Devotional: Property of Jesus – John 17:6-19

propertyJesusHave you seen those varsity university T-shirts that says, e.g., “Property of USC”… “Property of name of [your university/college]”. It means I’m a student here at this college/university. I’m on their team, and I’m proud of it. It also means, “I belong here.” It makes a statement. Or when young people are dating, sometimes the girl will wear the jacket or piece of clothing that belongs to the young man. Maybe some of you remember those days?

People want to belong. As human beings, we all have a desire to belong somewhere, maybe an organization, and to belong to someone…someone we love. When we know we belong, there is comfort in that. We were designed and created to belong to God. God didn’t make us, then just drop us on earth and left us alone to fend for ourselves. God is not like that. God wants us to know that we belong to Him, and knowing we belong to God allows us to know that we are God’s children forever.  If we are in Christ Jesus, we belong to God. We are the property of God.  We are made one with Jesus, and God the Father and are united in him, through the Holy Spirit. In John 17:6 told his followers that “they were yours and you gave them to me.” This means that Father God gave us to Jesus. And in John 17:10, Jesus says it again in another way: “All mine are yours, and all yours are mine.”

When we belong to God, it is something special associated with belonging to God.  This implies that we are under his care. We are protected by God.  In v. 12, Jesus prayed to the heavenly Father, “I protected them in your name that you have given me.”  When we are under God’s protection, we cannot be shaken.  In Jesus’ prayer, he was praying that God would protect us from the evil in the world.  Jesus cares for our complete well-being that he prays that they may have the same joy that Jesus had (17:14), that is, joy even in the midst of our hardship and suffering. This is the heart of God our Father.  God cares for us beyond what we can understand.  Just as a father or mother cares for the complete well-being of their children, God our Father also cares for us.  Jesus cares for us.

John 17:6-19 – Comparing dynamic translations: NLT vs CEB

CEBMost young people, including those with lower levels of reading comprehension prefer a bible translation they can read and understand.  There are more translations available today.  Earlier, I said I’d do a comparison of two dynamic-equivalent bible translations: the Common English Bible (CEB) and the New Living Translation (NLT). Here is the first post in this series on dynamic (or functional-equivalent) bible translations (which I’ll complete over a few months). First, dynamic translations are not meant to be literal and sound wooden; however, it also needs to flow well and remain true and accurate while not taking too many liberties to re-interpret the original text (biblical Greek).  Otherwise, you run the risk of interpreting according to one’s own theological bent or preference.  There isn’t any bible translation that is entire free from theological interpretation or bias; however, there may be translations that do a slightly better job. nlt-logoI’m picking these two translations to start because they seem to be two of the more popular dynamic-equivalent translations on the market right now.  My intention is not to trash any translation.  These are still both good translations and used by many Christians.

v. 6 – The NLT has inserted the word “always” into “always yours”; whereas, the CEB simply renders it “were yours”. The NLT added “always,” which may be considered a theological interpretation. This might be interpreted that we had always belonged to God.  Some Christians believe that we are made into his children after we come into his fold.  Whether or not human beings were “always” a possession of Jesus can be a theological or doctrinal position. In this case, I’d prefer leaving out “always”.

v. 7 – The NLT has reinterpreted the word “to give” (dedōkas) as a “gift,.” The Original Word: δίδωμι
does not carry the sense of a present or gift; it simply means “to give” and has the sense of “to put, to place, to give, to offer”. Didomi does not have the sense of gift or a present. The CEB is more preferable.

v. 11 NLT’s “I am departing from the world” seems to take some liberties in interpreting it in this future sense. I prefer CEB’s translation of “I’m no longer in the world”.
NLT: “you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name”
CEB: “watch over them in your name, the name you gave me,”
The CEB seems to make more sense because to me, the emphasis in this thought is not in the name given, but rather, in watching or protecting them. This one is subjective and might be a personal preference.

The NLT also seems to take liberties in re-interpreting “by the power of your name”. The original Greek does not even allude to any idea of “power in the name”. This is purely an insertion of the NLT translator. I think this may be inaccurate.

Both interpretations of CEB’s “watch over” and NLT’s “protect them” and “guarded them”. This re-interpretation of “keeping watch” or “keeping guard” might also be over-stretching the original word of “to keep” (tērēson). This sense of “to keep” can also have a simpler interpretation of where one “keeps” the commandments of the Lord, or even to “keep” them in a person’s possession or care. Later, however, the writer of John does use “to keep” (ephylaxa) which in this case, does have the sense of “to guard” or “to protect” in the next verse (v. 12). I have do have to say that the rendering of “to guard, or to protect“ in v. 11 is not entirely incorrect. But only because it can be justified by the intended meaning used in v. 12.

In v.17, the NLT also adds the word “teach” in “teach them your word”. This is an addition to the original text that is not there; this is an interpretative move. Perhaps our evangelical tendency is to think that in order to stay in the truth, it is one’s responsibility to learn and be taught from the word. This is an interpretation that comes from our humanistic approach learning and may have nothing to do with God’s sovereign power to keep us safe.  My question is then, “Is God powerless to keep us in His care?”  Then I would prefer to leave out the word “teach”, like what the CEB has correctly done.

Another interpretation of the NLT is in v. 19. The NLT seems to be reinterpreting Jesus’ use of “holy” in the sense that he necessarily made himself into a “holy sacrifice”. This idea of a sacrifice in v. 19 is not found in the original Greek and is an insertion and reinterpretation.  From Jesus’ point-of-view, being a “holy sacrifice” may not have been in his heart when he said this (although he ultimately did become a “sacrificial lamb”).

In this first round of dynamic-equivalent translations, the Common English Bible takes the win over the New Living Translation.

For our visual comparison, here is the biblical text below using the passage of John 17:6-19.

NLT – John 17:6-19 CEB – John 17:6-19
“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.….10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name;[b] now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me.[c]….17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. “I have revealed your name to the people you gave me from this world. They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. This is because I gave them the words that you gave me, and they received them. They truly understood that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.….10 Everything that is mine is yours and everything that is yours is mine; I have been glorified in them11 I’m no longer in the world, but they are in the world, even as I’m coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them in your name, the name you gave me, that they will be one just as we are one. 12 When I was with them, I watched over them in your name, the name you gave to me, and I kept them safe.….17 Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 I made myself holy on their behalf so that they also would be made holy in the truth.

Reformation Study Bible (2015 edition, ESV)

694400_1_box (1)Let me begin with the written content in the Reformation Study Bible (2015 edition, ESV).  The essence and flavor that arises out of this study bible are not only reflective of the Reformation era, but it is also clearly Reformed in theology and doctrine.  The study notes (or apparatus on the bottom), the introductions for each of the biblical books, the theological notes weaved throughout the study bible, and the topical articles placed at the end of the bible, are all beautifully set.  From cover to cover, I can say that the RSB is an attractive bible.  The symbol of the burning bush stands out and makes a statement.

Some of the theological notes are from the General Editor, Dr. R.C. Sproul, who is a passionate and effective teacher in the Reformed tradition (and from whom I’ve learned much from via audio/video/books).  The contributors to the RSB (2015) are respected theologians.  The editors: Associate, Old Testament, and New Testament and contributors have made a great effort in making the Reformation Study Bible a success. I think it’ll make a lasting impression and will be a go-to bible for this generation of Reformed-minded students of the Word.

I hadn’t used any previous editions of a Reformed study bible, but as I started reading more, I gradually became more impressed with the notes.  As I perused through some of the theological notes, I looked for a few anchoring points of Reformed theology. One example: under “Perseverance of the Saints” states: “The doctrine of perseverance does not rest on our ability to persevere, even if we are regenerate. Rather, it rests on the promise of God to preserve us,” and is followed by quoting Philippians 1:6 (p.1994). This is clearly covenantal interpretation so if you love covenant theology, you’ll love this bible for its Reformed-minded commentary and notes (image below: sorry for the poor picture quality I took with my phone)

Another example: under “Effectual Calling” (otherwise known as irresistible grace) states: “Before the inward effectual call of God is received, no person is inclined to come to Him… We see, then, that faith itself is a gift from God, having been given in the effectual call of the Holy Spirit…. Effectual calling is irresistible in the sense that God sovereignly brings about its desired result” (p.2146).

Some of the topical articles in the back and apparatus are not necessarily relevant only to the Reformed-minded, but can also be accepted by traditional evangelicals. The insert of various creeds, confessions and catechisms are definitely Reformed (e.g., Heidelberg, Belgic, Dort, Westminster) with the exception of London Baptist Confession (which is Calvinist).  Well, for those who want a quick-reference to the confessions and Westminster catechisms, it’s conveniently placed near the back of the bible.  In my opinion, I might ask if they’re really necessary, or are they there just to make a statement: “that this is indeed a Reformed study bible!” You decide but I think it might be the latter reason.  Most lay-people will rarely refer to them except for the odd times they want a quick reference (so it’s great for pastors and theological hacks and nerds, like me) 😉

The study notes (or apparatus at the bottom of the pages) are plentiful. I like how the study notes are interlinked to the theological notes. For example, the note for Rom. 3:23 links to the theological note on “Human Depravity”; and the note for Rom. 3:29 links to the theological note on “Predestination”. This makes it useful for the reader to locate expanded thoughts for deeper theological reflection.

Regarding the apparatus/study notes, much of it were from previous editions of the Reformation and Geneva study bibles. There are some updates and additions (however, I cannot compare because I don’t have previous editions).  This 2015 edition has over 1.1 million words in commentary, which has increased from the 760,000 words from the previous 2005 edition.  In the book introductions, what I personally find interesting to read in particular are literary features, Christ’s salvation, and special issues.  Book introductions in study bibles these days are a quicker-fix reference than the long-reads of biblical commentaries (It’s good for lay-people, but for pastors, it’s never a replacement for updated biblical commentaries).  The color-filled maps are very good.  It’s printed on high-gloss paper and is very attractive.

The cross-references in the margins are located a little too close to the inner margins in-between the pages. You’ll need a magnifying glass if you want to read it.  The narrower cross-reference margins leaves more room for the biblical text though so it might have been a give-and-take decision.  It’s a minor issue for me though. Personally, I don’t use the cross-references much anyway.

First on the ESV translation. The ESV has become a very popular translation in the last ten years, and will rival the NIV. Reformed and Calvinist evangelicals tend to flock to the ESV, and I think it’ll be here to stay for at least the next generation of bible readers.  It will also come out in the NKJV later in the fall of 2015.  If I may put this idea out there… just a thought: if Reformation Trust and Ligonier should desires to expand its influence, then why not also include the NIV, NLT and NASB translations?  Including readers of other translations will also expand the readership of the RSB.  I believe Christians need more access to solid, historic, Evangelical theology. Much of today’s evangelicals have access to fluff, and not enough substance.  Good commentary can strengthen traditional Evangelical theology in the minds and hearts of its readers.

RSBhardcoverNow onto some of the physical aspects. When I took the Reformation Study Bible out of the box, I flipped through many of its pages just to take in the all-around aesthetics of it.  I like how the layout appears on the page. I examined the binding and it is definitely Smyth-sewn because it allows you to lay it down flat on the table (unlike cheap glued bindings which don’t allow for this).  Also, when you look down the top or bottom of the binding, you can notice the separation of sections of paper. If the pages were only held together by glue, you would not notice any separation of sections. So this Smyth-sewn pages is a good thing because it’ll be more durable. Moreover, it is also glued for extra strength. I have hardcover so I cannot comment on how the leather is, but it does feel like a sturdy bible that will last.  Most bibles produced today only use cheap glued-binding but this one will be much longer-lasting.  I have to say that this was a good job on this one.  I wouldn’t buy a study bible without Smyth-binding, especially with it being over 2,560 pages thick (which is now expanded from the previous edition of 1,968 pages).

The font size good for me.  It might even be a little bigger than some other study bibles, it doesn’t seem as readable. Perhaps this is due to the contrast of ink-on-the-page.  However, I do see a few places that could be improved for future batches off the press. From a contrast level, the ink could be kicked-up a notch or two. I pulled out six other study bibles just to compare the ink contrast-on-page, and this one had the least contrast. What is most legible are the chapter numbers. The bible paper itself feels thinner than other study bibles. It has about 2550 pages. The paper is not as crisp as the ESV Study Bible’s so it took me more time and care to turn each of the pages. If the ink was any darker, it might bleed through to the other side of the pages. The print itself is definitely on the lighter side, but for my eyes it’s sufficient. Having a desk lamp near to it will definitely help.

This is a study bible that would appeal to many Calvinist-minded and covenant-minded readers and those who desire the traditional evangelical perspective. It will be loved by Reformed-minded and evangelical Presbyterians. I really like this edition. The caliber of this study bible is very good. I would say the Reformation Study Bible (2015 ed., ESV) is up there along with the ESV Study Bible and Concordia’s Lutheran Study Bible (ESV) as my top-three personal choice.  Good job on the Reformation Study Bible.

Thanks to Ashley G. at Reformation Trust Publishing for sending me a copy for review.