Archive for March, 2009

breath of life

March 25, 2009

i’m ok with Koine Greek, but i don’t read Hebrew at all.  so Charles Van Der Pool’s interlinear  Apostolic Bible is a real joy to me.  it has a “literal” English translation underneath the Greek text for both the old and new testaments.  the old testament text is from the Septuagint, translated about 250 years before Christ.

when the old testament is quoted by new testament authors, they generally quoted from the Septuagint (a.k.a.: “LXX”) version.  you can tell which they used because the LXX often varies a bit from the Hebrew in ways unlikely to occur if they were translating Hebrew on the fly.  because of this scholars think that normal people during Jesus lifetime read and studied the Greek translation more than Hebrew original.

so it’s called the Apostolic Bible for good reason.  it has the same texts that the apostles could have read in their day – though it’s unlikely the gospels and epistles were collected in one place until quite a while later.

the biggest benefit to me – besides having the old and new testament Greek texts together in one place – is the concordance.  finally it’s easy to consider the meaning of a word by seeing all the times it was used in both sections of the bible.

one that had me excited this morning is in Acts 2:2.  the NIV says:

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting

in the Greek, “violent wind” is “pnoes biaias” (πνοῆς βιαίας).  “biaias” is the adjective translated “violent”, but i wasn’t familiar with the word translated “wind”.  it’s similar to pneuma (πνεῦμά) – translated wind, breath, or spirit – but is a little different word.

so off i went to the concordance.  and it turned out there was a reason for my unfamiliarity.  it is only used twice in the new testament, the other use also in Acts at 17:25 where it’s translated “breath”.

so maybe, i thought, it was more like the sound of a “strong breath”.  the thought that came to my mind was a 40-year old blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.

but it was the old testament that helped me out most.  our word is used a number of times, but the first one is enough.

The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. – Genesis 2:7

“Breath of life” (pnoen zoes – πνοὴν ζωῆς) uses the same word as the Acts 2 passage.  and it makes perfectly clear what happened in the upper room.  when God created Adam he imparted life to lifeless clay by breathing on him.  in Acts he did the same thing to 120 people.

gray clouds on the horizon

March 19, 2009
by Viktor Vasnetsov, courtesy wikimedia

by Viktor Vasnetsov, courtesy wikimedia

i spend a couple hours last evening reading and watching political and economic news.  in the US, the news is mostly bad, and some worse.  it seems a majority of our politicians are disingenuous – selling out our country for the price of campaign contributions and political pressure.

my assumption is that the bible is true and that the horrors of the last days will be beyond what i care to think about.  we can fight, and it’s our responsibility to, but we won’t get final victory until a guy shows up on a white horse.

then this morning i found myself in the last chapter of  Isaiah:

For behold, the LORD will come in fire And His chariots like the whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire. For the LORD will execute judgment by fire And by His sword on all flesh, And those slain by the LORD will be many. “Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go to the gardens, Following one in the center, Who eat swine’s flesh, detestable things and mice, Will come to an end altogether,” declares the LORD. “For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. “I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations. “Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the LORD, “just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. “I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,” says the LORD. – Isaiah 66:15-21 (NASB)

So the good news is, there will be survivors.

who you know, not what

March 11, 2009

the guys Jesus was hardest on were also the ones who dedicated their lives to reading, studying, memorizing, and teaching the bible.

don’t ever think that’s what it’s about.  rather, it’s about knowing God, loving him, and serving him.  it’s 100% relationship.

things psalm 1 doesn’t say:

  • his delight is reading through the bible every year of his adult life
  • his delight is in memorizing a new scripture every day
  • his delight is in correlating the use of every word in the bible

rather, his delight is meditating on the things God has said – like i would a letter from the one i love.  to know God, to begin to grasp his ways and the things that are important to him, so i can live pleasing to him.

words, words, words (part 1)

March 6, 2009

i have a number of issues with english bible translations, most going back to the latin vulgate, by way of the bishops bible and geneva bible translations of the 16th century.  bible translation mistakes are insidious because, almost inevitablly, somone will stand up in front of a church, or radio microphone, or tv camera and build a teaching on the peculiar reading the translator picked.  after that, said preacher will fight to the death any “correction” to that translation.

as a bunny-trail diversion down the “i said it so it must be right” path:   to this point in my life, 100% of people i’ve bumped into who are adamantly, actively pro-choice have either had an abortion or counseled someone to have an abortion.  after that, it’s more guilt than any of us can handle to say: “i killed my baby” or “i counseled my friend/daughter/girlfriend to kill her baby”. so the person becomes “pro-choice”.

i have no doubt i’ll eventually find a “pro-choice” person for whom this isn’t true, but i’m convinced they’re the minority.

so, back to the bible (i can picture my friend Kathy Johnson doing that airplane-circling-the-tower gesture and mouthing “the point.  what is the point? get back to the point”).

the greek word ἐπιθυμια (epithumia) is translated as both desire and lust in the most new testament translations.  same word in the original text, two different words in our english translations.  here are a couple examples of each, all from the 1995 New American Standard translation:

and He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” – Luke 22:15

For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. – Matthew 13:17


…but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:28

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. – 2 Timothy 2:22

what this does, in my always-humble opinion, is give the appearance that the bible counts desire and lust as distinct categories.  it fits our western culture perfectly. we believe it’s ok to desire physical gratification, an extravagent lifestyle and adulterous relationships; as long as we don’t “let it slip over to the area of lust”.  “she is so hot!”  “oh, me?  i wound never be unfaithful to my wife”

what the translators should have done

they should have consistently translated ἐπιθυμια as desire.  is this harder to handle spiritually?  you betcha!  but it is what the bible writers actually wrote.  try swapping out desire where it says lust in the two examples i gave earlier.  or, try this on for size:

For all that is in the world, the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its desires; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. – 1 John 2:16-17

John isn’t saying there is some special class of desire called lust that belongs to this world and is going to come to an end.  he’s saying that IT ALL is.

just as an obtw: the septuagint (the greek translation of the hebrew old testament – the bible that was commonly in use when Jesus was on the earth and that he most often quoted from) uses the same word, ἐπιθυμια, in the 10th commandment in exodus 20:17 and deuteronomy 5:21:

‘You shall not covet [desire] your neighbor’s wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.’