Tuesday, December 30, 2008

“Spring Up, 0 Well!”

My previous post (Sermons in Sounds) emphasized the sounds of the Greek language in the New Testament that, when observed, speak volumes about the writers’ emotions, and emotions are a definite part of the interpretation of the text. In this post I focus on the sounds of the Hebrew language in the Old Testament. Given the nature of Hebrew, about which I won’t expand upon now, sound issues become much more pervasive in the Old Testament. Hopefully this post will reveal some of the fascinating aspects and interpretive benefits of hearing the Hebrew text.

Most English translations of Numbers 21:17-18 separate the final line of the poem as transcribed in the Hebrew Bible and simply make it a part of the continuing wanderings narrative. Without this last line, however, the poem is rendered nearly meaningless. With the last line the poem carries significant theological weight. Note the Hebrew text followed by the English Standard Version translation:

עֲלִי בְאֵר עֱנוּ־לָהּ׃ [Line 1]
בְּאֵר חֲפָרוּהָ שָׂרִים כָּרוּהָ נְדִיבֵי הָעָם בִּמְחקֵק בְּמִשְׁעֲנתָם [Line 2]
וּמִמִּדְבָּר מַתָּנָה׃ [Line 3]

“Spring up, O well!—Sing to it!— (Line 1 of the Hebrew text)

the well that the princes dug,
that the nobles of the people delved,
with the scepter and with their staffs.”
(Line 2 of the Hebrew text)

And from the wilderness they went on to Mattanah (Line 3 of the Hebrew text but not part of the poem in the ESV. The italics are mine and are absent in the original text.)

One key to the function of the poem is found in the sound correlation between the preceding statement of verse 16 “that I may give them water” and the name of the place Mattanah. Mattanah is a derivative of the verb meaning to give (nathan /נתן) and draws a significant sound parallel (mattanah מַתָּנָה/ettanah אֶתְּנָה).

A second key to the poem’s meaning is found in the fact that the place name Mattanah is also a noun meaning gift,no difference in spelling (מַתָּנָה), and again, a derivative of the verb meaning to give (nathan /נתן).

A final key is the fact that although Mattanah is in the desert the last line says that from the wilderness, utilizing a preposition of separation, they went to Mattanah. The continuing itinerary shows, however, that they never left the wilderness (cp. verse 23).

This poem was meant to encourage the wilderness wanderers and point them to Yahweh’s continuous provision for their need and the fulfillment of His promised gift of the promised land. Finding water while wandering in the desert was a great comfort for the thirsty Israelites. Leaving water to continue the wilderness trek could be fearful. It is significant that the very next place on the itinerary is a place that points both to the present gift of water, and to the upcoming gift of the promised land after they finish their journey. As such, the poem focuses on Yahweh’s providential care for His people both in the present as well as in the future. They can continue their journey with confidence in the present with an encouraged eye of faith for the future.

When the last line of the poem is unrecognized in the English translations, the poem perhaps becomes simply an exuberant reflection of finding water in the desert, in itself not an insignificant theme. When the last line is recognized, however, the poem is a powerful theological statement of God’s provision for His people and His faithfulness to His promises.

This post is not meant to cast fault on the English translations or translators. It is virtually impossible for any English translation to capture the nuances imbedded in the sounds of the Hebrew text. Hopefully, what it does is to emphasize the importance of being able to see and hear the Old Testament in all of its original glory and beauty! Another New Year’s goal—take a course in biblical Hebrew!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sermons in Sounds

Some data in the Bible is unobservable to the English Bible reader. There are sermons in the sounds of the Greek language.

The first example is Philippians 3:2. Here are the similar sounding words, given first in Greek and followed by the New American Standard Bible translation:

Βλέπετε τοὺς κύνας, βλέπετε τοὺς κακοὺς ἐργάτας, βλέπετε τὴν κατατομήν.

“Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision.”

The English translation of this text cannot duplicate the audible exclamation points produced by the repeated sounds of each consecutive word. Note the initial letters in bold typeface β, τ, κ. The best that it can do is to repeat the initial word. In doing so the English translation put the emphasis on the exhortation beware! but it obscures the fact that Paul’s emotional focus is on the false teachers. This is as close as Paul is going to come to actual swearing, if we can picture such an outburst from so eminent an Apostle!

The second example comes from Peter. In 1 Peter 1:4 the Apostle becomes enthralled with the idea of the heavenly inheritance. This can be seen somewhat in the New American Standard Bible rendition, “to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away.” As in the previous example, however, the audible exclamation points are not as all as dramatic as the original text. Notice what Peter wrote in Greek:

εἰς κληρονομίαν φθαρτον καὶ μίαντον καὶ μάραντον

The three adjectives have the same sounds both at the beginning and at the end of the words as seen in the bold typeface. This is literary skill at work. This is beauty. This is the text expressing an emotion that the English text is hard-pressed to duplicate. In his sermon, Peter would be shouting out each word and pounding the pulpit in excitement!

The point at hand is basic. The New Testament is a Greek book, and its full beauty as well as its meaning cannot be completely observed in any translation. This is not said to diminish the English Bible but to elevate the original text.

We have arrived at the end of 2008 and 2009 is just beginning. Maybe a good “resolution” or “goal” for the New Year would be to learn how to read the New Testament in all of its original glory!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Dark Side of Christmas

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” “Joy to the World,” “Jingle Bells.” Couple these ubiquitous songs with the ringing of the Salvation Army bells, the gleeful shouts of excited children browsing toy stores with their harried parents, the chatter of cash registers, and the ever-present bustling crowds and you have—Christmas. Christmas is to be a time of joy and celebration, a time of family gatherings and sharing lives. Perish the thought that there could be a “dark side” to this holiday season.

But a dark side there really is. Frank knows about this dark side. As he drives by the houses decked with lights he remembers how it used to be—the family outing to cut the perfect tree, the making of “lists” of hoped-for presents, the subterfuge of playing Santa on Christmas Eve, the Christmas Day feasting and gentle table-banterings. That was last year. This year there will be no tree-cutting adventure, perhaps there will be no tree at all. There may be some vague hope for a gift or two, expectations are at an all-time low. Santa suits are out. The Christmas feast will be a Denny’s “special,” and afterwards, perhaps, there will be the visit across town to give some presents to Millie and Matt who live with their mother and step-dad. Yes, Frank knows about this dark side of Christmas. Christmas is not the “happiest time of the year” but the worst time of the year.

This dark side of Christmas has a biblical referent which is usually left out of the Christmas pagent. We see the children role-playing wise men, shepherds, Herod, Joseph and Mary, and, of course, the Christ child. We do not usually revisit Bethlehem one to two years after the Christmas event to witness the slaughter of the innocent children. Why inject pain into such a gloriously joyful season? But this is exactly what Matthew does in 2:16-18, and in doing so he focuses the real meaning of Christmas in dramatic fashion.

After the wise men returned to their own land another way to escape King Herod (2:12), Matthew records the migration of the holy family to and from Egypt and ties it to the words of the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” Since the events narrated in 2:13-15 could be coupled very nicely with 2:19-23 and the return of Joseph, Mary and Jesus to Nazareth without including verses 16-18, the question must be asked, “Why did Matthew insert this dark and painful event into the Christmas story?”

The reason for Matthew 2:16-18 lies in one fact and in the answer to one question. The fact—Matthew was writing his gospel in large measure for the benefit of the Jewish people. Given this Jewish context, the quotations from the Old Testament are designed to draw connecting links between previous prophecy and present events so as to focus the Jews on the Person of Christ, the Fulfiller of the ancient Messianic promises. Clearly this connection is seen in 1:23; 2:6-7; and 2:15; as well as in 2:23, even though the exact Old Testament referent for this last passage is obscure. The question—How does Jeremiah 31:15, the quotation in 2:17-18, fit into Matthew’s development of the Christ-child story?

Jeremiah 31 is a major Old Testament touchstone for the future of the nation of Israel. The high point of the chapter is the description of the New Covenant in verses 31-34 that begins thus:

Behold, days are coming,” declares Yahweh, “when I will make with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant, unlike the covenant I made with their fathers in the day I took hold of their hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which covenant they broke, even though I was their husband,” declares Yahweh.

This certain future, however, proceeds from the immediate context of national defeat, humiliation and imminent exile. Verse 15 is the centerpiece of this travail:

Thus says Yahweh, “A voice in Ramah is heard—lamentation, weeping marked by extreme bitterness; Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are not.”

The village of Ramah, located about five miles north of Jerusalem on the Water-parting Road, the north-south highway, was an assembly point for the deportation to Babylon in 586 B.C. (Jeremiah 40:1). Here Ramah is a symbol for that soon-to-be national tragedy. Rachel also is used in this passage as a national symbol. Keil (The Prophecies of Jeremiah, vol. 2, p. 25) explains:

Just as the people are often included under the notion of the “daughter of Zion,” as their ideal representative, so the great ancestress of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh is here named as the representative of the maternal love shown by Israel in the pain felt when the people are lost.

The lamentation and weeping without even desiring to be comforted dramatizes the enormity of the events associated with the forthcoming Babylonian Captivity. Yet this painful prophecy of Jeremiah 31:15 is surrounded with glorious promises of future blessing. In fact, the very next verses appear emotionally incongruous, even cruel, in their exhortation:

Restrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there will be a reward for your work,” declares Yahweh, “And they shall return from the land of the enemy. And there is hope for your future,” declares Yahweh, “And children shall return to their own border."

Thus we have in the center of Jeremiah 31 both the greatest national tragedy and the greatest national blessing existing side-by-side!

Matthew’s quotation in 2:18 is stated as a fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:15. Since Ramah and Rachel are symbols in the Jeremiah text, the nature of that fulfillment cannot be related to the specific town or person mentioned. Instead the fulfillment must connect with the symbolism—Israel and the exile. Matthew’s use of this symbolism in verse 18 stems from the equating of Jesus with Israel in verse 15 by quoting Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I called My son.” In other words, Jesus is the embodiment of the nation and the “exiled” son who returns to His own land. The “Slaughter of the Innocents” event with its quotation from Jeremiah becomes a pointer for the Jewish readers to the national pain that their forefathers and they experienced through disobedience as well as an indicator that the child Jesus is the locus for the fulfillment of the promised blessings. The Herodian outrage at Bethlehem, then, was not itself the antitype of the prophecy Matthew cites but the occasion for citing the prophecy concerning Israel’s future. The readers surely identified with the grief over the Bethlehem event as their forefathers did over the deportation in 586 B.C., but they were forced also to relate Jesus’ return out of Egypt to the promise of eventual blessings for the nation. Jesus becomes the key figure for that eschatological event, and this is what is meant by the fulfillment motif. In Hagner’s words (Matthew 1-13, p. 38),

Again, in Matthew’s perspective, Jesus is understood as summarizing the whole experience of Israel as well as bringing it to fulfillment. Every strand of hope and trial in the OT is woven together in the eschatological appearance of the Promised One.

Carson (“Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 95) speaks to the hope aspect:

Jeremiah 31:15 occurs in a setting of hope. Despite the tears, God says, the exiles will return; and now Matthew, referring to Jeremiah 31:15, likewise says that, despite the tears of the Bethlehem mothers, there is hope because Messiah has escaped Herod and will ultimately reign.

He continues:

The tears of the Exile are now being “fulfilled”—i.e., the tears begun in Jeremiah’s day are climaxed and ended by the tears of the mothers of Bethlehem. The heir to David’s throne has come, the Exile is over, the true Son of God has arrived, and he will introduce the new covenant (26:28) promised by Jeremiah.

In this sense, Matthew’s insertion of the tragic Bethlehem slaughter dramatically punctuates the meaning of Christmas. There is both pain and promise necessarily associated with this yearly celebration.

If pain and promise both are part of the Christmas story as presented by Matthew to his Jewish audience—disobedience with its terrible consequences and salvation by God’s grace—pain and promise is also part of the Church’s theology of Christmas. Paul reflects in Galatians 3:13-14:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law when he became a curse for us—for it stands written, “Cursed is every one who hangs on a tree”—in order that the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

With a broader brush Paul continues in 4:4-5:

But when the fulness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son who was born of a woman and who was born under law, in order that He might redeem those under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

Christ was born to be crucified, to experience our pain, so that we might have life. The essential but often neglected symbol of Christmas is the cross. That Christ came to die points to the pain; that Christ came to save points to the promise. Christmas is a pain and promise event.

The pain and promise of Christmas has a Jewish connection through Matthew and Jeremiah and a Church connection through Paul. But there is also a contemporary connection—Frank. The pain associated with Christmas arrives every year, but along with the arrival of pain is the promise of life—not only the promise of eternal life, as blessed as that is, but also the promise of an abundant life. “I [Christ] have come”—the Christmas event—“that they might experience life, and might experience abundant [life]” (John 10:10b). What Frank needs to realize is that Christmas brings not only pain but also promise, and the promise exists for him. Perhaps he needs a pointer, as did Matthew’s Jewish readers, to the locus of the promise, Jesus Christ. Once he sees Him maybe then will he be able to focus on the positive instead of the negative aspects of this “happiest time of the year.”

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tithing Is Not About Money!

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglected the others." (Matthew 23:23, NASB)

What connection did Jesus see between tithing and justice, mercy and faithfulness? F. F. Bruce provides the following suggestion (The Expositor's Greek Testament, I, 282, slightly altered):

“The idea seems to be: [the Pharisees] made a great show of zeal in doing what was easy, and shirked the serious and more arduous requirements of duty.—[the justice, τὴν κρίσιν], righteous judgment, implying the love of righteousness, a passion for justice—[the mercy, τὸ ἔλεος], sadly neglected by Pharisees, much insisted on by Jesus.—[the faithfulness, τὴν πίστιν], in the sense of fidelity, trueheartedness. . . .”

This commentator apparently sees a peripheral connection between tithing and justice, mercy, and faithfulness. However, the historical basis for tithing would reject this in favor of a direct connection between these issues.

The Old Testament mentions three different tithes: one for the Levites as their inheritance instead of land, one for the poor as a social program of financial aid, and one for the people to finance a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for one of the three required annual feasts. These three tithes equate to Jesus' terms justice, mercy, and faithfulness respectively.

This historical understanding of the background of Matthew 23:23 is reflected by the Greek definite articles, the, used in the Greek text of Matthew 23:23 but not included in the English translation. The articles ask the reader to think in particular terms rather than general ones. Thus, justice is specifically tied to the first tithe, it is unjust to rob Levi of his inheritance; mercy, to the second tithe, the people of God are to be merciful to the poor in their midst; and faithfulness, to the third tithe, attendance at the annual feasts was required under the covenant and an issue of covenant faithfulness.

The conclusion of this study is that the connection between the tithes and the definite concepts mentioned by Jesus are hidden to the English Bible reader because the translations do not include the definite articles which could have been done, though awkwardly, in English—the justice (focus of tithe 1), the mercy (focus of tithe 2), the faithfulness (focus of tithe 3).

The conclusion of this investigation is that there is a very real connection between financial stewardship and justice, mercy, and faithfulness. The rest of the New Testament confirms this connection. In a significant way financial stewardship is really not about the money but about spirituality.

You can study this topic further by consulting: Wretlind, Dennis O. Shekels, Dollars & Sense, available at Amazon.com.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What! Another Translation?

To some people another translation of the Bible is just another translation too many. "Surely," the argument runs, "biblical scholarship has approached its zenith so that we can stop multiplying translations and confusing people." There is definitely some truth in this statement. If the reason for the translation is purely economic or just to have one's name attached to a translation, it is one translation too many. But there are at least three acceptable reasons for more English versions.

One reason is the English language itself. To the degree that existing translations fail to reflect modern usage another translation is in order. In this regard perhaps a new translation for the general populous every 20 years or so would be fitting. An illustration of this type of problem is the revised NASB (1997) rendering of Matthew 5:11 "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me." The previous edition completed in 1971 reads "Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of Me." The word revile is a bit anachronistic today.

Another reason for a new translation is the status of the biblical text, the manuscripts from which translations are made. As scholars better understand the science of textual criticism and the biblical manuscripts they suggest changes in textual readings. When a significant number of broadly validated suggestions exist a new translation is in order. The present state of textual-critical theory and practice and manuscript evaluation, however, practically eliminates the need for new translations for this reason in the foreseeable future.

Third, a new translation is legitimate when new interpretations of a formidable number of passages gain scholarly consensus. Achieving such unanimity of interpretation is not easy which means, therefore, that the need for a new translation on this ground is rare. It is better to footnote these changes in subsequent editions until the volume of necessary adjustments becomes unacceptable. Galatians 1:13 and 23 in the NASB, NIV, NLT, and NKJV differ from the venerable KJV in their recognition of the tendential nature of the verb "to destroy" (ἐπόρθουν) and translating "trying to destroy" instead of the obviously inadequate "destroyed." Here scholarly consensus has apparently been achieved.

New translations are occasionally necessary and good. But before another one is made the reasons for it must justify the effort. Otherwise another translation is just another unnecessary and potentially confusing product.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Saving the Apostle Paul

Paul’s clearly affirms his need for salvation in Philippians 1:19, “I know that this shall turn out to my salvation,” he writes. But, what did he mean and how did he used the word salvation (σωτηρίαν) here?

Neither the Greek New Testaments by Nestle-Aland or the United Bible Societies indicates that Paul is quoting from the Old Testament here. However, the margins of both texts tie the words to the Septuagint reading of Job 13:16. The wording is exact. The exegetical question, then, is how, if at all, Paul’s Old Testament allusion, conscious or unconscious, affects the meaning of his stated need for salvation?

Interpreting quotations and allusions involves minimally (a) the source of the reference, (b) the interpretation of the reference within its own context, (c) the manner of the citation by the writer, and (d) the purpose for the inclusion. In Philippians 1:19 the source of the allusion is clearly Job 13:16. The meaning of Job 13:16 within its own context may be summarized thus: In response to an accusation of being guilty of sin before God by Zophar, Job argues that he is innocent and that if he could argue his case legally before God he would be acquitted. In the Job context, this shall turn out to my salvation (τοῦτό μοι ἀποβήσεται εἰς σωτηρίαν) , is a statement of acquittal. The Septuagint (LXX, Greek translation of the Old Testament) term salvation (σωτηρίαν) represents the Hebrew word salvation (ישׁוּעָה) meaning victory and, in this legal context, victory is acquittal.

The manner of the citation is a direct quote from the LXX which is itself a good representation of the Hebrew precursor. Finally, the purpose for the allusion connects to the observation that Job’s and Paul’s experiences are somewhat parallel. Job was accused of sin by his “friend;” Paul is being attacked by “brothers.” Both Job and Paul claim victory.

Salvation in this context, then, is Paul’s statement of faith that his life now and in the future will exhibit genuine Christian character and never give way to sin and shame. Salvation here is the salvation of a victorious Christian life both in the present and when he stands before the Judge of all the earth.

Bible Translation--An exercise in "Failure"!

One of the most difficult questions I am asked as a minister and professor with competence in the biblical languages is this, “Which English translation is the best?” or “Which English translation should I buy?” The questioner, whether that a church member or a student, assumes that the answer should be relatively easy for one who can read the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts, and thereby be able to assess the merits of each English version. As in most serious questions, however, the answer is not easy. In this instance some of the difficulty lies in the fact that the questioner lacks, first, some understanding about the nature of the translation process and, second, how to assess the relative merits of any English translation.

Translation by its very nature is an exercise in failure. To be sure that failure is more pronounced in some translations than in others, but they are all failures. The failure most basically is tied to the fact that different languages are just that—different. That is, the communication pattern of the biblical languages is different from that of English and some of the data of these texts cannot pass over into the English translation. For example, Greek varies the order of words in a sentence according to the emphasis given to each word whereas English requires a regular order of words in a sentence, leaving the emphasis for spoken communication. Thus, in an English translation one cannot see the emphasis of the original text that is a major element of communication in every language. For another example, Hebrew often uses similar sounding words to communicate depth of meaning. English necessarily changes the sounds and removes the ability to see the full meaning of the original text. These and other kinds of problems exist in trying to translate biblical language texts into English. In short, no translation can transfer all of the data of one language into another language. Every translation, therefore, is an exercise in failure.

But there are degrees of failure, and the process of determining the “better” translation is related to this question, “Which translation transfers the greater amount of data from the original without adding to or detracting from the data of the original?” There are two elements in this question. The first, the degree of success in transferring data, requires an ability to read the original and compare the translation. The “best” translation will be the one that transfers the greater amount of the transferable data. The second part of the question, whether or not
extra-textual data is brought into the translation, also requires the ability to read the original and compare translations. Data which is “extra-textual” can consist of making the translation more explicit or less explicit in meaning than the original, adding words not found in the original without indicating that they are added by the translator, rewording the sentences to bring emphasis to an element not emphasized in the original, changing singulars to plurals and visa versa, using gender-inclusive terms where the original has gender-specific terms, etc. Translation philosophy strongly comes into play here as well. A formal equivalence or word-for-word translation philosophy generally tends to have high success in transferring the transferable data and low inclinations towards adding extra-textual data. A dynamic equivalent translation philosophy generally tends to have only moderate success in transferring the transferable data and a high tendency towards adding extra-textual data. In short, the “better” translation would be the one that follows a word-for-word philosophy. But all of this is complicated by the fact that any one translation may be classified as “best” in one passage and somewhat less successful in another.

Perhaps it can be understood now why the question of which translation is best is exceedingly difficult to answer. There is no one easy solution to this complicated problem. What the questioner wants to hear is an answer such as “NASB,” or “NIV,” or “KJV,” etc. What the questioner gets is an education. To persons without the ability to investigate the original languages for themselves I recommend that they use various translations in their studies enabling them to compare the English versions and to observe where significant differences lie. At least one of these Bibles ought to follow the word-for-word philosophy of translation such as the KJV, NKJV, or NASB. Beyond this the questioner can consult commentaries to determine which translation is “best” in a given passage.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Where Is the Professor When You Need Him?

Your Bible study group is really enjoying your brilliant expositions of the Psalms. You, of course, cannot tell the group how many laborious hours you spend pouring over your Hebrew Bible to assure them that you really do know what you are talking about. This week has been a tough one, however. Your family required extra time, your job moved into “extra innings,” your professors refuse to delay the mid-term exam. You have no choice; you will have to “wing it” on Psalm 56. Hopefully there will not be any “land mines” in the way of another successful evening of fascinating your Bible study group!

Then came verse 1 (English text) . . .

(NIV)”Be merciful to me, 0 God, for men hotly pursue me all day long they press their attack.”

(NKJV)”Be merciful to me, 0 God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me.”

(NASB) ”Be gracious to me, 0 God, for man has trampled upon me; Fighting all day long he oppresses me.”

SUE: "My Bible says 'men hotly pursue me;' Tom’s says 'man would swallow me up;' yours says 'man has trampled upon me.' How can it mean all of these things. Don’t they imply different things?"

TOM: "Right. Also, the NIV places the event in the present; the
NKJV, as a possible future event; and the NASB, a past event.
When did this happen? Is there a single best translation? Is there a single meaning?"

YOU: “Be merciful to me, 0 God!”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Why Study Biblical Languages?

One of the goals of Hebrew and Greek grammar is to demonstrate the significance of studying these biblical languages. To some, no explanations will be needed; to others, definitive proof will be required. These blogs will prove, it is hoped, that a working knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek is imperative for anyone desiring to "rightly divide the Word of truth." Logic alone, however, can serve the same purpose. The following quotation is taken from The Expository Times:

"If the Bible is what we profess to believe it to be, it is worth the effort to read it in the original. One who made it his life's work to interpret French literature, but who could only read it in English translation, would not be taken seriously; yet it is remarkable how many ministers of religion week by week expound a literature that they are unable to read save in translation!"

The first fact that needs to be understood clearly is this: The Bible is Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek literature; English is merely the means whereby the English speaking world accesses it. The second truth that must not only be grasped but accepted is that every translation of the Bible is necessarily an interpretation. That interpretation may be good or bad, but interpretation it truly is. Furthermore, it is impossible for any translation to transmit all that the original languages communicate because languages do not communicate in the same manner. In evaluating translations, therefore, one can only speak of varying degrees of loss, and no translation consistently maintains its degree of loss. Some passage are excellent; others less so.

These blogs, at the very least, will show how a knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek can: (1) reveal truths unrecoverable by any translation, (2) clarify obscure passages of the English Bible, (3) open up new interpretive possibilities for understanding the text beyond those which the English translations offer, and (4) aid us in evaluating between competing English translations/interpretations. Welcome to the wonderful world of the Bible Blogger!