Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holy Land Pictures from the Past

Jim West has posted a link to the Palestine Exploration Fund which has a display of 19th century pictures from Palestine and other locations in the region. Check it out to see pictures of the way the Temple Mount looked a very long time ago and prior to the development and archaeological projects undertaken by the Israelis (Compare with the picture to the right here). Then click back and forth to see other pictures. If you have ever seen these sights you will enjoy seeing the way they looked 100 or more years ago.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Is there finally room at the inn? Reading Luke 2:7 in the new NIV

One of the traditions of the Christmas season is the reenactment of the nativity by a children's Sunday School class. Usually a small boy and girl will play the part of Joseph and Mary making their way to Bethlehem to register for the Roman census. As the narrator reads from Luke's Gospel Joseph will knock on a door that is opened by another boy who waves off the weary and pregnant couple. The narrator explains that there is "no room at the inn." Joseph and Mary then go next door to the stable where Luke tells us Jesus is born.

But if you are using the new NIV this year you may want to adjust the script slightly. The translators have done away with the word "inn" in Luke 2:7 and replaced it with "guest room." The word kataluma is better translated as "lodging" or "guest room" rather than "inn". Apart from Luke 2:7, the term only appears two other times in the New Testament. In Mark 14:14 it describes the place where Jesus and the disciples eat the passover. This is the way the term is also used later in Luke 22:11. When a survey of the term is taken in the Greek Old Testament (LXX) it is more often understood as "lodging," "quarters" or "guest room", but not an inn or hotel. Moreover, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the one instance in the New Testament where an inn does appear, Luke uses a completely different word for "inn" (pandocheion), which is a more specific term for inn.

So how then should we understand the statement in Luke 2:7? What do we mean by guest room? Was there no place for Joseph and Mary in someone's spare bedroom? In the context of Luke's nativity this seems to be the best explanation.

If Joseph and Mary are returning to Bethlehem because it is Joseph's ancestral home, then we would expect that they would have stayed with family rather than in an inn. During their time there Mary began to go into labor. When Luke says there was no "place for them in the lodgings" he may mean there was no place of privacy for Mary to give birth. The option of giving birth in a stable would have provided warmth and privacy. The problem, it seems, is not that all of the hotels in Bethlehem were filled. Rather, the place where they were staying was so full they had to go to the stable for privacy.

I think the translators should be commended on two levels. First for bringing a more precise translation to this verse. Second, for being brave enough to mess with a significant Christmas tradition. I wonder how many nativity plays will change over the next few years. I suspect, however, that the inn keeper will be turning away Joseph and Mary for years to come.

*Update, Mark Goodacre has commented elsewhere that this translation also appears in the 2005 TNIV. I had not noticed that before. But then again I am not an NIV reader. James McGrath offers an interesting floor plan of the Bethlehem house as described by Luke. He also provides a link to a couple of articles by Kenneth Bailey entitled "The Manger and the Inn" and "The Story of Jesus' Birth". Both are worth your time.*

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The wrong end of the deal

Thanks to Scot McKnight for this.

May 21 2011, The end of the world?

Well that is what a group in Nashville are saying. Family Radio Network has purchased space on 40 billboards in Nashville to advertise the date.

Here is what some of what the article has to say.

A widespread ad campaign popping up on Music City roadsides claims the end of the world is just six months away. Some call it a scare tactic or publicity stunt, but the group behind this message claim it's very real. They cite the Bible and the book of revelations (sic) which states Jesus will return to earth. For Christians waiting for a signal of the time, the date, or perhaps even a sign from a above? There's now a crystal clear one on billboards all across Nashville.

The Christian nonprofit, Family Radio Worldwide, who sponsored these ads said they know exactly when the apocalypse is coming, and it's May 21, 2011. The 89-year old director behind Family Radio is so sure of this date, they put up 40 billboards here Nashville and hundreds more all around the globe to give folks an ample warning. "This is the day, this is really the day this is not a joke," said Tom Evans, a spokesperson for the organization.

There is also a video on the News 5 site you can watch.

While I can appreciate the groups enthusiasm about and commitment to scripture, I can't help but wonder why this is wrong and unhelpful on so many levels. The question, of course, is what will they do or say when May 21 comes and goes? I remember being at a Christian music fest in August 1988 and receiving a flyer with "88 reasons why Jesus will return in 1988." According to the flyer, Jesus was to return in September of 1988.

I don't think I missed it and somehow I doubt I will miss this one too.

For how we should live and act after the rapture does NOT happen, read here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Michael Bird and the SBL Greek New Testament meets Old spice

Michael Bird deserves a full-round of applause for his creative video about the the new SBL Greek New Testament. Of course, we now know what Michael does as he tries to recover from the jet lag.

Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible

2011 will mark 400 years since the King James Bible was first published. Of the many English translations of the Bible that have been produced, none has been as enduring and influential as the KJV. In honor of the anniversary organizations across the English speaking world are planning to host numerous events. The 2011 Trust has been spearheading many of the events. The BBC has this say about the celebration:

It has been described as the single most important publication in whole of history.A series of events are underway to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. This was the version of the Holy Bible published in 1611, known as the King James' version. In the first decade of the 17th century, it took the new King James from Scotland to hammer out a Bible that endured. "It is one of the first British things to be made," said Glasgow-born Neil MacGregor, fresh from his work with A History of the World in 100 Objects. "It was made by the whole island to be used by the whole island." Now it is used by the whole globe. The last Harry Potter book sold 44 million - the Bible has sold 2.5 billion some say, or six billion, say others. The Authorized Version today is not the text published in 1611. Hundreds of changes in vocabulary, grammar, spelling and punctuation have been made.

In honor of this anniversary, Ashland Theological Seminary is planning a series of events to celebrate the Bible in English. Scheduled events will include lectures and an exhibit of ancient Bibles and biblical manuscripts. The events are as follows:

Shaping the Page

January 27, 2011 at 7 p.m.

The First Translation Dr. David deSilva

Many Manuscripts - One Book Dr. John Byron

From Scroll to Book Dr. Terence Mournet

Shaping Culture

February 24, 2011 at 7 p.m.

Putting God’s word in the King’s English – Dr. Paul Chilcote

Translation in Papua New Guinea Mark Hepnner (ATS Alum)

Shaping You

March 24, 2011 at 7 p.m.

What Translation is Right for me?

How to Choose a Translation Panel discussion with ATS Biblical Studies Faculty

In addition to the presentation series, a museum featuring rare and unique items spanning more than 2,000 years of Bible translation and 500 years of printing history will be available to visitors. Among the many objects on display are fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls ca. 200 BC, a copy of the book of Exodus in Greek ca. 300 AD, and a Hebrew Torah scroll from 1492. See a copy of a Great Bible from 1566 and a Geneva Bible from 1580. Learn the story behind the Vinegar Bible from 1717 and the Gun-Wad Bible from 1776. The museum’s extensive display will include pages from the Wycliffe (15th century), Luther (16th century), Tyndale (1541) and King James (1611) Bibles.

For More information visit the Ashland Theological Seminary web site. We will be hosting various groups to tour the museum. Call the seminary at (419) 289- 5462 if you would like to set a time to bring a group for a tour.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Store detectives dress as baby Jesus to catch thieves

I ran across this in the in the UK Telegraph.

Store detectives at Christmas markets in Austria are being disguised as the baby Jesus to catch shoplifters and pickpockets.

In the German-speaking world, the Christ child is usually played by women and is the traditional bringer of Christmas gifts.

Church officials have criticised the idea of disguising staff as the Christ child to catch thieves.

But a spokesman for the city council in Weitra, Austria, said the detectives were "perfect for keeping an eye out for petty crooks".

The Benefit of Doubt

I have posted a number of times here on the role of doubt in relation to faith. I have come to understand doubt as an important element of faith.

Last week I ran across an essay by Pete Enns entitled: The Benefit of Doubt: Coming to Terms with Faith in a Post-Modern Era. It is actually a message that he gave at Asuza Pacific University on November 16th. It is longish (5000 words), so I have posted only the first 800 words. Let me know your thoughts.

I want to talk to you tonight about doubt, and a very serious kind: when you doubt your faith in God. That is a very tough place to be, because faith in God is what keeps it all together when you are facing tough things—whatever it is: big and tragic or more private and emotional.

But whatever it is, faith in God is what gets us through. When God is real in your life, it makes sense of it all, it gives purpose to our whole lives no matter what is going on. Faith in God gives us stability and coherence. The world around us may be crumbling, but God, as the psalmist says, is a sure foundation, the rock of our salvation. Whatever happens around me, I know that at least God can be counted on. He is faithful.

But sometimes things happen in our lives—a big thing, a lot of little thing—and you start having a lot of doubts. And—my experience—it’s usually the little things piling up over the years are the hardest—those disruptive thoughts you keep burying and hoping they’ll just go away. They don’t. And you feel your faith in God slipping away—and it is scary to watch it happen. You doubt that he cares, that he is listening; you doubt that he is even aware of who you are—that he even exists.

That kind of doubt is the enemy of faith, right? We all know that doubt and faith rule each other out? It is one or the other. To have faith means you don’t doubt. And if you are in a state of doubt about God, you feel like there is clearly something very wrong with you. You are moving away from God’s grace and his love. You can’t hold on, you’re weak in your faith. “Maybe I’m not smart enough. Maybe I’m a faker. Maybe I haven’t memorized enough Bible verses. Maybe I need to go to church more.” Whatever it is, you’re doing something wrong. It’s all your fault.

And this is what we have been taught to do: our only job is to get out of that state of doubt as quickly as we can. Faith in God gives life meaning, a sense of purpose in this universe. Doubt takes all that away. And if you stay in doubt long enough, your eternal state is in jeopardy.

I have known many people in my life who have been faced with these kinds of deep spiritual doubts, and given up on faith altogether. They tried to hang on, with everything they have, but nothing works. So they walk away. Others keep it in and just hide. I’ll bet you all know people like that, too: classmate, roommate, parents, brothers and sisters, friends, someone you used to go to church with. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe your teacher is one of them.

Doubt is a spiritually destructive force. It tears you away from God. Surely, God does not want us to doubt. Right? I don’t think so.

There is a benefit of doubt. Let me put that more strongly: there are things doubt can do spiritually that nothing else can do. Doubt is not the enemy, but a gift of God to move us from trusting ourselves to trusting him. Doubt feels like God is far away or absent, but it is actually a time of “disguised closeness” to God that moves us to spiritual maturity. Doubt is not a sign of weakness but a sign of growth.

Sometimes we think of our faith as a castle. It’s comfortable and above all safe. But what if God doesn’t want us to be comfortable and safe? What if comfortable and safe keep us from pursuing God? Sooner or later God—because he is good—tears your castle down, and he pushes you out, and puts you on a spiritual journey—which always involves some deep struggle.

Doubt forces us to look at who we think God is. It makes us face whether we really trust HIM, or whether we trust what we have made God to be. Doubting God is painful and frightening because we think we are leaving God behind. But doubt—real hard deep unnerving uncomfortable scary doubt—helps us to see that, maybe we have made God into our own image. We come to discover, slowly but surely, that the “faith” we are losing is not faith in God. It is actually in the idea of God that we surround ourselves with.

You can read the rest of the essay here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tracking the changes to the new NIV

I have been posting on some the changes to made to 2011 version of the NIV and I plan to do some more before Christmas. But some of you out there might like to have a fuller look at what has changed. Scot McKnight posted a link to a site that lists the comparisons between between the 1984 version, the TNIV and the 2011 version. It is quite a comprehensive list. Find it here.