My Translation of Micah 5:1-3

The prophet Micah wrote a wonderful prophesy about Jesus Christ, the One who would come forth for God to be the ruler par excellence in Israel. I’ve spent some time translating the passage from the Septuagint; the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures which Jesus and the early Christian used. I plan to write a bit about this passage soon. For now, I’ll just leave you with the translation.

There are some differences from the English translation in your Bibles, because they’re translated from Hebrew, not Greek. The verse numbers from the Septuagint are also different, sometimes. This is one of those times. In your English Bibles, this passage will be Micah 5:2-4. Here, it’s Micah 5:1-3:

Micah 5(1-3)You can find more of my pitiful translations from the New Testament, the Septuagint and an ancient creed or two here.

Is Inerrancy a Necessary Doctrine?

inerrancyIn the book, Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, Kevin Vanhoozer (responding to Michael Bird’s essay), wrote:

Why should the rest of the world care about North American evangelicalism’s doctrinal obsession with inerrancy? First, it may be only a matter of time, given globalization and patterns of higher education, until the rest of the world is faced with similar challenges to biblical authority posed by biblical criticism, naturalistic scientism, and skeptical historicism. If you can find McDonald’s or Starbucks in Taiwan and Timbuktu, can Richard Dawkins or Bart Ehrman be far behind?

Indeed!

James Merrick and Stephen Garrett (ed.), Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013; Kindle ed.), KL 3189-3192).

Ehud is . . . Jason Bourne

bourneThe people are downtrodden and oppressed. An evil, pagan king rules over them with an iron fist. Year by year, he demands tribute from his vassals. The people cry out, desperate for somebody to rescue them. There was only one man for the job. A man so cunning, he makes Ethan Hunt look like a child. A man so dangerous, he makes 007 look like a pitiful kitten. A man so deadly, nobody can stop him. That man is . . . Ehud, the original Jason Bourne.

And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He gathered to himself the Ammonites and the Amalekites, and went and defeated Israel; and they took possession of the city of palms. And the people of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.

But when the people of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab.

And Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit in length; and he girded it on his right thigh under his clothes. And he presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man. And when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people that carried the tribute.

But he himself turned back at the sculptured stones near Gilgal, and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.”

And he commanded, “Silence.” And all his attendants went out from his presence.

And Ehud came to him, as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.”

And he arose from his seat. And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly; and the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly; and the dirt came out. Then Ehud went out into the vestibule, and closed the doors of the roof chamber upon him, and locked them.

When he had gone, the servants came; and when they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought, “He is only relieving himself in the closet of the cool chamber.” And they waited till they were utterly at a loss; but when he still did not open the doors of the roof chamber, they took the key and opened them; and there lay their lord dead on the floor.

Ehud escaped while they delayed, and passed beyond the sculptured stones, and escaped to Se-irah. When he arrived, he sounded the trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim; and the people of Israel went down with him from the hill country, having him at their head. And he said to them, “Follow after me; for the LORD has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” So they went down after him, and seized the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites, and allowed not a man to pass over. And they killed at that time about ten thousand of the Moabites, all strong, able-bodied men; not a man escaped.

So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years.

Judges 3:12-30

 

 

Delighting in God’s Law

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes;
    and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep thy law
    and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of thy commandments,
    for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to thy testimonies,
    and not to gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
    and give me life in thy ways.
38 Confirm to thy servant thy promise,
    which is for those who fear thee.
39 Turn away the reproach which I dread;
    for thy ordinances are good.
40 Behold, I long for thy precepts;
    in thy righteousness give me life!

Psalm 119:33-40 (RSV)

Good Book

bookIf you’ve traveled in Baptist fundamentalist circles, then you’ve likely encountered various flavors of King James Only-ism. This is a movement which, to a greater or lesser extent, promotes the King James Bible as the only English translation of the Scriptures for Christians to use.

I do not agree with this movement. I cannot support any movement which elevates a translation above the original Greek and Hebrew text.

If you prefer the Textus Receptus for the New Testament, that is lovely. Good men, like Kent Brandenburg, have written helpful books promoting this printed Greek text, which underlies the KJV, NKJV and the newer Modern English Version. If you prefer the Byzantine Text, fine. If you prefer the eclectic text, such as the UBS-5 or the NA-28, even better!

I wanted to recommend a good book about the preservation of Scripture to folks who may want some resources on this issue. What makes this volume unique is that is was written by fundamentalists for people in fundamentalist churches. Here is a synopsis:

The solid facts of the process by which the Bible has come to its present form are explained in detail. The book includes textual criticism of the existing manuscripts and autographs, including the Textus Receptus, the Majority, Eclectic, and Minority texts, and the Masoretic Text. It also provides needed answers to the arguments of those who adhere to extreme or exclusive positions. This book is excellent for pastors, teachers, and laypersons alike. It will prove that all conservative versions are, without a doubt, translations of the plenary verbally inspired Word of God.

The book is entitled God’s Word in Our Hands: The Bible Preserved for Us, and it costs 99 entire cents on Kindle. It’s written in an easy-going, conversational style. You can understand it. Buy it. Read it. Understand it. Use multiple English Bible versions to compare during your devotional reading. Grow in the Lord. 

Goodbye.                                                                   

Are You Blessed?

How blessed is the one whose rebellious acts are forgiven, whose sin is pardoned!

How blessed is the one whose wrongdoing the Lord does not punish, in whose spirit there is no deceit.

When I refused to confess my sin, my whole body wasted away, while I groaned in pain all day long. For day and night you tormented me; you tried to destroy me in the intense heat of summer.

Then I confessed my sin; I no longer covered up my wrongdoing. I said, “I will confess my rebellious acts to the Lord.” And then you forgave my sins.

For this reason every one of your faithful followers should pray to you while there is a window of opportunity. Certainly when the surging water rises, it will not reach them.

You are my hiding place; you protect me from distress. You surround me with shouts of joy from those celebrating deliverance.

I will instruct and teach you about how you should live. I will advise you as I look you in the eye. Do not be like an unintelligent horse or mule, which will not obey you unless they are controlled by a bridle and bit.

An evil person suffers much pain, but the Lord’s faithfulness overwhelms the one who trusts in him.

Rejoice in the Lord and be happy, you who are godly! Shout for joy, all you who are morally upright!

  • Psalm 32 (NET)

Help from the Lord!

mountain

I look up toward the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, the Creator of heaven and earth! May he not allow your foot to slip! May your protector not sleep! Look! Israel’s protector does not sleep or slumber! The LORD is your protector; the LORD is the shade at your right hand. The sun will not harm you by day, or the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all harm; he will protect your life. The LORD will protect you in all you do, now and forevermore.

  • Psalm 121 (NET)

Was Codex Sinaiticus Really Found in the Trash?

Titus, 2:9 - 3:15 / Philemon, 1:1 - 1:10
Titus, 2:9 – 3:15 / Philemon, 1:1 – 1:10

When considering the issue of the preservation of the Scriptures, sadly, tempers will sometimes become heated as heretofore sacred theories are challenged on Biblical and historical grounds. I haven’t “officially” begun my series on the subject, but I wanted to jump start it once more by correcting a piece of Christian folklore you may have heard about an important manuscript copy we possess – Codex Sinaiticus.

This document is the oldest complete copy of the New Testament we have. It specifically contains “parts of the Old Testament, the New Testament complete, and in addition, the Epistle of Barnabas and a part of the Pastor of Hermas.”[1]

The folklore story is that this precious document was found in a trashcan, soon to be burned in the fire. How ridiculous, the legend goes, to believe God would preserve His word in a document which was regarded as nothing more than trash!

Here is a typical argument in this vein from a proponent:[2]

Question: Was the Sinaiticus Codex actually rescued from a wastepaper basket? What is your evidence for this?

Answer: Yes, it was. It was deposited with lots of other paper, in the desire to burn it and bring warmth to the monastery. This story comes from many sources, including someone who knew the facts and examined the evidence for himself, and Tischendorf, the man who acquired the Sinaiticus. There are many sources for the Sinaiticus story, that it was found after being deposited in a kindling bin at St. Catherine’s monastery. Please remember: it gets COLD in monasteries! They needed to burn whatever they had to make themselves warm.

I have no desire to get involved in a protracted, heated discussion on text types or textual criticism. I have very modest goals with this post – to allow Constantine Tischendorf himself to give his own account of how he discovered the manuscript. Bottom line – it was not discovered in the trash.

While visiting the a monastery in search of old manuscript copies of the New Testament, Tischendorf saw old, mouldered and useless leaves from the manuscript about to be burnt. He showed enthusiastic interest in them and the monks became suspicious, allowing him to cart off some 45 of the leaves but refusing to tell him anything about where they came from. Some years later, on a third visit to the monetary, Tischendorf was shown the complete manuscript. It had been carefully wrapped in cloth and kept in a monk’s room.

Don’t take my word for it – read Tischendorf’s own words, in context, on the matter. Those who disagree with the plain historical record of the man who found the document are in clear error. They must reckon with Tischendorf’s own account. I pray that they do so: [3]

Excerpt from Tischendorf’s Own Account

tischendorfI here pass over in silence the interesting details of my travels—my audience with the pope, Gregory XVI., in May, 1843—my intercourse with Cardinal Mezzofanti, that surprising and celebrated linguist—and I come to the result of my journey to the East. It was in April, 1844, that I embarked at Leghorn for Egypt. The desire which I felt to discover some precious remains of any manuscripts, more especially Biblical, of a date 28which would carry us back to the early times of Christianity, was realized beyond my expectations. It was at the foot of Mount Sinai, in the convent of St. Catherine, that I discovered the pearl of all my researches. In visiting the library of the monastery, in the month of May, 1844, I perceived in the middle of the great hall a large and wide basket full of old parchments; and the librarian, who was a man of information, told me that two heaps of papers like this, mouldered by time, had been already committed to the flames. What was my surprise to find amid this heap of papers a considerable number of sheets of a copy of the Old Testament in Greek, which seemed to me to be one of the most ancient that I had ever seen. The authorities of the convent allowed me to possess myself of a third of these parchments, or about forty-five sheets, all the more readily as they were destined for the fire. But I could not get them to yield up possession of the remainder. The too lively satisfaction which I had displayed, had aroused their suspicions as to the value of this manuscript. I transcribed a page of the text of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and enjoined on the monks to take religious care of all such remains which might fall in their way.

On my return to Saxony there were men of learning who at once appreciated the value of the treasure which I brought back with me. I did not divulge the name of the place where I had found it, in the hopes of returning and recovering the rest of the manuscript. I handed up to the Saxon government my rich collection of oriental manuscripts in return for the payment of all my travelling expenses. I deposited in the library of the university of Leipzig, in the shape of a collection which bears my name, fifty manuscripts, some of which are very rare and interesting. I did the same with the Sinaitic fragments, to which I gave the name of Codex Frederick Augustus, in acknowledgment of the patronage given to me by the king of Saxony; and I published them in Saxony in a sumptuous edition, in which each letter and stroke was exactly reproduced by the aid of lithography.

But these home labors upon the manuscripts which I had already safely garnered, did not allow me to forget the distant treasure which I had discovered. I made use of an influential friend, who then resided at the court of the viceroy of Egypt, to carry on negotiations for procuring the rest of the manuscript. But his attempts were, unfortunately, not successful. “The monks of the convent,” he wrote to me to say, “have, since your departure, learned the value of these sheets of parchment, and will not part with them at any price.”

I resolved, therefore, to return to the East to copy this priceless manuscript. Having set out from, Leipzig in January, 1853, I embarked at Trieste for Egypt, and in the month of February I stood, for the second time, in the convent of Sinai. This second journey was more successful even than the first, from the discoveries that I made of rare Biblical manuscripts; but I was not able to discover any further traces of the treasure of 1844. I forget: I found in a roll of papers a little fragment which, written over on both sides, contained eleven short lines of the first book of Moses, which convinced me that the manuscript originally contained the entire Old Testament, but that the greater part had been long since destroyed.

On my return I reproduced in the first volume of a collection of ancient Christian documents the page of the Sinaitic manuscript which I had transcribed in 1844, without divulging the secret of where I had found it. I confined myself to the statement that I claimed the distinction of having discovered other documents—no matter whether published in Berlin or Oxford—as I assumed that some learned travellers who had visited the convent after me had managed to carry them off.

The question now arose how to turn to use these discoveries. Not to mention a second journey which I made to Paris in 1849, I went through Germany, Switzerland, and England, devoting several years of unceasing labor to a seventh edition of my New Testament. But I felt myself more and more urged to recommence my researches in the East. Several motives, and more especially the deep reverence of all Eastern monasteries for the emperor of Russia, led me, in the autumn of 1856, to submit to the Russian government a plan of a journey for making systematic researches in the East. This proposal only aroused a jealous and fanatical opposition in St. Petersburg. People were astonished that a foreigner and a Protestant should presume to ask the support of the emperor of the Greek and orthodox church for a mission to the East. But the good cause triumphed. The interest which my proposal excited, even within the imperial circle, inclined the emperor in my favor. It obtained his approval in the month of September, 1858, and the funds which I asked for were placed at my disposal. Three months subsequently my seventh edition of the New Testament, which had cost me three years of incessant labor, appeared, and in the commencement of January, 1859, I again set sail for the East.

I cannot here refrain from mentioning the peculiar satisfaction I had experienced a little before this. A learned Englishman, one of my friends, had been sent into the East by his government to discover and purchase old Greek manuscripts, and spared no cost in obtaining them. I had cause to fear, especially for my pearl of the convent of St. Catherine; but I heard that he had not succeeded in acquiring any thing, and had not even gone as far as Sinai; “for,” as he said in his official report, “after the visit of such an antiquarian and critic as Dr. Tischendorf, I could not expect any success.” I saw by this how well advised I had been to reveal to no one my secret of 1844.

By the end of the month of January I had reached the convent of Mount Sinai. The mission with which I was intrusted entitled me to expect every consideration and attention. The prior, on saluting me, expressed a wish that I might succeed in discovering fresh supports for the truth. His kind expression of good will was verified even beyond his expectations.

After having devoted a few days in turning over the manuscripts of the convent, not without alighting here and there on some precious parchment or other, I told my Bedouins, on the 4th of February, to hold themselves in readiness to set out with their dromedaries for Cairo on the 7th, when an entirely unexpected circumstance carried me at once to the goal of all my desires. On the afternoon of this day, I was taking a walk with the steward of the convent in the neighborhood, and as we returned towards sunset, he begged me to take some refreshment with him in his cell. Scarcely had he entered the room when, resuming our former subject of conversation, he said, “And I too have read a Septuagint, i. e., a copy of the Greek translation made by the Seventy;” and so saying, he took down from the corner of the room a bulky kind of volume wrapped up in a red cloth, and laid it before me. I unrolled the cover, and discovered, to my great surprise, not only those very fragments which, fifteen years before, I had taken out of the basket, but also other parts of the Old Testament, the New Testament complete, and in addition, the Epistle of Barnabas and a part of the Pastor of Hermas. Full of joy, which this time I had the self-command to conceal from the steward and the rest of the community, I asked, as if in a careless way, for permission to take the manuscript into my sleeping-chamber, to look over it more at leisure. There by myself, I could give way to the transport of joy which I felt. I knew that I held in my hand the most precious Biblical treasure in existence—a document whose age and importance exceeded that of all the manuscripts which I had ever examined during twenty years’ study of the subject. I cannot now, I confess, recall all the emotions which I felt in that exciting moment, with such a diamond in my possession. Though my lamp was dim and the night cold, I sat down at once to transcribe the Epistle of Barnabas. For two centuries search has been made in vain for the original Greek of the first part of this epistle, which has been only known through a very faulty Latin translation. And yet this letter, from the end of the second down to the beginning of the fourth century, had an extensive authority, since many Christians assigned to it and to the Pastor of Hermas a place side by side with the inspired writings of the New Testament. This was the very reason why these two writings were both thus bound up with the Sinaitic Bible, the transcription of which is to be referred to the first half of the fourth century, and about the time of the first Christian emperor.

Early on the 5th of February, I called upon the steward, and asked permission to take the manuscript with me to Cairo, to have it there transcribed from cover to cover; but the prior had set out only two days before also for Cairo, on his way to Constantinople, to attend at the election of a new archbishop, and one of the monks would not give his consent to my request. What was then to be done? My plans were quickly decided. On the 7th, at sunrise, I took a hasty farewell of the monks, in hopes of reaching Cairo in time to get the prior’s consent. Every mark of attention was shown me on setting out. The Russian flag was hoisted from the convent walls, while the hillsides rang with the echoes of a parting salute, and the most distinguished members of the order escorted me on my way as far as the plain. The following Sunday I reached Cairo, where I was received with the same marks of good-will. The prior, who had not yet set out, at once gave his consent to my request, and also gave instructions to a Bedouin to go and fetch the manuscript with all speed. Mounted on his camel, in nine days he went from Cairo to Sinai and back, and on the 24th of February the priceless treasure was again in my hands. The time was now come at once boldly and without delay to set to work to a task of transcribing no less than a hundred and ten thousand lines, of which a great many were difficult to read, either on account of later corrections or through the ink having faded, and that in a climate where the thermometer, during March, April, and May, is never below 77º Fahrenheit in the shade. No one can say what this cost me in fatigue and exhaustion.

The relation in which I stood to the monastery gave me the opportunity of suggesting to the monks the thought of presenting the original to the emperor of Russia, as the natural protector of the Greek orthodox faith. The proposal was favorably entertained, but an unexpected obstacle arose to prevent its being acted upon. The new archbishop, unanimously elected during Easter week, and whose right it was to give a final decision in such matters, was not yet consecrated, or his nomination even accepted by the Sublime Porte. And while they were waiting for this double solemnity, the patriarch of Jerusalem protested so vigorously against the election, that a three months’ delay must intervene before the election could be ratified and the new archbishop installed. Seeing this, I resolved to set out for Jaffa and Jerusalem.

Just at this time the grand-duke Constantine of Russia, who had taken the deepest interest in my labors, arrived at Jaffa. I accompanied him to Jerusalem. I visited the ancient libraries of the holy city, that of the monastery of Saint Saba, on the shores of the Dead sea, and then those of Beyrout, Ladikia, Smyrna, and Patmos. These fresh researches were attended with the most happy results. At the time desired I returned to Cairo; but here, instead of success, only met with a fresh disappointment. The patriarch of Jerusalem still kept up his opposition; and as he carried it to the most extreme lengths, the five representatives of the convent had to remain at Constantinople, where they sought in vain for an interview with the sultan, to press their rights. Under these circumstances, the monks of Mount Sinai, although willing to do so, were unable to carry out my suggestion.

In this embarrassing state of affairs, the archbishop and his friends entreated me to use my influence on behalf of the convent. I therefore set out at once for Constantinople, with a view of there supporting the case of the five representatives. The prince Lobanow, Russian ambassador to Turkey, received me with the greatest good-will; and as he offered me hospitality in his country-house on the shores of the Bosphorus, I was able the better to attend to the negotiations which had brought me there. But our irreconcilable enemy, the influential and obstinate patriarch of Jerusalem, still had the upper hand. The archbishop was then advised to appeal himself in person to the patriarchs, archbishops, and bishops, and this plan succeeded; for before the end of the year the right of the convent was recognized, and we gained our cause. I myself brought back the news of our success to Cairo, and with it I also brought my own special request, backed with the support of Prince Lobanow.

On the 27th of September I returned to Cairo. The monks and archbishops then warmly expressed their thanks for my zealous efforts in their cause; and the following day I received from them, under the form of a loan, the Sinaitic Bible, to carry it to St. Petersburg, and there to have it copied as accurately as possible.

I set out for Egypt early in October, and on the 19th of November I presented to their imperial majesties, in the Winter Palace at Tsarkoe-Selo, my rich collection of old Greek, Syriac, Coptic, Arabic, and other manuscripts, in the middle of which the Sinaitic Bible shone like a crown. I then took the opportunity of submitting to the emperor Alexander II. a proposal of making an edition of this Bible worthy of the work and of the emperor himself, and which should be regarded as one of the greatest undertakings in critical and Biblical study.

I did not feel free to accept the brilliant offers that were made to me to settle finally, or even for a few years, in the Russian capital. It was at Leipzig, therefore, at the end of three years, and after three journeys to St. Petersburg, that I was able to carry to completion the laborious task of producing a fac-simile copy of this codex in four folio volumes.

In the month of October, 1862, I repaired to St. Petersburg to present this edition to their majesties. The emperor, who had liberally provided for the cost, and who approved the proposal of this superb manuscript appearing on the celebration of the Millenary Jubilee of the Russian monarchy, has distributed impressions of it throughout the Christian world; which, without distinction of creed, have expressed their recognition of its value. Even the pope, in an autograph letter, has sent to the editor his congratulations and admiration. It is only a few months ago that the two most celebrated universities of England, Cambridge and Oxford, desired to show me honor by conferring on me their highest academic degree. “I would rather,” said an old man, himself of the highest distinction for learning—“I would rather have discovered this Sinaitic manuscript than the Koh-i-noor of the queen of England.”

But that which I think more highly of than all these flattering distinctions is, the conviction that Providence has given to our age, in which attacks on Christianity are so common, the Sinaitic Bible, to be to us a full and clear light as to what is the word written by God, and to assist us in defending the truth by establishing its authentic form.


[1] Constantine Tischendorf, When Were Our Gospels Written? An Argument by Constantine Tischendorf with a Narrative Discovery of the Sinaitic Manuscript (New York, NY: American Tract Society, 1866), 34. Retrieved electronically from the Christian Classics Etheral Library (CCEL) –  http://www.ccel.org/ccel/tischendorf/gospels.ii.iii.html.

[2] David W. Daniels, “Bible Versions: Your Questions Answered” (Ontario, CA: Chick, 2002). Retrieved electronically from http://www.chick.com/ask/articles/wastebasket.asp. Interestingly, this author discounts Constantine Tischendorf’s own testimony of how he discovered the manuscript and relies upon the second-hand account of another man instead!

[3] This is not even Tischendorf’s full account. There is a larger back-story where he recounts his travels around Europe and the East on a quest for New Testament manuscripts. I didn’t include that here. Feel free to visit the link in the previous footnote and read the entire matter for yourself.