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.

Hosea 6:1 both NRSV and ESV unclear

This week, I came across Hosea 6:1 in my reading.  I was reading it first from the NRSV and was confused; so I checked the ESV and was still confused.  I don’t think most people would understand this verse from the NRSV and ESV either (which are currently two of my top-3 translations).  Who would?  In this case, I’m glad there’s the NLT (my #2), T/NIV (my #99 😉 ), and other translations I always refer to for clarification.

The translators of the NRSV did a great job overall but there are parts in it that are not all that clear and sounds stifled.  The ESV translation committee had a chance to improve upon the NRSV but still came up short in comparison to the NRSV’s style and readability (in my opinion).
___________________________

NRSV   “Come, let us return to the LORD; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up.

ESV   “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.

T/NIV  “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.

NLT   “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds.

CSB   Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, and He will heal us; He has wounded us, and He will bind up our wounds.

NET   “Come on! Let’s return to the LORD! He himself has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us! He has injured us, but he will bandage our wounds!

Luke 18:29 – Is TNIV gender-accurate?

Matthew 19:29

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother (NRSV)

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother (TNIV)

Mark 10:29

there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father (NRSV)

no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father (TNIV)

Luke 18:29

there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents (NRSV)

no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents (TNIV)

everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents  (NLT)

Were TNIV translators gender-accurate or too aggressive in their rendering of Luke 18:29?  This one is questionable.  The word ἀδελφοὺς can mean “brother” in the masculine plural but has been translated as “brothers or sisters” in other passages where adelphas (ἀδελφὰς, sisters: fem. pluaral) is absent.   I checked other translations and found no other translation went as far as TNIV did in Luke 18:29—not even the NRSV or NLT.  The NRSV and NLT rendered this as simply “brothers”.

The Matthew and Mark parallels rendered adelphos (ἀδελφοὺς) as “brothers” and adelphas (ἀδελφὰς) as “sisters”.  Did TNIV follow the pattern set in these parallel verses of Matthew 19:29 and Mark 10:29, in which “adelphos” and “adelphas” were rendered as “brothers or sisters”?   The Matt. 19:29 and Mark 10:29 parallels are definitely correct, but Luke 18:29 now becomes questionable when placed in a comparative context with these other parallel passages.

If TNIV is right on this one, then NRSV and NLT are wrong.  What gives me a feeling that TNIV may be right in this case is Luke’s use of guneis (γονεῖς) for parent instead of pater and mater (μητέρα ἢ πατέρα) for father and mother.  Luke may have intended to use guneis as a gender-inclusive term, so in following Luke’s use of inclusive terminology, Luke 18:29 may be more accurately translated as “brothers or sisters”.

Other places where TNIV went further in gender-inclusive language than the NRSV or the NLT are in Luke 14:12, Acts 15:1, 22:5.

Wesley Study Bible by Abingdon

The Wesley Study Bible: NRSV
Publisher: Abingdon Press, 2009
ISBN-10: 0687645034
ISBN-13: 978-0687645039

I wish to thank the good people at Abingdon Press for sending me this review copy.

The first thing I noticed about the Wesley Study Bible was the abundance of study notes.  The study notes seem to be geared toward the average reader of the bible, which makes it very accessible to the average person.  One is not required to have a theological education to make sense of the study notes.  I would also like to point out that occasionally some of the study notes also contain what John Wesley believed and practiced. So it is not just the Wesleyan core terms (which I will say more on) that make the study bible Wesleyan.  However, personally I would like to see even more of Wesley’s commentary.  Why not?  It’s a Wesley Study Bible.

The other thing I noticed were the boxes containing explanations of Wesleyan core terms, and there are more than 200 of these terms. A small handful of these terms include: Christian Conferencing, Circuit Rider, Conviction of Sin, Convincing Grace, Evil Tempers, Free Will, Grace and Works, Holiness of Heart, Itineracy, Means of Grace, Offices of Christ, Sanctifying Grace, Social Holiness, etc.  I think this is one of the most useful features of this bible because they open up some of the terminology related to the Wesleyan tradition.   I would consider this an educational feature of the study bible and it is most fitting.  One such Wesleyan Core Term, “Prevenient Grace”, states:

Wesley followed the idea of prevenient grace (pre-venire, to come before)—that God’s action, not ours, is the beginning of the process of salvation, followed by the necessity of our response.  Wesley believed that God’s universal offer of salvation was analogous to natural conscience whereby everybody knows the difference between good and evil.  However, Wesley said that such a discerning ability was not natural but the result of God’s enlightenment in every person’s mind.  Thus, we are enabled by God to respond freely in one of two ways—respond positively and accept this distinction between good and evil, realizing that we must repent of our sinful ways, or respond negatively, reject such knowledge, and continue in our sinful ways.

I am glad to see this because many people who may call themselves Wesleyans or Methodists may not even understand the meaning of such terminologies.  I sure didn’t but I’m not Wesleyan or Methodist either; however, it gave me a good reason to learn.  Some study bibles based on specific theological traditions do not have much content about what the founding personalities believed and practiced.  As a Wesleyan-Methodist study bible, I am glad to see notes on what John Wesley believed.

There are also nearly 200 Life Application Topics.  These are useful for the practical side of living out of one’s Christian faith.  It runs along similar lines as the Life Application Bible.  Here’s an example from one such topic on pride:

Pride is arrogance and conceit and manifests itself when we delude ourselves into thinking we operate under our own power.  We assume and live as if the world revolves around us instead of our will and way revolving around God.  Pride was the downfall of the first man or woman in the Gen account.  Pride always comes before a fall!  On the other hand, humility looks to God admitting we don’t have all the answers or solutions, but we submit to God’s will and way knowing God knows best.  This is wisdom, and the wise always find joy and lasting fulfillment with God and others.

This Life Application Topic feature further reinforces this bible as a practical study bible. The average persons or readers of the bible who desires to live out one’s faith in society will find this feature helpful in applying scriptural principles to daily living.  There are also nineteen colorful maps in the back of the bible.

The Wesley Study Bible is based on the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation of the bible.  It is one of the best, if not the best, formal equivalent translations available today.  I rely on this translation because it is very accurate and reliable.  It will certainly not be outdated for a long time.   It is also the first translation of choice in many United Methodist churches.

The general editors are Joel B. Green, Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and Will H. Willimon, Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church who is also an outstanding preacher.  As I turned the pages near the front of the bible to see the editorial board and contributors, I noticed that the people on the editorial board and contributors were from a mix of mainline United Methodists and evangelicals of the Wesleyan and Nazarene traditions.  I believe this makes the Wesley Study Bible one of the most diverse within the Wesleyan-Methodist tradition.  I do not think other study bibles based on specific theological traditions have been able to pull together contributors from a broad spectrum of theological worldviews, but this one manages to do so, which is admirable indeed.

I recommend the Wesley Study Bible to all interested bible readers who want to study the written word of God and receive input from a Wesleyan-Methodist viewpoint.  The very helpful features will deepen one’s theological understanding, and help one apply biblical principles into their lives.  I’m sure you will enjoy the Wesley Study Bible and find it a valuable resource.

It can be purchase online from Cokesbury, Amazon or ChristianBook.com.

Lutheran Study Bible: NRSV by Augsburg Fortress

Lutheran Study Bible: NRSV
Publisher:
Augsburg Fortress
ISBN:  9780806680590

I wish to thank the good people at Augsburg Fortress for sending me this copy to review. 

The Lutheran Study Bible: NRSV is the first study bible published by Augsburg Fortress.  This was a fruit of the Book of Faith Initiative in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which is designed to encourage members of the church to dig deeper into the bible.  Through this initiative, Augsburg Fortress has inadvertently entered the study bible market. I don’t think it was meant to compete with the upcoming Lutheran Study Bible, which is soon to be released in October by Concordia Publishing House.  These are entirely two different study bibles and are based on different translations.

The NRSV is the translation that is most widely used in the ELCA.  As a result, it was the obvious choice for the Lutheran Study Bible.  The NRSV is one of my favorite translations because it is very accurate, dependable, and uses gender inclusive language.

Upon my opening of the bible, the first thing I noticed was that the study notes were situated on the side of the page instead of the traditional place at the bottom.  I found this easy to locate the study notes because I could just look horizontally and right next to the passage is the corresponding notes.  There doesn’t seem to be an abundance of study notes but since this is Augsburg’s first study bible, it’s a good start already.  Perhaps the next edition in the future will be more notes.  It also surprised me to find that some of the articles were located in between the books of Nahum and Habakkuk. It would be so much easier to locate them if they were all placed at the beginning of the bible, including the subject guide and the bible reading plan.

Added to this critique would be my recommendation to either increase the font size of the biblical text from a 10 point font to an 11 point font, or to change the font to something easier to read, but preferably both.  Keep the study notes located on the side.  It’s a great approach to layout.  I also like the single-column layout because it is much easier to read than a two-column layout.

On a note of personal preference, I prefer something other than baby blue for the chapter headings and cover.  A darker and more visible color would be easier on the eyes.  But since this is also the theme color of the Book of Faith initiative, I guess I could go for that, but I say: “Buck the theme color and go against the grain!”  Give it a nice richer and fuller color in the future.  I’d also like to note the nice art work at the beginning of each book.  That’s a nice addition.

The forty-nine contributors of the study notes with individual book introductions are Lutheran scholars almost entirely from the ELCA. However, as a Lutheran, I’d also like to see some commentary by Martin Luther himself.  If that were to be included in the future editions, it would really make it a ‘Lutheran Study Bible.’ So add some more of Luther. 

The study notes use four icons to indicate:
• World of the Bible: people, places, events and artifacts;
• Bible Concepts: ideas and theological insights;
• Lutheran Perspectives: asks a question about a bible verse or passage from a uniquely Lutheran theological perspective;
• Faith Reflection: asks a question to cause one to think about and discuss the meaning of the text.

The other main feature of this study bible is all the articles throughout the bible.  All the contributors are ELCA scholars and pastors.  I will comment in more detail what I think about my four favourite articles below.  However, regarding the other five articles, they range from okay to good. Moreover, there is some overlap between these other articles. I appreciate their scholarly background, however, I found some of the contributors to the articles being overly-defensive about the Lutheran perspective, which need not be.

Among my top favourites are the Old and New Testament Overview and Section Introductions.  The two articles written by Walter C. Bouzard (O.T.) and Arland J. Hultgren (N.T.) provide a top-notch scholarly perspective on the Old and New Testaments. 

Bouzard provides the reader with a simple explanation of JEPD.  He also describes God’s involvement in the life of Israel as a picture, in stating: “virtually all agree that the Penteteuch is made up of multiple literary strands. Thus, the Penteteuch is like a mosaic created of many colored stones or pieces of glass.” I also like his explanation of the Penteteuch:

“Jews refer to these books as the Torah, a word that is too narrowly translated as ‘law,’ as in the ‘books of the law.’  That translation is unfortunate, because torah cannot be summed up in the single word law.  Torah also includes ideas like direction, instruction, and teaching.  Moreover, thinking of the content of the Penteteuch only as law is not helpful.  It is true that many of the chapters in these books are filled with legal material, but they include much more than that.  Between Genesis and Deuteronomy we find stories, poems, genealogies, folk tales, and other types of literature” (p. 45).

Hultgren takes a stand on the authenticity of Paul’s authorship for at least seven of the thirteen epistles that have been traditionally seen as authored by Paul. Of these are: Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon.  I like his admittance to Paul’s use of secretaries or scribes to help write his letters.  I have always thought that this was done by Paul in writing his epistles.  Some scholars don’t admit to this.  To not consider this as a real possibility denies the circumstances of Paul’s days.  Regarding the other six epistles, Hultgren states:

“The other six letters attributed to Paul may not have been written or dictated by him in a literal sense. Many scholars believe that their authors were associates of Paul who felt authorized to speak for him and who may have continued to speak and write in his name for some years after his death.  This would explain why these six letters are so different from the other seven letters of Paul in vocabulary and style….and why some major concepts found in the seven letters certainly written by Paul are missing from these six” (p. 1850).

My third favourite article is the Introduction to the Bible, written by Hans Dahl, discusses how the bible came to be, beginning from an oral tradition and leading up to the culmination of various manuscripts over centuries, and eventually forming the canon.  I like how Dahl leaves room for the various interpretations of the inspiration of Scripture: “…the Bible does not explain how this inspiration occurred.  Some believe the Bible’s words were communicated directly by God to its authors, and the authors wrote them down as if listening to recording.  Others argue that the message of the Bible is what God inspired, but the actual words were the work of the authors.  Still others believe the authors themselves were inspired by God, but not necessarily the words” (p. 20).

This leaves room for the learner to make up their minds for themselves, which is what I like.  Dahl also mentions that Martin Luther wrestled with four books—Jude, James, Hebrews, and Revelation—which were included in the canon.  I also like his mention of Luther’s idea of a canon within a canon.

“Luther also promoted the idea that the Bible contains a “canon within a canon.”  He recognized that within the biblical canon there are books, such as the letters of Paul and the Gospel of John, that hold greater authority than others because they convey more clearly who Christ is and what Christ came to do” (p. 23).

My fourth favourite article is the Small Catechism: A Simple Guide for the Book of Faith written by Timothy J. Wengert (who is also co-translator of the Book of Concord).  Wengert ably explains the doctrine of law and gospel par excellence.

“The law—in addition to providing good order in this world and its institutions and restraining evil—breaks down, strips bare, destroys, terrifies, and puts to death by unmasking our lust for control of God and salvation.  The gospel, as God’s answer to our human predicament, builds up, clothes in righteousness, creates, comforts, and brings new life by announcing God’s unconditional promise.”

Wengert explains that our human condition is not that we ought to feel guilty, but rather, we are guilty and ashamed by our sins.  Our weaknesses in our sinful condition trap us into manufacturing the proper spiritual feelings.  He states:

“The Holy Spirit (not the preacher, teacher, or reader) then takes those very truths and does what only God can do—destroys the unbelieving Old Creature and creates the New Creature of faith by revealing the truth about God: that God is gracious and merciful” (p. 1531).

When the Holy Spirit does the work, it removes any possibility of glory due to our our human efforts.  We are left without any choice but to give God all the praise and glory.

I recommend the Lutheran Study Bible for any Lutheran pastors, lay leaders, and learners who are searching the Scriptures and desire to reflect more deeply upon Lutheran perspectives as they read the Holy Scriptures. This first edition of the Lutheran Study Bible: NRSV is wonderful.  I am sure Augsburg Fortress will see that many Lutherans will also be highly appreciative of this.

A formal translation for my wife

Tonight, my wife asked me: “Which translation of the bible would be good for her to study from?”  I asked her whether she wanted a formal word-for-word translation or a dynamic translation for easier comprehension.  She said a word-for-word translation because she wants to do an indepth bible study.  I already know her favourite translation is the NLT and NIV, so this ruled out suggesting the NLT and TNIV.

I proceeded to my bookshelf and pulled out an ESV and an NRSV.  I gave her a choice and asked her which one she wanted.  She said “NRSV”.  I know her professor from seminary suggested the NRSV to her theology class.  I hesitated to give her a translation right away; but when she picked the NRSV, something clicked in me.  I realized that  the NRSV has some credibility, not that the ESV doesn’t.  Since she was a female, I thought the NRSV would speak to her best.  When given a choice, I think most women would probably go for the NRSV because of its gender inclusivity.

Eph. 3:16-18 “I pray that…”

Ephesians 3:16 – 18:

ESV:
that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
NLT:
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit.
NRSV:
I pray that
, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit,
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you, being rooted and grounded in love, And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.
may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

For public reading of this particular passage, I would prefer not to read from the ESV because the sentence is way too long.  It is five verses long: v.14-19. It takes your breath away. According to English grammar, it might qualify as a run-on sentence.  Notice the ESV does not have the phrase “I pray that” while the NRSV, NLT, and TNIV translations do. Why?  I looked into this and learned that vv. 16 and 18 (in orig. Greek) contain a subordinate or dependent clause: “that“.   For clarity’s sake, the words “I pray that” were added in by the NRSV, NLT, TNIV translators because this clause “that” actually refers to what Paul said back in v. 14 (“I bow my knees before the Father”). So by adding “I pray that“, clarity to an otherwise, lengthy sentence was increased.

Since “I pray that” is not present in the original, you would think that the ESV would be more precise.  It may be more precise but it may not be as understandable.  Precision does not equal accuracy.