Sunday, August 14, 2011

To See Is to Hear


One of the undeniable features of biblical literature is its oral nature.  Harvey writes (Listening to the Text, 1):
 
The popular culture of the first century was, technically, a rhetorical culture. In a rhetorical culture, literacy is limited, and reading is vocal. Even the solitary reader reads aloud (Acts 8:30). The normal mode of writing is by dictation, and that which is written down is intended to be read aloud to a group rather than silently by the individual. Such a culture is familiar with writing, but is, in essence, oral. The predominantly oral nature of a rhetorical culture requires speakers to arrange their material in ways that can be followed easily by a listener. Clues to the organization of thought are, of necessity, based on sound rather than on sight. 

The pre-first century Jewish culture was no different. The Old Testament was written to be heard as well as seen. Oral patterning, therefore, can be seen throughout the Hebrew Bible and especially in poetry. This incontrovertible fact impacts the interpretation of Psalm 60:4 (Hebrew Bible 60:6, subsequent verse references follow the English Bible). Two interpretations are seen in the following representative translations:
“You have set up a banner for those who fear you, that they may flee to it from the bow” (English Standard Version, ESV).
 “You have given a banner to those who fear You, That it may be displayed because of the truth” (New American Standard Bible, NASB).
Three translation variations appear in this verse. The first relates to bow and truth. The Hebrew word in question occurs only here in the Old Testament. Two words develop from three consonants (fvq): “bow” considered to be an Aramaic form of the often-used word for “bow” (fv#q) =  tv#q#), The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, 905), and “truth” (f=v=q) occurring only at Proverbs 22:21 instead of the very frequent Hebrew word for “truth” (tm#a$). This second word is considered rather harsh sounding so that a helping vowel frequently occurs between the last two consonants in these kinds of verbs (Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, 88 and 93-94). With this helping vowel, the rare word “truth” parallels the rare word “bow” both in form and sound (fv#q)). 

The hearer of this verse must (1) choose between the two words with vastly different senses, as the representative translations have done, or (2) understand that a double entendre has been introduced into the text. Tate (Psalms 51-100, 102) writes, “Possibly a pun was intended between tvq (‘bow’) and fvq (‘truth’).” If a double entendre is rejected, however, the interpreter must ask: Why did the author use this rare term when unambiguous words for “bow” or “truth” were readily at hand?

A second translation difference occurs in this verse tied to a word-form found only here in the Old Testament. It could stem from either one of two verbs. The word may (1) stem from only one of these verbs or (2) represent another double entendre requiring the hearer to muse over the dissimilar senses of the word.  The word involved (ss@ont=h!) is translated to “flee” (ESV) and to “be displayed” (NASB). The lexical meaning (Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 231 and 240 respectively) is either “to get to safety” (from the root swn) or “to rally around [the banner]” (from the root ssn).

Interestingly, these different meanings resonate with “bow” and “truth.”  “Bow” functions as a metonymy for warfare and connects effortlessly with getting to “safety” at the location of the banner. “Truth” represents a rallying cry for God’s people as the banner. In the first instance, the banner is taken literally; in the second, metaphorically. See Harris, Archer, Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 583, on the two aspects inherent in the word “banner” (sn}).

A third translation difference follows in this verse. The prepositional phrases “from the bow” (ESV) and “because of the truth” (NASB) syntactically and smoothly fit each meaning (Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 62-63). The reader of the English Bible would have no reason to question the translation.

 
double entendre interpretation provides a reasonable explanation for the use of these words.  But, as in all such cases, the context must validate the analysis. Psalm 60 must convey both ideas if credence can be given to this suggestion.

War is the overriding issue facing the Psalmist and the nation. Clearly the word “bow” represents a military theme; warfare imagery pervades verses 1-5 as well as 9-12 of Psalm 60. However, whereas “bow” focuses the external concern, “truth” embodies the internal stimulus for the petitions of verse 5, provides historical and geographical background to verses 6-8, and explains the intensification of the Psalmist’s confidence of deliverance and victory in verses 9-12.

To David the “truth” representing a standard and rallying point for the beleaguered nation may lie in the promises of God to him through Nathan the Prophet, “I will give you rest from all your enemies. . . . Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever” (NASB, 2 Samuel 7:11, 16). God committed Himself to the preservation of Israel’s kingdom and people.  Israel, on the verge of collapse, needed God to act in accordance with His promise. Believing the divine pledge, David petitions for deliverance (verse 5).

The locations mentioned in verses 6-8 support this connection to the divine promises. They encompass the expanse of David’s kingdom north, east, south, and west. God will preserve the nation. The enemies will not destroy the kingdom. David confidently asks for and expects divine deliverance. Verses 9-12 give a decidedly upbeat conclusion to a psalm that began with anguish and confusion.

For one application from Psalm 60 that stems from the two-fold double entendre, when trouble comes flee to the truth of God found in the Word of God as the place of safety and encouragement.

Psalm 60 was written for the “ear” but only those who can “see” the Hebrew text will be able to “hear” what may well be imbedded in the sounds of the words. May this oral dimension to the Word of God encourage more Christians to enthusiastically desire to read the Bible in the original languages. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Christlikeness, Grammatically Speaking!

Bible scholars sometimes marginalize matters of importance without realizing what they have done. New Testament Greek grammarians occasionally lose their way, and in doing so guide others onto the same detour. Daniel Wallace provides a case in point by consigning the Genitive of Description to a syntactically vague and limited value for New Testament interpretation. He writes:

“This is the ‘catch-all Genitive, the ‘drip pan’ Genitive, the ‘black hole’ of Genitive categories that tries to suck many a Genitive into its grasp! . . . .  Hence, this use of the Genitive should be a last resort. If one cannot find a narrower category to which a Genitive belongs, this is where he or she should look for solace. . . .  The additional categories [of the Genitive] have exegetical value” (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 79, and footnote 24, italics his).

Some grammar explanations will clarify the issue.  English substantives are nouns or a word or a group of words used as a noun. Substantives relate to the other elements of a sentence by “case.” English has three cases, subjective (subject of the verb), objective (object of the verb) and possessive (denoting possession). The English Possessive Case correlates most closely to what Greek grammarians classify as the Genitive Case.   

When the student of Greek encounters a noun in the Genitive Case not preceded by a preposition the standard translation is to translate the substantive with the preposition “of.” This preposition is ambiguous because it can refer to numerous concepts only one of which is possession. Translating a Genitive, therefore, requires the student to interpret the New Testament. Every Genitive, the Genitive of Description included, plays a significant role in interpretation.

Philippians 1:8 undermines the attitude that the Genitive of Description carries little if any interpretive weight. The passage reads in the NASB and Greek text like this:

For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus
μάρτυς γὰρ μου ὁ θεὸς ὡς ἐπιποθως πάντας ὑμᾶς ἐν σπλάγχνοις Χριστοῦ ᾿Ιησοῦ.

The Genitive of Description is found in the phrase “with the affection of Christ Jesus” (ἐν σπλάγχνοις Χριστο ᾿Ιησο)  and can be retranslated literally, “with the affection characteristic of Christ Jesus.” (Compare the words in bold font.) This Genitive unites Paul’s affection to a characteristic of Jesus (Wallace, p. 80).  His statement can be restructured, “I long for you all with Christ-like affection.

The word translated “affection” describes deep emotions, genuine feelings.  Literally, it refers to one’s viscera, inward parts, entrails; metaphorically, it speaks of the feelings itself, love, affection (Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd ed., 938). Hawthorne describes Paul’s use of the phrase in Philippians 1:8 as “striking and powerful,” an “astonishing metaphor,” “in the viscera, entrails of Christ Jesus” (Hawthorne, Philippians, 25).

F.B. Meyer expressed it this way, “The Apostle had got so near the very of heart of his Lord that he could hear its throb, detect its beat; nay, it seemed as though the tender mercies of Jesus to these Philippians were throbbing in his own heart” (Meyer, The Epistle to the Philippians, 22).

A few simple questions will punctuate the point of this discussion, “How could Paul say that what he feels for the Philippian Christians is characteristic of Christ?” How could he know the nature and depth of Jesus’ emotional state? How can he be so bold as to make such a statement calling upon God to witness to its truth—“For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection [characteristic] of Christ Jesus”?

To personalize the issue, again in question format: About whom can a Christian affirm what Paul claimed and call upon God to witness to its truth? A spouse? A child? Practically, how does a believer achieve this level of Christ-like affection?

To “get inside” another person’s heart, to know for sure how he or she feels, requires extensive personal contact. The only way that this level of knowledge of Christ’s feelings can be gained is through the medium of Bible study and prayer, with prayer probably being the more effective of the two activities for getting to the heart of Jesus. Perhaps Paul’s injunction in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing,” provides part of the answer.

The emotion-packed term, “affection,” coupled to “Christ Jesus” by the Genitive of Description places the concept of discipleship on an almost unreachable plane! Perhaps one could classify Paul’s remark in Philippians 1:8 as hyperbole and summarily dismiss it, but that would be dishonest intellectually and exegetically.

This article suggests that the Genitive of Description should not be marginalized as a weak or non-player in the process of Bible interpretation. It demonstrates the exegetical importance of this Genitive category in a manner that makes it an equal partner for interpretation among the other uses of the Greek Genitive Case.

But for the Bible student, grammar serves a nobler purpose than simply making a translation possible. It “creates” theology. Although Christians may be inclined to reduce “over the top” statements like Paul’s to something more “reasonable,” it would not be there if the Holy Spirit had not inspired it.  And if the possibility of achieving Christ-like affection exists, it establishes a spiritual and attainable goal.  In the case of Philippians 1:8, that goal, grammatically speaking, is to “long for fellow-believers with Christ-like affections.” 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Deity and Duty—An “Invisible” Grammatical Observation

A grammatical pattern in New Testament Greek that has far reaching theological and ministry implications is, unfortunately, invisible to readers of English New Testaments. Not to malign English or English translations, this “invisibility” points out that English and Greek grammar and usage differ significantly and this necessarily degrades the transfer of data from the Greek New Testament to an English translation. The pattern involved can be described as definite article, substantive, conjunction, substantive.

Brooks and Winbery (Syntax of New Testament Greek, 76) provide one formal definition for this pattern that has been labeled the “Granville Sharp Rule”: “If two substantives [nouns or noun substitutes] are connected by καί [“and”] and . . . the first has an article and the second does not, the second refers to the same person or thing as the first.” This rule when applied to Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 makes explicit statements about the deity of Jesus Christ. The reader of the following representative English translation (New American Standard Bible, NASB) can arrive at this conclusion (bold font)—but cannot appeal to the grammar to prove it:

Titus 2:13 — “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ
2 Peter 1:1 — "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus"

The same passages in the Greek text with the grammar highlighted [and described] in bold font follow:

Titus 2:13 — προσδεχόμενοι τὴν μακαρίαν ἐλπίδα καὶ ἐπιφάνειαν τῆς δόξης τοῦ [definite article] μεγάλου θεοῦ [substantive] καὶ [conjunction] σωτῆρος [substantive] ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ 
2 Peter 1:1 — Συμεὼν Πέτρος δοῦλος καὶ ἀπόστολος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῖς ἰσότιμον ἡμῖν λαχοῦσιν πίστιν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ τοῦ [definite article] θεοῦ [substantive] ἡμῶν καὶ [conjunction] σωτῆρος [substantive] Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

This is very helpful when confronted with liberal commentaries and Jehovah's Witnesses or others who deny the deity of Jesus Christ.

A second application of the same grammatical pattern (definite article, substantive, conjunction, substantive), but not the "Granville Sharp Rule," occurs in Philippians 1:25. This time an important ministry principle emerges, one that the reader of the English Bible cannot see and will miss.

A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, 787, explains this second application of the grammatical pattern, “Sometimes groups [or ideas] more or less distinct are treated as one for the purpose in hand, hence use only one article.” This means that the interpreter must (1) see the pattern and (2) determine how the pattern functions in the passage under consideration.

Philippians 1:25 in the representative English translation (NASB) contains the phrase “for your progress and joy in the faith.” Since English and Greek use the definite article differently, the English translation may or may not reflect the Greek article. Therefore, by reading the text with an eye towards the chances of the Greek definite article being present, four possibilities can be listed. Note the definite article given in bold font:

(a) for your the progress and the joy in the faith
(b) for your the progress and joy in the faith
(c) for your progress and the joy in the faith
(d) for your progress and joy in the faith

Each of these are possible but only (b) reflects the underlying Greek text. Note the bold words in the following Greek text. The conjunction is given also in bold letters and standing between the two definite articles.

εἰς τὴν ὑμῶν προκοπὴν καὶ χαρὰν τῆς πίστεως

The literary pattern (article, substantive, conjunction, substantive) is clearly seen in the rewriting of the (b) translation noting the full pattern: for your the (τὴν) progress (προκοπὴν) and (καὶ) joy (χαρὰν) in the faith. The second article (τῆς) lies outside the purview of this pattern.

Two secondary items need comment. First, the pronoun translated “your” (ὑμῶν) following the first definite article is possessive and encompasses both progress and joy. The translations, therefore, do well by rendering the phrase “your progress and joy.” Second, the specifying article (τῆς) before “faith” refers objectively to the content of the Christian faith (Hawthorne, Philippians, Word Biblical Commentary series, 52; Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 820). Most translations reflect this appropriately with “the faith.”

The primary point of discussion in Philippians 1:25 is whether the literary pattern equates progress and joy as one and the same, the Granville Sharp Rule, or ties the differing concepts together to make a point. Without question, the latter case fits the verse since joy is not another designation for progress. Paul groups spiritual progress and joy under the umbrella of the Christian faith. In using this format he desires his readers to keep the two ideas together as parts of one discipling concept.

This has tremendous practical implications for ministry. Christian leaders involved in discipleship must encourage people to make positive spiritual progress, but not at the cost of diminished joy. They must recognize and challenge spiritual lethargy and fading joy to motivate believers to grow spiritually while increasing their joy—admittedly a difficult task but a duty when discipling others. Thus, the literary pattern seen in Philippians 1:25 describes an essential ministry obligation not stated so directly elsewhere in the New Testament.

Definite article, substantive, conjunction, substantive—A grammatical pattern occurring frequently in the Greek New Testament but rarely observable in English. Not recognizing this arrangement of words would be no problem if the interpretation of the Bible were not at stake—but it is. One way forward, however, for those who have little or no facility in Greek may be to consult a work such as Alfred Marshall, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976. The definite articles and conjunctions as well as other parts of speech are readily discoverable in this resource. It is possible to bring the “invisible” into focus for practical use.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tied Up in “Nots”

Comprehensive, accurate interpretation must precede Bible translation. This rings true because every translation conveys an interpretation. The translator’s procedures for analysis, therefore, must be thorough. The Principle of Correspondence to validate an interpretation is one of those necessary procedures. Correspondence means that one must account for all data relating to the text in order to establish a valid interpretation and subsequent translation (Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation, 236).

The Psalms represent Hebrew poetry and the psalmist’s poetic technique is one of these correspondence points in Psalm 121 that translators appear to have overlooked. This surfaces in verses 3 and 4 where two different negatives in biblical Hebrew appear but receive little attention. They are the catalyst for this article, “Tied Up in ‘Nots’.”

In the New International Version (NIV) the “nots” involved are illustrated here by UPPERCASE LETTERS.

3 He will NOT (אל) let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will NOT (אל) slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will NEITHER (לא) slumber NOR (לא) sleep.

The NET Bible shown in similar fashion also illuminates the “nots” but only includes three of the original four. The fourth negative is hidden in the last line behind “or.”

3 May he NOT (אל) allow your foot to slip!
May your protector NOT (אל) sleep!
4 Look! Israel’s protector
does NOT (לא) sleep or slumber!


The general differences between these negatives are summarized by Waltke & O’Connor (An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, 567), “The construction with אל (al) tends to reflect urgency and that with לא (lo) legislation,” or in other terms (Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, GKC, 478-79), the difference is one of “subjective and conditional negation” with al (אל) and “objective, unconditional negation” with lo (לא). These different emphases are usually invisible to the readers of the English Bible.

Furthermore, the negative al (אל) occurs typically with a different verb form (jussive) than that used with lo (לא). Unlike the verb used with lo (לא), the jussive commonly expresses an urgent wish or prayer (Arnold, Choi, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, 130). Each of these two negative appears twice in Psalm 121:3-4, and the observant Bible interpreter has to wonder what distinction, if any, the psalmist was making.

The translators of the NIV along with numerous English translations tend to (1) ignore the differences in the negatives used by the psalmist, or (2) decline to express the differences in clear, readable English, or (3) reinterpret the differences in a way that negates the distinctions. The NET Bible presented above straddles a mid-course by reading the jussives as urgent prayers in verse 3 but then changes the interpretation in the following footnote:

The prefixed verbal forms following the negative particle אל appear to be jussives. As noted above, if they are taken as true jussives of prayer, then the speaker in v. 3 would appear to be distinct from both the speaker in vv. 1-2 and the speaker in vv. 4-8. However, according to GKC, 2nd edition, 322 §109.e), the jussives are used rhetorically “[sometimes] to express the conviction that something cannot or should not happen” [added insertion from the GKC reference]. In this case one should probably translate, “he will not allow your foot to slip, your protector will not sleep,” and understand just one speaker in vv. 4-8.


This note raises questions about the editors’ disagreement with their own translation and about the complex nature surrounding the various “speakers.” To put the issue succinctly, can the Psalm in general, and verses 3-4 in particular, be understood in a manner that reflects the different emphases in the negatives and not require multiple speakers?

Delitzsch, in his Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes, Volume 5, page 273, gives a grammatically acceptable translation of the jussives in verse 3 not as prayers but as urgent statements. However, he also indicates a rationale for not accepting his translation:

He will, indeed, surely not abandon thy foot to the tottering . . , thy Keeper will surely not slumber; and then confirms the assertion that this shall not come to pass by heightening the expression in accordance with the step-like character of the Psalm (italics added).


As negative prayers the jussives connects better with the poetic technique of step-parallelism than as urgent statements. Following Delitzsch’s idea of “heightening the expression,” the speaker prays that Yahweh’s help will be evident in the everyday affairs of life (verse 3), and then he heightens the expression in verse 4. Consider the following literal interpretation:

May He not allow your foot to slip;
May He not slumber,
He who keeps you.


This prayer for help and protection is followed by an emphatic exclamation of confidence:

Look! He will never slumber!
And He will never fall asleep!
He who keeps Israel.


Verse 3 uses the subjective negative al (אל) as the Psalmist expresses his urgent prayer that Yahweh not slumber. Verse 4 activates the heightened character with the interjection “Look!” pointing dramatically to the following clauses. Then he introduces the objective negative lo (לא) to dramatically punctuate the fact that God will never slumber or fall asleep as He watches over His people.

Allen confirms Delitzsch’s poetic characterization regarding this psalm, “Step-parallelism occurs in all three strophies,” verses 1-2, 3-4, and 7-8 (Psalms 101-150, Word Biblical Commentary series, 153). In his translation of verses 1-2 there is clearly a “heightening,” here represented by italics,

(1) I look to the mountains
to see where my help is to come from.
(2) The source of my help is Yahweh,
maker of heaven and earth.


In verses 7-8 a heightening likewise occurs and translated clearly,

(7) Yahweh will guard you from all danger.
he [sic] will guard your life.
(8) Yahweh will guard
your going and coming
henceforth for evermore
.


But Allen’s translation of verses 3-4 strangely seems to diminish rather than heighten its flow of thought,

(3) He will not let your foot stumble;
your guardian will not slumber.
(4) Of course, no slumber
no sleeping
marks Israel’s guardian.


Watson describes step or staircase parallelism: “[It] expands one line of poetry into two, and their functions overlap slightly” (Classical Hebrew Poetry, 208). The overlap is clear in all of the above-mentioned verses. A key but unspecified point in this description, however, is the closeness of the two lines both in form and content (see Ibid, 358).

Since step-parallelism not only heightens the contents but also interrelates the subject matter, the issue of the “speaker” or “speakers” in Psalm 121 may not be as confused as the NET Bible editors suggested in their note. A single speaker may be identified as a member of Israel who addresses himself or a larger group in verse 3 and continues in verse 4 by identifying that group as “Israel” (see Delitzsch, Ibid, 273, who understands the psalmist to be addressing himself in verse 3). Such a correlation with the pronoun “you” is not unique. Psalm 122:6-9 similarly refers to Jerusalem as “you.” Allen writes, “The psalm is spoken by an individual . . . who functions as a member of a larger group . . . and at one point addresses that group” (Allen, Ibid., 156). The main difference in Psalm 121:3-4 is that the Psalmist addresses the group before identifying that group as Israel. According to Watson, however, this “inverted form” is part of the “poetic technique” (Ibid, 356-58). Following verse 4 “you” clearly refers to Israel and is used eight times. No need exists for imagining more than one speaker in the Psalm.

This study began by suggesting that the Bible translator’s method of interpretation must take into account every aspect of the text. The clear poetic technique of “step parallelism” in Psalm 121 suggests a more refined interpretation of the “nots” than that offered by many English translations.

To evaluate, the NET Bible expresses the poetic technique of step parallelism but it does not indicate any difference in the negatives. In fact, by hiding the fourth “not” behind the “or” of the last line, the overall poetic technique is weakened. The NIV, on the other hand, does not represent any clear heightening from verses 3 to 4. Of these two representative translations, the NET Bible, apart from its footnote, is preferred but could have been sharpened.

For those who could use a word of encouragement, the psalmist exclaims:

May He not allow your foot to slip;
May He not slumber,
He who keeps you.

Look! He will never slumber!
And He will never fall asleep!
He who keeps Israel.

Praise Yahweh!

For many readers this study may appear trifling. But for those unreservedly committed to the doctrine of verbal inspiration, no part of the biblical text is trifling, and every aspect of the text contributes to its interpretation, exposes its internal beauty, and should be reflected in its translation.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Truculentus and the Bible Interpreter’s Eyesight

Plautus’s Latin play of 485 BC, Truculentus, highlights an inescapable maxim for biblical exegesis (Bible interpretation) uttered by Stratophanes, “Of more value is one witness who can see than ten who can only hear; those who can only hear tell the things heard, those who can see know for sure.” The Bible interpreter’s goal of ascertaining the meaning of a text must begin by seeing all the data.

Seeing all the data is the starting point for a sound translation that can lead to an all-encompassing interpretation—not a simple task. Since English and Greek differ in grammatical usage some data in the Greek New Testament is untranslatable and other data is blurred or distorted. Even the most skilled translator can only partially render the substance of the Greek New Testament into English.

The use of the Greek definite article, “the” in English, represents a major problem area for translators. A.T. Robertson notes (A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, 756), “The article is never meaningless in Greek, though it often fails to correspond with the English idiom. . . . Its free use leads to exactness and finesse.” Wallace ties its significance to New Testament interpretation (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 207-08):

One of the greatest gifts bequeathed by the Greeks to Western civilization was the article. European intellectual life was profoundly impacted by this gift of clarity. By the first century CE [Common Era], it had become refined and subtle. Consequently, the article is one of the most fascinating areas of study in NT Greek grammar. It is also one of the most neglected and abused. In spite of the fact that that [sic] the article is used far more frequently than any other word in the Greek NT (almost 20,000 times, or one out of seven words), there is still much mystery about its usage. . . . In the least, we cannot treat it lightly, for its presence or absence is the crucial element to unlocking the meaning of scores of passages in the NT.

In short, there is no more important aspect of Greek grammar than the article to help shape our understanding of the thought and theology of the NT writers.


Not only does the presence of the Greek definite article pose problems for the translator, its absence can be downright confounding! This is amazing—some of the positive data in the Greek New Testament focuses on a part of speech that is not there! Moulton in his Grammar of New Testament Greek, Volume I, 83, states, “For exegesis, there are few of the finer points of Greek which need more constant attention than this omission of the article when the writer would lay stress on the quality or character of the object.”

As crucial as this matter is for interpretation, the English Bible reader can never know if the Greek text has or does not have a definite article. Where English requires it, Greek may not; where Greek requires it, English may not. And perhaps most difficult, when the Greek article is absent to stress the qualitative nature of the noun, English may turn the word into an indefinite noun by inserting the indefinite article “a” or “an” or by adding “the” laying stress on its identity instead of on its quality, nature, or essence.

With this introduction, one of the most startling if not one of the most misdirected passages of the New Testament puts the importance of the presence and absence of the Greek definite article on display. The significant portions of Colossians 2:2-3 in popular English translations along with the Greek text (Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th edition) are:

New International Version (NIV)—“the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”

New American Standard Bible (NASB)—“God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”

New King James Version (NKJV)—“the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”

Christian Standard Bible (CSB)—“God's mystery—Christ. In Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden”

Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)—“the secret of the God and Father, and of the Christ, in whom are all the treasures of the wisdom and the knowledge hid”

Greek New Testament—“τοῦ μυστηρίου τοῦ θεοῦ, Χριστοῦ, ἐν ᾧ εἰσιν πάντες οἱ θησαυροὶ τῆς σοφίας καὶ γνώσεως ἀπόκρυφοι”


The definite article occurs with the word “mystery.” An article’s presence predominantly identifies what object is being discussed, and the previous reference function “is the most common use of the article and the easiest usage to identify” (Wallace, Ibid., 209 and 217-18).

In Colossians 2:2, the article ties “the mystery” to its previous mention in 1:26 and 27 where Paul explains that the Church, the Body of Christ, is indwelt by Christ Himself (Colossians 1:18, 24; Ephesians 1:22-23; 3:2-6). Bornkamm, commenting on Colossians 1:27, states that “the content of the μυστήριον [mystery] is stated in the formula Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν [Christ in you]. That is to say, it consists in the indwelling of the exalted Christ in you, the Gentiles” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume IV, 820). Paul takes this one step further by adding that “Christ in you” is “the hope of the glory,” “the self-revelation” of Christ in the world through His spiritual Body, the Church. (For additional materials relating to the interpretation of the glory see http://denniswretlind.blogspot.com/2010/06/glory-be.html) Therefore, in Colossians 2:2, , “the mystery of God” is the “Christ-indwelt Church” referred to by the simple word “Christ” that illuminates the essence of “the mystery.”

Fifteen different variations occur in the text at the end of verse 2 (literally “of the God, of Christ,” τοῦ θεοῦ, Χριστοῦ)! Clearly this impacts both the above-mentioned English translations and the foregoing interpretation of the mystery. Without detailing the variations and solution, the reader is referred to Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, 3rd edition, 236-238 where the passage is discussed in detail. The conclusion of the textual editorial committee reads (Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 555):

Among what at first sight seems to be a bewildering variety of variant readings, the one adopted for the text is plainly to be preferred (a) because of strong external testimony . . . and (b) because it alone provides an adequate explanation of the other readings as various scribal attempts to ameliorate the syntactical ambiguity of τοῦ θεοῦ, Χριστοῦ.


The absence of the definite article before “Christ” focuses upon the quality, nature, or essence of the noun. If the article were indeed present, the focus would have been on identifying the Person of Christ. But here and in the immediately preceding references to “Christ” (1:27-28) the emphasis is on the nature or essence of “Christ,” that mystical union between the heavenly Person and His earthly Body. And in this matter, every one of the above-mentioned English translations misses the point:

The NIV identifies the Person of Christ with “in whom.” “Whom” in English refers to an individual.

The NASB likewise states “in whom,” but it also adds “Himself,” a term not in the original text and inserted to punctuate the translators’ preferred interpretation.

The NKJV bases its translation on one of the textual variants, and by paralleling “Christ” with “the Father” it focuses attention on the individual Person of Christ.

The CSB refers the relative pronoun of verse 3 (ᾧ) to “Christ” and stresses personal identity by translating it “Him” where English would use “which” for a non-personal entity such as the Church.

The YLT agrees with the NKJV regarding the text but also adds the definite article to the English translation, “of the God and Father, and of the Christ” (italics added).

But the discussion does not end here. The prepositional phrase beginning verse 3 (ἐν ᾧ) refers to “Christ” as the antecedent of the pronoun. This fact coupled to the rest of verse 3 means that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are “hidden” in the Church! No one disputes the fact that the Person of Christ does have all wisdom and knowledge, but He disseminates these through His earthly Body, the Church. To be “hidden” does not mean being “inaccessible” but accessible in and through the Church. This has enormous theological and practical implications.

Theologically, Colossians 2:2-3 makes a major contribution to the doctrine of the Church because the Church Universal is seen as the earthly repository of Christ’s wisdom and knowledge. Practically, granting the preceding statement as true, individuals who cut themselves off from the Church in its local manifestation quarantine themselves from much of Christ’s wisdom and knowledge and impede their spiritual growth.

So, to apply Stratophanes’ maxim, the value of seeing the textual data cannot be overestimated. Neither can the value of reading the Greek New Testament which is the only place where the Bible translator can see and not see the data needed so that accurate biblical interpretations can rise to the surface!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

“Do You Understand What You Are Reading?”

Hebrew is a delightful language! However, western-oriented students generally get frustrated by some of its characteristics: right-to-left reading, fluctuations of vowels, expansive nature of word meanings, syntax, ancient idioms, and the strangely fluid nature of verbal time (past, present, future). These matters may be difficult for the student but they also challenge scholars who in turn influence Bible translators. To be crystal clear: How the Hebrew text is understood and the English Bible subsequently translated determines its interpretation.

This posting focuses on the issue of verbal time. Scholars do not always agree as to whether a particular verb in a specific context speaks of the past, present or future since time is a secondary matter in Hebrew verbs (Arnold and Choi, A guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, 36). This results in different English translations and interpretations. Obadiah 12-15 presents a case in point. Notice the variations in the wording of the bold portions in the New King James Version (NKJV) and the New International Version (NIV) as representative examples of commonly used translations:

NKJV

12 “But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother
In the day of his captivity;
Nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah
In the day of their destruction;
Nor should you have spoken proudly
In the day of distress.
13 You should not have entered the gate of My people
In the day of their calamity.
Indeed, you should not have gazed on their affliction
In the day of their calamity,
Nor laid hands on their substance
In the day of their calamity.
14 You should not have stood at the crossroads
To cut off those among them who escaped;
Nor should you have delivered up those among them who remained
In the day of distress.
15 “For the day of the LORD upon all the nations is near;
As you have done, it shall be done to you;
Your reprisal shall return upon your own head.

NIV

12 You should not gloat over your brother
in the day of his misfortune,
nor rejoice over the people of Judah
in the day of their destruction,
nor boast so much
in the day of their trouble.
13 You should not march through the gates of my people
in the day of their disaster,
nor gloat over them in their calamity
in the day of their disaster,
nor seize their wealth
in the day of their disaster.
14 You should not wait at the crossroads
to cut down their fugitives,
nor hand over their survivors
in the day of their trouble.
15 “The day of the LORD is near
for all nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you;
your deeds will return upon your own head.

The verbs in the NKJV indicate past activity; in the NIV, the immediate future. Do these verses reflect Edom’s sin in the past or Edom’s potential sin in the future?

As discussed by Arnold and Choi, (Ibid, 57), the issue of time relates to whether the verbs are Imperfects, a verb form focusing on progress that can have reference to the past, present, or future, or Jussives, a verb form expressing a desire, wish, or command connecting to the present and future. The NKJV editors considered the verbs Imperfects; the NIV translators, Jussives.

Two issues of Hebrew grammar justify the NIV interpretation: (1) The Imperfect and Jussive verb forms are identical in spelling except for the Hiphil (causative) verb stem where a difference exists. In verses 12 and 14 two clear Jussives appear, “boast” (תָּגְדֵּל) and “hand over” (תַּסְגֵּר). The Imperfect forms of these verbs are תַּגִדִּיל and תַּסִגִּיר. No confusion of verb forms exists. Therefore, in verses 12-14 either all the verbs are Jussives or the writer switched from Imperfects to Jussives arbitrarily—an unlikely scenario. (2) A second aid to resolve this translation variation involves the negative found throughout verses 12-14. This particular negative (“not” אַל) “governs the jussive” (Waltke and O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, 516). Based on these two grammatical observations, the NIV wins the debate.

But then a context complication arises. Verse 15 seems to say that Edom did wrong in the past and will be judged accordingly in the future. But the immediate context of verses 12-14 with the Jussive verb forms encourages a departure from sinful acts in the present and future. These verses appear to be ignored by verse 15b that has a past time reference—or does it?

Baker, writing in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 1457, suggests this historical scenario:

When did all of this happen? This probably took place when the Philistines and Arabians attacked Jerusalem in the days of Jehoram, Jehoshaphat’s son . . . . Since Obadiah told Edom not to do such things (cf. “should not” in Obad. 12-14) again [italics added], he was probably writing about a time before Jerusalem’s total destruction by Nebuchadnezzar.


In other words, Edom did wrong in the past and is being encouraged to change its ways in the future. Though plausible, this scenario creates a contextual disconnect between verses 12-14 that focus on the future and verse 15b that connects either to the past or to the far distant future as suggested by Baker. He continues:

Besides her past humiliation, Edom will be repopulated in the future . . . and with other nations will again come under God's wrath in the forthcoming day of the Lord when Christ returns to establish His reign. God's judgments on Edom corresponded to her crimes. What she . . . had done to Judah would then be done to her.


This future perspective means that verse 15b should be translated, “As you will have done, it will be done to you.” A future perfect English translation connects smoothly with Baker’s historical outline. The first verb of verse 15b (NIV, “you have done” עָשִׂיתָ) can indeed be functioning as a future perfect (Waltke, O’Connor, Ibid, 491). Such a translation leaves open the possibility that Edom had the option to repent and change her ways, and it keeps intact the prophecy of Edom’s eventual demise. In short, a future perfect translation maintains contextual continuity.

As a conclusion, translations that interpret the verbs as Jussives should make a clear connection between verses 12-14 and verse 15. This can be done easily by translating the first verb of verse 15 as an English future perfect, “As you will have done [from this time forward], it will be done to you.” The bracketed insertion could perhaps be footnoted to coordinate with the historical scenario.

How the Hebrew text is understood and the English Bible subsequently translated determines its interpretation. Beekman and Callow (Translating the Word of God, 32) state that an accurate translation “faithfully transmits the message of the original.” Obadiah’s message comes by way of Hebrew grammar and contextual continuity—the domain of Bible scholars. Translators must incorporate their conclusions making it possible for readers to interpret the English Bible accurately.

To redirect a familiar dialogue, “Do you understand what you are reading?” “How can I except someone translate the text accurately!”

Monday, January 24, 2011

“What is Fidelity in Translation?”



“Fidelity” — “1. strict observance of promises , duties, etc. 4. adherence to fact or detail; 5. accuracy; exactness” (Webster’s College Dictionary). In chapter 2 of Translating the Word of God, Beekman and Callow ask “What is Fidelity in Translation?” They answer with these excerpts (italics added) . . .

It seems axiomatic, therefore, to conclude that a definition of fidelity will focus on the meaning of the original.

The linguistic form of the original was natural and meaningful. It did not represent a grammatical or lexical structure that was impossible or discouragingly difficult to understand but one that was already in use by the people in everyday conversation.

The message [of a faithful translation] is not distorted or changed; it has neither unnecessarily gained nor lost information. . . . On the other hand . . . the writers were not penning abstract theses or obscure philosophies but had a very practical aim in view; they wrote to be understood.


Based on the comments by Beekman and Callow, this article questions the fidelity of the following translations at 1 Peter 1:1-2:

New International Version (2010 and earlier editions), NIV
International Standard Version, ISV
NET Bible, NET
New American Standard Bible, NASB
New King James Version, NKJV
King James Version, KJV
Amplified Bible, AB


The issue in the verses centers on one word and three prepositional phrases. The Greek text and the present author’s literal translation visualizes the problem; notice the placement of the words in bold font. Only the affected portions of the verses are displayed:

ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς Πόντου, Γαλατίας, Καππαδοκίας, Ἀσίας καὶ Βιθυνίας, 2 κατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ πατρὸς ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος εἰς ὑπακοὴν καὶ ῥαντισμὸν αἵματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

. . . to the elect strangers of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father in sanctification by the Spirit unto the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ . . . .

The adjective “elect,” serves either as a noun substitute (called a substantive) or modifies the following word “strangers.” A natural translation of these two words would be “elect strangers,” or as A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd edition, translates, “chosen sojourners.” The above-listed translations displace “elect” from “strangers” and connect it to the prepositional phrases of verse two. This change not only alters the wording but also Peter’s focus in the passage.

Separating “elect” from “strangers” follows two patterns: (1) The NIV places a comma after “elect” and again after Bithynia effectively making the adjective a substantive and connecting it with verse two—“To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,”. Then, (2) apparently to reinforce this interpretation, it inserts an English participle to the beginning of verse two. This addition, either as a substantive, “chosen,” or as a participle, “who have been chosen,” can be seen in the following versions: NIV, ISV, NASB, NKJV, KJV, AB. The NET Bible follows suit, however, it does add a footnote: “Or ‘to the chosen sojourners…’ On this reading the [prepositional] phrases in v. 2 describe their entire existence as sojourners, etc., not just their election.” This note not only identifies the issue facing the translators—to what do the three prepositional phrases connect—but also cracks open the door to a different meaning for the verses.

Bigg’s comment on the passage alludes to the reason for changing the text (St. Peter and St.Jude, 91):

The general and preferable arrangement is to take [the prepositional phrases] with ἐκλεκτοῖς [“elect”]—‘Elect according to foreknowledge,’ etc.; this gives perfectly good sense; the only difficulty is that we should have expected ἐκλεκτοῖς [“elect”] to be placed after Βιθυνίας [Bithynia].


However, the suggested “preferable arrangement” of wording that “gives perfectly good sense” implies that Peter’s original wording does not make “perfectly good sense” and needs to be rearranged. Such a hypothesis must be validated before accepted.

E.D. Hirsch’s significant work, Validity in Interpretation, p. 236, outlines a procedure for validating an interpretation (italics added for the criteria):

To establish a reading [interpretation] as probable it is first necessary to show, with reference to the norms of language, that it is possible. This is the criterion of legitimacy: the reading must be permissible within the public norms of the langue [language possibilities] in which the text was composed. The second criterion is that of correspondence: the reading must account for each linguistic component in the text. Whenever a reading arbitrarily ignores linguistic components or inadequately accounts for them, the reading may be presumed improbable. The third criterion is that of generic appropriateness: if the text follows the conventions of a scientific essay, for example, it is inappropriate to construe the kind of allusive meaning found in casual conversation. When these three preliminary criteria have been satisfied, there remains a fourth criterion which gives significance to all the rest, the criterion of plausibility or coherence. The three preliminary norms usually permit several readings, and this is by definition the case when a text is problematical. Faced with alternatives, the interpreter chooses the reading which best meets the criterion of coherence. Indeed, even when the text is not problematical, coherence remains the decisive criterion, since the meaning is “obvious” only because it “makes sense.”


Classifying the adjective as a substantive, “elect ones,” and rearranging the location of that word in the text, are possible within the norms of the Greek language. Therefore, these changes found in the NIV and other translations meet the criterion of legitimacy even though Peter could have but chose not to write his text in this manner.

The criterion of correspondence, where every detail of the text including word order is taken into account, appears to be disregarded by many translators. The original text places “elect” at the very beginning of the sentence as the indirect object or modifier to the indirect object placing the three prepositional phrases in direct relationship to “strangers,” the “head word” (see Black, Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek, 107-08, for this linguistic terminology).

Perhaps Hirsch’s third criterion may be able to establish legitimacy for the translations that altered Peter’s wording. Generic appropriateness means that the text fits the nature of the overall writing. The key terms are theological in nature and they are somewhat identifiable in other parts of 1 Peter. But is 1 Peter a theological treatise centered around these ideas thereby establishing its theological nature? Or does 1 Peter partake of a different nature that supports Peter’s original wording? If it does, proper procedures of interpretation must give Peter’s wording “first priority” unless it can be unequivocally shown to be inadequate and not “making sense.”

Finally, coherence connects directly with the previous criterion. Does Peter’s word arrangements make sense or must they be changed to make sense? Apparently for many translators Peter did not make good sense. However, a competing hypothesis interposes itself: Peter said what he wanted to say in the way he wanted to say it, and he made perfectly good sense in doing so. This, too, needs validation.

(1) Peter’s wording clearly meets the criterion of legitimacy. (2) The criterion of correspondence is validated because no detail of the text is shunted to the side including the all-important detail of word order. (3) Generic appropriateness exists because 1 Peter as a whole represents a pastoral epistle more than a theological treatise. (4) A survey of the book confirms the preceding criterion and clearly demonstrates coherence. The text as written makes sense!

Numerous scholars support the pastoral aspects of 1 Peter. Roger M. Raymer writes (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 837):

First Peter was written to Christians who were experiencing various forms of persecution, men and women whose stand for Jesus Christ made them aliens and strangers in the midst of a pagan society. Peter exhorted these Christians to steadfast endurance and exemplary behavior. The warmth of his expressions combined with his practical instructions make this epistle a unique source of encouragement for all believers who live in conflict with their culture.


Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 791, provides this keen observation (italics added):

The keynote of the letter is hope and Peter wishes to exhort these Christians to live in accordance with the hope they have received through Christ. He gives practical guidance to assist in their human relationships and particularly exhorts them to endure suffering in a joyful manner for Christ's sake. His main purpose is, therefore, hortatory, but not infrequently he introduces theological considerations which press home the ethical injunctions.


Peter’s motivation for writing 1 Peter was primarily pastoral and secondarily theological. This means that the wording of the text should not be “distorted or changed,” to use Beekman and Callow terminology. It also means that the theological term “elect” and the theologically-oriented prepositional phrases have direct bearing on the pastoral concern of the writer and provide the initial encouragement for the suffering believers of Asia Minor.

Peter’s letter sent to “elect strangers” points to the truths . . .

(1) that God not only elected them but did so in the contexts of a specific time and place, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1:1-2; cp. Acts 17:26).

(2) that their difficult life situations are the arena of their “sanctification by the Spirit” (1:6-7; 1:13-17; 2:11-12; 3:13-16; 4:1-19).

(3) that they have a divinely-appointed purpose as witnesses to those around them, “unto the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (2:9-11 and 3:15-17).

None of this denies the theological truths imbedded in the passage and expounded by many commentators, but the emphasis by Peter lies in shepherding those caught in difficult life circumstances. He ties theology inseparably to the “struggling saint on the street.” Perhaps one should state that 1 Peter contains both theological and pastoral orientations with the primary emphasis on the pastoral aspects and the secondary focus on the theological. Based on Peter’s wording, this is certainly true in 1:1-2.

One final note about the listed translations at 1 Peter 1:1-2—the well-meaning but unacceptable distortion of Peter’s emphasis preconditions contemporary readers for deep theological discussion when what they really need to hear is that God puts His people where He wants them, uses their circumstances to build them up spiritually, and commissions them to witness for Christ.

Friday, January 14, 2011

“From Whence Cometh My Help?”

Psalm 54:4 (verse 6 in the Hebrew Old Testament) reads in the New American Standard Bible, NASB):

“Behold, God is my helper;
The Lord is the sustainer of my soul.”


The New International Version (NIV) and the English Standard Version (ESV) among others translate essentially the same.

But Psalm 54:4 in the New King James Version (NKJV) gives this rendition:

“Behold, God is my helper;
The Lord is with those who uphold my life.”

The different translations of line two constitute the burden of this article. Some translations that follow the NKJV are the King James Version, the American Standard Version, and Young’s Literal Translation. The Amplified Bible conflates the NASB and NKJV readings (“the Lord is my upholder and is with them who uphold my life.”) and the Holman Christian Standard Bible places the first reading in the text and footnotes the second. The NET Bible places the second reading in the text (“The Lord is among those who support me.”) and does not acknowledge the first option.

Both translation options are grammatically possible but only one is probable. The following discussion uses the identifications of 1st reading (i.e. NASB) and 2nd reading (i.e., NKJV) to organize the dialogue.

Line two of Psalm 54:4 reads literally in the Hebrew text “the Lord [is] among/with those who sustain my soul/life” (אדני בסמכי נפשׁי). The controversy centers around the terms in bold font consisting of a preposition “among/with” (ב) attached to the plural participle “who sustain” (סמכי). On the surface the 2nd reading appears to follow the Hebrew text closely while the 1st reading seems to ignore the preposition and the plural participle. But this is not the end of the story.

The 1st reading claims validity from Hebrew grammar. In the Word Biblical Commentary, Psalms 51-100, p.45, Tate explains the grammar by acknowledging the plural form of the word “sustainers” but suggests that it is an intensification used for the superlative meaning that the Lord is “the sustainer par excellence.” But what of the attached preposition? Here Tate refers to Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, 379, wherein the idea of essence is attributed to the preposition with the sense of ascribing “to [the Lord] a similar character.” Gesenius translates line two “the Lord is one who upholds my soul” Thus, the NASB, NIV, and ESV stand as grammatically valid translations. But, again, the story does not end here.

Logically, the 2nd reading enjoys the benefit of Occam’s Razor, the principle that prefers among competing hypotheses the one that makes the fewest assumptions to arrive at its conclusions (Webster's College Dictionary). In our text, the 1st reading assumes that the plural does not refer to plurality and that the preposition “with/among” can be muted by introducing the idea of essence. Surely this is more complicated than simply taking the words at face value as seen in the 2nd reading. Grammatically, no interpretive assumptions are required with the 2nd reading; it can stand unchanged with clear understanding.

From the perspective of Hebrew poetics, the 1st reading represents synonymous parallelism wherein the second line essentially repeats the first line. This makes a nice doublet. The 2nd reading involves synthetic parallelism wherein “one or more poetic lines not only repeat the basic idea of the first line in different words but also stress, intensify, or refine the thought in some way” (Sandy & Giese, Cracking Old Testament Codes, 225). With this definition, God (אלהים) is repeated in the term Lord (אדני), the pronominal phrase my soul is refined by my life (נפשׁי, Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 243), and helper is intensified by the term sustainer. This too provides a pleasant doublet while adding a third group of persons to the equation—the Lord, the Psalmist, and the Psalmist’s supporters.

Viewing the passage from a theological standpoint, the 2nd reading resonates best with the biblical theology of both Old and New Testaments. No dispute exists regarding the truth that God helps His people as line one of Psalm 54:4 proclaims. But He typically gives help through His people as line two states when translated literally. Occasionally one can see God working independently, as in creating a dry path for the Israelites to cross the Sea of Reeds (Exodus 14), or by feeding Elijah by ravens at the brook Cherith (1 Kings 17). But more often He meets the needs of His people with His people. The 2nd reading of the verse, therefore, lays claim to God’s typical pattern for helping His own and overall claims the greater probability for interpretation.

The theological truth in both lines of this verse involves a practical orientation as well. The believer who prays for divine help should look in the direction of God’s people for support. “From Whence Cometh My Help?”—Thank God for His help; thank God for His people!