“Simplicity” in 2 Corinthians 1:12

It’s not uncommon for me, using the New American Standard Bible, to run into interesting discrepancies between translations in a church that primarily uses the New International Version.  Today in Sunday School was such a time.  Today’s teacher read 2 Corinthians 1:12 in the New King James Version:

For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.

It caught my eye, because the NASB translates the underlined as holiness and godly sincerity.

Naturally, I couldn’t let it go.  So I checked the different versions:

ESV: simplicity and godly sincerity (footnote: some manuscripts read holiness)
HCSB: God-given sincerity and purity
KJV: simplicity and godly sincerity
NET: pure motives and sincerity which are from God
NIV: integrity and godly sincerity
NLT: God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings (footnote: some manuscripts read honesty)
Pickering: openness and godly sincerity

Simplicity — holiness — simplicity — purity — simplicity — pure motives — integrity — holiness — openness.  This, my friends, is hardly unanimity!  So to the Greek we turn!

Nestle-Aland 27 — απλοτητι (Side note: if anyone wishes to purchase the 28th edition for me, Christmas *is* around the corner!)
Hodges & Farstad — απλοτητι
Robinson & Pierpont — απλοτητι
Pickering — απλοτητι

Now (well, for now) we have a unified voice in haploteti.  As we look in the Greek lexicon BDAG, we have definitions of simplicity, sincerity, uprightness, and frankness.  They add: “In our literature, especially of personal integrity expressed in word or action (compare with our colloquialism ‘what you see is what you get’)… Of simple goodness, which gives itself without reserve, ‘without strings attached,’ ‘without hidden agendas'” (p. 104).

At this point, we have two questions:

First, since simplicity is the correct word, what is meant by it?

Second, how did holiness creep in to NASB and NLT?

Tackling the first question, the simplicity here is not how we live life (vis-a-vis free of distractions, appointments, and material possessions).  Taking the context into account, it’s a frankness, a purity in Paul’s message.

The word occurs seven other times, three of which are relevant to our current study:

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be seduced from a complete and pure devotion to Christ.

Ephesians 6:5 Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ.

Colossians 3:22 Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.

We get this idea of purity, openness, and earnestness.  We need to be asking the Spirit to search our hearts and point out when and where we are teaching the Word of God for our own gain.  We need to teach and preach with an attitude of, as the lexicon says, what you see is what you get, without strings attached.

What about the second question?  (Prepare to be bored.)

The Byzantine Text is unified in its reading of απλοτητι.  It also has the support of a correction in an early Alexandrian manuscript (א), as well as the three big Western Texts (D, F, and G).  But, the greater number of Alexandrian manuscripts (P46, A, B, C, 33, 1881, et al) all read αγιοτητι, or holiness.  In fact, Nestle-Aland 26 utilized the latter reading, which is why the NASB and the NLT translated the word holiness, and the ESV desperately wanted to.  (There was also a real outlier, the 12th century minuscule 88, which read πραοτητι, or gentleness.)

Of the decision for NA27, Metzger writes:  “[A] majority of the Committee favored the Western and Byzantine reading because (a) the context seems to require a word meaning ‘simplicity’ rather than ‘holiness;’ (b) the word [for simplicity] occurs a number of times in 2 Corinthians; and (c) [this specific word for holiness] is never used elsewhere by Paul” (p. 507).

And there you have it.

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“sick” in James 5:14-15…

Part of my job in teaching Greek goes beyond teaching them the logistics of syntax and parsing — it is instructing them in becoming good translators.  If their knowledge only takes them as far as word studies and piecing together sentences, I’ve failed to raise them to become competent Greek scholars.  Translation is a fine art, and one that is quite subjective.  Everyone has their preferences.  On Monday, we were translating 1 John 4, when they came across the word ιλασμος (hilasmos).  We had a brief discussion on whether to translate it propitiation (which I prefer), expiation, sacrifice, or (as the lame NIV translates it) atoning sacrifice.  At the end of our discussion, I said no matter how they chose to translate it, it absolutely must be the same word or phrase that they used in 1 John 2:2.  Our job as translators is to bring clarity in uniformity and distinction, where each is appropriate.

Yesterday, I was studying with a friend, and we came across the following question:

Explain James 5:13-18 and its application.

Verses 14-15 read as follows in the NASB:

14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

Here’s how other translations render the underlined words:

ESV – sick… sick…
HCSB – sick… sick…
NIV – sick… sick…
NKJV – sick… sick…
NLT – sick… sick…

What’s the implication here?  What does this lead the great majority of Bible-readers to conclude?

First, they erroneously conclude that these verses deal with the spiritual leaders of the church being able to heal the symptoms of physical ailments.

Second, regardless of the accuracy of the interpretation, they subconsciously assume that the same word is used in both instances, when it’s not.  It’s a translation boo-boo of significant magnitude; and how the two words were translated identically in all the versions is beyond me.  Of all main English translations, only the NET makes a distinction – ill… sick…

As we translate in class, I impress upon my students several axioms, two of which being:

  • Identical words used in the same work (let alone the immediate context) should always be translated identically.  I would actually go so far to say that significant words (such as ιλασμος) should be translated identically across the entire New Testament.
  • Distinguishable words used in the same work (let alone the immediate context) should always be translated distinctly.  Perhaps if the translations used two separate words (or, in the case of James 5, used the more common definitions of weak and weary), there would not be such misunderstanding and misinterpreting occurring.

One of my professors in college, John Master, once said, knowing Greek answers many questions that English-only readers wrestle with.  Knowledge of Greek comes with its own share of questions, but the questions are the better, more necessary questions to have (my apologies to John Master for the paraphrase).  Here’s to the harder questions!

Coke, Pepsi, and the Gospel

Coke or Pepsi?  It’s a simple question really.  If sitting before you were a can of Coke and a can of Pepsi, which would you open and drink?

I suppose an even better question would be, are you free to choose either Coke or Pepsi?  In other words, do you have free will, or is your choice predetermined?

I confess to you that I do not have free will to choose Coke or Pepsi.  When faced with a “choice” between Coke and Pepsi, I will always choose Coke.  I cannot do otherwise — it tastes infinitely better!  And I will always choose what I desire most.  And that means I will always choose Coke.

Ah, but you may say, I can choose Pepsi in order to prove that I will not always choose Coke.  Yet, this does nothing but prove my point, as I am still, at that moment, choosing that which I desire the most.  But now, my desire to attempt to deny a basic philosophical tenet is stronger than my desire to drink something that tastes better.

It doesn’t matter what your reasoning is.  It could be craving a certain taste, looking to cut calories wherever possible, or perhaps it is the only drink available (in which case you are still making the decision to drink Pepsi instead of going thristy), I guarantee that you will always choose that which you desire the most — and in that sense, you do not have free will, and your choice has been determined by outside circumstances.

There are exceptionally few philosophical or theological conversations that are more sensative and volatile than the notion of free will.  Yet, when we look at it in simple terms of Coke and Pepsi, it becomes a rather simple and straightforward matter.

Can it bridge the analogical gap to the Gospel and our response to it, though?  I believe it does!

Think of it.  We always choose that which we desire most.  As you go throughout the day today, think about what you decide to eat, how you choose to spend your time, and with whom you converse.  I guarantee that you always choose that which is higher up on your scale of values.  You may not want to watch six hours of kids’ television programs, but you prefer it over your child bouncing off the walls, distracting you at every moment.  You may not want to eat macaroni and cheese for dinner, but you do not want even more to overdraw your checking account for six ounces of filet mignon.

Bridge the gap to the Gospel.  What does the Bible say is our natural born relationship with, and response to, God?

There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.  Romans 3:10-12

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly… God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us… If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son…  Romans 5:6, 8, 10

You were dead in your trespasses and sins…  Ephesians 2:1

The Word of God makes it clear that our natural inclination towards God is not a favorable one.  No one seeks after God.  Period.  Paul does not put an asterisk after “none” so as to introduce a caveat.  We were enemies with God until He initiated the act of reconciliation (also cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19).  We were dead in our sinful state.

I could list more Scripture, but even one passage is enough to establish a doctrine as divine.  Just as our wills are not free to choose Pepsi or Coke without outside circumstances, so we are not free to choose Christ without some external stimulus, which is the Spirit Himself.

Perhaps at a later time I could further draw out the implications for every day life, in case the Coke/Pepsi dichotomy proves insufficient, but suffice it to say that I believe each and every decision we made is, in some way, predetermined.  Whether that predetermination begins and ends solely with our desires, or whether God ordains it all (or perhaps some inquantifiable percentage in between), would certainly be the topic of a future post.

But for now, my goal was first to bring this theological and philosophical hot topic into the realm of every day life.

on circumcision…

Disclaimer #1 — Yes, this is a post on circumcision.  Yes, I will be talking about the penis.

Disclaimer #2 — This is in no way a response or critique of those that have decided to have their sons circumcised.  It is a personal decision that is deserving of mutual respect and annihilation of ignorance.

When you find out that you’re going to be a father, you realize that there are a myriad of decisions that need to be made, some major, some incidental.  I already posted on one of those decisions — vaccines.  Laura and I also mutually decided that we would want to homeschool, even though I had never, ever, thought I would want to, having been a product of an excellent public school education.  On January 19, 2011, when we found out that we would be having a son, another decision we had to make was whether or not to have him circumcised.

At first, Laura wasn’t sure why I would want to leave him intact; after all, it has become the “norm” to have boys circumcised.  We discussed it, I researched it, and sure enough, one of the first questions the nurse asked (even before Laura was out of recovery) was whether or not he’d be circumcised.  And I said “no.”  Over the next few days, as people visited, some even asked, “Has he been circumcised yet?”  Or, “When does he get circumcised?”  One curious friend (one of my best, I might add) called a few weeks before and bluntly asked, “Tell me you’re gonna have him circumcised, right?”

It was at that point that I laid out my reasoning to him why, in fact, we would leave him intact.  For those of you that are curious yourself, or have already given Laura an earful, or think that I’m crazy, I’d like to give you my thoughts on the matter, arguing from the perspective of the reasons people give for circumcising.

First, the argument from religion: “God commands it.”  Actually, no.  In the beginning, God created man with a foreskin.  It was a part of His original design.  It wasn’t until Gen 17:9-14 that God commands Abraham and his male descendants to be circumcised as sign of the covenant between Himself and Abraham.  Circumcision was there to remind the nation of Israel that if they do not follow God’s Law, they will be cut off from the blessings of God’s people just as their foreskin was cut off.  Talk about a vivid illustration!  Today, ever since the death of the Son and the giving of the Spirit, Israel is no longer God’s premier entity on Earth, the Church is.  The Church does not have the same relationship to God as Israel did, nor do we have the same set of rules — which includes circumcision.  In fact, Paul goes to great, extensive lengths to deny the necessity of circumcision (1 Cor 7:18-19; Gal 2:3-5).  Now Paul talks about the inward circumcision of the heart (Rom 2:29).  Paul goes toe to toe with Peter in Acts 15 to discuss the matter, an argument Paul ends up winning.  To say that we should be circumcising today based upon the Bible is, quite frankly, to be ignorant of Scripture.

Second, the argument for hygiene:  “Do you know how dirty the foreskin is?”  I’d imagine that it does indeed get dirty.  So does the circumcised penis.  Do we cut our ears off because they get crusty behind them?  Do we pull out our teeth because they have many cracks and crevices for bacteria to grow?  No!  We wash behind our ears.  We floss and brush our teeth.  Regardless of whether a guy is intact or circumcised, they are going to have to clean their penis.  Either way, if it is not regularly washed, it’s going to smell, just like every other body part.  I think a better case can be made that it is more hygienic to be intact.  The foreskin is meant to protect the glans and, for the first ten years (on average), is fused to it.  Parents don’t have to worry about feces getting in contact with the glans as circumcised boys do.

I’ve also been told horror stories by friends who had other friends whose mothers would forcibly retract their foreskin and scrub it so hard it hurt.  But how is this an argument against circumcision?  Let me be clear: I have no plans of ever retracting my son’s foreskin.  He will be the first one to do so, and he will be the only one to do so.  I will instruct him as to proper care, just as we will with brushing his teeth, washing between his toes, and wiping his butt after he goes to the bathroom.  There is no hygienic difference.*  In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out and said there is absolutely no medical reason to circumcise.  (Although they still see no problem with injecting our babies with toxic and animal products.)

Third, the argument from societal pressure:  “Don’t you want him to look like every other boy/you?”  Actually, the rate of leaving boys intact in the United States has risen dramatically the past two decades.  We’re one of the few countries in the world that still has a high circumcision rate.  In addition, I don’t know how often my son will see other men’s penises.  I would hope it would not be a regular occurrence that other men are noticing, especially since we’ll be homeschooling (let alone kids haven’t showered after gym class for decades now).  I plan on educating my son that it’s nothing to be ashamed of; indeed, he’s the way God originally created man.  If anything, it’s up to other men to teach their sons that there is nothing wrong with their friend who still has his foreskin, and to not perpetuate the ignorance that they themselves have.

Fourth, the argument from its resurgence in America.  When the pediatrician came to the hospital to examine Daniel, he had asked us about circumcision, as well.  When we told him that we were going to leave him intact, he breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Oh good.  The whole reason why it became popular in America, anyway, was to curb masturbation.”  I got a good chuckle out of that one.  Not to be crass, but ask any circumcised guy if it curbed his desire to masturbate.  Between that and his support of our vaccine decision, we would have so gone to Dr. O’Croinin with the Pediatric Group if Kaiser accepted them.  We loved Dr. O’Croinin.

Fifth, it’s not my body.  I will not make that decision for my son.  Yes, by the time he is old enough to make that decision, the procedure would be far more painful and recovery time far longer.  But it’s not my decision.  I’ve had friends that have had their sons circumcised, but they couldn’t bear to watch the procedure.  For me, if I can’t watch a medically unnecessary procedure because of the empathetic pain, perhaps it isn’t necessary.

Dr. Sears has an EXCELLENT little blog on the matter.  Some are the same reasons I gave here.  You can find it here.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask me and we can talk about it.  It was ultimately my decision, as Laura deferred to my judgment on the matter since I’m the father.  I’m not on a crusade to convince fathers otherwise, but to shed light on the issue so that we aren’t circumcising our sons “just because.”

*Perhaps the case could be made that God commanded it because it was hygienic — that it was part of the laws of cleanliness, and not part of the ceremonial law.  The Bible does not say either way, but I felt it worth noting so that the charge could not be leveled against me that I didn’t take that under consideration.  I did.  Thanks.

James 4:11-12 – a challenge

Do not talk bad about one another, brothers.  The one talking bad about a brother and judging his brother talks bad about the law and judges the law.  And if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge [of it].  There is One Lawgiver who is able to deliver or destroy.  But you, who are you who judges another?
James 4:11-12

This concept has been on my mind a lot recently, and this summer has given me ample opportunity to meditate on some biblical principles that God’s been impressing upon my heart, mostly with regard to how I use my words.  With the start of another school year approaching, and taking into account my position as Resident Director, I want to issue this challenge to every believer out there, but especially to those of us living in the WBC community.

The question is: Why do we feel the need to talk bad about one another? 

Whether we are gossiping (derogatory information about someone that is stated in a tone of confidentiality), criticizing and complaining about the decisions and actions of others, or simply talking trash behind others’ backs, it’s not good!  The only positive outcome that I could think of is that we feel better about our own shortcomings when we exploit the failures, sins, and poor decisions of another.  It’s easier to talk about the issues of someone else who is not in the room, then be open, honest, and sincere about our own issues.  It’s easier to tear down than to encourage and build up a fellow believer.

James says that the one who talks bad about another believer is judging them, and that’s not our place!  That’s not to say that we don’t confront people if they’re caught in some shifty behavior, but we are to do it in a humble spirit of restoration.  Whether or not the person decides to change is dependent upon the grace of God working in their lives!  After we’ve done our job and pointed out the issue (in a healthy way), we can rest assured we’ve done our part!  What good is causing more negativity and animosity amongst our community by talking bad about others?  None!  When we judge our fellow believers, we are attempting to do God’s duty, and that’s not our place!

The challenge is simply this: Don’t talk bad about each other!  If you have an issue with the way someone is (or isn’t) doing something, take it up with them.  After that, be the better person (assuming that person is wrong to begin with) and walk away.  Don’t stir up trouble, don’t rally the troops, and don’t make yourself guilty by refusing to follow this very straight-forward command.

If you see me using my speech to tear others down, call me out on it.  And for those of you who are in the WBC community, particularly my residential students, expect me (and your RCLs) to call you out on it, too (hopefully in a loving way)!  I’m so pumped about this coming school year, and the potential that we have as a small residential community to encourage one another to grow and mature in Christ.  James 3:2 says: For we all stumble in many ways, if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.  Are we going to be perfect?  No, and I don’t expect us to be!  But that doesn’t mean that we are excused from taking these steps to bring our lives more in line with God’s will!  Can’t wait to see you all in a couple weeks!

on Bible versions…

In November, a new magazine began publication: “Bible Study Magazine,” which I’d imagine it has been underwritten by Logos, as every article is a shameless plug for the software.  Anyway, there was a whole stack of them at WBC today.  I wasn’t going to pick one up until I saw there was an article by Dan Wallace entitled “Choosing a Bible Translation.”  I eagerly checked it out and read it.  And I was greatly disappointed.

Concerning the KJV/NKJV, he writes: “Lest anyone wishes to revere it because it was ‘good enough for Jesus,’ or some such nonsense, we must remember that the KJV of today is not the KJV of 1611.  It has undergone three revisions, incorporating more than 100,000 changes.  Even with all these changes, much of the evidence from new manuscript discoveries has not been incorporated.  The KJV was translated from later manuscripts that are less accurate to the original text of the Bible.”

I am not a KJV/NKJV guy because it’s the KJV/NKJV.  I like the translation because it is the only one based upon the truer text of the NT, a text which Wallace believes is less accurate.  Read his last statement: “The KJV was translated from later manuscripts that are less accurate to the original text of the Bible.”  You could simply reword it to show how subjective this claim is: “The KJV was translated from the vast majority of agreeing manuscripts that better attest to the original text of the Bible” (a statement I heartily agree with).

That being said, if there were another available translation that used the overwhelming majority of Greek texts, I would probably prefer that one.  The NKJV only updated the language of the KJV, and only changed content where it blatantly needed changing.  So, yeh.  I hope to translate the NT at some point using the Majority Text.

The other translation that he pointed out that I wanted to mention is the NET Bible: “The NET Bible was published in 2005.  The NET has all the earmarks of a great translation.  At times, it is more accurate than the NASB, more readable than the NIV, and more elegant than either.  It is clear and eloquent, while maintaining the meaning of the original.  In addition, the notes are a genuine gold mine of information…”  Well, that’s all well and good until you realize two things.  First off, the NET Bible is basically the Bible translated by the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary, of which Wallace is a part.  Second, this translation was done by individuals, not a committee, as every other translation is.  This leads to ZERO oversight, and ZERO consistency between books.

Wallace recommends that every English-speaking believer own three translations: the RSV, NIV, and NET.

So, where do we go from here?  In translating, there is a tension that must be dealt with: do we go word for word aiming for accuracy, or do we go for meaning aiming for clarity?  Translations such as KJV, NKJV, and NASB go for the former, while the NIV and NLT go for the latter.  Some, such as the HCSB, are more balanced.  I would recommend three versions, as well; but contrary to Wallace, they would be: the NKJV, NASB, and HCSB.

NKJV – This is the best translation available using the most accurate Greek texts, but it still leaves a lot to be desired as it depends too much on the KJV.

NASB – Even though it is “wooden,” it is simply the most accurate, and is probably the best one to do serious study from (until a new Majority Text Bible is translated, in which case the NKJV and NASB can both be scratched).

HCSB – This ten-year-old version is the product of the Southern Baptist’s desire to own a Bible translation that they don’t need to pay royalties for.  It strikes a good balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought.  It is decidedly better than the NIV (I really loathe the NIV, in case you can’t tell – read The NIV Reconsidered by Zane Hodges to better understand why).  Though, to be fair, just as Wallace is biased of the NET, so also am I of the HCSB.  One of my Greek professors served as translator and editor of the NT (and translator of the OT), while one of my Hebrew professors served as translator and editor of the OT.

If you don’t know Greek, Hebrew, and Aramic, it is good to consult several translations in your studies.  Now you know my two cents.

james 2:1-13, part 2

If you actually complete the royal law, according to the Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well.  And if you show partiality, you produce sin, exposing yourself as a transgressor under the law.  For whoever keeps the whole law, and stumbles in one, he has become liable of it all.  For the one who says, “Do you commit adultery,” and he said, “Do not murder,” and if you commit adultery and murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.  Speak in this way and do things in this way, as through the law of freedom you are soon to be judged.  For judgment is merciless to the one who does not do mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James 2:8-13

Last night we looked at how we are to treat those that we might not necessarily look to treat well.  Instead of looking after the “poor,” we cater to the “rich” ones.  Although James is specifically talking about actual rich men who are looking out for their own well being, I think an extension can be made today to those people that we just want to cater to, which is what I tried to talk about last night!  The question then remains, why should we look after the poor in our congregations?

We should look after the poor and the neglected because we have been commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves.  If we don’t, we are guilty of breaking every other law — it’s as if we’ve murdered, it’s as if we committed adultery.  It’s amazing how finicky we get over those “big” sins, as if they are the end all be all sins of the highest order.  Granted, they are bad, but James says that neglecting the poor is just as bad!  We are just as culpable before God whether we kill someone or whether we show favoritism.  That should impact our lives in major ways!  I feel as though I need to pray over this passage a great deal and ask God to convict me of the ways that I am not loving my neighbor as myself.  How am I showing favoritism?  How do I show partiality to some people over others?

The third and final thing that James discusses is mercy and judgment.  If we show partiality, and thereby break the royal law, we will soon be judged.  Many times, we are hesitant to talk about believers coming into judgment because we want to focus on having eternal life.  After all, doesn’t Paul say that there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus?  But on the other hand, doesn’t Paul discuss a judgment seat which all believers must face?  What is at stake at the judgment seat is not whether or not we have eternal life, but that we are judged based on what we as believers do with what we are given.  In this case, if we are neglecting people by not showing mercy to them, we will be judged mercilessly.  James is saying here that showing mercy is a sure fire way of finding mercy on that day of judgment.  Evidently our rewards and rulership privileges are determined in part based upon the mercy that we show others.

We must constantly be asking ourselves if we are showing mercy the way we ought to be: are we playing favorites with people for whatever reason?  Are we therefore not fulfilling the law to love one another as we love ourselves?  If so, we will be judged for it!  We will experience a loss of blessing, and as we will see in a day or so, our lives are worthless!  We’ve been given eternal life so that we may act upon it positively, not so we can become judges with evil motives!