Common English Bible, New Testament, 2010

I received a paperback copy of the New Testament (2010) in the new translation, Common English Bible, courtesy of friends at Abingdon Press and Augsburg Fortress Canada.  Thank you for this preview copy.  The entire bible is still yet to be published in 2011.

It is a more dynamic easy-to-understand translation, and so I suspect it is meant to gain a younger audience and those at a more primary reading level. On its website, it stated it as being a hybrid of verbal equivalence with dynamic balance and common language so I think it may be at the same reading level as the NIV and HCSB.  It is likely not as dynamic as the NLT.

From my limited reading of it, the first thing I noticed was that it renders “Son of Man” as “the Human One” (e.g., Matt. 24:39, 44).  This is a very different from the traditional rendering and it’s very gutsy but I think it’s still accurate and, I think, less elusive than “Son of Man”.  I think “the Human One” will take some time for readers to get use to it.

Another thing that is untraditional is to translate “hell” as “hades” or “grave”.

In the story of the birth of Christ, the magi (wise men), Matthew 2:11 says: “Falling to their knees, they honored him.”  Other translations use the traditional “worship him.”  This is another gutsy move.

The CEB renders Torah as “instruction” rather than “Law”. In the past, “Law” has been taken to mean statutes rather than instruction.  This will help the reader avoid a wrong understanding of what Torah really is.

I will examine the CEB more in some of my future posts.

Like the NRSV, it is an ecumenical translation done by 115 scholars from 22 denominations.  It is a translation sponsored by an alliance of denominational publishers, including Presbyterian (USA), Episcopalian, United Methodist, Disciples of Christ, and United Church of Christ.  This translation will also make the Apocrypha available, which will make it more accessible to churches that use it, e.g., Orthodox, Catholic.

I wish to thank Abingdon Press and Augsburg Fortress Canada for sending me this copy.

Can small churches be strategically small?

Is your church too big?  Maybe think about downsizing.

What?!  Why would you want to get smaller when churches are thinking of ways of how to grow?  Author Brandon J. O’Brien in his new book, The Strategically Small Church (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2010) thinks that small churches have advantages that large churches do not have.  They are more intimate, nimble, more conducive to being authentic, and more effective.

O’Brien likes the idea of being lean and nimble and this is one natural trait of a small church.  Small churches do not think like large churches, which is a natural advantage because when churches become large, people have a tendency to take on a consumer mentality and think of the church as a service provider.  I totally agree because I have also felt this way when I was church-hopping larger churches as a younger person.

Being “authentic” is important for this post-modern youth generation who are trapped in a throw-away, temporary, and materialistic world.  The author says: “Many young worshipers are turned off by over-produced worship music and a speaker who is too polished” (66).  I agree; but why do many large successful churches have polished worship music and speakers? I guess that’s why may be large and filled with people, but some might also be lacking young people in their teens and 20s. There is a falling away of the young generation in many churches. There’s nothing wrong with large churches, as long as “its authenticity shines through its professionalism.”  Along these same lines, O’Brien advises readers to not confuse relevance with trendiness.  “True relevance is being sensitive to the culture or subculture” in which we do our incarnational ministry in our specific location.

I especially like this wisdom on recognizing the benefits of small congregations:
“When a pastor fails to recognize the benefits of the small congregation and insists on running it like a large ministry, he will ultimately undermine and obscure the church’s strengths. Rather than creating a mega ministry, a think-big strategy can destroy the church’s spirit” (73).  He says to “Just be yourself.”  Furthermore, being authentic is not a strategy because once it becomes a strategy, one becomes inauthentic.

The two congregations where I minister are small and so I have personally found this book very helpful and encouraging for me in my own context.  I am sure other pastors of small congregations who might feel limited by small congregations will also be encouraged by his positive outlook on small churches. The author, Brandon J. O’Brien, is editor-at-large of Leadership Journal and is a contributor to the Out of Ur blog.  I’m sure he has gained much insight from the challenges faced by the various pastors who have articles submitted for the Leadership Journal (e.g., Alan Hirsch, Dave Gibbons, Willow Creek). However, O’Brien is not just an editor, but many of his points are qualified because they are insights he has gained from his experience as a pastor.  This is a good book for you if you minister in a small church, or also in a big church, but want to do ministry like a small church.

And thanks to the fine folks at Bethany House for sending me this book to review.  Book available at:  Amazon and CBD.

Acts 2:23 – Were Gentiles lawless or merely not abiding by Jewish law?

Were Gentiles lawless or merely not abiding by Jewish law?  What difference does this make? A big one, I think.  Translations that render lawless has connotations of being completely lawless.  Those outside the law implies not holding to Jewish laws, but not necessarily without law.  The rendering in the ESV and CSB imply that Gentiles were completely lawless, which can be misleading.

Acts 2:23
ESV: this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (also in CSB, NAB)
NIV: …and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
NRSV: …you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. (also in NJB)
NLT: …“lawless Gentiles”; and NET: …“Gentiles

Translations that render a-nomos (ἀνόμων) as “lawless” or “without law” may still be technically correct, but this might not have been the writer`s original intent.

Were Gentiles completely lawless? No, Roman society was ruled by law, particular by Law of the Twelve Tables;
or less lawful than Jewish society?  Maybe;
or not living by Jewish laws?  I think is this most probable.

I suspect the writer of Acts was simply trying to imply that Gentiles did not live by Jewish law but were not necessarily completely lawless.  I find the NIV rendering is overly interpretive.  The NLT`s is okay. The NET is inaccurate.  Personally, I prefer the rendering of the last two translations NRSV and NJB on this one because it allows the reader to see Gentiles as only being “outside of Jewish law” but not necessarily without law.

NIV 2011: Gender-inclusive language in Matthew 18:15-17

I am happy how it handles gender-inclusive language in using singular (“The one who. . . ,” “the person who. . . ,” “‟whoever. . . ,” and the like) instead of the awkward plurals (“they, their, etc.”).  The Committee’s translators’ notes says:

While the Greek word anēr (‟man” or ‟person”) was frequently translated with masculine forms in English, it is clear in several contexts that the word refers to men and women equally (an option endorsed by major dictionaries of the Greek NT).

Being contextual is not for the sake of trying to be gender-inclusive.  We need to look at facts when the writer or the speaker being quoted is intentionally speaking to both men and women. This is the way most of us speak in real life anyway, isn’t it?  In our everyday speech, how many of us direct our speech only to men?  Maybe some times but for the most part, I think I speak to both men and women when I preach and teach.

Let’s take a look at Matthew 18:15-17 to see a difference between the NIV 1984 and NIV 2011.

NIV 1984:

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

NIV 2011:

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Was Jesus speaking only to men or to both men and women?  Is gender-inclusiveness only for the sake of being gender-inclusive?  Or is gender-inclusive because Jesus, the speaker being quoted, was directing his teaching to the entire group of listeners?  If we are being gender-inclusive only for the sake of being neutral even if the speaker’s intention was directed to men, then I want nothing of it.  But if it was the speaker’s original intention to speak to both men and women, then “Yes!  I’m all for the changes in the updated NIV 2011.

I’m liking the updated NIV 2011

I’ve just been informed that the Updated NIV 2011 is now available on BibleGateway.com for preview. Thanks to fellow blogger TC Robinson for informing me. I think the news was released when I was out of the loop. In the mean time, it looks like others have also started blogging about the updated NIV of 2011 too: TC Robinson (here, here, here), Suzanne McCarthy (here, here, here, Iver Larsen (and here), Bill MounceJoel Hoffman, John Hobbins, Rick Mansfield, David Ker, Peter Kirk, and Brian Fulthorp. Comparison charts by Robert Slowly and John Dyer (and here) (HT: Wayne Leman).

Well, I’m glad the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) got past the bumps of the rough ride concerning the debacle of gender-inclusive language.  When pro-ESVers got on the anti-TNIV bandwagon and ignorantly trashed it, many of us bibliobloggers weren’t too happy about it, especially when gender-inclusive translations like the NLT got away without any lumps. It was a classic case of bullying.  When CBT trashed the TNIV, I remember I wasn’t too happy about that (here, here & here), but I’m glad the CBT took responsibility to back up its previous revision, the TNIV.  The translators’ notes states:

“As stated in the September 1, 2009, announcement regarding the planned update, every single change introduced into the committee’s last major revision (the TNIV) relating to inclusive language for humanity was reconsidered…. Nowhere in the updated NIV (nor in the TNIV, nor in any of the committee discussions leading up to either version) is there even the remotest hint of any inclusive language for God.” (see translators’ notes…)

And I’m glad that changes to the NIV do not happen haphazardly:

“Therefore a change is introduced into the text only if at least 70 percent of the committee members present at the time of the voting agree to it.

The changes to gender-inclusive language was intentional and so I think we need to support what CBT has done to bring these improvements into the NIV 2001.  In my eyes, CBT has redeemed itself.  Who cares what the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood thinks (here)!  I’m looking forward to reading more of the Updated NIV 2011.

HCSB Study Bible by Holman

I wish to thank the precious people at LifeWay for sending me a copy of the HCSB Study Bible to review.

Broadman & Holman has entered the study bible market with the new HCSB Study Bible in 2010.  This is a very good study bible.  As a perused through the HCSB Study Bible, I was taken in by its use of color in highlighting of subheadings, study notes, and cross reference verses.  It uses an orangy-tan color to give it that old rustic papyrus look—a tasteful use of color. The various colors give good contrast makes it easier to locate verses.  What makes most other reference bibles inconvenient and difficult to use is when the cross references look like “one big blur” of numbers and verses.  The HCSB-SB’s blue contrasting of verse numbers makes it much easier to locate the verse you are reading.  The solid horizontal yellow bar that highlights the alternate and literal translations acts as a natural page divider.  This breaks the page up so the reader can quickly find the bible text above and the study notes below.  I like this.

The font size of the bible text is reasonable and not too small and is similar to Times New Roman.  The study notes font size is a smaller type of Arial is readable.  The bolded text of key words is good too because it breaks up the “one big blur” factor.  The tan-brown subheadings is easy to read and helps the reader to locate the topic of the biblical text.  In the paper department, the bible paper used is not too thin, which is good. Some study bible paper is so thin that they can tear easily if you’re not careful. The paper in this one is a decent weight.  For a bible that has 2280 pages, it is on the heavier side but it’s not difficult to carry around.

The construction of the HCSB Study Bible is very good because the binding is Smyth-sewn rather than glued so I expect this bible will last a long time. All of the glued bibles are cheap to make and begin to fall apart after the glue dries up.  How can you tell if a bible’s binding is Smyth-sewn or glued?  Lay it flat and if the pages stay flat, then it is likely Smyth-sewn.  A more sure way to tell is by examining the edge of the binding from either the top or bottom view, if you see sections of pages folded into many sections, these sections are sewn together.  If you see some glue, it’s just to tighten it up but not to hold the page together.  However, if all the pages look like they are individually glued directly to the glue (similar to paperbacks), and you don’t see any small sections of folded pages, then you can be sure it’s a cheap glue job.

The text uses a two-column layout.  This is fine for me.  Some people prefer a single-column layout but I’m fine with two-columns.  What is important for me is that the inner biblical quotations (intertextual quotes from other books of the bible) are indented. This helps the reader to know when a passage or verse is being quoted by another biblical writer.  For example, the writer of Hebrews quoted Psalm 95:7-11 in Hebrews 3:7-11.  The quote text from Psalm 95 is bolded in Hebrews. This is a good feature I really like about the HCSB-SB.  I think it is important when you are doing a study or exegeting a passage of text.  A careful exegete-reader wants to easily determine where the inner biblical text originates from.  Moreover, given the good visibility of cross-references, the reader can quickly locate the inner-biblical text.

Another feature that is useful for the exegete-reader is the word study of key words or family of words showing the spelling, pronunciation, and meaning of the 175 Hebrew key words and 133 Greek key words.  It also explains the definition and expands upon how the word is used in other instances in the bible.  If you like AMG Publishers Key Word Study Bible but you’re too lazy to flip pages to really use it to its potential, then you might like this handy feature.

Each book introduction includes circumstances of writing (authorship, background); message and purpose; contribution to the bible; timeline; structure; and outline.
•    There are 18+ hand-drawn color illustrations, plus many more color photos in various places throughout the bible.
•    20 charts, plus many more charts placed throughout.
•    62 maps, plus 8 full-page maps on thick paper in the back of the bible.  In the maps and illustration category, I would say that it is even better than the other major study bibles.

The contributors to the study notes are some of the top evangelical scholars.  These include Ed Blum, Robert Yarbrough, Andreas Kostenberger, Duane Garrett, Walter Kaiser, Tremper Longman III, Carl Anderson, plus many more.  The essays are also contributed by some of the top evangelical scholars George Guthrie, Robert H. Stein,  Mark E. Dever, Daniel B. Wallace, Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans, plus more.

The contributors to the study notes are evangelical first and they seem to be largely from a Baptistic background.  That is very obvious in looking at the list of contributors of the study notes and essays.  I get a very strong impression that the study notes of this study bible are primarily written by Baptists, and secondarily by evangelicals.  If you are Baptist, and prefer a baptistic theology, then this study bible is for you.  Dr. Edwin A. Blum is the general editor of the HCSB, and is the executive editor of the HCSB Study Bible, is not Baptist, but the overall tone of this study bible is still Baptist and conservative evangelical—either dispensationalist and Calvinist.

Will the majority of contributors being Baptists be a barrier for this study bible?  I don’t think so. Most evangelicals are familiar with baptistic theology and we receive Baptists like any other evangelical Christian. On the other hand, if Broadman & Holman wanted the broadest appeal for the HCSB-SB, they might want to broaden their scope of contributors.  There are many other evangelicals other than Baptists, e.g., Wesleyan, Alliance, Pentecostal, Holiness, Nazarene, Ev. Presbyterian, Free Methodist, Mennonite Brethren, Evangelical Free, plus many more.

This is an excellent study bible.  I definitely put this study bible up there in the same league with the ESV Study Bible and NLT Study Bible [added: and Concordia’s Lutheran Study Bible].  Broadman & Holman did a very fine job putting this together.  I am sure this will become one of the premier study bibles as people begin to take more notice of it.