Friday, November 18, 2011

That's a lot of water into wine

Bibledex has uploaded its latest clip. This one is about the wedding at Cana in John 2 and the type of stone jars that are mentioned in the stories. I have seen the stone jars pictured in the clip many times. But I have never stopped to think about the size of them. If the clip is correct that these are type of jars described in John 2, then John is telling us that Jesus made a heck of a lot of wine.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Long and Halcomb Polyglot

In the late second and early third century Origen of Alexandria put together an edition of the Bible that contained six different translations. From ancient testimony and the few fragments that survive, we can determine that he placed six different translations side-by-side in columns. The languages he used were Hebrew and Greek (the Greek columns represented various translations of the Old Testament). Unfortunately the Hexapala was lost in the fire of the great library at Alexandria.

More recently, Fred Long and Michael Halcomb have compiled a new Hexapala based on Origen's concept, but with a different focus. Rather than compare the Hebrew text to four or five Greek translations, they have complied a New Testament that includes six translations: Hebrew, Latin, Greek, English, German and French. And instead of putting each language in a separate columns they are presented in interlinear format so that you our eyes can read a verse in one language and then drop to the next one. Here is a link to some samples.

So why do we need this poyglot and why these languages? What Long and Halcomb have done is to provide us with a New Testament that will help all of us to keep up with our various biblical and research languages. The copy they sent me is of Luke and Acts. This will be the first time that I will read those books in Hebrew.

You can buy the book for $17.99 on Amazon, which seems like a steal for such a thick book.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Ark of the Covenant and the Manna Machine

Last week I posted on a piece of obscure news that claimed that the Ark of the Covenant had been discovered in Greece. Apparently it was located in Alexander the Great's tomb. I posted this because I had more than a few doubts about the claim and figured the story would either fade away or be revealed as another case of fake archaeology.

I had no idea that such a short post would be so popular and attract so many silly comments. The post has had over 7,000 visitors and growing.

It seems the post was picked up by a couple of "prophecy" web sites that are excited about the ark's discovery since, according to their eschatology, this means that the third temple will be built and the end of the world can start. I had no idea that anyone was that interested.

Well I was wrong. One of my students sent me a youtube link to a History Channel story on the Ark of the Covenant in which the guests claim that the Ark was used by Israel to carry a manna machine. This machine was given to the Israelites to help them survive their 40 year journey in the wilderness. Below is the 10 minute clip from the show. I am not sure how anyone on history channel kept a straight face while producing it.

If you thought the manna machine was "interesting" check out this other clip on the "money pit." This time the same characters in the above clip claim that the ark was probably hidden in a pit on an island off of Canada. Of course the Knight's Templar are involved. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The CEB's "The Human One" Explained

About a year ago I posted on the CEB shift from using the phrase "Son of Man" to "Human One." Part of this shift was to try and reflect the idiom more accurately. "Son of Man" does mean simply, human, as found in places like Ezekiel 2:1 and Daniel 7:13. Another reason for the shift is that sometimes readers of the gospels will confuse "son of man" as a title for Jesus' divinity.

Below is a video posted on the CEB website in which Joel Green explains why the choice to go with "Human One" rather than "Son of Man."

As I have said before, I am of two minds on this. On the one hand I understand what the editors are trying to do here. But on the other hand, I wonder if we are too quickly eliminating a phrase that has theological import in the New Testament.

Certainly there are times when the phrase means nothing more than "human" as in Mark 2:28 "the son of man is lord of the Sabbath." And there are times when it is on Jesus' lips and is nothing more than a way to refer to himself as in Matthew 16:13 "who do people say the son of man is?" In the latter case I am not sure why they did not simply gloss over the idiom and translate the verse as "who do people say I am" since this would eliminate any potential confusion.

But I also wonder about those times when the phrase has messianic implications. Several times when it is used in Mark "Son of Man" is equivalent to saying "Messiah" as in 8:29-31 and 14:61-62. Granted, prior to Jesus there is little, if any evidence, that the phrase was a Jewish messianic title. But in Mark, and in other places in the gospels, the phrase does contain those allusions.

Besides thinking that it is somewhat inelegant, I wonder if perhaps this is moving in a direction that guts some of the significance from the phrase. I wonder if we would do better leaving the phrase and doing a better job of explaining it since simply translating it "human one" seems, in my opinion, to just flatten it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Bible Made Impossible

Evangelicals, Americans in particular, hold the Bible to be the “word of God.” And as such the Bible should function as the authority for Christian faith and practice. For some this means that the Bible can provide the answers to many, if not all, of life’s questions, problems and dilemma. In his book The Bible Made Impossible (Brazos, 2011), Christian Smith argues that this view of scripture is unhelpful and, ultimately, unsustainable. Smith hopes to reveal this to his readers and to provide them with a better way to approach and interpret the Bible.

Smith acknowledges that there are a variety of definitions for what he calls “Biblicism.” The one he focuses in on is that which treats the Bible like a handbook for living. He has in view here those who think that any answer to any question can be found in the Bible. As an illustration of this approach he points out the numerous books published each year that claim the Bible has the “answer” to any number of personal or social ills. He lists books on a range of topics Bible Diets, Bible Answers, Biblical Psychology, Biblical Principles for Finances and Bible Recipes. Such titles assume that there is an answer to the problem that can be found if the reader just digs deep enough into the Bible.

The biggest problem with this approach to the Bible, according to Smith, is that it doesn’t work. To assume that the Bible has the answers to everything is to overlook the problem of pervasive interpretive pluralism. In other words, there are lots of differing interpretations of different scriptures. For example, there are a number of types of church polity in existence many (if not) all that claim to be based on the Bible. If the Bible details the way a church should govern itself why don’t the faithful follow one method? Similarly, there are debates over free will and predestination that are based on the Bible. Or what about the Sabbath? Why are some churches stricter than others and some worship on Saturday rather than Sunday? Finally, what about such topics like slavery? Both abolition and pro-slavery groups claimed their position was right based on the Bible.

Moreover, reading the Bible this way creates some subsidiary problems. There are parts of the Bible that are ignored (did greet anyone with a holy kiss today?), arbitrarily determined to be culturally relative (most people don’t worship idols but will eat a pork chop), and many of the practices that are in place violate the principles of a Biblicist reading (the Bible says to stone a rebellious son, but most Christians don’t advocate that form of punishment).

Smith suggests a new way forward. First of all, he promotes a Christocentric hermeneutic. He suggests that the entire Bible be read with Christ in view. Christ, he argues, is the true and final word of God and the Bible only points to Christ. Christ is the interpretive key to understanding scripture. Second, Bible readers need to accept the complexity and ambiguity of the Bible. This means acknowledging that the Bible does not address every topic and therefore does not have the answer to every question and/or problem. Along with this, readers also need to resist the temptation to harmonize the Bible; to make it agree in places where it does not. He also suggests that there needs to be a better understanding between dogma and doctrine. Too often, he argues, a confusion of the two has led many to claim that they have the “correct” interpretation of the Bible and all those who hold to another are, therefore, are not true believers. Finally, not everything in the Bible needs to be replicated. There are some (many) things in the Bible that do not necessarily apply to us today.

Smith’s hope is to sound a clarion call for evangelicals to change the way they read and use the Bible. Overall I agree with much of what he writes and even found myself wincing sometimes as I realized that I still think about or use the Bible in some of the ways that he describes. Old habits and patterns die hard. Other times I felt like he was preaching to the choir, but that is because I am aware of many of the problems he highlights.

I think he is to be commended for his effort to raise awareness of this issue. Too many Christians have a handbook view of the Bible, and are often disappointed when the “divine instruction manual” doesn’t produce the desire results. The only drawback to the book might be that it will be a bit technical for some. It seems clear that Smith is aiming for an audience that is somewhat educated and willing to think more broadly. I can’t imagine handing this book to many people in church and expecting them to be fully convinced. It would take much more than is here and a lot of pastoral interaction. And perhaps that is for whom this books is best suited; those in teaching and preaching ministries. Hopefully they will read Smith and begin reversing the tide of Biblicism in America and beyond.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Book Giveaway Winner!

Congrats to Jeff Slater! He is the winner of this week's giveaway.

Jeff, you have five days to claim your prize or it goes back on the shelf.

Didn't win this time? Check back for future Friday giveaways.