Origin of the word “Protestant”

On church history:

Back in Luther’s time, Germany was ruled by princes, both Lutheran and Roman Catholic. If Charles V, the Roman Emperor, had his way, he would have forced all of Germany, including all of Europe, to remain Roman Catholic. Six of the princes who ruled Germany had already converted to Luther’s view, including its 14 Free Imperial cities. They considered themselves Evangelicals or Lutherans (or followers of Luther).

Charles V gave to order (Edict of Worms) to enforce all the German lands to remain Roman Catholic But thank God those six Lutheran princes courageously stood together, united and strong, and refused to accept this rule. They protested, made their case to demand that Lutheran lands should be free to remain Lutheran, and where the prince was Roman Catholic, that state may remain Catholic.

Then, on April 29, 1529, the six princes declared to Charles V:

“We protest before God and before men that we and our people will not agree to anything in this decree that is contrary to God, to His Holy Word, to our right conscience, and to the salvation of our souls.”

Charles V could do nothing because the princes stood up in unity for religious freedom. From then on, they were known as the Protestors or the Protestants.

Mediating translation comparison #5: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – Matthew 10:24, 28

So once again… the comparison series between mediating translations continues with Matthew, ch. 10.

Matt. 10:24—student vs disciple; servant vs slave

are not above their teacher, nor servants above their master. It is enough for students to be like their teacher, and servants like their master.

A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master. It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master.

No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master.

is not superior to teacher, nor slave to master. It is enough for disciple to grow to be like teacher, and slave like master.

v.24: in TNIV’s gender-inclusive change from “his master” to “their master”, translators have changed the singular “student” to plural form. This alteration from the original is not the best. I prefer NJB rendering. From a gender-inclusive perspective, the NJB does a slick job of avoiding the use of “his” and “their” altogether. I prefer the NJB rendering because there is no change from singular to plural; moreover, it uses “slave” instead of “servant”. The NLT’s provides a fair rendering: “A student is not greater than the teacher. A servant is not greater than the master” but the NRSV provides an excellent rendering of the same verse too.

Furthermore, in today’s context, “disciple” has the connotation of discipleship and discipline, whereas, today’s use of “student” can carry the connotation of an immature high school or elementary school student. Does the average high school student strive to become like one’s teacher? I think not.

Matt. 10:28b—Gehenna vs hell

Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

Rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

v.28: The NAB provides an interesting translation of the word γεέννα (Gehenna, hell). I have wondered why our translations use the word “hell” instead of Gehenna. Young’s Literal Translation, World English Bible and Weymouth N.T. also use Gehenna. This likely comes from Ghi-Hinnom, or valley of Hinnom from Jeremiah 7:31 and 2 Chron. 28:3 was a place where people were sacrificed in a fire:

They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire–something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call it Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter, for they will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room. (Jer. 7:31, TNIV)

Gehenna, then, was a place where God’s enemies lie dead outside the walls of the New Jerusalem. Corpses, refuse and garbage were thrown in the Valley of Hinnom outside the city, where huge fires burned constantly. The imagery of Isaiah also adds to how we view hell:

And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the people who have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. (Isa. 66:24, NRSV)

If we render the word “Gehenna”, we risk not understanding that hell is an actual realm within our understanding of heaven and hell. Jesus described hell as a place of torment in Mark 9:45-48. If we use “hell”, we risk not understanding the origins of the word. I don’t have a preference. I think I’m torn between the use of both words.

Charismatic movement: God’s Spirit on the move today

Recently, Peter Kirk has stepped-up his blogging at Gentle Wisdom about charismatic issues, particularly about Todd Bentley’s ministry; and John Hobbins and David Ker have also blogged a bit about charismatic issues. Perhaps this was sparked by Pentecost Sunday. I’m glad someone is blogging about what is going on around the charismatic world.

Apparently, there is a spiritual revival happening at Lakeland, Florida with Todd Bentley’s ministry, and also in Dudley, England. I’m not familiar with what’s been going on in Dudley, England and Brownsville at Pensacola, Florida, but I have personally been a part of the Toronto Blessing at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. I have also heard Todd Bentley speak and experienced his ministry two times. The charismatic movement has been gaining momentum and is roaring full steam ahead in the world and is making an impact for God’s kingdom. There is a definite spiritual revival. God’s Spirit is leading many people to Christ and into a deeper relationship with Christ.

I recall my own experience with God the Holy Spirit. It was at summer camp at a Pentecostal church during my teenage years when I felt the fire of God flow through me. It was nothing like I had ever experienced before. I felt completely flooded with a joy. As a teenager, I felt for the first time, God’s holiness and my own human sinfulness, both at the same time. It was then that I realized how much of a sinner I was and how much Jesus loved me and how much I needed God’s forgiveness. The bible suddenly became a living reality to me and I no longer read it as a dry history book. I began to devour the word of God and read it with a passion and an understanding that the bible was the inspired word of God. I think this is where I got my passion for God’s word, even today. When I look back, I can say that it was a life changing experience because my faith was much stronger as a result of the infilling of God’s Spirit. The fruits resulting from this baptism by fire were life changing for me. I was transformed into a teenager who had doubts about God’s reality into one who was unashamedly a Christ-follower.

All though I am a charismatic, I am not a follower of the prosperity gospel. I do feel that there is error in this prosperity teaching. Some Christians get blinded by the teaching that God only brings prosperity and that persecution is somehow ungodly and unspiritual. This is a wrong understanding of prosperity and blessing. I believe that God has promised believers blessings but I believe it is blessings of a different type. God’s blessing is an inner blessing, as well as, an external blessing. God’s blessings also come in the midst of happiness and adversity. God’s blessings also come in the midst of joy and persecution for keeping one’s faith in Christ. The early church would have understood this very intimately. The church in revival in Asia and Africa understands God’s blessings but Christians there also understand how it feels to be tortured, ridiculed, and treated unjustly for their faith in Christ.

In spite of some false understanding and theology in the charismatic movement, there is a great moving of the Holy Spirit around the world that is unprecedented. Millions more are being drawn to Christ through the calling of God’s Holy Spirit. The charisms (gifts) of Holy Spirit are being given to believers to edify, strengthen, and bring healing to believers. It is for the extension of the reign of God on earth.

I have wanted to share this aspect of my Christian life publicly on this blog for a long time but did not know how to approach this. I want to thank other biblical bloggers who have blogged about this subject. It has motivated me to make this a more public part of my life.

May is a disastrous month: China and Myanmar

Since I have been out of town for the last 1 ½ weeks I feel like I have been out of touch with some of the harsh realities that has been happening in the world. I recently heard about the huge earthquake (7.9 on the Richter scale) that happened in the Province of Sichuan, China killing 80,000 people, and the disastrous cyclone in Myanmar that killed 134,000 people. That’s over 200,000 killed by natural disaster this month alone. Ouch!

Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and the BGEA, was in China when the quake hit. He just happened to be in China at the time due to a speaking engagement at a seminary and visitation to official government-sanctioned churches. Christianity Today has an interesting article about his experience there.

It is good to see Christian relief agencies like Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision, etc. getting involved to help people in need around the world. It is good that China has asked for some help. There was a time when they did not. Myanmar has just realized that they need help from outside. I wonder how much help relief agencies and short-term relief missions really help? Or do they just get in the way of the local people and government?

The damage to China’s water source, electricity and roads, and other infrastructures is massive. China will likely recover more quickly than Myanmar because of better organization. I just hope and pray that the family members of survivors will be able to find help.

Blog notes: I will get back on track and continue with Mediating Translation Comparison #5.

I have been reading some of the other biblical blogs in the blogosphere and really liked what some have been doing lately: Suzanne McCarthy and David Ker at Better Bibles Blog.

TCR is a little frustrated with the TNIV and is considering the NET Bible. He also hinted I should do a comparison between the NET and TNIV. I may consider this for the future.

Mediating translation comparison #4: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – Acts 2:11, 17-18

The comparison series between mediating translations continues with the rest of Acts, ch.2

Acts 2:11

(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs–we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–we hear them speaking in our own languages the magnificent acts of God.”

both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

Jews and proselytes alike-Cretans and Arabs, we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’

v.11a: The HCSB directly renders προσηλυτοι (prosēlutoi) as proselytes. The TNIV and NAB chose to render it as converts.” “Converts” is easier to understand than “proselytes.” It then tags on “to Judaism” to add clarity. Not everyone understands the meaning of the word “proselytes” because it is an insider’s term; moreover, it may also be a little outdated. I prefer the TNIV and NAB rendering of “converts to Judaism.

v.11b: μεγαλεος (megaleios) is defined as magnificent, excellent, splendid, wonderful, or mighty works. Where the Greek says: ta megaleia tou theou, the HCSB and NAB renders this as “acts of God.” The Greek includes the“magnificence of God and his works. Traditionally translations have rendered megaleios to include only the deeds, works or acts of God but not the magnificence of God himself. Current renderings like “wonders of God” (TNIV) or “marvels of God”(NJB), “might works” (ESV) is still missing the expression of God’s own magnificence. This shows the limits of the English language to include a multiplicity of meanings in a word. For megaleios, I would even suggest some alternate renderings of: “magnificence of God and God’s wonderful works,” or “greatness of God and God’s marvelous doings”. Perhaps someone others can suggest alternate renderings.

Acts 2:17

‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.

‘It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.

In the last days-the Lord declares-I shall pour out my Spirit on all humanity. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young people shall see visions, your old people dream dreams.

v.17: it is interesting the NAB would render this as “pour out as a portion.” The word for “portion” is not in the original Greek. This implies that God only pours out some of his Spirit, rather than all, upon human flesh. It also connotes the idea that God’s Spirit given to humanity is only part of the experience in God. Perhaps this rendering lends itself better to Roman Catholic theology of the Eucharist or Holy Communion, in which a portion of God’s Spirit is present in the bread and wine. For this verse, I prefer the HCSB and NJB’s rendering because it implies that all of God’s Spirit is poured out upon human flesh in the last days at Pentecost.

v.17: the Greek also uses σρξ (sarx, flesh) but only the NAB renders sarx literally as flesh. However, for a mediating translation philosophy, I prefer to go with “humanity” (HCSB) because this connotes the inclusion of human flesh. This is more accurate but just as easy to understand as “people” (TNIV) and “everyone” (ISV).

Acts 2:18

Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

I will even pour out My Spirit on My male and female slaves in those days, and they will prophesy.

Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy.

Even on the slaves, men and women, shall I pour out my Spirit.

v.18: In the original Greek, the literal rendering is “upon the male slaves of mine upon the female slaves of mine.” The word δολος (doulos) means bondslave. A bondslave is bound to one’s master or owner. A servant is different from a bondslave because one is not bound to serve one’s master. The word δικονος (diakonos) is the proper word for servant. The proper translation for doulos is rendered in the HCSB, NJB and ISV. 

Mediating translation comparison #3: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – Acts 2:3-4

The comparison series between mediating translations continues with the Acts of the Apostles, ch.2, the passage that deals with the birth of the church, and is in the spirit of Pentecost Sunday. It is also an admired passage for pentecostals and charismatics. (Note, the season of Pentecost, May 11 – July 27, is a part of the liturgical calendar of many mainline church denominations, including Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Orthodox).

Acts 2:3

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them.

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

and there appeared to them tongues as of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them.

v.3: διαμερζω (diamerizō) means: to distribute, divide up, separate. It means that something is split, or separated into parts, or divided out to each person from a common source. I do not think that what they saw was a physical formation of cloven flames of fire (KJV). “Flames of fire” (HCSB, ISV) seems to make little sense; but rather, “tongues of fire” makes better sense (as I will explain later).

The rendering of “tongues of fire” leads me to draw a hypothesis. If tongues also means language, I leads me to wonder how a language could be physically divided up. I’m beginning to suspect that what they saw was a distribution of the gift of languages to each person there. It would make better sense that it was the Holy Spirit’s charism of ecstatic utterance being distributed or divided out to each of the recipients. Therefore, what they heard on the Day of Pentecost might have sounded like “languages of fire”. This rendering would be a better description of ecstatic utterances of what we know to be “speaking in tongues.” The charism of language (or glossalia), might have sounded like “languages of fire” to the writer of Acts. If so, perhaps this was what the writer was trying to express when he heard ecstatic utterances or ecstatic proclamation being spoken in so many languages or tongues. An alternate translation I provide is:

They saw languages, as of fire, being distributed and resting on each of them.”

Acts 2:4

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech.

And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak different languages as the Spirit gave them power to express themselves.

v.4a: The HCSB, NJB and ISV’s use of “different languages” is the contemporary definition of tongues. It was the various languages that were spoken when the Spirit filled the believers in Jerusalem. Tongue is also an organ of speech but when used in the context of Acts 2, “language(s)” is much easier to understand.

v.4b: At the end of this verse, the original Greek has αποφθεγγεσθαι (apophthengomai , utterance), which can mean: to speak out, speak forth, pronounce, or even to utter one’s opinion. The TNIV does not translate apophthengomai, perhaps to reduce a seemingly redundant idea (however, I do not think it is redundant). The HCSB renders this: “as the Spirit gave them ability for speech.” The NJB rendering of to express themselves” assumes that Holy Spirits utterance is of ones opinion. The NRSV and NLT also renders it as an ability. I disagree with these renderings because glossalia is a charism or gift of the Holy Spirit. It is not a natural ability, or an utterance of one’s personal opinion, but rather, it is suppose to be the utterance of what the Holy Spirit proclaims, speaks or utters through the believer. The RSV/ESV uses “utterance”. I feel the NAB’s rendering of: “as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim may be more accurate. I prefer the NAB’s rendering of to proclaim” because glossalia is the Spirits charism of proclaiming or speaking Gods word.

Also see related posts on mediating translation comparison—TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB: The search begins || #1: Romans 4 || #2: John 20 || #3: Acts 2 || #4: Acts 2b || #5: Matt. 10 || A Conclusion

How reliable are paraphrases?

I have pondered whether to get a Message bible. I had a Message New Testament but got rid of it and do not plan to get one in the near future. When I preach, I rarely quote from the Message or the Living Bible. And upon hearing a verse or passage quoted from the Message, I might suddenly get the feeling that something is wrong. When this happens, I will go to one of my trusty translations, NRSV, ESV or TNIV. The difference can sometimes be shocking. Sometimes, the whole idea of the verse has been completely changed. The purpose of paraphrases is to render a hard-to-understand verse more understandable and still remain accurate. Sometimes, in paraphrases, accuracy gets thrown out the for the sake of trying to be contemporary as possible. When accuracy is discarded, reliable is gone too.

Personally, I think many of us have a pretty big tolerance for what can be considered as reliable. As far as gender-accuracy or gender-neutrality is concerned: the difference between “brothers” versus “brothers and sisters” is minimal. I still consider both reliable. I would also consider both “fallen asleep” and “dead” as accurate. Where I draw the line is a complete change in idea. Let’s take a passage from The Message with the theme of food.

Isaiah 29:8

Like a hungry man dreaming he’s eating steak and wakes up hungry as ever, Like a thirsty woman dreaming she’s drinking iced tea and wakes up thirsty as ever, So that mob of nations at war against Mount Zion will wake up and find they haven’t shot an arrow, haven’t killed a single soul.

as when hungry people dream they are eating, but they awaken, and their hunger remains; as when thirsty people dream they are drinking, but they awaken faint, with their thirst unquenched. So will it be with the hordes of all the nations that fight against Mount Zion.

Where in the world did “steak” and “ice tea” come from?

The usefulness of paraphrases is debatable. It is useful for those who have absolutely no understanding of biblical language (or Christianese). Paraphrases can easily lead one into confusion and a dumbing-down in Christian theology. I can tolerate almost any difference in other translations but this is an example of where I draw the line.

Mediating translation comparison #2: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – John 20:23-24,31

The comparison series between mediating translations continues with the gospel of John, ch. 20. This time, I’ve included the New Jerusalem Bible in the table.

John 20:23

If you forgive the sins of anyone, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.

If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.

v.23—This verse is somewhat of a mystery for many Christians, especially for Protestants. The Roman Catholic Church has understood this to mean that Jesus gave the apostles the authority to absolve one’s sins, and it is continued through apostolic succession. To support this view, the Catholic Church has also used parallel verses of Matt. 16:19 and 18:18: “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” However, I do not think the context of these verses suggests the idea of forgiveness and absolution of sins.

In the Greek, κρατω ((krateō, retain) means to hold, to have power or rule over, to have and hold in one’s power, or to be master of.

  • the Greek says: ἄν τινων κρατῆτε κεκράτηνται (an tinōn kratēte, kekratēntai).
  • a literal translation of this is: “of whomever you hold they have been held.”
  • TNIV says: “if do not forgive them, they are not forgiven”
  • HCSB says: “if you retain the sins of any, they are retained
  • The NAB and NJB are similar.

However, to intentionally retain the sins of someone, or to harbor unforgiveness, would seem contradictory to the principles of what Jesus’ taught about forgiveness.

“For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt.6:12-13, TNIV).

Wayne Jackson of Christian Courier has another interesting interpretation:

“Those whose sins you forgive, have already been forgiven; those whose sins you do not forgive, have not already been forgiven.”

The first verbs in the two clauses are aorist tense forms, while the second verbs are in the perfect tense. The perfect tense verbs imply an abiding state which commenced before the action of the aorists. In other words, the apostles (and others since that time) were only authorized to declare forgiveness consistent with what the Lord had already determined.”

Jackson’s interpretation would fit nicely in Protestant theology. I have another interpretation for John 20:23, which flows in the same line of thought as Matt.6:12-13.

If you forgive the sins of any, yours are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, yours are retained.”

John 20:24

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.

But one of the Twelve, Thomas (called “Twin“), was not with them when Jesus came.

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

v.24—The definition of Δίδυμος (Didumos) is twin. The TNIV and NAB went with “Didymus,” but the HCSB, NJB, and the NRSV and ISV render this as “twin,” which is my preference. Some say that Didymus was Thomas’ last name, and even if it was his last name, I would still prefer “twin” since Didymus is not a household name.

John 20:31

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.

But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

v.31—the TNIV has changed Χριστὸς (christos, anointed one) to Messiah from the NIV’s “Christ.” The NJB and NET bible uses “Christ.” Both are correct but “Christ,” which originates from the Greek, is so commonly used by Christians today that we have almost taken “Christ” to be Jesus’ last name without knowing its real meaning. Some who are biblically illiterate might even mistake it to be his last name. I prefer the use of “Messiah” because this carries with it a sense of an expected and anointed One who is to return.