Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Faith is not a "power up" in Super Mario Bros.


Sometimes, in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles, the claim is made that some people don’t receive what they’re praying for because of a lack of faith. If they just really believed God enough, they would see the healing, financial breakthrough, salvation of a wayward child, or other miracle for which they are asking God. Some people even treat faith as a spiritual “substance”—as though it had volume and mass—that can somehow “tip the scales” in their favor, if only they have a sufficient quantity of it.


A couple of verses from the Gospels are sometimes used to support this idea.
And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:58)
He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. (Mark 6:5–6)
The way these verses sometimes get interpreted seems to treat faith as though it were a “power-up” in a video game that increases the player’s strength. Faith, in this interpretation, somehow increases God’s ability to work miracles.
But God is omnipotent—all-powerful. Nothing we do or fail to do can change His ability. It is an inherent part of who and what God is (the philosophical term for this is ontology, which in common language is the “being-ness” of something, that which makes a person or thing who or what they are).
Let’s look at these verses from a couple of angles and try to figure out what is really being said.
First, neither of these passages says that Jesus couldn’t do miracles because of the unbelief of the people.
The passage from Mark, which does use the word couldn’t, also says that Jesus did heal a few sick people. So this is not a case of a lack of power on Jesus’ part. Then verse 6 says that He was amazed at their lack of faith. But the lack of faith on the part of the people is not given as the reason Jesus couldn’t do many miracles. Something else must be the “limiting factor.”
In Matthew’s account of this scene, he does use the word because, but does not say that Jesus couldn’t do many miracles, but rather that he didn’t do many miracles there due to the people’s lack of faith.
This is where I find Matthew Bates’ work on pistis (the Greek word frequently translated “faith” or “belief” in English) as allegiance to be helpful.[1] What if these verses are not about the people lacking enough belief that Jesus can or will perform miracles, and are more about the people’s lack of allegiance and faithfulness to the plan and purposes of God? The Greek phrase that the NIV here translates as “their lack of faith” is τὴν ἀπιστίαν αὐτῶν (tēn apistian autōn). The word ἀπιστίαν can also be translated “unreliability” or “unfaithfulness.”[2]
These unbelieving residents of Jesus’ hometown we find in Matthew 13 and Mark 6 were not people who were really interested in what Jesus was all about. Perhaps Jesus knew that no matter how many miracles He performed, they would still find a way to not be on board with His message of the kingdom of God. So this is not a case where Jesus lacked the raw power to perform miracles unless the people there upped their faith game. Rather, it was a situation where displays of His divine power would not result in allegiant following and participation in the kingdom He was proclaiming.
Jesus was never about performing miracles just to “show off” and demonstrate His ability. He wasn’t putting on a traveling “signs and wonders” show. The miracles of Jesus were always rooted in compassion for suffering people and in advancing people’s realization of what God was doing through Him. He “could not” do miracles that did not fulfill one of those two purposes, because to do so would have gone against the heart of His mission. It was not a question of power, but of purpose.
We see this principle in practice when Christ, during his temptation by Satan in the wilderness, refused to turn stones into bread (to satisfy His own needs) and to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Jerusalem temple (to draw attention to himself by having angels rescue Him). If we look back to the previous chapter of Matthew (12:38–42), we see another example of Jesus refusing to perform miracles simply to satisfy the curiosity of those who did not have faith in (were not allegiant to) Him.
So human faith (in the sense of mental or emotional belief in Christ’s ability) is not necessarily what Mark and Matthew are writing about here, as much as a faithful response to the person and message of Jesus.
When we ask God for a miracle, are we asking simply to see how much we can get from God, or are we seeking first His kingdom and righteousness? Are we asking with wrong motives (James 4:3), seeking to benefit ourselves, rather than to see the gospel advance? Are we seeking our own will, or the will of the one who sent His only Son and, in turn, sends us to proclaim His message?
Maybe the lack of miracles we often experience is not because we lack belief that God can or will do them, but rather because we are not faithfully aligned with the character and purposes of the one we call our Lord.



[1] See Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King and Gospel Allegiance, What Faith in Jesus Misses for Salvation in Christ, both by Matthew W. Bates of Quincy University.
[2] Rudolf Bultmann, “Πιστεύω, Πίστις, Πιστός, Πιστόω, Ἄπιστος, Ἀπιστέω, Ἀπιστία, Ὀλιγόπιστος, Ὀλιγοπιστία,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 178.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Son confiables las traducciones modernas de la Biblia?

Otra vez andan circulando acusaciones diciendo que traducciones modernas como la Nueva Versión Internacional y la Nueva Traducción Viviente son corruptas y parte de un complót satánico para torcer la Palabra de Dios. Hace poco, escribí una serie en inglés mostrando que esas acusaciones no tienen fundamento en la verdad.



Estaba pensando tratar de traducir la serie al español, pero antes de poder hacerlo, descubrí que mi amigo en Facebook, el Dr. Gary Shogren (profesor en un seminario teológico en Costa Rica), ya ha tratado este asunto.

Entonces, aquí les presento enlaces a sus artículos sobre este tema.

Primero, el video de una conferencia en línea que presente la panorama del asunto:

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Is a "cashless society" really a sign of the end times?



Over the past couple of months, with the coin shortage in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen many people posting on social media that the shortage is a fulfillment of end-times prophecies, moving us toward a cashless society for the Beast’s global economy.

One post in particular said: “This morning I stopped at a convenience store...they would not take cash!! No coins. Signs of the times.”


I responded to that post with the question that has been cycling through my brain for a few weeks: “Where in Scripture is there any mention of a cashless society?”

To which someone replied, “So what do you think Rev 13 is describing, if not a cashless society?”

Monday, August 24, 2020

Textual Criticism -- part two

Just discovered this great little video explaining textual criticism much more thoroughly than my brief treatment back in part 4 of our series on modern English translations of the Bible. Check it out!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Are Modern English Versions of the Bible Corrupt - Combined Document

The PDF with all the posts in this series combined into one document is available, as promised. 

I pray it is beneficial. Click here to download a copy.

 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Are Modern English Versions of the Bible Corrupt? -- Part 11

This is the eleventh and final installment in a multi-part series concerning social media posts that are circulating accusing the NIV and other modern English translations of the Bible of taking out important words and concepts, leaving out verses, and other nefarious things.

Read part 1 here
Read part 2 here
Read part 3 here
Read part 4 here
Read part 5 here
Read part 6 here
Read part 7 here
Read part 8 here
Read part 9 here
Read part 10 here
______________________________________________


Resources

Here is a collection of links related to this topic. Some of them have already appeared in footnotes throughout this series. Others were not cited, but provide valuable information. 

First, here is a list of links to pages on the Biblica website that address many of the issues raised in this discussion:







Next, here are a handful of links to the web site specifically for the NIV translation. I realize these links will be dismissed out-of-hand by conspiracy theorists and hardline opponents of the NIV, but the information contained in these pages is accurate.




Here are some links to both general discussion about textual criticism and Bible translation, as well as some complete basic-level free courses on textual criticism and how scholars try to determine the original text when manuscripts differ.







Thursday, August 13, 2020

Thoughts on Bible Interpretation / Pensamientos Acerca de Interpretación Bíblica

One of the things that the goood textbooks on hermeneutics teach is to read and compare various translations (especially if one cannot read the original biblical languages), in order to form a better idea of the semantic range of the words used by the writers.

A personal rule that I have is to never base a point of preaching or teaching on the meaning of one word that is used in just one translation in English or Spanish. I should build on the meaning of the words used by the majority of the trustworthy translations, and not "go fishing" looking for a meaning that is only found in one translation.

---------------------------

Una de las cosas que enseñan los buenos textos de hermeneútica es leer y comparar varias traducciones (especialmente si uno no puede leer los idiomas originales), para agarrar una mejor idea de rango semántico de las palabras usadas por los escritores..

Una regla personal que yo tengo es nunca basar un punto de predicación o enseñanza en el significado de una palabra que se usa en una sola traducción inglesa o española. Debo de basarme en el significado de las palabras usadas por la mayoría de las buenas traducciones, y no "ir de pesca" buscando un significado que solo se encuentra en una.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Are Modern English Versions of the Bible Corrupt? -- Part 10

This is the tenth installment in a multi-part series concerning social media posts that are circulating and accusing the NIV and other modern English translations of the Bible of taking out important words and concepts, leaving out verses, and other nefarious things.

Read part 1 here
Read part 2 here
Read part 3 here
Read part 4 here
Read part 5 here
Read part 6 here
Read part 7 here
Read part 8 here
Read part 9 here
______________________________________________


Some Closing Thoughts

After reviewing all this data, we must confront the elephant in the room: the motives of the persons who originally put these posts together and started circulating them. While only God and the individuals involved in the creation of these memes and articles know what was in their hearts, we can make some educated deductions based on the fruit they have borne.


Let me make one thing clear: I am not talking here about the motives of the people who have shared and circulated these alerts out of a heartfelt concern and love for God and His word. Most people sharing these alerts don't know all of the information I have presented over the past nine articles. They simply see something that grabs their attention using alarmist language, look at the few cherry-picked examples that allegedly support the claims being made, and then share or forward it without looking deeper or asking someone who has more knowledge in this area (such as a pastor or even a friend who is a Bible nerd). As I stated in the first post in this series, they have a zeal for God, but they lack knowledge. The purpose of this series is not to condemn these brothers and sisters, but rather to fill in the gaps in their knowledge.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Are Modern English Versions of the Bible Corrupt? -- Part 9

This is the ninth installment in a multi-part series concerning social media posts that are circulating and accusing the NIV and other modern English translations of the Bible of taking out important words and concepts, leaving out verses, and other nefarious things.

Read part 1 here
Read part 2 here
Read part 3 here
Read part 4 here
Read part 5 here
Read part 6 here
Read part 7 here
Read part 8 here
______________________________________________

Gender-Inclusive Language

One of the objections raised against the New International Version is that it uses “gender-neutral” language. When this allegation first started popping up, many people were claiming that the NIV was capitulating to a radical feminist agenda and removing masculine terms for God (such as Father, and the pronouns he, him, and his). The NIV has not changed any of the masculine nouns or pronouns referring to God, so this accusation is without merit.

Now, the explanation on this one is going to get a little more technical regarding how languages work. It will be helpful (though not necessary) if you have had a first-year class in a language that uses grammatical gender (such as Spanish, Italian, Latin, etc.). I will use examples from Spanish, as that is the non-English language I know best.

“Grammatical gender” refers to a concept in linguistics where nouns can be classified as masculine, feminine, or neuter. This has nothing to do with the actual biological sex of a person or animal, but with how words are grouped. Spanish has two genders: masculine and feminine. Koine Greek (the language of the New Testament) has all three. English does not use grammatical gender.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Are Modern English Versions of the Bible Corrupt? -- Part 8

This is the eighth installment in a multi-part series concerning social media posts that are circulating and accusing the NIV and other modern English translations of the Bible of taking out important words and concepts, leaving out verses, and other nefarious things.

Read part 1 here
Read part 2 here
Read part 3 here
Read part 4 here
Read part 5 here
Read part 6 here
Read part 7 here
______________________________________________



Now we proceed to the “missing verses” from John and Acts.

•Try and find these scriptures in NIV and ESV on your computer, phone or device right now if you are in doubt:
     Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14;
     Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46;
     Luke 17:36, 23:17;
     John 5:4; Acts 8:37.


John 5:4

John 5:4 in the King James Version reads like this:
For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

The NIV has a footnote:
Some manuscripts include here, wholly or in part, paralyzed—and they waited for the moving of the waters. 4From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease they had.

The ESV footnote reads:
Some manuscripts insert, wholly or in part, waiting for the moving of the water; 4for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water: whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had

First, we must note that, as in the other cases we have already looked at, the modern translations do provide footnotes mentioning why they don’t include the “missing” words in the main text. So there is no attempt in these translations to deceive people, as these social media posts insinuate. It’s a simple case of earlier manuscripts not including the words, and the belief that the older the manuscript, the better the chance that it reflects the original text.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Are Modern English Versions of the Bible Corrupt? -- Part 7

This is the seventh part in a multi-part series concerning social media posts that are circulating and accusing the NIV and other modern English translations of the Bible of taking out important words and concepts, leaving out verses, and other nefarious things.

Read part 1 here
Read part 2 here
Read part 3 here
Read part 4 here
Read part 5 here
Read part 6 here
______________________________________________

Now we proceed to the “missing verses” from the Gospel According to Luke.

•Try and find these scriptures in NIV and ESV on your computer, phone or device right now if you are in doubt:
     Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14;
     Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46;
     Luke 17:36, 23:17;
     John 5:4; Acts 8:37.



Luke 17:36

The King James Version here has this:
36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

The NIV and ESV don’t include this verse, but have a footnote pointing out that some manuscripts include words similar to Matthew 24:40 at this point in the text.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Are Modern English Versions of the Bible Corrupt? -- Part 6

This is the sixth part in a multi-part series concerning social media posts that are circulating and accusing the NIV and other modern English translations of the Bible of taking out important words and concepts, leaving out verses, and other nefarious things.

Read part 1 here
Read part 2 here
Read part 3 here
Read part 4 here
Read part 5 here
______________________________________________

Today we are going to tackle the “missing verses” from the Gospel According to Mark.

•Try and find these scriptures in NIV and ESV on your computer, phone or device right now if you are in doubt:
     Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14;
     Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46;
     Luke 17:36, 23:17;
     John 5:4; Acts 8:37.


Mark 7:16

The King James Version has this verse as:
16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

After Mark 7:15, the NIV has a footnote that says:
Some manuscripts here include the words of 4:23 (referring back to chapter 4 of Mark itself).
while the ESV has a footnote that reads:
Some manuscripts add verse 16: If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear

This verse is not present in the earliest manuscripts, including Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. A scribe copying Mark may have thought it was appropriate to repeat the formula of Mark 4:9 and 4:23 here to emphasize the importance of what Jesus was teaching. In any event, the thought conveyed in this verse still exists in the Bible in several places. So no truth has been removed from Scripture in the modern translations.

Mark 9:44 and 9:46

This verse says:
44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

Verse 46 in the KJV is identical.

For both verses 46 and 48, the NIV here has a footnote:
Some manuscripts include here the words of verse 48.

The ESV includes a similar footnote.

Mark 9:48 in the NIV says:
where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’
which is a quotation of Isaiah 66:24.

According to commentator R.T. France, “These verses repeat what is firmly in the text at v. 48. It is more likely that the omission of vv. 44 and 46 in a wide range of witnesses represents the original text than that an original threefold repetition was eliminated.”[1] In any event, the words are still there in verse 48 in all translations. Honestly, claiming that verses 44 and 46 have been “removed,” when just a few lines later the same words are in verse 48, seems to be a bit of a stretch, if not an outright dishonest attempt to alarm people unnecessarily.



[1] R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002), 379.



Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Are Modern English Versions of the Bible Corrupt? -- Part 5

This is the fifth part in a multi-part series concerning social media posts that are circulating and accusing the NIV and other modern English translations of the Bible of taking out important words and concepts, leaving out verses, and other nefarious things.

Read part 1 here
Read part 2 here
Read part 3 here
Read part 4 here
______________________________________________

Today we will deal with the verses from Matthew that the Facebook post claims are taken out of modern translations.

•Try and find these scriptures in NIV and ESV on your computer, phone or device right now if you are in doubt:
     Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14;
     Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46;
     Luke 17:36, 23:17;
     John 5:4; Acts 8:37.


(We must keep in mind, of course, that chapter and verse numbers do not even exist in these ancient manuscripts—the biblical text was first divided into chapters in a twelfth century copy of the Latin Vulgate, and verse divisions were added in the mid-1500s.[1])

Matthew 17:21

Matthew 17:21 in the KJV says:
21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Are Modern English Versions of the Bible Corrupt? -- Part 4

This is the fourth part in a multi-part series concerning social media posts that are circulating and accusing the NIV and other modern English translations of the Bible of taking out important words and concepts, leaving out verses, and other nefarious things.

Read part 1 here
Read part 2 here
Read part 3 here
______________________________________________

We now arrive at the major claim of these posts: that modern English translations have removed entire verses from the Bible:

•The NIV and ESV has also now removed 45 complete verses. Most of us have the Bible on our devices and phones especially "OLIVE TREE BIBLE STUDY APP."

•Try and find these scriptures in NIV and ESV on your computer, phone or device right now if you are in doubt:
     Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14;
     Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46;
     Luke 17:36, 23:17;
     John 5:4; Acts 8:37.

...you will not believe your eyes.

Before addressing the individual verses, we need to cover a topic called textual criticism[1] that is an important factor in understanding why these verses do not appear in some translations. Before you get scared, textual criticism is not about criticizing the biblical text. Rather, it is a method of taking a critical look at manuscript copies that contain differences, in an attempt to determine what the originals most likely said. It is a discipline that is applied to all sorts of ancient documents, not just the Bible.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Are Modern English Versions of the Bible Corrupt? -- Part 3

This is the third in a multi-part series concerning social media posts that are circulating and accusing the NIV and other modern English translations of the Bible of taking out important words and concepts, leaving out verses, and other nefarious things.

Read part 1 here
Read part 2 here
______________________________________________


Now, let's move on to the second half of the statement below (see part 1 for the context):

The NIV and ESV has now removed 64,575 words from the Bible, including Jehovah, Calvary, Holy Ghost and omnipotent to name but a few...


Holy Ghost

The third word mentioned, which is really two words, is “Holy Ghost.” This one can be especially contentious in my tribe (Pentecostalism). Some people, because of the longstanding influence of the KJV in the American church, insist on only using “Holy Ghost” (and if they’re really spiritual, they say it as one word: “Holyghost”). But it is really just a matter of English words that have changed meaning over time.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Are Modern English Versions of the Bible Corrupt? -- Part 2

This is the second in a multi-part series concerning social media posts that are circulating and accusing the NIV and other modern English translations of the Bible of taking out important words and concepts, leaving out verses, and other nefarious things.

My original plan was to write one comprehensive article, but as I started dealing with the misinformation that is going around, I realized that it would be so long that only nerds like myself would bother to read it. Since my goal is to inform people with the truth, I decided it would be better to break it up into more digestible parts. Once the series is complete, I will make available a PDF file that has all the information in one place for those who desire to have such a resource.

Read part 1 here
______________________________________________


Now, let's move on to the next in the list of claims made in the Facebook post under discussion (see part 1 for the context)


The NIV and ESV has now removed 64,575 words from the Bible, including Jehovah, Calvary, Holy Ghost and omnipotent to name but a few...

First off, as someone who was a math nerd before becoming a theology nerd, I would like to see documentation for this number. How many unique words were “removed,” and how many occurrences of each?

Friday, July 24, 2020

Are Modern English Versions of the Bible Corrupt? -- Part 1

This is the first in a multi-part series concerning social media posts that are circulating and accusing the NIV and other modern English translations of the Bible of taking out important words and concepts, leaving out verses, and other nefarious things.

My original plan was to write one comprehensive article, but as I started dealing with the misinformation that is going around, I realized that it would be so long that only nerds like myself would bother to read it. Since my goal is to inform people with the truth, I decided it would be better to break it up into more digestible parts. Once the series is complete, I will make available a PDF file that has all the information in one place for those who desire to have such a resource.
______________________________________________


There’s a proverb that says, “A lie can make it halfway around the world before the truth finishes tying its shoelaces.” This article is my humble attempt to help get the running shoes on the truth and get it out of the starting block.

In the past few months I have seen the argument coming up again on social media as to why the New International Version (and other modern translations of the Bible) are unreliable, corrupt, or even part of a satanic plot to lead people astray.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Judged with Madness


I’ve been reading Scandalous Witness: A Little Political Manifesto for Christians by Lee C. Camp, after seeing the book mentioned a couple of times on Scot McKnight’s blog. It’s a challenging read and is forcing me to recognize some blind spots I have had. Other times, I find that Camp has put into words things I have felt but not taken the time to articulate thoroughly.
Rather than chapters, the book has a series of “Propositions,” which are summarized with one or two paragraphs at the start of each “chapter,” then developed and fleshed out over several pages. The fifth proposition is, “The United States is Not the Hope of the World.”
Camp recounts how various U.S. government leaders since the founding of our nation as have placed the United States in that position. Thomas Jefferson, in his inaugural address in 1801, used the words “the world’s best hope” to refer to the still-new republic. In his 1862 state of the union address, Abraham Lincoln used the phrase “the last best hope on earth” to describe our country. Following World War I, Woodrow Wilson repeatedly said that the United States would “save the world,” and in one speech said, “At last, the world knows America as the savior of the world!”

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Book Review -- Craig Keener's The Mind of the Spirit: Paul's Approach to Transformed Thinking


The Mind of the Spirit: Paul’s Approach to Transformed Thinking

by Craig S. Keener: Baker Academic 2016. 402 pages.

Paperback: $29.99 



Professor Craig Keener’s stated purpose in writing this book is to show how, for the Apostle Paul, Word and Spirit “are inextricably bound together,” and that the life of the mind is not innately opposed to the moving of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Spirit often works through the mind of the believer, not solely apart from rational cognitive processes (contra some in the Pentecostal/Charismatic camp, who emphasize the Spirit’s bypassing of human thought processes).

As with all of Dr. Keener’s works, this book is well-researched. The list of abbreviations alone occupies 22 pages, covering ancient Greek and Latin works, Jewish sources (Josephus, Philo, Dead Sea Scrolls, Mishnaic and Talmudic texts, and other rabbinical works), Christian texts (New Testament and Apostolic fathers), and other ancient, medieval, and modern sources. The bibliography runs for 46 pages, while the indices of subjects, authors and names, Scripture citations, and other ancient sources occupies another 76 pages. It is important when reading this book to read not only the main text, but also the footnotes, which provide (in addition to source references) key explanations and insights as well. Keener has done a thorough job of examining the relationship between right thinking and right living.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Why do we see everything as restricted to two options?


I recently heard a Christian brother commenting on the current political situation. He said:


You know, when we elect a president we don’t elect a pastor. So, we’re going to have an unregenerate person. ... You know, you can have a good character president, and a failed policy, or you can have a president who has a character that raises questions and still have policies that promote well-being in the citizenry.

I don’t think it was this brother’s intention to do so, but he presented a false dichotomy. It’s not that we can only have good character plus bad policies on the one hand, or bad character plus good policies on the other. There are also two feet involved: bad character plus bad policies (which I firmly believe is what we would have had under Hillary Clinton), and good character plus good policies, which I believe is what most of us actually want. The fact that we were faced in the 2016 election with the two "hands" doesn’t mean that we should just settle for that and not strive for the right "foot."