Author Archives: Kyle French

Kyle French

September 18, 2014

I’m getting tired of Christians talking about liberals and conservatives.  The proper dichotomy for us is the world and the kingdom of God.  Are Democrats acting like communists?  They are being worldly.  Are Republicans acting like monarchs?  They are being worldly.  Is the church full of people who do not know the word of God or acknowledge it’s power?  They are being worldly.

Did a politician somewhere act to undermine the government’s ability to stand in the place of God?  Perhaps they are not far from the kingdom.

Of course, if someone were to explain exactly how godliness is the enemy of tyranny, it might offend some people.

Sing Over Me

 

This is actually kind of hard to replicate.  Home groups are a very effective tool for ministry, and Dennis Jernigan is a wonderful man of God.  But a home group leader often has to have a certain level of knowledge and skill: in music, in prayer, in reading; and a deep care for the saints.  So a side-line in leading a home group (just like leading a church) is identifying and training replacements.

Whence Devotion?

Ok.  This is what I was talking about yesterday.

I accidentally turned this morning to 2 Corinthians, instead of 1 Corinthians, and ran across this near familiar verse:  “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor 11:3).  The version I remember included the phrase “simplicity of devotion to Christ.”

Now, I’ve been King James-ing lately, mostly because I don’t want to be disturbed by textual issues when I’m trying to read devotionally.  The first Bible I read all the way through was a New King James, so I’m less likely to get hung up by a phrase I almost remember right.

(The King James tradition also happens to be the only series of Bibles left that use the Textus Receptus version of the New Testament, that is the version of the Greek text that was understood by most Christians for most of history to be closest to the original wording.  The TR today is considered more of a Textus Emeritus, retired and out of favor, replaced by the NA/UBS text, which was cobbled together by expert scholars from various alternative renderings they found in recessed archives of monasteries around the world.  The general argument seems to have been that the text that Christians didn’t read in their native Greek tongue for a thousand of years is more likely to be accurate to the original.  This is on account of the fact that Christians who read their bibles publicly together for their own spiritual good are much more likely to change the text on a whim than are scholars who need to find something new to say in order to get paid.  So there’s that.)

Anyway, the word that seems to have popped out of existence is “devotion.”  Apparently, in this case, the phrasing I remember is from the NIV or something.  So I go hunting.  Sure enough, NIV, ESV, and a host of other translations include the word “devotion.”  But not all of them, and that’s weird.  If it was a textual issue, then I would expect all the NA/UBS versions to have the word and all the TR versions to be missing it.  All the TR versions are in fact missing it, but not all the NA/UBS versions have it.

So I start looking at footnotes.  There is a textual criticism issue here, but the word in question is “purity.”  The  TR reads “the simplicity that [is] in Christ” and the NA/UBS reads “the simplicity and purity that [is] in Christ.”

So whence devotion?  That’s a translator’s decision.  Somewhere in the last hundred years, some translator thought that the phrase “simplicity and purity that is in Christ” didn’t make a lot of sense, and needed to be made more clear.  So this fine fellow added the phrase “devotion to” so that we would understand just where all the simplicity the purity comes from. It sounded nice, and so translators that followed him added it in as well, probably supposing that there was a longstanding tradition of putting it there.  And, ironically, that would be where the longstanding tradition came from.

Friends, I hope you can see the problem.  This is the gospel we’re talking about.  Where does salvation come from?  Does it come from simply Jesus, or does it come from devotion to Jesus? You say I quibble.  Very well, I quibble.  But devotion can be measured, in tears and in hours.  Jesus can’t be measured.  You say the devotion we have comes as a gift, just as faith does.  Yes, surely it does.  But is it the devotion, or the faith that saves you?  Does devotion come from faith, or does faith come from devotion?

Anything good and faithful that you want to say about this text, especially in light of the context around it, you can say better without the word “devotion.”  In fact, you have to make some pretty robust and complicated arguments if you want to convince somebody to put it in. But those arguments weren’t made, at least not in public. A Bible translator tossed it in because he wanted to be helpful.

And this is what makes me want to take people and shake them, when I hear talk about “phrase for phrase” verses “word for word” translation, or “dynamic equivalent.”  Because that’s not translation.  That’s interpretation.  Please, oh please, won’t you trust the word of God to the people of God?  Give us all the aids you think are necessary.  Guide us and argue for your convictions, but leave the interpretation to us!

I have got to learn more Greek

I’m working on my study notes for 1 Corinthians 12, and I see a footnote that makes no sense.  In verse 1, under “spiritual gifts” the ESV puts “or spiritual persons.”  I did a double-take and decided to try and look that one up.  It turns out that the word “gifts” or “persons” isn’t there at all.  The word “spiritual” (ό πνευματικος, “ho pneumatikos” (!)) is a substantive.  That is, it’s an adjective without any noun to modify.  We don’t use those much at all in English, so they sound weird, and as a result, most translations add in a noun to make things read better.  The older, more honest translations would indicate the words they added, usually with italics.  Newer translations just blissfully add those words without any hint of what’s going on below the surface.  I won’t tell you how I feel about this.

So, skimming off the wonderfully helpful Mounce Reverse-interlinear translation and the Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, here’s my shorthand translation of 1 Corinthians 12:1-11:

So: concerning the spiritual [things], brothers, I don’t want you to not know.  You know that when you were gentiles, to mute idols as led you were led astray. Therefore I make known to you that none in the Spirit of God says, “I say accursed [is] Jesus” and none is able to say, “Lord Jesus!” except in the Holy Spirit.

So different gifts there are, but the same Spirit; and there are different services, but the same Lord; and there are different activities, but the same God acting all in all. So each [one] is given the display of the Spirit toward symphony. For surely through the Spirit is given a word of wisdom, but to another a word of knowledge from the same Spirit; to a different [one], faith in the same Spirit; to another, gifts of healing in the one Spirit; to another, activities of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, separation of spirits; to a different [one], [various] kinds of tongues; to a different [one], interpretation of tongues

So all these are done by one and the same Spirit, dividing his own to each as he is willing.

Anyway, it’s a hackneyed job.  But it feels more accurate to the text than whatever it was I was reading.

 

“a system under which bad men can do least harm”

Don Boudreaux has a feature on the Cafe Hayek blog, where he presents a daily quote from an economics text.  Here’s one on individualism, which seems to predate and improve upon Ayn Rand a great deal.  I didn’t know there was a word for what Adam Smith  was into, other than “economics.”

“Because I was crushed”

Trolling merrily through Ezekiel, I find this little gem:

Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. (Eze 6:9, NKJ)

I read somewhere that in Orthodox thought, one of the attributes of God is the divine impassibility.  The idea is that, since God is perfect, He is not affected by things outside of Himself; He is not subject to passions.  Now, on the face of things, that’s obviously not true.  God is described hundreds of times in scripture as being affected by what people do.  But there’s still this concept of the aseity of God, that God’s source of subsistence is from Himself. (I tried and tried to find the adjective form of the word, but apparently it doesn’t exist.  God is aseious? aseiful?)  He doesn’t need anything from the world he created, or else, how could he have created it?  “If I was hungry, would I tell you?”

One of the great mysteries is that Jesus, being the very image of God, should not have been able to die.  He took on the form of man, something that should have been impossible, so that he might die for us.  (Of course, being who he was, he couldn’t stay dead…)  But the implication that you get is that every attribute that smacks of mortality really ought to be applied to the human nature of Jesus.  Does God suffer and die?  No, but the man Jesus Christ does.  Does God stub His toe?  No, but Jesus Christ could.  Is God overcome by grief, overjoyed, lost in a fit of rage?  No!  But maybe Jesus?

I get the impression that, in Orthodox thought, God the Father is sometimes pictured as a great and holy Vulcan: completely free of all fleshy emotion that might hint of weakness, a Platonic postulate of practical reason.  Well, that’s Kant, but Orthodoxy sometimes sounds pretty close.  And yet… aseity.  So my tendency was to split the difference:  Passion means “to suffer,” though we downgrade it often to mean experiencing great emotion.  Jesus suffered on the cross, God the Father did not.  So perhaps, while God can be emotional, only Jesus could be subject to “passions,” that is, overwhelming emotions.

Until I get to Ezekiel.  He says in chapter 6, verse 9, “I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols.” That isn’t the Son speaking.  That’s God the Father, crushed by the adultery of Israel’s idolatry.  Maybe a translation error?  Holman says “crushed;” KJV says “broken;” ESV says “broken;” ASV says, “broken.”  Now, the NIV says “I have been grieved,” and the New Living says, “how hurt I am,” so it sounds like some translators are struggling with the aseity thing.

The Hebrew word is

שָׁבַר, Shabar, (Strongs #7665)
to burst or break; to smash, to shatter, to shipwreck

It’s the word for what happened to Moses’ first copy of the 10 commandments, the word for what ought to be done to all the sacred pillars scattered about on every high place.  Most certainly it doesn’t mean “bruised, irritated, abraised.”  In short, I don’t think “grieved” really cuts it.  “How hurt I am” is in fact the question at hand.  The answer appears to be “broken.”

For Ezekiel, God is not impassible. He suffers much.  He does not need us in any sense of dependency, yet being broken because of us is part of what it means to be God.

I had some questions, but now I am confident:  It’s appropriate to pray, “Lord, break our hearts with the things that break yours.”