If You Want People to Grow Spiritually, Quit Telling Them to Study the Bible



Biblical Illiteracy Isn’t Funny, It’s Scary

Last week biblical illiteracy in the news media was put on display like never before. First, the Wall Street Journal misquoted Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying that “Moses brought water from Iraq.” What the prime minister actually said was that Moses “brought water from a rock,” a reference to either Exodus 17 or Numbers 20. This mistake was frankly hilarious, especially if you were raised (as I was) in a part of the country where the standard pronunciation for Iraq (“Iye-RAK”) would leave little room for such confusion.The next goof—this time from NPR—was less entertaining than dumbfounding. A piece on Pope Francis at NPR’s “Two Way” blog described Easter as “the day celebrating the idea that Jesus did not die and go to hell or purgatory or anywhere at all, but rather arose into heaven…”

It takes effort to get the central fact of the New Testament this bizarrely wrong. “Purgatory”? What are they even talking about? If you don’t know that Easter “is the day Christians celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection,” as NPR’s corrected text reads—if you can’t get this most basic belief of the world’s largest religion right—then readers and listeners could justly ask what business you have reporting on religion, at all.

But the parade of biblical illiteracy didn’t end there. The same day, NBC’s Chuck Todd tweeted out this gem:

“I’m a bit hokey when it comes to ‘Good Friday.’ I don’t mean disrespect to the religious aspect of the day, but I love the idea of reminding folks that any day can become ‘good,’ all it takes is a little selflessness on our own part. Works EVERY time.”

There is more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/troublerofisrael/2018/04/biblical-illiteracy-isnt-funny-its-scary/

Lots of Little Things (John 21:1-14)

~ Mounce

There are lots of little things in this section that make translating fun. If you are in class, make an experiment. Have everyone do their own translation on this section and compare notes.

21:5. Jesus calls out to them, παιδία, a word describing “a child, normally below the age of puberty.” It can also be used to describe someone “who is treasured in the way a parent treasures a child” (BDAG). Translations try words like “friends,” “children,” and “fellows,” none of which work in this historical situation. I wonder how a bunch of grown fishermen first responded when a stranger yelled out over the water, “Hey you prepubescent kids.” Sounds almost like The Goonies.

Read more: https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/lots-of-little-things-john-211-14-mondays-with-mounce-325/

Can We Really Know What the Bible Actually Says?


Bible Reading And Box Checking

Our guest blogger today is Todd Brady, Vice President for University Ministries at Union University in Jackson, TN. 

This summer, I hit the half-way mark. Since January 1, 2018 I’ve checked box after box, marking my progress toward the goal of reading through the entire Bible again this year.  I’ve journeyed with the children of Israel through the Pentateuch (trudging through Leviticus), witnessed the books of Kings, Chronicles, and Samuel, walked with Jesus through the Gospels, read much of Paul’s writings and have been inspired by the Psalms along the way.

As a list-maker and list-checker, I admit that it feels good to see that marked-up Bible reading plan tucked in my Bible. Yes, I get behind and sometimes have to read several days at once to catch up. I admit I might be satisfying compulsive tendencies by my daily box-checking, but I’ve come to realize that something significant is going on as I read: God is doing an unseen work of sanctification in me, conforming me into the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29). I am being reminded that:

  1. Spiritual growth is not optional. Peter tells us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).  Growth is not merely a suggestion; it’s a commandment.  A non-growing Christian is an oxymoron.  If we are not growing, we are sinning—and Bible reading helps us grow.
  2. Discipleship is for everybody. In the same way that evangelism and missions are not reserved for certain people with particular personalities or gifts or likings, neither is discipleship something that serious Christians engage in while nominal Christians do not. Bible reading is an imperative part of discipleship, and God uses it to make us more faithful disciples.
  3. Bible reading produces faith. Paul wrote, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).  Faith is a miraculous gift, but it comes when something else happens: hearing the word of Christ. Therefore, if we want to experience God’s work of faith, we must put ourselves in places where the word of Christ is going into our heads.
  4. Bible reading simply matters. I agree with Don Whitney that, “No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There simply is no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture. . . .  if we would know God and be godly, we must know the Word of God—intimately.”1

So, my checking Bible reading boxes every day is not legalistic. It’s not about the boxes, but they’re a daily reminder that God is working in my life.

I need those boxes.  My soul depends on them.

1Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life with Bonus Content (Pilgrimage Growth Guide) (p. 28). Navpress. Kindle Edition.

What Makes a Translation Accurate? (Phil 2:13)

Being literal does not make a translation good.

Sign saying Do Not FollowI saw a chart the other day that mapped out how “accurate” different translations are. Unfortunately, based on the translations that were deemed “accurate,” you could see that the author had a defective view of what “accurate” means.

The old adage is that you measure what you value. If you value the replication of words, then the most formal equivalent translations will win.

I am only somewhat amused at the marketing of the Bible that champions what they call “optimal equivalence,” and surprise, surprise, they are the most optimally equivalent translation. The problem with their marketing is that I know the programmer who did the math, and his work is based on a reverse interlinear approach that sees the purpose of translation to be the replication of the words. You measure what you value.

But two things happened to me the last couple days that illustrate the real issue. This morning I was driving to the gym and saw a construction truck in front of me with the sign, “Construction Vehicle. Do Not Follow.” Now, if a German friend who didn’t speak English were riding with me and wanted to know what the sign was, how should I translate it?

The problem, of course, is that the sign does not say what it means. How can you not follow the truck in front of you? Once the truck is on the road, does the road have to be vacated until it leaves the road? Of course we understand that it means, “Do not follow closely.” So what would be an accurate translation? If you said, “Folge nicht,” would that be an accurate translation for your friend? Or would you have to say, “Folge nicht genau”?

It’s kind of like a stop sign. The last thing it means is stop. It means, stop, and when it is your turn go; otherwise, you would never leave the intersection.

The second thing that happened was that I was translating Philippians 2 with Martin (a friend) and we came to 2:13. “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work on behalf of his good pleasure (ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας).” What is an “accurate” translation of the verse? Every major translation says “his good pleasure,” even though the possessive pronoun αὐτοῦ does not occur. The KJV and NASB put “his” in italics, which is not technically accurate because we know that ὁ (τῆς) can function as a possessive pronoun, and the fact that it is unusual to have ὁ in a prepositional phrase clearly shows that ὁ is functioning as a possessive.

So what is more “accurate”?

  1. “On behalf of the good pleasure”
  2. “On behalf of his good pleasure”
  3. “On behalf of his good pleasure”

#1 isn’t accurate since it doesn’t mean anything in context. What does “the” refer to?

#2 isn’t accurate since “his” is present in the Greek as τῆς.

#3 is accurate since is accurately conveys the meaning of ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας.

My point is this. If someone thinks that accuracy in translation means they replicate words, then the conclusion is foregone. If someone thinks that accuracy is a matter of meaning, then it leaves the question open for a positive debate on which translation is the most accurate.

How to Sharpen Your Concentration for Bible Reading