Reformation Day – October 31

Thanks to Stan McCullers who informed us about the offer of a genuine leather ESV Reformation Study Bible for a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. Offer good till Nov.2.

Ligonier Ministries – Renewing Your Mind has some good audio programs:
Making of the Protestant Reformation (Pt. 1)
Making of the Protestant Reformation (Pt. 2)

Below, the first video is also about the history of the Reformation.
The second video is about why the Reformation matters (Calvinist perspective)

October 31 is Reformation Day–not just Halloween

October 31 reminds most of Halloween and of ghosts, goblins and kids dressed in costumes wandering through the streets on Halloween “trick or treating,” but most people know little about what October 31 means to the church. It means much more. For Protestants, October 31 is a very special date because it marks the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his famous ninety-five theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany (pictured here).

When the Reformation began in Germany, Dr. Rev. Martin Luther was a Catholic priest and theologian who only wanted to see the beloved church reform some of the ways it looked and practiced theology. The Church has gone astray because it began to attach a price to the salvation of souls. It taught people that paying for indulgences would earn them and their family a shorter stay in purgatory. The Pope encouraged the sales of indulgences and would even issue a certificate by the church. Behind this was the goal of raising of funds to help pay for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

At the core, for Luther, was the issue of trusting in God’s righteousness rather than doing good works to earn God’s righteousness. Luther saw this doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone as central to the gospel. This most important theological truth was being freshly revealed to generations of Christians in the 16th century. Luther identified this truth as the head and cornerstone of our church’s doctrine, and even of the Church’s very existence. He was convinced of this truth and was determined to defend it, preach it, and teach it so that the world may know the truth and be set free from the enslavement and guilt of their sins.

This theological issue justification by grace through faith became a big controversy that eventually grew into a huge movement that went even beyond Lutheranism. It brought about a great reformation and birthed the Lutheran Church and other protestant churches around the world. As the church on earth today, we must continue to defend, to teach and preach this doctrine for the glory of God and for the salvation of all God’s people. (pic1: door of Castle Church; pic2: sale of indulgences in a church)

I, II, & III John: A Commentary. The New Testament Library by WJK

I, II, & III John: A Commentary. The New Testament Library.

Author: Judith M. Lieu.
Publisher: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008. pp. 336.
ISBN: 0664220983, 9780664220983

First, I’d like to thank the fine people at the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation for this review copy.

The New Testament Library published by Westminster John Knox Press has just newly released I, II, & III John: A Commentary. The author, Professor Dr. Judith M. Lieu, is a professor of Cambridge University’s Faculty of Divinity. She is also the editor of the journal New Testament Studies and is also the author of numerous books on early Christian identity.

Author Dr. Judith M. Lieu’s speaks about the historical aspect of these letters, as well as, the author, audience, and situation of the epistles’ setting. The introduction also covers the argument, style, and thought of the letters. The author’s question of the anonymity of the author leaves me wondering if it was written by the same person who wrote the Gospel of John; however, her analysis and comparison between the similarities of the Johannine corpus still leaves me leaning towards the corpus as being written by one and the same person, which is traditionally agreed upon.

Lieu’s introduction to the commentary makes use of the latest biblical scholarship. Her expertise on early Christian identity lends itself nicely in this commentary because she also looks at the early Christian church through the eyes of John and how its dynamics influenced John’s letters. Lieu states:
Although 1 John moves within a dualist worldview, it is a profoundly Jewish one; in many ways, like other early Christian literature, this is an apocalyptic interpretation of history and experience. The denigration of “the (or this) world” owes something to the contrast in apocalyptic thought with “the world (or age) to come,” although that concept is not used in the Johannine literature….1 John’s favorite term for the eruption into the world of the Son of God is the verb phaneroo, to “reveal” or “manifest”; it refers to the past but also to the anticipated future revelation (2:28; 3:2, 5, 8). The emergence of the antichrists is a spurious imitative manifestation (2:19), and, although probably experienced in terms of human schism and conflict, they are described in all the language of the eschatological denouement.” (p.22)

Her identification of a literary element of rhythmic style within the first letter of John opened my eyes to there being a possible hymn of love in chapter. I am not entire convinced of this but there is definitely is some repetition.

The letters have a dualistic worldview. Concerning this, Lieu states:
Most fundamentally this worldview is characterized by dualism between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, life and death, love and hatred; in the Gospel, but not in 1 John, there is a vertical dimension, above and below, and both writings set the (or this) world against that which is “not of the world.” (p.18)

The author agrees with the gender inclusive writing of the letters in using “brothers and sisters,” however, she realizes some difficulty in certain verses in stating:
While this may make the text more accessible to contemporary readers, it may also obscure the mindset of the earliest authors, who probably took for granted that priority of the masculine address….The associated image of strength and of victory over the evil one is apposite for the young male (neaniskos) but not for his coeval “sister.” Although it is unlikely that 1 John is addressed to an all-male community, such a reading would not be impossible.” (p.31).

Her scholarly assessment of the Epistles of John is quite in-depth and detailed. Going by a verse-by-verse exegetical format, she locates some of the difficult parts of the biblical text. For example, in 1 John 3:19-20, Lieu offers five alternative renderings based on the Greek text (p.155). In 1 John 4:9-10, the author also draws a parallel between this text and John 3:16-17. Lieu states:
Equally, while it is possible that the story of Abraham, the father who offered his only son, informed some other early Christian reflection on God’s giving of his Son (see Rom. 8:32), it is nowhere in view at this point in 1 John. These conclusions are reinforced by the verb “sent” (apostello). That Jesus is the Son sent by the Father, God, is axiomatic for the Fourth Gospel’s Christology…However, none of this can be read into 1 John; the three occurrences of the verb…are formulaic and do not invite further theological reflection.” (p.183)

This commentary’s exegesis of the biblical text is top notch. Overall, I would like to comment that the entire New Testament Library commentary series is not intended to provide much pastoral application because it is designed so that it leaves it up to the exegete to provide a pastoral application from the text. Other commentary series may provide much more pastoral application than the NTL. This series of commentaries provides a transliteration of the Greek so that it is accessible to those not familiar with Greek such as lay people; moreover, it is not so technical that only an academically trained person in the original languages can use it.

Lieu has written an excellent commentary on I, II, & III John. Her biblical exegesis of the text is thorough and very well done. This is definitely a commentary I would reference in my personal exegesis and interpretation of the letters of John.

Acts 1:4 – Jesus eating salt with his disciples

[Edited] Were Jesus and his apostles eating together, gathered together, or just plain staying together? The original Greek says sunalizô, in the form sunalizomenos (sunalizô, eat together, or gather together). The BDAB lexicon provides three possible options as to the meaning of sunalizô:

1) eat (salt) together, share a meal with; or
2) to bring together, assemble, come together, or
3) “spend the night with,” “stay with.”

The BDAG says the problem with the first possible meaning is that it doesn’t really fit the context; furthermore, it is not used anywhere else. The problem of the second meaning is with the singular number and the present tense. The third possible meaning is based on a spelling variation of συναλιζομενος (sunalizomenos) present in some miniscules. Below, the TNIV, NLT and Douay-Rheims translations render sunalizô as eating together. The NASB rendering of sunalizô is the second option of “gathered together”; and the NRSV, ESV and HCSB render sunalizô as the third option–“staying with them.” Most commonly, translations lean toward the NRSV or ESV rendering of “stay together” because these are most commonly used elsewhere in the New Testament.

The TNIV and NLT may have correctly rendered the this meaning of sunalizô as “eating with them.” Arie W. Zwiep argues for the first option of the TNIV and NLT: “A more plausible meaning of the verb is ‘eating salt together with’…hence: ‘eating together.’ Concerning the second option, Zwiep says: “The present tense may be taken to denote an uninterrupted period of Jesus’ presence among his disciples. The problem with this interpretation is that it is difficult to imagine how this meaning would apply to only one person (Jesus being the subject of the sentence).”

I don’t know if there’s any theological implications about this but “eating salt” may have a much deeper meaning than what’s being suggested on the surface. The word sun-al-izô might actually be a composition of two words “together” (sun) and “salt” (als). Jesus uses salt as an example in speaking with his disciples:

Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.(Mark 9:50, ESV).

It may be that the word sunalizô may have the connotation of a union of being at peace with one another, or “being salted together.” Jesus also told his disciples to stay together and wait for the Promise of the Father, which is the Holy Spirit. And after they received Holy Spirit, they were in the “unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3). Therefore, being salted together is to be in unity and at peace with one another.

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. TNIV

Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. (NLT)

And eating together with them, he commanded them, that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard (saith he) by my mouth. (Douay-Rheims)

While at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised… (NJB)

While He was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “This,” [He said, “is what] you heard from Me; (HCSB)

While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; (NRSV)

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; (NASB)

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; (ESV)

Arie W. Zwiep, The Ascension of the Messiah in Lukan Christology (Brill, 1997).

Let’s ask deeper questions to probe reality–not fear

It seems there is a double standard out there. Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska is a first term Governor, just as, Sen. Barack Obama, is also a first term Senator. The fact is that the responsibilities of a state governor is much greater than that of a senator; however, there are more polls out there questioning Gov. Sarah Palin’s ability to perform as a potential President if John McCain was the President-elect but was forced to leave office in case of ill health or death. The very questions posed by opinion polls can be used to make suggestions and plant seeds of doubt based on fear rather than reality. Thinking American people should be looking at reality. Opinion polls are not capable of asking these types of deeper questions. Only real people are capable of doing so. I hope everyone will ask ourselves these questions before the election is over.

1/ How did Gov. Sarah Palin do in office as governor of Alaska? Then compare this with findings from the following question: How did Sen. Barack Obama do in office as senator of Illinois?

2/ Why is there a double standard? Is it because Gov. Sarah Palin is a woman?

3/ Are opinion polls such as this one from Abraham & Harrison funded by Democratic or Republican supporters?

Deuteronomy 17: How the government/governor should govern

Deuteronomy 17:14-20 gives some instructions for the government/governor. Maybe our governments should heed this biblical advice for today? It’s still relevant.

1/ The people must pray about who we choose to vote for. “be sure to appoint over you the king the Lord your God chooses.” (Deut. 17:15, TNIV)

2/ The national leader must be a citizen of the country. “One of your own community you may set as king over you; you are not permitted to put a foreigner over you, who is not of your own community.” (Deut. 17:15b, NRSV)

3/ The government should have limited state-control of assets, and limited powers. “The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself.” (Deut. 17:16a, TNIV)

4/ The government should not tax excessively. “He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.” (Deut.17:17b, TNIV)

5/ The government/governor must follow and enforce the laws of the land. “When he has taken the throne of his kingdom, he shall have a copy of this law written for him in the presence of the levitical priests. It shall remain with him and he shall read in it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, diligently observing all the words of this law and these statutes.” (Deut. 17:18-19, NRSV)

6/ The leader must be humble. “And not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites.” (Deut. 17:20, TNIV)

7/ The governor should be centrist, neither right-wing nor left-wing. “And not… turn from the law to the right or to the left.” (Deut. 17:20, TNIV). (Hahaha. Almost gotcha on this last one.) The full verse actually says: “and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.”


Election Day: Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada remain in power

Tonight was federal election day in Canada. The Conservative Party of Canada will remain in power and will now have a stronger minority government than before. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was re-elected in his electoral district. Most importantly, the Conservative Party garnered the most support of all major parties; therefore, he remains in power as the Prime Minister of Canada. Congratulations to P.M. Stephen Harper.

In Canada, our Parliament and Cabinet are fused together. Unlike the U.S. system of government, the Prime Minister has the power to appoint Cabinet Ministers from amongst the elected Members of Parliament. The ideal is to elect a majority government because it enables the passage of bills into laws without much hindrance from opposition parties. With 143 of the total 308 seats in the Canadian Parliament, the Conservative Party is about 12 seats shy of forming a majority government. Even though it does not get to form a majority government this time around, it will have a stronger minority government.

Conservative Party: 143 elected as MP
Liberal Party: 76 elected as MP
Bloc Quebecois: 50 elected as MP
New Democratic Party: 37 elected as MP
Independents: 2 elected as MP (edited: final results from Elections Canada)

My personal view of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been quite positive. I see him as a positive person who is level-headed thinker-type who is able to handle the national and international political affairs of the country very adeptly. He is a policy and an ideas-type of person–definitely not a charismatic figure–type like U.S. Sen. Obama, Gov. Palin, and even, Sen. McCain. He may be even less charismatic than some of the other Prime Ministerial candidates—and some might even say boring. However, he is a hard working, intellectual policy wonk who has guided the party in policy development for years, even before becoming leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

What makes a Prime Minister or national leader great is not necessarily charisma and charm, but it is one’s trustworthiness. Harper seems to be a very trustworthy person. His faith in God is steady and seems to be his strength and fortress. He is a good family man married to a good and supportive wife. Overall, I think Stephen Harper has been a very good Prime Minister so far. He will continue to lead our nation of Canada with strength based on character and integrity, supported by the right ideas for the Canadian economy and society.

In my home town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, all four (including incumbents) are Conservatives. Congratulations to all four: Maurice Vellacott, MP; Brad Trost, MP; Lynne Yelich, MP; and newly elected MP Kelly Block.

The Conservative Party of Canada is very popular in western Canada, and has the trust of most western Canadians. It has also made strides in the seat-rich Province of Ontario this election; but the Liberal Party seems to have lost popularity since the last election.

Exodus 15:3 – Yahweh is his name

Only the NJB and HCSB translations use the name of God when the writer clearly intended to speak His name in Exodus 15:3. The intention of the writer seems clear here: “Yahweh is his name”. When one speaks someone’s name, you would expect the person’s actual name be mentioned. The TNIV, ESV, NRSV and all other translations did not do this.

Should the name of Yahweh be mentioned if the writer intended to use it?

1 It was then that Moses and the Israelites sang this song in Yahweh’s honour:
I shall sing to Yahweh, for he has covered himself in glory, horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

2 Yah is my strength and my song,
to him I owe my deliverance.
He is my God and I shall praise him,
my father’s God and I shall extol him.

3 Yahweh is a warrior;
Yahweh is his name. (Exodus 15:1-3, New Jerusalem Bible)

1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD. They said:
I will sing to the LORD,
for He is highly exalted;
He has thrown the horse
and its rider into the sea.

2 The LORD is my strength and my song;
He has become my salvation.
This is my God, and I will praise Him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

3 The LORD is a warrior;
Yahweh is His name. (Exodus 15:1-3, Holman Christian Christian Standard)

1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD:
“I will sing to the LORD,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.

2 “The LORD is my strength and my defense ;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

3 The LORD is a warrior;
the LORD is his name. (Exodus 15:1-3, Today’s New International Version)

1Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying,
“I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.

2 The LORD is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

3The LORD is a man of war;
the LORD is his name. (Exodus 15:1-3, English Standard Bible)

Funny renderings in the NEB – REB translations

I know that there are some of you out there (like ElShaddai) who are REB-lovers. But as I was doing research on the REB and NEB, I learned of some weird and hilarious renderings that I can’t help sharing. I really don’t know where the NEB/REB translators got these from? Some of them really need a good explanation. Here’s some examples of my favorites.

Song of Solomon 1:7

“That I [the bride] may not be left picking lice as I sit among my companions.” (NEB/REB)

“for why should I be like one who wanders beside the flocks of your companions?” (RSV)

“for why should I be like one who is veiled beside the flocks of your companions?” (NRSV)

“Why should I be like a veiled woman beside the flocks of your friends?” (TNIV)

  • Who has time to stand around picking lice?

Josh 15:18

she broke wind” (NEB)

she dismounted.” (REB)

“she got off her donkey” (HCSB, TNIV, ESV)

  • Someone cut the cheese.

Ezek 21:7

all men’s knees run with urine” (NEB)

all knees will turn to water.” (REB)

“Every heart will melt and every hand go limp; every spirit will become faint and every knee be wet with urine.” (TNIV)

“Every heart will melt and all hands will be feeble, every spirit will faint and all knees will turn to water.” (NRSV)

“Every heart will melt, and every hand will become weak. Every spirit will be discouraged, and every knee will turn to water.” (HCSB)

“When it comes, their hearts will be filled with fear, their hands will hang limp, their courage will fail, and their knees will tremble.” (GNT)

“When it comes true, the boldest heart will melt with fear; all strength will disappear. Every spirit will faint; strong knees will become as weak as water.” (NLT)

  • I forgot to wear my daipers. In this verse, the REB reverted to a more conservative rendering but the TNIV reverted from the conservative rendering in the NIV to a similar one in the NEB.

Proverbs 19:29 [edited]

“There is a rod in pickle for the arrogant, and blows ready for the stupid man’s back.” (NEB) / “for the fool’s back” (REB)

The irreverent have to learn reverence the hard way; only a slap in the face brings fools to attention.” (Message)

Judgments are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools.” (HCSB)

Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools. ” (TNIV)

  • I think a “rod in pickle” means a scolding in store or in waiting.

1 Cor 5:9

“…Have nothing to do with loose livers” (NEB)

“…Have nothing to do with those who are sexually immoral.” (REB)

“…not to associate with sexually immoral people” (NLT)

I’ve never heard of this term before.

Exodus 11:1

“he will send you packing, as a man might dismiss a rejected bride.” (NEB)

“…When he finally lets you go, he will drive you out forcibly as a man might dismiss a rejected bride.” (REB)

“When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out from here completely.” (NASB)

“indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you away.” (NRSV)

  • Here, the NEB sounds as paraphrasical as The Message

I like New Jerusalem Bible’s use of “Yahweh”

In the last few days, I’ve been reading from the New Jerusalem Bible. What strikes me the most about the NJB is its numerous references to “Yahweh” in place of “the Lord.”

“Yahweh drove the sea back with a strong easterly wind all night…” (Ex.14:21)
“Yahweh looked down on the army of the Egyptians…” (Ex. 14:24)
“That day, Yahweh rescued Israel from the clutches of the Egyptians…” (Ex. 14:30)
“I shall sing to Yahweh, for he has covered himself in glory…” (Ex. 15:1)

If you can get use to reading “Yahweh” instead of “the Lord”, you would enjoy this translation. I am coming to enjoy it more and more. It’s an underrated translation and does deserve to be more widely read in North America. Apparently, it is supposed to be the most popular Roman Catholic translation. I would place this in the mediating equivalent category because it is not as formal as the NRSV but more formal than the NLT. It also reads very well.

Here’s a portion from 2 Corinthians 4:7-18

“we hold this treasure in pots of earthenware, so that the immensity of the power is God’s and not our own. We are subjected to every kind of hardship, but never distressed; we see no way out but we never despair;we are pursued but never cut off; knocked down, but still have some life in us; always we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are continually being handed over to death, for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our mortal flesh. In us, then, death is at work; in you, life. But as we have the same spirit of faith as is described in scripture — I believed and therefore I spoke -we, too, believe and therefore we, too, speak, realising that he who raised up the Lord Jesus will raise us up with Jesus in our turn, and bring us to himself — and you as well. You see, everything is for your benefit, so that as grace spreads, so, to the glory of God, thanksgiving may also overflow among more and more people. That is why we do not waver; indeed, though this outer human nature of ours may be falling into decay, at the same time our inner human nature is renewed day by day. The temporary, light burden of our hardships is earning us for ever an utterly incomparable, eternal weight of glory, since what we aim for is not visible but invisible. Visible things are transitory, but invisible things eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18, NJB)

I was so impressed with the study notes that I purchased my edition of the the NJB hardcover edition, the one with the complete text with introductions and notes, edited by Henry Wansbrough, published in 1985. It is over 2000 pages thick. There’s the standard edition without notes and also the classic edition with notes. The classic edition is actually a study bible and I believe it is one of the most academic study bibles out there. Unfortunately, this is a little known fact. For a translation published in 1985, I consider it top-notch. Its study notes place it in the academic category. I like it more than the HarperCollins Study Bible or the NOAB. Moreover, there are probably more study notes than the HCSB or NOAB. It’s also in a different category than the T/NIV or NLT Study Bibles. In the past, I’ve used the New Jerusalem Bible for research and have found its notes extremely useful. I think it is simply one of the best out there and I’m not even Roman Catholic. From my experience with it so far, I really like it. I will be reading more from the NJB in the future. I would recommend it to anybody because it is truly a high quality study bible.