The Word by Name is Jesus Christ

Word made flesh

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Word by Name is Jesus Christ’                                                                                                                                                                © July 14, 2013, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin July 14, 2013

 

Let us pray…

To begin this morning’s lesson, I would like to repeat the verses 1 and 14 from Chapter 1 of John 1:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

We read in this short passage, consisting of only two relatively short verses, John using the proper pronoun ‘Word’ no less than four times. Or should I say more precisely ‘the Word’.  The Word was there in the beginning, that is to say, existing at the time of Creation. And the Word was there with God, the Creator of everything.  That is because the Word was God. Then the Word became flesh and dwelt among us as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Sounds a little like the Game of Jeopardy, where the players are given an answer and must phrase a question to match the corresponding question. In this case, our question might be phrased as: “Who was Jesus Christ?”

Yet, there are many people, including many Christians, who would incorrectly attempt to match with the definition of the Word, the question: “What is the Bible?”

When you stop and think about it, it seems quite silly to imagine that a Book, inspired by God, created for man just happened to be there, existing before Creation. That the Word is God was really the Scriptures or Bible, we must then view Godhead Trinity  as a quartet of sorts: Father, Son, Holy Spirit and Bible. And finally,  if “the Word became flesh” meant the Bible, then we have a description of a sort of ‘Illustrated Man of Scriptures’, to dwell amongst us, which is really twisting God’s message.

 

Word made flesh?

I believe that it is safe to conclude that the Word in John Chapter 1 does not refer to the Holy Scriptures. Besides, we need the presence of the Holy Spirit, to admonish and to convict us of the truth of the Scriptures, not vice versa. And this conviction will only happen after we  have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

What we can say about the John 1 passage is that Jesus, not the Bible, existed in another form at the time of the creation,  and before the creation. And that the Word is part of the Holy Trinity, who was with and is   God. It was later, that the Word took the form of human flesh, as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who ministered to us, fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, ultimately becoming a living sacrifice for all of humanity on the Cross and after ascending to Heaven sent a comforter to all who believe in the form of the Holy Spirit. The Bible did not send us the Holy Spirit.

By contrast, we have the Scriptures, or the Bible, as the inspired word (spelt with a lower case w) of God. So let us see what our Wiki bits, from the Wikipedia, say about the Greek word Logos, which we translate in English as the Word:

The Old Testament has given an essential contribution to the New Testament christological message for Christ as Logos, translated as the Word. The Word is with God from the beginning (Gen 1:1 John 1:1), powerfully creative (Gen 1:1-2:4 Isa 55:10-11 Ps 33:6,9;107:20 Judith 16:14) and God’s personified self-expression. Like wisdom,[28] the word expresses God’s active power and self-revelation in the created world. Solomon‘s prayer for wisdom takes word and wisdom as synonymous Even so, John’s prologue does not open by saying: “In the beginning was Wisdom, and Wisdom was with God, and Wisdom was God” (cf. John 1:1).[29]

Despite the fact that, in the literature of pre-Christian Judaism, wisdom, word, and, for that matter, spirit were “near alternatives as ways of describing the active, immanent power of God”,[30] there are several considerations to understand why John chose word and not wisdom. First, given that sophia (Greek for wisdom) was personified as Lady Wisdom (e.g., Prov 1:20-33;8:1-9:6 Wis 8:2), it could have seemed awkward to speak of this female figure “being made flesh” when Jesus was male. Second, in Hellenistic Judaism the law of Moses had been identified with wisdom (Sir 24:23 Bar 4:1-4) and credited with many of her characteristics.[31] To announce then that “Wisdom was God and was made flesh” could have been felt to suggest that “the Torah was God and was made flesh”. Within a few years Christians were to identify the Son of God and Logos with law or the law,[32] but, neither John nor any other New Testament authors identified Christ with the Torah.[33] Third, Paul, Luke (especially in Acts of the Apostles), and other New Testament witnesses prepared the way for John’s prologue by their use of logos for God’s revelation through Christ.[34]

Both in New Testament times and later, the Johannine “Word” offered rich christological possibilities. First the possibility of identification and distinction. On the one hand, words proceed from a speaker; being a kind of an extension of the speaker, they are, in a certain sense, identical with the speaker (“the Word was God”). On the other hand, a word is distinct from one who utters it (“the Word was with God”). Therefore, Christ was/is identified with, yet distinct from, YHWH. Second, God has been uttering the divine Word always (“in/from the beginning”); the Word “was” (not “came to be”) God. In this context “Word” opens up reflection on the personal, eternal pre-existence of the Logos-Son. God has never been without the Word.[35]

 

Footnotes:

  1. 1.       ^ The N.T. uses various strands from O.T. accounts of “wisdom” and uses them for Jesus: first, like wisdom, Christ pre-existed all things and dwelt with God John 1:1-2); second, the lyric language about wisdom being the breath of the divine power, reflecting divine glory, mirroring light, and being an image of God, appears to be echoed by 1 Corinthians 1:17-18, 24-5 (verses which associate divine wisdom with power), by Hebrew 1:3 (“he is the radiance of God’s glory”), John 1:9 (“the true light that gives light to everyone”), and Colossians 1:15 (“the image of the invisible God”). Third, the N.T. applies to Christ the language about wisdom’s cosmic significance as God’s agent in the creation of the world: “all things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3; see Col 1:16 Heb 1:2). Fourth, faced with Christ’s crucifixion, Paul vividly transforms the notion of divine wisdom’s inaccessibility (1 Cor. 1:17-2:13). “The wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:21) is not only “secret and hidden” (1 Cor. 2:7) but also, defined by the cross and its proclamation, downright folly to the wise of this world (1 Cor. 1:18-25; see also Matt 11:25-7). Fifth, through his parables and other ways, Christ teaches wisdom (Matt 25:1-12 Luke 16:1-18, cf. also Matt 11:25-30). He is ‘greater’ than Solomon, the O.T. wise person and teacher par excellence (Matt 12:42). Sixth, the N.T. does not, however, seem to have applied to Christ the themes of Lady Wisdom and her radiant beauty. Pope Leo the Great (d. 461), however, recalled Proverbs 9:1 by picturing the unborn Jesus in Mary’s womb as “Wisdom building a house for herself” (Epistolae, 31. 2-3). There is, at any rate, a marked preference in N.T. for Logos as spoken word or rational utterance, despite the availability of this wisdom language and conceptuality, and John prefers to speak of “the Word” (John 1:1,14; cf. 1 John 1:1, Rev 19:13), a term that offers a rich complexity of meanings.
  2. 2.       ^ It is important to differentiate between the meaning and translation of Logos, as rendered by the various traditions and texts. This will be emphasized further in this section, following the studies of G. O’Collins, Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus, OUP (1995), pp. 24-41; J.D.G. Dunn, Christology in the Making, SCM Press (1989), pp. 196-207, 230-9.
  3. 3.       ^ J.D.G. Dunn, Christology in the Making, cit., p. 196.
  4. 4.       ^ At least in one place (Isa 2:3) ‘word’ is associated with Torah.
  5. 5.       ^ Cf. Shepherd of Hermas, Similitudines, 8. 3. 2; St Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 43. 1 and see 11. 2.
  6. 6.       ^ The closest approach to such an identification is found in Gal 6:2 (‘the law of Christ’) and Rom 10:4 (if one adopts the more ‘positive’ translation, ‘Christ is the goal of the law’). For N.T. authors, Jesus replaces Torah and its attributes. Torah had been described in terms of light (Ps 119:105 Prov 6:23) and life (Ps 119:93 Prov 4:4,13). Now Jesus, especially in Johannine language, is the light of the world and the life of the world.
  7. 7.       ^ As Dunn, op. cit. pp. 230-9, rightly argues, the background for John’s choice of ‘word’ is also to be found in the earlier books of the N.T. and not just in the O.T., or other sources such as Philo, et al.; cf. also A. T. Lincoln, The Gospel According to St John, Continuum (2005), pp.94-8.
  8. 8.       ^ a b c Cf. G. O’Collins, Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus, cit., pp. 24-41

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Christ_the_Logos

 By definition, then the Word, like wisdom, expresses God’s active power and self-revelation in the created world. And to obtain wisdom and understanding in the Scriptures, we need the help of the Holy Spirit.

Still many people have the misguided impression that the Scriptures are the Word and therefore must be revered or worship. It is almost as if the Bible is worshiped by itself, which could be viewed as idolatry. Without faith and the Holy Spirit, the message in the Bible which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ is meaningless to non-believers in the resurrected Christ. The verses which support this statement (and some people, again, mistakenly believe refer to the word of Scriptures instead of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh are:

1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) Christ the Wisdom and Power of God     

 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)           

 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

The world is filled with many who, through memorization, can recite Scriptures, but who as non-believers lack the understanding or discernment, provided by the Holy Spirit, to appreciate the Gospel message of Salvation or anything else that is of the Spirit of God.

While you recall from recent sermons, it was discussed how Satan distorts and twists the words of God, as he did to Adam and Eve in the garden promoting a desire to be on the same level of God. Sin was passed on to their descendants, which manifested in their son, a jealousy so strong that it led to Cain killing his brother, Abel.

But, Satan is not satisfied with destroying the faith and trust of non-believers. The devil seeks to destroy churches by creating dissention amongst the body of believers, as demonstrated by the zealots who follow the King James Only, treating one English translation of the original Greek and Hebrew Scriptures as the only true Word of God. Anything after King James is considered by this group to be heresy or the work of the devil. Sound familiar? You may recall that how the Pharisees used the Scriptures to promote their agenda and challenge Jesus, who after all being the Word made flesh is God.

There are many intelligent reasons why we need to have the Bible translated into other languages, including modern English, it goes back to that Tower of Babel that we discussed a few Sunday’s ago. Regardless of the language, the translation is foolishness to those who do not have the Holy Spirit to understand them. And considering Jesus’ Commandments to love God and love our neighbor, any theology that renders discord and division among the members of the body of Christ’s Church cannot be of the Spirit. By its very nature: to promote one group of people superior over others sounds very much like the temptation of the Garden of Eden all over again. The negative emotions it generates is like what Cain felt as described in Genesis 4, where God warned Cain that sin is crouching at the door:

Genesis 4:6-7 (ESV)

6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted?And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

The devil loves to see Christians preoccupied with precious time in debate and dissention instead of building the church body. But like the lesson of the Goats and Sheep in Matthew 25:31-46, we will be judged by how we behave to others. That is why we use Matthew 25 as the Mission Statement for our BLCF Cafe Community Dinner.

Those of you who have attended Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship for the last few years may recall such a zealot proponent of the King James Only disrupting sermons of Pastor Andrew, Pastor Don and me over the last couple of years by interrupting the message in an attempt to launch a debate with the speaker regarding his KJO campaign. Fortunately, by the Grace of the Spirit, the speakers were not drawn into transforming a service intended to worship and praise God into something that does neither. Our KJO friend attempted again to initiate a debate at the end of my message at last Wednesday’s Community Dinner. Realizing that a debate draws me from serving the Lord at the BLCF Cafe, I disengaged from Mr. KJO who wanted to disrupt Terry’s ministry in music.  But what does the Bible say about those who focus on debating theology over actions that help demonstrate the love and compassion of the Lord?

James 1:22-27 (ESV)

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

It is not surprising to find Satan attacking the body of believers in Christ’s own Church. The Apostle Luke gives warning in Acts 20:28-31 (ESV):

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.

But the danger is not only from such fringe groups, who seem happier with destroying God’s Church, rather than doing something constructive. The danger lies in the fact that members of these groups and those whom they draw into their debates are both body of the Church, which has Christ at its head. This brings us to the lesson taught by the Parable of the Two Sons, Matthew 21:23-32 (ESV):

The Authority of Jesus Challenged

23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

   The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

The lesson of this parable is that tax collectors and prostitutes who are judged by the chief priests and elders as sinners will go to the kingdom of God because they have believed. And the self righteous chief priest and elders will not because they lack the conviction of faith to back their words.

The final bit of advice, comes from the epistle which scholars generally believe to have been authored by the Apostle Paul, who changed from a persecutor of Christians to convert to be as Christ’s Apostle, one of the greatest proponents of Christianity, found in Colossians 2:16-22 (ESV):

 Let No One Disqualify You

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions,puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?

As born-again believers in the resurrected Christ we must turn away from old beliefs and habits that do not glorify God or edify the body of believers. If we do find some aspects of our Christian walk that is not in line with Christ’s Commandments, like the Son who said that he would not work for his father and then changed his mind, we too can change by the grace of our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Word was God

Let us pray…

Hymn #240: Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord

Benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14):

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Trinity

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The Conspiracy Behind the New Bible Translations

Bible Hands

The Conspiracy Behind the New Bible Translations

This is the first in a series of occasional short essays from the “Professor’s Soap Box.” It is not intended to be a detailed exposition; rather, it is meant to give you food for thought and to challenge some popular ideas.

Introduction

The first major English translation of the Bible to appear since the King James (1611) was the Revised Version of 1881. Since then, numerous English translations have sprung up, almost all of which have used a different textual basis from the one found in the KJV. This difference is especially seen in the New Testament. Simultaneously published with the RV was the Greek text of Westcott and Hort, two Cambridge scholars. This Greek text had been in the works for 28 years, coming to light on May 12, 1881. It was accompanied by an introductory volume, which gave the rationale for the choices made.

Westcott and Hort were able to convince the vast majority of New Testament scholars of the truth of their textual choices. Essentially, they argued that the Greek text behind the KJV NT was inferior and late. Of course, as is well known, the Greek text used in 1611 was for the most part based on about half a dozen very late manuscripts (none earlier than the 12th century AD). These manuscripts were used by Erasmus in 1516 when he published the first Greek NT.1 (We’ll discuss this point more in a later essay.)

But these few manuscripts (MSS) came from a much larger pool. In fact, for the most part they looked very much like the majority of Greek MSS of the medieval ages. But Westcott and Hort (WH) said that this majority text was late and inferior. They preferred the five great uncial MSS (known by their letters, Aleph, A, B, C, D), all of which dated from the fourth or fifth century, as well as early versional and patristic evidence. Two MSS in particular, B and Aleph, were favorites of WH. Both came from the fourth century.

How did WH dethrone the Textus Receptus and the Greek MSS that stood behind it? They accomplished their task with three arguments: (1) The Byzantine text (i.e., the group of Greek MSS behind the Textus Receptus) was not quoted by any church father before AD 325, while the Alexandrian text was amply represented before that period. (2) The Byzantine text was shown to depend on two earlier traditions, the Alexandrian and Western, in several places. The early editors of the Byzantine text combined (or conflated) the wording of the Alexandrian and Western traditions on occasion, while nowhere could it be shown that the Alexandrian combined Western and Byzantine readings or that the Western combined readings of the Alexandrian and Byzantine. (3) The Byzantine text, upon closer examination, proved to be inferior in its wording, either by not conforming to the author’s wording or moving in a predictable direction (such as by adding clarifying words).

Thus, with these three arguments, WH demonstrated that the Byzantine text was late (the patristic argument), secondary (the conflation argument), and inferior (the internal evidence argument). Although some of the particulars of their overall view have been questioned today, most NT scholars find this general scheme to be a compelling argument against Byzantine superiority. Hence, the overthrow of the Textus Receptus.

Conspiracy or Evidence?

What, then, has motivated the vast majority of NT scholars to embrace the earliest MSS as better representing the original wording of the NT? In a word, evidence. WH’s argument was solid. Interestingly, in WH’s day only one NT papyrus fragment was known. Now, almost 100 have been discovered. These antedate the great uncials by as much as two hundred years! What is most significant about them is that not one is Byzantine. But if the Byzantine text was the original, why did it not show up in either patristic evidence or MS evidence until much later? In fact, for Paul’s letters, the earliest Byzantine MSS belong to the ninth century. The earliest Alexandrian witnesses? Second century.

Ever since WH’s text and the RV were published, a vitriolic counter-attack has come from KJV circles. We are not here interested in the debate about the English translation per se; our concern is over the textual basis, the MSS behind the translation. The attack has taken several forms, including denial of WH’s major points, vilification of these early MSS, or vilification of the scholars who embrace them. Our concern in this essay is only with the latter two points. (You may wish to consult my articles on the majority text for a discussion of the first point.)

As for the vilification of the early MSS, John W. Burgon, then Dean of Chichester (southern England), argued that early scribes conspired against the faith. If they did so, they were singularly incompetent in their task, for they left too many things unchanged. (F. H. Scrivener, considered by many KJV fans to be the greatest textual critic of the nineteenth century [partially because he was sympathetic to much of what Burgon was saying] argued against this conspiracy theory.) In fact, they even changed some texts in a misguided attempt at making them more orthodox! Actually, all scribes did this. As is well known, the Synoptic Gospels have many parallels between them. Sometimes the wording is exactly the same between two or more; sometimes there are interesting differences. But all scribes at times changed the text of one gospel to conform it to another. If the great uncials conspired against the faith, as Burgon supposed, then why would the scribes of each of these, independently of one another, try to harmonize the gospels?

Take John 4:17 as an example. In this passage Jesus is speaking to the woman at the well. At one point he says to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” To this she responds, “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus responds, “Correctly you have said, ‘A husband I don’t have.’“ In virtually all Greek MSS, Jesus changed the word order of the woman’s statement (putting “husband” first in the sentence, making it emphatic). This was intentional. It is as if he were saying, “Lady, you’ve got someone at home–but he’s not your husband!” But significantly, two early MSS change the wording. The scribes were apparently troubled by the fact that Jesus, though purportedly quoting the woman, did not quote her exactly. It seemed to be an affront to their view of either the Lord’s character or the accuracy of the Bible. One of them changed Jesus’ words to an indirect quote: “Correctly you have said THAT a husband you do not have.” Another changed the woman’s words to conform to the word order of Jesus’ words! Apparently he couldn’t imagine the Lord quoting her other than exactly. Hence, the Lord quoted her OK, but she said it wrong in the first place! So her words were changed. These two MSS, Aleph and D, illustrate the piety of the scribes. Their corrections were misguided, to be sure. But they could hardly be charged with conspiratorial motives.

Burgon’s view that these early MSS were up to no good is seen to be a prejudiced pronouncement–and one that virtually no NT scholar has since followed (even those who advocate the majority text theory). But what about the other conspiracy theory?

New Age Conspiracy?

More recently, KJV only advocates have argued that the scholars who produced the WH text and those who embrace it belong to a global conspiracy. They often charge that the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, salvation by grace, etc. is destroyed by these scholars. Some say that a New Age conspiracy is behind the modern translations.

In response, just a few points should be made. First, conspiracy theories are increasing among evangelicals nowadays, and this is a troubling sign. By their nature, conspiracy theories ask the reader to be completely skeptical toward one view while adopting the other, without an examination of the evidence. (One recent book that pushes a conspiracy theory actually has thousands of factual errors and misrepresentations in it, all of which go unchallenged by those sucked in by its aura.) I am reminded of the many popular books I have seen sold in Christian book stores that have a jacket blurb on the back cover: “The Devil doesn’t want you to read this!” More often than not, this line is used by an author who has nothing of substance to say and simply wants to get his book sold. Further, it is a haughty claim. The devil doesn’t want us to read the Bible; but to elevate any merely human production to Satan’s hit list of forbidden books is both disingenuous and pompous.

Once the cry of conspiracy is raised, a cloud of suspicion is cast over one side of the issue. It never examines the flimsy basis of its own position, but throws acidic one-liners and ad hominem arguments at the opposition. Often, in this particular issue, those who hold the opposing viewpoint are simply labeled as “servants of Satan,” and their translations are called “bastard bibles”!

Mark Noll has recently written a masterful book entitled, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. In it he speaks about how American evangelicals have decided to chuck their brains for the sake of the party line, or for experience, or for emotionalism, etc. But the history of Christianity up through last century was of a different ilk. The Church felt that at least some of its number should be scholars–men and women who dedicated their minds to God, who cultivated the life of the mind. The fact that conspiracy theories about Bible translations are getting readily accepted in several circles indicts evangelicalism. To be blunt, this trend is symptomatic of the dumbing down of Christians in this country. Evangelicals are increasingly holding down the anti-intellectual fort, without engaging in serious debate with others.

Second, if there really is such a conspiracy, then why do the majority of evangelical, Bible-believing seminaries and Bible colleges use modern translations and the Greek MSS behind them? If the faithful wish to find fault with the beliefs of these schools, then they should attack head-on their beliefs, rather than that they use the wrong Bible. But the issue is always the same: wrong Bible must mean, by implication, wrong beliefs. But the beliefs are not examined.

Third, let me camp on this doctrinal issue a bit. What doctrines are at stake? Is the deity of Christ? Surely not. Evangelicals embrace the deity of Christ, regardless of which Bible they use. And they find verses in their translation to back it up. Some studies in fact have shown how the deity of Christ is better supported in the NIV, NASB, etc. than in the KJV. How about the virgin birth? Again, no. Evangelicals embrace that. One of the best defenses of the virgin birth was written by the founder of Westminster Seminary, Gresham Machen, a man who did not think that the MSS behind the KJV were the best. How about inerrancy? The Trinity? Salvation by grace? Justification by faith? You name it, whatever the evangelical doctrine–it is not compromised by these new translations or the MSS behind them. This is the real issue. What doctrines are changed if we change our Bibles? Westminster Seminary still follows the Westminster Confession; Trinity Evangelical Divinity School still embraces its strong doctrinal statement, as does Dallas Seminary its statement. Grace Seminary, Talbot, Western, Denver, Capitol, etc. Yet, the vast majority of the faculty at these schools use the modern translations and the ancient MSS that stand behind them. Where is the cause and effect relationship between new translations and heresy?

Now, to be sure, conspiratorialists can find heretics who use these modern translations. That is beside the point, however. Why? Because an equal if not greater number of heretics can be found who embrace the KJV. (In the 1800s, in fact, the KJV became the ping-pong ball in English debates over the deity of Christ. Those who argued for the deity of Christ appealed to the Greek text, since the KJV translators had not accurately translated some of the passages.) This is similar to what Peter says in 2 Peter 3:16: “Some things in [Paul’s] letters are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the rest of the Scriptures.” The real issue is whether thoroughly orthodox folks can be found standing behind these modern translations. Yes, they can, and predominantly so. The faith delivered once for all to the saints is not in danger from these new translations. The real danger is in deflecting Christians from our mission in life, to share the good news of Jesus Christ with a dying world, compassionately, and clearly.

So, is there a conspiracy today? My answer may surprise the reader: yes, I believe there is. But the conspiracy has not produced these modern translations. Rather, I believe that there is a conspiracy to cause division among believers, to deflect our focus from the gospel to petty issues, to elevate an anti-intellectual spirit that does not honor the mind which God has created, and to uphold as the only Holy Bible a translation that, as lucid as it was in its day, four hundred years later makes the gospel seem antiquated and difficult to understand.2 It takes little thought to see who is behind such a conspiracy.


1Erasmus’ text went through five editions. Others took up where he left off, but essentially kept the text virtually the same. One of the editions of Theodore Beza, done in the late 1500s, constituted the text behind the King James NT. By 1550 the third edition of Stephanus’ Greek text included in the margin textual variants from several witnesses, but the text was still largely that of Erasmus. By 1633 this text had gone through some more minor changes, but was stable enough that the edition published by the Elzevirs was called in the preface the “the text now received by all,” or the Textus Receptus. Interestingly, this was more publishers’ hype than consensus, for many if not most NT scholars had long noted the inherent weaknesses in this text. The text published was thus, even in the seventeenth century, more a text of convenience than one of conviction.

2One of the arguments sometimes heard is that the nonbeliever cannot understand the gospel. 1 Cor 2:12-14 is cited as proof of this statement. The KJV is thus held up as the best Bible because nonbelievers cannot easily understand it! This argument refutes itself, however. First, this is a perversion of 1 Cor 2:12-14; that text essentially says that the nonbeliever does not understand because he does not welcome the gospel. His problem is one of volition more than cognition. Second, if this argument were true, then we might expect a new believer suddenly able to comprehend Elizabethan English. But that is not the case: new believers have just as difficult a time understanding the KJV as nonbelievers. Third, why is it that unbelieving Shakespearean scholars have little difficulty understanding the words of the KJV? Fourth, by way of analogy: the NT was written in Koine Greek or “common” Greek. It was the language of the day–easily understood from Athens to Rome, from Carthage to Jerusalem. Should not our modern translations also be easily understood? To be sure, some of the concepts are not easily grasped, even for mature believers (Peter said as much about Paul’s writings). But why make the language a stumbling block? The cross alone should be the stumbling block. It is sufficient.


Related Topics: Bibliology (The Written Word)

Daniel B. Wallace Daniel B. Wallace

Daniel B. Wallace has taught Greek and New Testament courses on a graduate school level since 1979. He has a Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is currently professor of New Testament Studies at his alma mater.

His Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Zondervan, 1996) has become a standard textbook in colleges and seminaries. He is the senior New Testament editor of the NET Bible. Dr. Wallace is also the Executive Director for the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.

Published: June 3rd 2004 (https://bible.org/article/conspiracy-behind-new-bible-translations)

Published on Bible.org -Where the World Comes to Study the Bible (https://bible.org)

BLCF Accept Jesus

 

Keeping Jesus as Lord in Our Words and Heart

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Keeping Jesus as Lord in Our Words and Heart’

© May 26, 2013, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 26, 2013

Let us pray…

The message shared at BLCF last Sunday, described how those who view religion with a purely legalistic outlook without faith, can act like excess baggage and impede their faith walk. As a specific example, we looked at the Pharisee, Nicodemus, who had difficulty with Jesus’ teachings about being born again in the Spirit. Though Nicodemus had head knowledge of God’s laws in the scriptures, he had little or no faith understanding of God’s spiritual intent behind those commandments. Without faith or belief that Jesus came to end our judgment under the law, we face the impossible task of being perfect within the law to prevent our own condemnation. The conclusion of last week’s message was that all the other things of this world are of little importance to God, except our faith in Him, which God desires most from us. To grow our faith, we need to discard the excess baggage of the world, focus on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the gospel of the Jesus.

 

Unwanted Baggage

Excess Baggage

 

So you may ask what are the risks of taking a purely legalistic approach to our faith? Before we discuss the penalty or remedy, let’s talk about which laws which govern us. We have two sets of laws that were given to the people of Israel. First, we have God’s 10 Commandments, written on stone tablets by God, and were carried inside the Arc of the Covenant. Next, we have the Ceremonial Law or Mosaic Law, written by Moses, which was carried as a book on the side of the Arc of the Covenant. There is an illustration in today’s bulletin which helps us to distinguish one from another.

God expects us to abide by His 10 Commandments.  Now the legalist might question the name of these God given laws.

 

God's Ten Commandments

God’s Commandments

 

According to Wikipedia, the Ten Commandments are called, in biblical Hebrew, עשרת הדברים (transliterated Asereth ha-D’bharîm) and in Rabbinical Hebrew עשרת הדברות (transliterated Asereth ha-Dibroth), both translatable as “the ten words”, “the ten sayings” or “the ten matters”. The Tyndale and Coverdale English translations used “ten verses”. The Geneva Bible appears to be the first to use “tenne commandements”, which was followed by the Bishops’ Bible and the Authorized Version (the “King James” version) as “ten commandments”. Most major English versions follow the Authorized Version.

The English name “Decalogue” is derived from Greek δεκάλογος, dekalogos, the latter meaning and referring to the Greek translation (in accusative) δέκα λόγους, deka logous, “ten words”, found in the Septuagint (or LXX) at Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 10:4.

The stone tablets, as opposed to the commandments inscribed on them, are called לוחות הברית: Luchot HaBrit, meaning “the tablets of the covenant”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments

So it is not surprising that some scholars will even confuse Ceremonial Laws of Moses with God’s Commandments. It is the Ordinances and Decrees that Jesus removed by His crucifixion, not God’s 10 Commandments.

Just as important as keeping God’s Laws, both to God and ourselves, is the need to keeping faith with the Lord. While a legalist may say that they abide by both the law and the spirit of the law. But that is not the same as abiding by the law of the spirit, which is, in essence, keeping the faith with the Lord.

In today’s first Scripture verse, Luke 11:37-52, we have Jesus invited by a Pharisee to dine with him. Remember from last week’s account of Nicodemus that the definition of a Pharisee is as follows:

Pharisee (noun):

 1.  a member of an ancient Jewish sect that differed from the Sadducees chiefly in its strict observance of religious practices, liberal interpretation of the Bible, and adherence to oral laws and traditions.

 2.  a self-righteous person; a hypocrite.

The Pharisee was astonished that Jesus did not wash before dinner, which was a Jewish Ceremonial observance, not for reasons of hygiene. The washing supposedly made one clean before God, something mandated by man, not by God. The reaction of the Pharisee gave Jesus an opportunity to criticise the Pharisee for being focused on the relative superficiality of being focused on outward appearances and what is on the inside, where greed and wickedness contradict an outward demeanor of righteous. Jesus gave the desire to have the best seats in the synagogues and the desire to be acknowledged in the public marketplaces as examples of the Pharisee’s greed. As for wickedness, Jesus pointed to Pharisee injustice to others and avoidance of love to God.

When a lawyer objected to what Jesus said, by characterizing these truthful observations as an insult not just to the Pharisees, but as an insult to lawyers as well. By defending the criticisms that Jesus made of the Pharisees and siding with them, the lawyer attempted to try to make such behaviour as righteous and justified. This opened the door for Jesus to observe how lawyers do behave fit the definition of a Pharisee, being self-righteous hypocrites. Jesus commented how the lawyers saw fit to burden people, rather than to help them. Jesus spoke of the hypocrisy shown by building tombs and monuments to the prophets who were killed by the fathers of the lawyers. And being educated and learned, the lawyers have had an opportunity to practicing faith, which they not only avoided but acted as a stumbling block to others finding faith. This is a perfect example of one reading the scriptures with the mind, but not the heart. By obsessing over the words and not the intent of God’s word, they miss the true meaning of the scriptures for both themselves as well as for those to whom they read the verses.

But is missing the mark of comprehending and sharing the scriptures limited to just Pharisees and Lawyers? Do some Christians recite verses from the Holy Word by rote, as if the words alone have some magical power? Let’s have look at how Jesus taught us to pray.

How to pray

Lord’s Prayer – Sermon on the Mount

 

If you look on the back page of today’s bulletin, you will see two examples of what we commonly refer to as the Lord’s Prayer. The first recorded in the gospel of Luke, Chapter 11, verses 1-4, was a response to one of the disciples request to be taught how to pray, as John the Baptist had taught to his disciples. Thus we have:

2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”                                                                           

The other version of the Lord’s Prayer comes from Matthew, Chapter 6, verses 5 to 14, which is also found on the back of the bulletin, which Jesus spoke as part of His Sermon on the Mount. Before he began to pray, Jesus admonished those present not to behave like the hypocrites, who we now know to be the Pharisees:

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:                                                             

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you

But we see a variance between the two versions of the prayer, not only between those recorded in Luke and Matthew. We find differences in the same verse, from one Bible translation to another! How can this be? The best explanation may be found in the history of these translations:

The Lord’s Prayer is a central prayer in Christianity also commonly known as Our Father and in the Latin tongue as the Pater Noster. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, it appears in two forms: in the Gospel of Matthew  as part of the Sermon on the Mount, and in the Gospel of Luke,which records Jesus being approached by “one of his disciples” with a request to teach them “to pray as John taught his disciples.” The prayer concludes with “deliver us from evil” in Matthew, and with “lead us not into temptation” in Luke. The first three of the seven petitions address God; the second four are prayers related to our needs and concerns. The liturgical form is Matthean. Some Christians, particularly Protestants, conclude the prayer with a doxology, an addendum appearing in some manuscripts of Matthew, but originating in an ancient Christian writing known as the Didache.

Though Matthew 6:12 uses the term debts, the older English versions of the Lord’s Prayer uses the term trespasses, while ecumenical versions often use the term sins. The latter choice may be due to Luke 11:4, which uses the word sins, while the former may be due to Matthew 6:14 (immediately after the text of the prayer), where Jesus speaks of trespasses. As early as the third century, Origen of Alexandria used the word trespasses (παραπτώματα) in the prayer. Though the Latin form that was traditionally used in Western Europe has debita (debts), most English-speaking Christians (except Scottish Presbyterians and some others of the Reformed tradition), use trespasses. The Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Church of Christ, Scientist, as well as the Congregational denomination follow the version found in Matthew 6 in the Authorized Version (known also as the King James Version), which in the prayer uses the words “debts” and “debtors”.

The Latin version of this prayer has had cultural and historical importance for most regions where English is spoken. The text used in the liturgy (Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, etc.) differs slightly from that found in the Vulgate Jerome is considered to be responsible for changes such as the use of “supersubstantialem” instead of “cotidianum” as a translation of “ἐπιούσιον” (epiousios) in the Gospel of Matthew, though not in the Gospel of Luke.

The doxology associated with the Lord’s Prayer is found in four Vetus Latina manuscripts, only two of which give it in its entirety. The other surviving manuscripts of the Vetus Latina Gospels do not have the doxology. The Vulgate translation also does not include it, thus agreeing with critical editions of the Greek text.

In the Latin Rite liturgies, this doxology is never attached to the Lord’s Prayer. Its only use in the Roman Rite liturgy today is in the Mass as revised after the Second Vatican Council. It is there placed not immediately after the Lord’s Prayer, but instead after the priest’s prayer, Libera nos, quaesumus…, elaborating on the final petition, Libera nos a malo (Deliver us from evil).

There are several different English translations of the Lord’s Prayer from Greek or Latin, beginning around AD 650 with the Northumbrian translation. Of those in current liturgical use, the three best-known are:

Other English translations are also used.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord%27s_prayer

 

Hol;y Bible

Holy Bible

 

It is a common fallacy among some Christians and even certain Biblical scholars, that the Bible is based on one single set of manuscripts housed in some library, monastery or museum. All they have to do is go to this place and reference these ancient scrolls to obtain a definitive translation of the scriptures. This misconception likely comes from present lawgivers being able to see and reference the original historical documents such as the Canadian Charter of Rights, the US Constitution or the British Magna Charta.

Well, it is not quite that simple. Let us briefly look at where scholars obtained the source for the modern Bibles we use today:

 The Hebrew Bible or The Tanakh was mainly written in Biblical Hebrew, with some portions (notably in Daniel and Ezra) in Biblical Aramaic. From the 9th century to the 15th century, Jewish scholars, today known as Masoretes, compared the text of all known biblical manuscripts in an effort to create a unified, standardized text.

A series of highly similar texts eventually emerged, and any of these texts are known as Masoretic Texts (MT). The Masoretes also added vowel points (called niqqud) to the text, since the original text only contained consonant letters. This sometimes required the selection of an interpretation, since some words differ only in their vowels—their meaning can vary in accordance with the vowels chosen. In antiquity, variant Hebrew readings existed, some of which have survived in the Samaritan Pentateuch and other ancient fragments, as well as being attested in ancient versions in other languages.

The New Testament was written in Koine Greek.

The discovery of older manuscripts, which belong to the Alexandrian text-type, including the 4th century Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, led scholars to revise their view about the original Greek text. Attempts to reconstruct the original text are called critical editions. Karl Lachmann based his critical edition of 1831 on manuscripts dating from the 4th century and earlier, to demonstrate that the Textus Receptus must be corrected according to these earlier texts.

The autographs, the Greek manuscripts written by the original authors, have not survived. Scholars surmise the original Greek text from the versions that do survive. The three main textual traditions of the Greek New Testament are sometimes called the Alexandrian text-type (generally minimalist), the Byzantine text-type (generally maximalist), and the Western text-type (occasionally wild). Together they comprise most of the ancient manuscripts.

Alternative word order, the presence or absence of an optional definite article (“the”), and so on. Occasionally, a major variant happens when a portion of a text was accidentally omitted (or perhaps even censored), or was added from a marginal gloss. Fortunately, major variants tend to be easier to correct. Examples of major variants are the endings of Mark, the Pericope Adulteræ, the Comma Johanneum, and the Western version of Acts.

 

Dead Sea Scrolls

Old Scriptures

 

Early manuscripts of the letters of Paul and other New Testament writings show no punctuation whatsoever. The punctuation was added later by other editors, according to their own understanding of the text.

So we see that our current Bible comes from a variety of sources. Translators were supposed to use as many as 600 Greek manuscripts in order to avoid a skewed or misleading translation. Unfortunately, some of the early translators relied on as few as 40 Greek manuscripts in their translations, because geography and politics made universal access impractical. Over time the availability to more sources enabled corrections to the translations. A couple of years ago, while researching a message on the Holy Trinity, I came upon a good example of such a change. On the bottom of the second page of your bulletin, you will see two translations of 1 John5:7-8:

The King James states:

7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

And the English Standard states:

7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

Changes to a verse’s translation by the removal, addition or change of the wording has led to some Christians claiming a demonic conspiracy in effect to alter the Word of God, particularly the King James Version when compared to the newer translations. This would be the kind of reaction one would expect from the Pharisees and scribes. Such disagreements are not the work of the Holy Spirit amongst the Christian body of believers and acts to hinder others from hearing the Gospel. Our commission is not to spend our time on petty arguments amongst ourselves over the merits of one translation over another, for the Spirit is absent from such debates. We are commissioned to share God’s Word and promote an appreciation and love for God, in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul said   in his epistle, Romans 10:5-13 (ESV), entitled: ‘The Message of Salvation to All’   

 

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);    9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.     11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 

Peace through the Holy Spirit

Peace through the Spirit

 

Again, we see that the key to salvation and forgiveness from God lies in our heart, as an expression of our faith in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, and our testimony to the truth of God’s love.

Let us pray…

Hymn #3: God, Our Father, We Adore Thee

Benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14): The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.