord prophesizes Israel’s rejection (calling them “murderers”) and the destruction of her city (Jerusalem, v.7). We’ve seen this in the previous parables, but now we are dealing with those outside those initially invited.

This call then goes out to a new group (“those who were invited were not worthy”). Who are these who were “not worthy?” These are the gentile “dogs” (Matt 15) who were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12).

The Lord tells us, “the wedding hall was filled with guests.” So, these are not “sons” (heirs), they are not “the bridegroom” and they are not “the bride.” This group is made up of GUESTS in the kingdom and guests at the wedding feast in the coming New Jerusalem (Rev 21).

The Lord of the Feast (the King) comes among the guests and finds one without a wedding garment, and has him sent out (Mt 22:11-15). He is cast out “into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” We have seen this place before and we shall see it in the parables of Matthew 24 and 25. This is not tradition’s “fiery torment,” this is a place outside the New Jerusalem, out among the nations in the age to come (see previous studies on The Parables of the Kingdom).

But what of the “garment”? In the Lord’s letters to the Jewish churches in the Revelation, he three times references white or undefiled garments. We are not speaking of the free gift of resurrection life, we are speaking of reward.

In Rev 16, in speaking of His return (the “Parousia”), the Lord says, ““Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” When we get to the marriage supper in Rev 19, we get the specific description of the makeup of the linen worn by the “wife,” “for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.  

We again have works coming in. The GIFT of God is eternal life through Christ, but every group, in every family of God, though the foundation laid is secure and eternal (Christ himself), there is a judgment of works. In the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, we see the picture of something pure (the pearl is used in scripture of that which is holy) being born out of suffering, and rescued out of the teeming sea (gentiles; in the Parable of the Treasure, we see the remnant of believing Israel taken from the land). These are clothed in righteous works which distinguishes them.

In Revelation 21 we see the Bride of the Lamb, the New Jerusalem, the city with the names of the Apostles to the Jew (the names of those who will “sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel” in the Kingdom, on earth). This is the reward. This is the “city whose builder and maker is God” that Abraham sought (Heb 11:10). The Lord is the “Bridegroom.” The called-out church of this age is His “Body” (Ephesians) whose blessing are not in the earth, but “in heavenly places.”

So who are these “guests?”


The guests are believers among the Gentiles to whom the gospel of John 3:16 (etc.) has been sent (to “the world”). Some of these will be at the marriage feast in the Kingdom (Matthew 8) and some will miss out. Those who do not have a righteous walk, just like the Jews who do not, will be cast into the outer darkness (outside the New Jerusalem, outside the kingdom).

The implication is that the guests go through the Great Tribulation as well, but I do not want to be dogmatic about that. However, they arrive at the feast, they are guests and they must be clothed in the right garment (“righteous acts”). Again, another study for another day.

Matthew 22 continues to point us to a future kingdom, a future judgment, a future reward, and a future disappointment. In context of the whole book and the parables within, we are looking at all things, including these guests, in that light. Israel is front and center. In our day, however, Israel is still set aside. We await the day she turns back to her Savior, repents, and the times of refreshing can come in (Acts 3).


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Fig Tree in Matthew 21

I want to stop in Matthew 21 and 22 briefly before we get to the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 and 25. In Matthew 21 we find the Lord’s encounter with the fig tree:

Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.
-Matthew 21:18-19 (NKJV)

The setting is just before the Passover and just after the Lord’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, hailed as King, the Son of David.

  • “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
  • “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
  • “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Israel is a type of Israel in scripture. The fig tree represents “national” Israel.

I refer us to the notes in The Companion Bible (Judges 9):


The Olive tree
- Israel's religious privileges (Rom. 11).


The Fig tree
- Israel's national privileges (Matt. 21).


The Vine
- Israel's spiritual privileges (Isa. 5).


The fig tree can have two or three year’s growth of fruit on it. We are nearing the end of the Lord’s three-year earthly ministry and what we find is a tree full of leaves. It is looking for its king. It hails the true Son of David as blessed. Yet in a few day, she will be calling for his death.

Was this the end of Israel in God’s plan? No. The Lord is saying that Israel, in rejecting her king, was forfeiting her privilege as head of the nations, for a season.

Young’s Literal Translation translates verse 19 in part this way:

“No more from thee may fruit be -- to the age.”

When the Lord taught his disciples for 40 days after his resurrection, with their minds opened to understand (Luke 24), he taught them about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (as we have seen, Acts 1:6). When Peter offers that restoration to “you men of Israel” in Acts 2 and 3, the condition is Israel’s repentance concerning the Holy One.

But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.
-Acts 3:14-15
 
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.
-Acts 3:19-21

In Romans 9 we see that the religious privilege of Israel was still active. Gentiles in the Acts age (post Acts 10) were “grafted into” the olive tree.


This is groundwork to help us understand Matthew 22 and The Olivet Discourse. This is all built upon the foundation we built looking at the parables of Matthew 13, the Parables of The Kingdom. We find in Matthew 24 and 25, the conclusion of the coming age and the fulfillment of the promised kingdom to believing Israel.