Changing Media Living Message

changesI often hear complaints (and have offered my own) about movies not being like the book and just how much better the book was by comparison. This may be true enough, but perhaps what we are latently getting at suggests we simply do not understand how changing media automatically changes the message.  I wrote the following comment on a friends blog review of the film “Noah”(you should really read his review):

“…changed media ALWAYS alters the message and its fullest (or limited) contents in some fashion. This is true of preaching (though we don’t want to admit it). This is true of lectures, Sunday School lessons, etc. It is true of translations. It is most definitely true of films. Altered media, altered message (at some level). Some are truer to intent, some less. Some downright intentionally change, some ignorantly, some faithfully offer a harmonizing understanding, but all changes alter the message in some fashion.”

Perhaps some examples of what I am talking about might be helpful with regard to the changing media of Scripture:

  • Commentaries – While I did not mention this one in my comment to my friend, it is still worth mentioning. Commentaries on Scripture alter the message by offering (it is hoped) a reading of the text for clarification. Some are more intentionally rooted within the theological traditions of the Church (the Brazos series), others offering contemporary significance (NIVAC series) as part of the explanation. But by explaining the text, the text is altered. It is not offered without comment. To comment is to change. Whether this is for the better (as in clarifying what the intent really was) or worse (changing the intent altogether) remains to be seen.
  • Sermons – Like commentaries, sermons offer an explanation of the text. To preach a text of Scripture is to alter it. Some portions of the text are given greater emphasis. Some less (or none at all). A preacher also selectively chooses only a portion of the text thus already stripping context even while the faithful preacher includes descriptions of context to attempt to locate the passage within its original context. But still…a sermon alters the message…sometimes accidentally, sometimes purposefully…but always alters. (Lectures also fit this category).
  • Translations – The oft-quoted Italian proverb/pun is fitting: “Traduttore tradittore” (“the translator is a traitor”). To translate is to alter. Some are more faithful, some less. Some offer greater conceptual faithfulness, others word-for-word faithfulness. But all sacrifice something in offering translations. (HERE is a brief explanation of three general philosophies of Bible translation)
  • Canon – To read the Scriptures as a part of the canon is to alter the reading of Scripture. The various texts and books of Scripture were not a part of a finished work, but were created independently (sometimes interdependently), but it is not as if the human writers colluded on writing one book of many different sections (though the Spirit is confessed to have superintended and inspired the whole as parts and whole). For example, to read or hear the Old Testament as a Christian is to hear the Old Testament through the Lord Jesus Christ as God’s plan for the ages. This alters the message. To join the sixty six books of the Protestant canon together is to alter the message (and likewise for the various canons of the other streams of the Church).

To be clear, what I am NOT stating is that somehow in altering the message we have automatically been unfaithful to the One who has given us this testimony of grace. The Spirit enlivens the text to bring about preaching, teaching (commentaries/lectures), translations, and canon. The retelling of the story of Jesus in preaching might be yet more faithful to the intent of our Lord in the moment of preaching than in simply reading the original language in the study.
Let me go one step further: the message of Scripture is altered when it is applied by the illumination of the Spirit to us. The words are driven home in different ways than when read. Some facets are illuminated while others remain shrouded.
And still further: the obedience of the message alters the message by not simply rote mimicry, but by faith-filled Spirit enabled listening and following. And this is the will of God for us. It is true to His intent for us in this moment, even while altering the original media form. Indeed, His word is living and active! To those with ears to hear…

Something Weird in the NIV Tradition

New Life
Today in church a verse was mentioned in connection with my church’s name “New Life”. The passage, Acts 5.20, was read in NIV1984 (and posted on the screen) and I turned to it in my Greek NT. To my surprise the passage on the screen did not match the text of the Greek. So here is the pertinent phrase that stood out:

“…tell the people the full message of this new life.” (Act 5:20 NIV)

All of the various streams of the NIV tradition include a similar statement about it being “new life” (NIrV, TNIV, NIV2011).*  And yet the vast majority of other English translations and paraphrases (ESV, HCSB, LEB, LB, MSG, NAB, NASB, NET, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, RSV) which I checked all say “this life” which actually follows the Greek of the verse as noted in the bold: “λαλεῖτε…τῷ λαῷ πάντα τὰ ῥήματα τῆς ζωῆς ταύτης” (UBS4/NA28).
I wondered if I had in fact missed something in the footnotes (either of one of the English versions or of my Greek text for variant readings) that would clarify this issue. Nothing. So I’m putting out a request (since I can’t find discussion of this in any of my commentaries ready at hand) to see if anyone knows where “new” in this context enters for the translation teams responsible for its inclusion?
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* The CEB, CEV, NCV and NJB also curiously include “new” before “life”. I mention these because the various groups of translators responsible for the NIV tradition are not the same as these others and yet arrived at the same curious translation.
DISCLAIMER: I regard the NIV as a very reliable translation tradition. This post in no way is intended to denigrate either the translators or their work for which I have high regard.

Let Women Remain Silent (or Not)

Women Should Remain Silent (?)Last week in class we discussed 1 Corinthians 14.33-35. Talk about a controversial text. How does one properly interpret such a passage?  I was asked by a number of friends if I might post my notes on this. Instead of posting notes, here are “points to ponder” in working toward a proper interpretation of this passage. Perhaps I should mention at the beginning that I did not bring up the typical explanation of this being a house church wherein the women and men sat in different areas (a much later practice nowhere testified to in the NT) and thus the women would be somehow disruptive by asking their husbands something from across the room. Such a maneuver requires a historical reconstruction of which (at best) is shaky. So I offer the following after the verses in question:

 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. (NIV2011)

Points to ponder:
* The paragraph break for the end of verse 33 in various translations alters the reading with relation to the universal sense? Is God about peace and order “in all the churches of the saints” or are women to remain silent “as in all the churches of the saints”? (See my comments on the translations HERE). The former is followed in the such translations as the ESV and NIV84, the latter in the footnote of NIV84 and the NLT. The grammar is ambiguous. The theology, points to the latter as the more likely referent.
* “Woman” in verse 34 is clarified by speaking to ‘her husband’ in verse 35. How would this apply to single women? Does it only immediately then apply to married women?
* Women were already told they could “prophesy and pray” in 1 Cor.11.6 as long as they do so with propriety. How then should we understand not being allowed to “speak” in 1 Cor.14.34? It would not be a total speaking censure.
* this passage is framed before and after by discussions of prophesying and its proper regulation for orderliness. Has this passage shifted contexts or is it actually still regulating prophecy in the church to function in an orderly manner? How so?
* To “ask her husband” is grammatically suggestive (following the extensive lexical and semantic analysis of Waldemar Kowalski’s paper at SPS 2013 in Seattle, WA) of a critiquing and (likely) rejection. If this is actually about prophesying it would point to a husband prophesying and his wife questioning it (or him) in a negative way. While the others are already instructed to weigh what is said, if the wife of the one prophesying were to do so in the corporate worship setting it would lack propriety. She should therefore save such a questioning for the privacy of their home.
So where might this leave us for interpretation? How do you read this? Do these talking “points” help you to better understand some of the issues involved?
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* It is also of note that Gordon Fee (in his NICNT commentary on 1 Corinthians) points out that some of the manuscript evidence places this text (vv.34-35) to after the chapter. His proposal (which I personally find weak, but mention because…well…its Fee) is that this text is not original to 1 Corinthians.

Jesus Led Israel Out of Egypt?

Manuscript of JudeIn a phone conversation with a friend today, we were discussing grammatical-historical methods of interpretation and how the NT writers simply did not appear to observe this modern system for interpretation (which claims, in my opinion, an overly “scientific” approach to Scripture that fails to grapple with the full complexities of language, inspiration, and later interpretations, but all that aside [if you want a glimpse at my own brief forays in my quest for better methods read HERE, HERE, and HERE]).
He mentioned Jude 5 which reads:

“Now I desire to remind you (even though you have been fully informed of these facts once for all) that Jesus, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, later destroyed those who did not believe.” (NET -bolding added)

Talk about a strange reading of the Exodus account! (Origen would be proud 😉 ). So I went to look it up in my NA27 and discovered an overwhelming manuscript support for the reading “Jesus” (A B 33. 81. 322. 323. 424c. 665. 1241. 1739. 1881. 2298. 2344. Vulgate, Coptic (Bohairic, Sahidic), Ethiopic. Origen, Cyril, Jerome, Bede; “the Jesus” 88. 915) over “[the] Lord” (K Maj.).* Not only is the textual support overwhelmingly in support of such a reading, but the probability is overwhelmingly in favor of an original “Jesus” being changed to “Lord” (rather than vice versa). Who would think of changing “Lord” to “Jesus”?  It would seem to make things more defensible (for reading the OT as it was intended by its original human author) with reading  “Lord” in light of the OT, but “Jesus” offers a sharply Christological reading of the Hebrew scriptures (which fits Jude’s overall agenda). Even Bruce Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (ABS, 1994, p.657) has an extended bracketed discussion of this issue suggesting that the reading “Lord” really does not appear original in any sense. And yet, the UBS4 and NA27 texts maintained κύριος (“Lord”) in the main text. I don’t have access to NA28, but I would be curious to know if they’ve continued this strange tradition.
Incidentally, some English translations actually have “Jesus” (ESV, NET, NLT; and the Latin Vulgate)** in their primary text despite the preference for “Lord” in these two critical Greek texts (which are knowingly nearly identical) which typically form the basis for English translations (not that there aren’t plenty of times where the translators chose a different variant, but this one is rather fascinating).***
To me, the most significant (and fascinating) thing I was reminded of in my searching through the evidence and the translations, was that it appears issues of congruity for English readers often drives translations against where the textual evidence may actually point (one of the reasons I quite like the NET for boldly trying to follow the original text closely…at least at times).
So what are your thoughts on a variant like this and the need to translate what is considered the “best” (or most appropriate?) text?
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* To be fair there are a number of other lesser attested readings which are not supported well by either internal or external criteria.
** The ESV footnotes “some manuscripts” having “Lord”; the NLT says: “As in the best manuscripts; various other manuscripts read the Lord, or God, or Christ; one reads God Christ.” The NET reads:

“tc ‡ The reading ᾿Ιησοῦς (Iesous, “Jesus”) is deemed too hard by several scholars, since it involves the notion of Jesus acting in the early history of the nation Israel. However, not only does this reading enjoy the strongest support from a variety of early witnesses (e.g., A B 33 81 1241 1739 1881 2344 pc vg co Or1739mg), but the plethora of variants demonstrate that scribes were uncomfortable with it, for they seemed to exchange κύριος (kurios, “Lord”) or θεός (theos, “God”) for ᾿Ιησοῦς (though Ì72 has the intriguing reading θεὸς Χριστός [theos Cristos, “God Christ”] for ᾿Ιησοῦς). In addition to the evidence supplied in NA27 for this reading, note also {88 322 323 424c 665 915 2298 eth Cyr Hier Bede}. As difficult as the reading ᾿Ιησοῦς is, in light of v. 4 and in light of the progress of revelation (Jude being one of the last books in the NT to be composed), it is wholly appropriate.”

*** Those translations offering “Lord” are KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV(1984, 2010), NJB, NKJV, NRSV, TNIV. The NAB footnotes that “manuscripts vary”; the NASB only mentions “two early mss” mentioning “Jesus”; the NIV tradition has “some early manuscripts” reading “Jesus”; and the NRSV has “Other ancient authorities read though you were once for all fully informed, that Jesus (or Joshua) who saved.”

When the Bible Comes Alive

ImageThe first assignment of the semester for my Former Prophets class was to read Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, and 1-2 Kings in two different translations and give me several pages of questions, comments, and insights about the texts. They could also include things which stood out to them in comparing/contrasting the translations they chose.
I must say I’m impressed with their work. There are wonderful questions and comments on the theology, literary insights, historical intention, and culture of Israel. I think one of the most exhilarating things for me is noting all of the things which were noticed by those who had never read these books or never taken time to pay attention when they heard the stories in the past. I LOVE being able to teach when folks are just hearing these stories for the first time (even if its the “first time” again).
That’s also something I LOVE about pastoring…when I get to share stories which folks haven’t heard or have not heard in the way they are shared. It opens new vistas into the wonder of God’s revelation in Scripture and the unfolding of God’s work in the world. I LOVE what I do!!!
And I actually learn more and love the LORD more as a result!