Living With Fearful Reverence (1 Peter 1:17-21)

The Apostle Peter has a lot of practical advice for real life. But, he doesn’t issue commands and then stop. He tells you why:

  • Why should a Christian try his best to be holy, because God is holy?
  • Why should you prepare your minds for action, by being sober-minded?
  • Why should you not conform yourself to the wicked lusts you had during your earlier ignorance, before you were a Christian?

We talked a bit about that last week, but here Peter gives us one all-important reason – gratitude. Peter could have answered in so many different ways. He could have emphasized judgment and wrath. He could have stressed God’s holiness. He could have warned about certain punishment. He didn’t, even though all those answers would have been right.

Instead, Peter focuses on loving obedience that flows from your gratitude and thankfulness to God because of what Christ has done. This is at the heart of what it means to “live with fearful reverence.” Listen to today’s Sunday School lesson for more:

The PDF notes are available here. As always, the entire 1 & 2 Peter teaching series is available here. Unless I note otherwise, assume the English translation in my notes (and in the Scripture graphics, below) is mine.

peter

Some Thoughts on the NET Bible

net-bibleAbout six months ago, I stopped using the KJV for my personal devotions. I’ve preached from the King James for several years, but the time had come when I felt its shortcomings outweighed its strengths. I’d used the NET Bible for several years for comparison purposes. Among “normal” Christians, this translation is not well known.

The NET Bible was produced by a team of scholars centered around Dallas Theological Seminary. The translation’s purpose was “to answer the global need for a Bible translation that can be distributed without cost on the internet and be freely used in ministry.”[1] The finished version was released in September, 2001. The editors explained their translation ended up “somewhere between the two extremes”[2] of formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence.

I’ve used this Bible for six months. I’ve done my private devotions with this translation. I’ve preached from this translation. I’ve compared it to my own rough translation of the entire book of Philippians from Koine Greek. I really like the way the editors and translators handled the New Testament. A lot. I think it is a stunning achievement.

Notes on the NET

But, I am sometimes uncomfortable with the way the NET Old Testament translates poetry. In many cases, I believe it destroys the poetic structure of the text. It is dangerous to make sweeping statements about translation choices, so I’ll provide two concrete examples:

Jeremiah 5:5 (NET)

Jeremiah 5:5 (RSV)

I will go to the leaders and speak with them. Surely they know what the LORD demands. Surely they know what their God requires of them.” Yet all of them, too, have rejected his authority and refuse to submit to him. I will go to the great, and will speak to them; for they know the way of the LORD, the law of their God.” But they all alike had broken the yoke, they had burst the bonds.

Notice the RSV translates what the text actually says. The yoke has been broken. The bonds have been burst. Now, look at the NET. The translation eliminates the imagery and bluntly tells you what the imagery means. Yes, it is true God’s authority has been rejected and they refuse to submit. But, consider the picture of a yoke being put on the Israelites, to guide them and govern them. Consider the allusion of the bonds which tie us to our sovereign God. Poetry is special because of the imagery it creates in your head, the picture the words paint to make the point. The NET has destroyed that here.

Jeremiah 4:4 (NET)

Jeremiah 4:4 (RSV)

Just as ritual circumcision cuts away the foreskin as an external symbol of dedicated covenant commitment, you must genuinely dedicate yourselves to the LORD and get rid of everything that hinders your commitment to me, people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. If you do not, my anger will blaze up like a flaming fire against you that no one will be able to extinguish. That will happen because of the evil you have done. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

The NET, in its zeal to make things clear for the reader, has butchered this command. You can see how much longer it is than the RSV. It abandons the command “circumcise yourselves to the Lord,” which is a phrase rich in Biblical allusions (cf. Jer 9:26; Deut 10:16, 30:6; Rom 2:28-29; Col 2:11, etc.). Instead, the translators sought to explain what it means.

The reader cannot ponder what it means to “circumcise the foreskin of your heart,” because the command has been taken from him. Interestingly, the NET translates this allusion in Rom 2:28-29. However, because the allusion is not translated here in our passage, the English reader might not ever connect the dots in his mind.

Now, to be fair, the NET Bible is infamous for its footnotes. It has over 60,000 of them. In every single place I’m aware of where the translators drop poetic imagery, they have a footnote which tells you all about it. Every single time. Good for them. I’m still not comfortable with it.

There are other examples, but the point is made. I think the NET Bible sometimes does a poor job with poetry. Its desire to help the reader understand the text is commendable. However, in carrying out this mission the translation sometimes destroys allusions and poetic imagery which I think ought to be retained, even at the expense of temporarily puzzling the reader.

What Now?

I’ve decided to check out another translation, and settled on the RSV. This never was a popular translation with fundamentalists or conservative evangelicals. I read one particularly hysterical contemporary review which made me chuckle. I’ve heard this was a very literary, very polished and very good translation. I’ve read Leland Ryken confess he was a “closet” RSV admirer for many, many years.

I recently rescued an old hardback RSV from the booksale cart at my local library. It cost me $0.25. Not a bad deal. I opened my RSV and took a stroll through Jeremiah 4-8, which I had just read in the NET. I was impressed. This looks to be a very literary and very polished translation. It is written in deliberately stately, slightly formal prose. It is certainly not colloquial, but it also isn’t antiquated (e.g. “wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” KJV, Lk 2:49).

I have high hopes for the RSV. I think I’ll try it out for a few months. I know the ESV was a revision of the RSV, which itself was a revision of the ASV, which was based on the English Revised Version, which was a revision of the KJV. Whew, what a mouthful! So, I suspect I may eventually end up with the ESV as my standard translation. I want to settle on something and use it forever.

Regardless, though, I’m really looking forward to the RSV. I like its slightly formal, stately and majestic prose. It reads very well, and sounds dignified without being archaic. It should be fun.

Notes

[1] NET Bible, “Preface to the Reader’s Edition,” 5.

[2] NET Bible, “Principles of Translation,” 1425.

A Word from the Apostle John

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying:

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”

Then the twenty-four elders who are seated on their thrones before God threw themselves down with their faces to the ground and worshiped God with these words:

“We give you thanks, Lord God, the All-Powerful, the one who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations were enraged, but your wrath has come, and the time has come for the dead to be judged, and the time has come to give to your servants, the prophets, their reward, as well as to the saints and to those who revere your name, both small and great, and the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth.”

Revelation 11:15-18 (NET)

Repent and believe the Gospel.

A Word from Isaiah

Here is the message about Judah and Jerusalem that was revealed to Isaiah son of Amoz during the time when Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah reigned over Judah:

Listen, O heavens, pay attention, O earth! For the LORD speaks: “I raised children, I brought them up, but they have rebelled against me! An ox recognizes its owner, a donkey recognizes where its owner puts its food; but Israel does not recognize me, my people do not understand.”

“The sinful nation is as good as dead, the people weighed down by evil deeds. They are offspring who do wrong, children who do wicked things. They have abandoned the LORD, and rejected the Holy One of Israel. They are alienated from him.”

“Why do you insist on being battered? Why do you continue to rebel? Your head has a massive wound, your whole body is weak. From the soles of your feet to your head, there is no spot that is unharmed. There are only bruises, cuts, and open wounds. They have not been cleansed or bandaged, nor have they been treated with olive oil. Your land is devastated, your cities burned with fire. Right before your eyes your crops are being destroyed by foreign invaders. They leave behind devastation and destruction. Daughter Zion is left isolated, like a hut in a vineyard, or a shelter in a cucumber field; she is a besieged city.”

“If the LORD who commands armies had not left us a few survivors, we would have quickly become like Sodom, we would have become like Gomorrah. Listen to the LORD’s word, you leaders of Sodom! Pay attention to our God’s rebuke, people of Gomorrah!”

“Of what importance to me are your many sacrifices?” says the LORD. “I am stuffed with burnt sacrifices of rams and the fat from steers. The blood of bulls, lambs, and goats I do not want. When you enter my presence, do you actually think I want this – animals trampling on my courtyards? Do not bring any more meaningless offerings; I consider your incense detestable! You observe new moon festivals, Sabbaths, and convocations, but I cannot tolerate sin-stained celebrations!”

“I hate your new moon festivals and assemblies; they are a burden that I am tired of carrying. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I look the other way; when you offer your many prayers, I do not listen, because your hands are covered with blood.”

Wash! Cleanse yourselves! Remove your sinful deeds from my sight. Stop sinning! Learn to do what is right! Promote justice! Give the oppressed reason to celebrate! Take up the cause of the orphan! Defend the rights of the widow!

“Come, let’s consider your options,” says the LORD. “Though your sins have stained you like the color red, you can become white like snow; though they are as easy to see as the color scarlet, you can become white like wool. If you have a willing attitude and obey, then you will again eat the good crops of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.”

Know for certain that the LORD has spoken.

How tragic that the once-faithful city has become a prostitute! She was once a center of justice, fairness resided in her, but now only murderers. Your silver has become scum, your beer is diluted with water. Your officials are rebels, they associate with thieves. All of them love bribery, and look for payoffs. They do not take up the cause of the orphan, or defend the rights of the widow.

Therefore, the sovereign LORD who commands armies, the powerful ruler of Israel, says this: “Ah, I will seek vengeance against my adversaries, I will take revenge against my enemies. I will attack you; I will purify your metal with flux. I will remove all your slag. I will reestablish honest judges as in former times, wise advisers as in earlier days. Then you will be called, ‘The Just City, Faithful Town.’ ” Zion will be freed by justice, and her returnees by righteousness.

All rebellious sinners will be shattered, those who abandon the LORD will perish. Indeed, they will be ashamed of the sacred trees you find so desirable; you will be embarrassed because of the sacred orchards where you choose to worship. For you will be like a tree whose leaves wither, like an orchard that is unwatered. The powerful will be like a thread of yarn, their deeds like a spark; both will burn together, and no one will put out the fire.”

  • Isaiah 1 (NET)

Colossians 1:12 – Acceptable, Meet or Qualified?!

A Potpourri of Translations:

Here is Colossians 1:12 from a variety of English translations:

col112 table

col112sinai
Colossians 1:12 from Codex Sinaiticus (4th century)

I chose these translations deliberately, because I think they’re each excellent and they reflect different translation philosophies:

  • I did my own pitiful translation for my own edification, and because I’m a nerd. You can read it here, if you wish.
  • The NASB is famous for being very formal in it’s translation. The preface stated, “[w]hen it was felt that the word-for-word literalness was unacceptable to the modern eader, a change was made in the direction of a more current English idiom,” (iii). You can count in this translation to not be interpretive when it redners Koine Greek into English
  • Tyndale, KJV, ESV and the LEB are not quite as formal as the NASB, but they each stick very close to the original language. Tyndale was a linguistic genius who produced the first complete New Testament translation in English directly from Koine Greek in 1526 (revised for the last time in 1534). The KJV essentially followed Tyndale in many places. The ESV is a very popular, excellent new translation. The LEB, from Logos Bible Software, began it’s life as an interlinear.
  • The ISV and the NET are a bit more interpretive. The ISV’s New Testament was edited by David A. Black, a well-known teacher and author of several books on Koine Greek. The NET was produced largely by a team of scholars centered around Dallas Theological Seminary. Neither of these translations are particularly “well known,” but they’re excellent. I would put their translation philosophy in the same class as the NIV.
  • As far as Greek text goes, Tyndale and KJV used what would become known as the Textus Receptus. The ESV, NET, NASB and ISV used the current version of the United Bible Society critical text (UBS-4 for each, I believe). The LEB used the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Greek New Testament.

God Made You . . . What!?

The first issue I want to focus on is the words I translated as “made you acceptable,” (ἱκανώσαντι ὑμᾶς). What does it mean? The standard Koine Greek lexicon defines the word, in this context, as, “to cause to be adequate,” (BDAG, s.v. “3692 ἱκανόω”). Different English translations take this different ways:

  • “Acceptable” (Me, KJV, Tyndale)
  • “Qualified” (NASB, LEB, ESV, NET)
  • “Enabled” (ISV)

Now, the average reader has to admit that there isn’t a lot of difference between these three options. We read either one, and we get it. Paul’s point is that we are not acceptable to God. In order to give His elect eternal inheritance, salvation, redemption and forgiveness, He must first make us acceptable to Him. We cannot do this; God must do it to us. This verb is in the simple active voice, and God is performing the action. We have no part to play here. God’s chosen and called out people simply receive an action God does to them.

Each of these translations are glosses suggested by major lexicons (e.g. BDAG, Gingrich, Friberg, Danker, etc.). They each capture a different nuance or shade of meaning. They each convey subtly different meanings, but the same basic concept. When I translate from Koine Greek, I always have a Merriam-Webster dictionary and a good thesaurus at hand. I need to make sure I chose an English word which actually says what the Koine Greek meant, and I need a thesaurus to help me find synonyms to give the translation some stylistic flair, or else the whole thing will be as dry as a stale saltine cracker.  Consider the nuance each translation option brings to the table:

“Acceptable/Meet”

This was my choice, and I obviously think it’s the best one. Merriam-Webster tells us that this means “capable or worthy.” This is good stuff. We’re not worthy, but God can make us worthy “according to the good pleasure of His will,” (Eph 1:5). We’re not capable of doing this; we have no capacity to right the hostility between ourselves and God, to earn His grace, mercy and forgiveness, or to stop our willful rebellion and hatred of Him. We will always be trying to “break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us,” (Ps 2:3). I like “acceptable.” I think it gets the point across very well.

However, the word “acceptable” can also conveys a sense of bare adequacy, not excellence. Like being told by your boss, “Well, your performance these past six months has been adequate, nothing more, nothing less.” It’s not a word that really conveys a sense of security. It’s like getting a “C-” on a final exam.

But, context is always key. The context is God making us competent and acceptable to share in the inheritance of the Kingdom of Light. God doesn’t do things half-way or merely adequately – He always does them well. He created creation and pronounced it “good!” Therefore, the word “acceptable” is an excellent choice. It gets the point across.

“Qualified”

Merriam-Webster says this means to be “fitted for a given purpose.” It’s clear that there really isn’t much difference between “acceptable” and “qualified.” In fact, I almost translated this as “made you fit.” We are not fit for salvation and we do not deserve mercy, love, grace or kindness. Yet, for a Christian, God has changed all that. He qualified us to share in the eternal inheritance in the Kingdom of Light! He made us fit, because we cannot make ourselves fit.

However, the word “qualify” can also open the door for a more synergistic view of salvation, whereby God and man cooperate in some form or fashion to achieve redemption. Somebody could interpret “qualify” to mean something like “eligible.” For example, “You’re qualified for a 30-year home mortgage with a low 25% interest rate!” Indeed, Merriam-Webster notes that a second definition for “qualified,” depending entirely on context, is, “having complied with the specific requirements or precedent conditions.” Therefore, God qualifies people to have eternal inheritance, but it is up to the individual to take advantage of God’s grace and repent and believe the Gospel. This is, in fact, what the concept of prevenient grace teaches – that as a result of Christ’s sacrificial and substitutionary death on the Cross, the Holy Spirit works on everybody’s heart, mind and will so they can either accept or reject the Gospel message.

Now, this is not what Colossians 1:12 teaches, and it is not the sense in which the word “qualified” ought to ever be taken here. After all, is it the translator’s fault if a preacher spends his time doing English word studies instead of opening his Greek New Testament!? Not at all! However, I think the potential theological landmine with the word “qualified” makes it an “acceptable” choice (see how much context matters!), but not necessarily the best choice.

“Enabled”

This is a very good word choice. After all, if somebody enables you to do something, it means that you are made able to accomplish what you could not formerly do. Merriam-Webster defines “enabled” as, “to make (someone or something) able to do or to be something.” We cannot ever gain or earn the privilege to share in the saints’ inheritance in the jurisdiction of light. We’re not acceptable to Him. We’re terrorists and criminals in God’s universe, naturally serving our father, the Devil. This is the message of the Bible. David wrote, “God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one,” (Ps 52:2-3). But, God has enabled Hs children to share in that inheritance.

However, the word “enabled” could also open the door for an un-Biblical and synergistic view of salvation. “God enabled us to choose, and now we decide to choose Him.” This could imply a two-step process in salvation where God and man work together. After all, God makes us able to choose Him, and the rest is up to us! This made me hesitate to use the word “enabled.”

Let me emphasize this very strongly – anybody with an agenda can take any English word or phrase and twist it completely out of context. That is not any translator’s fault. It is the reader’s fault. Most English-speaking Christians don’t know Koine Greek. They’re not going to consult BDAG, Danker, Gingrich or Friberg. Even if (heaven forbid!) an enterprising Christian has a copy of Strong’s Greek Dictionary handy, the information is next to useless if him if he does not understand how it works in the grammar and syntax of a particular sentence. This is where good English translations come in. Let me explain . . .

The Story of Diligent Christian

Pretend an average man, Diligent Christian, loves and likes the KJV. He reads Colossians 1:12 and is puzzled; God “hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” What on earth is “meet!?” Diligent Christian is an enterprising fellow, so he logs onto Biblegateway.com to compare different English Bible versions. He sees that many English versions use the word “qualified.” He immediately leaps to an erroneous conclusion about what the Apostle Paul meant by this statement. Diligent Christian is a member of an Arminian, independent, fundamental Baptist church with roots in the Sword of the Lord tradition. He has been conditioned by years of preaching and Bible study to interpret salvation synergistically. He sees no problem with “qualified.” By default, however, he interprets this “qualification” as prevenient grace.

But now, Diligent Christian is a bit confused. He looks at the ISV, and sees the translation “enabled.” This is a tad bit different, because it seems to have slightly more deterministic overtones. By some remarkable coincidence, he actually stumbles upon this pitiful little blog, and sees my own translation of “acceptable.” Diligent Christian is now having to grapple with the idea that God alone makes elect sinners “acceptable” to Him. We contribute nothing to this transaction.

He returns to the KJV, because that is his favored version, and decides to figure out what “meet” actually means once and for all. He reaches for his bookshelf, and pulls down Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, which his Pastor recommended he use when he wants to figure out archaic words from the KJV. It defined “meet,” in this context, as “fit; suitable; proper; qualified; convenient; adapted, as to a use or purpose.” With this meaning firmly in mind, Diligent Christian now completely understands the sense in which “qualified” and “enabled” should be taken in these English translations. Indeed, he even browsed Merriam-Webster and found that this is still a valid use for the word “meet” (as an adjective) even today.

Now, Diligent Christian leans back in his chair, sips his coffee, and ponders the mercy and love of an infinite God who would qualify criminal sinners, enable them to be partakers of such a marvelous inheritance and make them acceptable and fit to be His servants. He is particularly happy to have so many good English translations to help him interpret the Scriptures!

Colossians and English Bible Versions

Capture
The portion of Codex Sinaiticus containing Colossians 1:12-20

The Book of Jude is taking far too long, so I took a bit of a break and translated Colossians 1:12-20. This precious passage includes a very early hymn about Jesus Christ (vv.15-20). This doesn’t mean the passage was literally sung aloud in worship services by early Christians; it just means that they put theological truth into lyrical prose as a memory aid.

I’m going to use this passage to demonstrate why Christians should consider switching their devotional translation every once in a while to get a different . . . flavor when they read their Bibles.

I’ll delve into the details next time, but for now, I’ll just give you my own translation. First, a disclaimer – I am not a Greek scholar. My Koine Greek is probably best described as “workman-like,” and representative of a Pastor who has had a few years of Seminary-level Greek training and uses Koine Greek on a regular basis.

Here is my translation:

 12Giving thanks to the Father, who made you acceptable to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light, 13who rescued us from the jurisdiction of the darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14in whom we now have the redemption, that is, the forgiveness of sins.

15He is the exact likeness of the invisible God, the favored heir over all creation, 16because by Him everything was created in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, dominions, rulers or authorities. Everything has been created by Him and for Him, 17because He Himself is earlier than everything and everything always holds together because of Him.

18Also, He is the head of the body; that is, of the congregation. He is the Ruler, the first-born from the dead so that He alone will always have first place in everything, 19because the Father is always pleased for all the fullness to reside in Christ, 20and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself. Christ made peace by the blood of His cross, through Himself – whether on the earth or in the heavens. 

My detailed translation, complete with information on how and why I classified and translated voice, tense, mood, prepositions, participles, infinitives, etc. the way I did is available here.

We’ll compare English Bible versions and make some observations next time!

The Book of Jude and English Bible Translations

erasmus
Desiderius Erasmus by Albrecht Durer (1526)

I’m finished with my rough translation and about 50% of my detailed grammar work for my own translation of the Book of Jude. I still have to (1) classify all the accusatives and datives, (2) re-evaluate my translation of the tense, voice and mood, (3) look over pronouns again, and then (4) look at the textual critical issues. I’m using the TR for my base translation, and there are several areas where it differs from the UBS-5. This will make a difference if, for instance, you compare the NKJV to the ESV.

It is fascinating to see how the different conservative English translations offer different, but legitimate, takes on how to translate the text. This is precisely why the English reader would do well to switch his primary devotional translation for a change of pace. This is also precisely why I decided to translate the Book of Jude for myself, so I could point these issues out.

Here is a teaser issue . . . compare Jude 20-21a:

  • KJV:  “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God . . .”
  • NASB: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God . . .”
  • NET: “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith, by praying in the Holy Spirit, maintain yourselves in the love of God . . .”
  • Me: “But you, beloved, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith, by praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God . . .”

What is Jude communicating here? There are two clear options:

  1. Is he telling them how to keep themselves in the love of God? Is he telling them what to be doing and also how to do it? Is he saying that we keep ourselves in the love of God (1) by building ourselves up in our faith and (2) by praying in the Spirit?
  2. Or, is he simply describing two complementary actions they ought to be taking (i.e. building themselves up and praying) while they are keeping themselves in the love of God? Is this statement really just a descriptive aside before the command to “keep themselves” in Jude 21?

Here is the Greek text in question:

  • ὑμεῖς δέ, ἀγαπητοί, τῇ ἁγιωτάτῃ ὑμῶν πίστει ἐποικοδομοῦντες ἑαυτούς, ἐν Πνεύματι Ἁγίῳ προσευχόμενοι

This whole issue hangs on the preposition ἐνMost translations (e.g. KJV, NKJV, Tyndale, ISV and NASB) see this preposition expressing association, and just use the word “in,” as if the these are merely two complementary actions that accompany the command to “keep themselves.” The NET and the Lexham English Bible, however, understand the preposition to be describing the means by which the first action is achieved. Thus, Jude is telling them that they keep themselves in the love of God by means of (1) building themselves up in their faith and (2) praying in the Spirit.

What difference does this make? Here is a paraphrase of the two options:

  • Option #1: “But you, dear ones, as you build yourselves up in the most holy faith and pray in the Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God . . .”
  • Option #2: “But you, dear ones, by building yourselves up in the most holy faith and by praying in the Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God . . .”

I go with the second option, because I believe the context makes more sense that way. Otherwise, you just have a vague imperative command to do something, and no earthly idea how to achieve it.

But, what’s the “right” answer? How should it really be translated? The interesting thing is that there really isn’t a definitive answer. Both translations are plausible and even probable. In fact, only two English translations even agree with my own translation – most disagree. I could say more, but you get the point!

We are blessed in the English-speaking world with a wealth of wonderful translations. We should start making more use of them!