Sunday, February 17, 2019

A new New Testament Translation

Readers of my book "The Really Good News About God" and long-time readers of this BLOG and my website at www.ibtechservices.com.au will be familiar with my frequent criticisms of the poor translation of some key words in our most popular English Bibles, especially their New Testaments.

In my writings (and in my preaching) I usually offer a Biblical text or two to illustrate the point I am making to demonstrate the Biblical backing for the view being addressed.
If I quote from a popular version like NIV or GNB, I often have to adjust the quotation using a literal translation so that it better reflects what the Biblical writer is trying to say. Sometimes I actually quote the text from a literal translation like Young's or Rotherham's or the Concordant Version even though they use older King James style English and their expression is not usually free-flowing, quite wooden in fact.

Now some really good news.
Last week I was introduced to a brand new literal translation of the New Testament that was published just over 12 months ago. It is "The New Testament - A Translation" by David Bentley Hart.

My copy arrived in the post two days ago and I haven't been able to put it down since. I haven't read it all the way through yet, but I have read sizable chunks of it and especially chunks that include chapters containing the poor translations I have to keep adjusting.

And I am delighted!
If I can quote from this translation in my writings (I am inquiring about any copyright restrictions at the moment) I will never have to make those adjustments again because the translation is already literal and the English style and expression is very acceptable for written works.

David Bentley Hart is an Eastern Orthodox scholar of religion and a fellow at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study. He set out to translate the New Testament etsi doctrina non daretur (as if doctrine is not given), and has produced a brilliant (IMO) 500-page translation that contains copious footnotes explaining the reasoning behind many of his translation decisions.

Some people will criticise a translation by one person rather than by a committee, just because it is a single person.
But I find a literal translation by an eminent scholar is more likely to be true to the original manuscripts and thus avoid doctrinal biases than a popular translation by a committee formed from a particular doctrinal persuasion on the one hand or by a committee representing many different doctrinal positions whose work needs to be smoothed over to keep all committee members on board.

Here is my signature Bible text from this new translation (sorry for the US spelling):

"For we labor and struggle to this end, because we have hoped in a living God who is the savior of all human beings, especially those who have faith. Enjoin and teach these things."
[1 Timothy 4 : 10,11 DBH]

If there are no copyright problems, you will see this translation used most (maybe all) of the time from now on.

Blessings, Barry

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Biblical Last Days

Since publishing the previous post "Are We In the Last Days?" I have been asked to write a bit more about "The Last Days mentioned in the Bible".
This is a huge topic as it is mentioned in so many of the Biblical Books and raises several questions about what Christians often refer to as the "second coming" of Christ.

I won't repeat the references from the previous post that showed that most of the New Testament writers were aware they were living in the last days, which I suggested were the last days of the Old Covenant or Mosaic era - I'll just add a few more.

The writer to the Hebrews opens his letter with:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. [Hebrews 1 : 1 - 2 NIV]
And a bit later added:
But he (Jesus) has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. [Hebrews 9 : 26b NIV]
It seems clear that the time of Christ's arrival, ministry, death and resurrection was considered to be in the last days of the "wrapping up" or climax of the Mosaic ages.

When we consider what Jesus taught about "the last days" or "the end", we see an interesting mix of reward and punishment in store for the nation of Israel.
In the explanation of the Parable of the Weeds in Matthew 13, the end of the age is truly in focus.

Jesus identifies the generation in which he is living as the one that will be experiencing God's judgement. (Matthew 23 : 36)
And Matthew chapters 24 and 25 give vivid predictions of the destruction of the temple, the sign of Jesus' coming and the end of the age, and the rewards and punishments of those in that generation.

Secular history confirms the physical fulfillments of these predictions, and debates have raged for centuries over the non-physical - preterist, futurist, pre-mill, post-mill, a-mill discussions abound. (But those debates are well outside the focus of this BLOG.)

Hope that's enough to tempt you to put your study specs on and satisfy your curiosity about "the last days". I'll get back to our usual theme of the extravagant grace of God in the next post.

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Are We In the Last Days?

This topic is not directly relevant to the exploration of God's extravagant grace that is the major focus of my book, blog and website.
However, I am asked this question often so I will answer it and place the question and my answer on the website under the "Questions" link.

So my answer? - Maybe, no, and I don't think so.

If the question is referring to the last days of the church age, then my answer is "maybe"; if it's referring to the last days of the world, then my answer is "no".
And if the question is referring to the last days mentioned frequently in the Bible, then my answer is "I don't think so".

The Last Days of the Church Age
I'm not sure we can find many clues from the Scriptures regarding the last days of the church age.
During the age in which we are currently living, God has put national Israel to one side whilst he gathers the Body of Christ (the Church) from all nations (including Israel).
God has these members already chosen and gives them faith when they hear the gospel so they become believers and the first fruits of the full harvest which is to be completed at the end of the ages.

So the church age will end when the final member of the Body of Christ has been added, and God turns his attention again to national Israel.
And only God knows when that will be because only he knows whom he has predestined to be in the Body of Christ.
So are we in the last days of the church age? ... Maybe ... but who knows but God alone?

The Last Days of the World
From my comments above it is clear than there is still an age or time to come when God deals with, and saves, national Israel. (Romans 11 : 25 - 27)
So are we in the last days of the world? ... No ... there is still much more to come.

The Last Days Mentioned in the Bible
There are many references to the last days in the Scriptures: but they don't appear to be referring to our church age or to the end of the world.
Let's take a look at some of them and see if we can determine to whom they might refer.


On the Day of Pentecost, Peter is explaining why the disciples are behaving in such a strange way:

These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!
No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.'
[Acts 2 : 15 - 17 NIV, this event occurred in the 30's AD]

Peter was aware that this gathering was taking place "in the last days".
He was implying that "we are in the last days right now".

Paul was equally aware of the days they were in.
In summing up some warnings from Israel's history, he said:

Now these things happened to those people as an example, but are written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come.
[1 Corinthians 10 : 11 LEB, written in the 50's AD]
The writer to the Hebrews also described Jesus' visit as being at the end of the ages:
For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf,
and not in order that he can offer himself many times, as the high priest enters into the sanctuary year by year with blood not his own,
since it would have been necessary for him to suffer many times from the foundation of the world, but now he has appeared once at the end of the ages for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself.
[Hebrews 9 : 24 - 26 LEB, written in the 60's AD]

John was even more precise when he wrote:
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.
This is how we know it is the last hour.
[1 John 2 : 18 NIV, written in the 60's AD]
The time in which the New Testament writers (and the early Church) lived was variously described as the end of the ages, the last days and even the last hour.
So, the question becomes: the end of what ages, the last days of what, the last hour of what?
I believe they were in the last days of the Old Covenant era - the ages that culminated in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem.

So are we in the last days referred to in the Bible?  I don't think so - they have long gone.

Blessings, Barry



 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Web Site Update

I have spent the holidays re-designing the website and it will be ready for display by the end of the month as scheduled.
At this stage it will contain similar content to the current site, but will now be suitable for viewing by all types of phones, tablets, laptops and desktops.
It is composed mainly of brief snippets from the book together with articles (predominantly from this BLOG) that dig a bit deeper than a book designed for the general public would allow.
It will be at the same web address - www.ibtechservices.com.au.

I have also prepared a Scripture Index for "The Really Good News About God" which lists, in Biblical order, all texts referred to in the book. It can be viewed and downloaded from www.ibtechservices.com.au/downloads/ScriptureIndex.pdf.

I have also shifted the Discussion and Study Guide for "The Really Good News About God" from its original location to the same downloads folder. It can now be downloaded from www.ibtechservices.com.au/downloads/DandSGuide.pdf, and can be printed using the suggestions in the post on January 1st 2017 called Study Guide for "The Really Good News About God".

So, very little study and writing in January, just playing web site developer.

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

God's Biblical Plan

In several previous posts I have listed a number of Bible texts that demonstrate the plan of God to eventually reconcile all of his creation. In this post I will use some of them to show how the expression of this plan runs right through the New Testament.

In the beginning God
created all things (Genesis 1) and all (these) created things are to be reconciled to himself (Colossians 1 : 16 - 20), because all things are from him, through him and to him (Romans 11 : 36). For this to be so, God must be in the restoration business (Acts 3 : 21). In fact, he promises to make all things new (Revelation 21 : 5).

God's plan is unchanging (Hebrews 6 : 17), his love, kindness and mercy are also unchanging, even towards his enemies (Luke 6 : 27 - 36), and his patience allows everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3 : 9), reflecting his desire for all people to be saved and to know the truth (1 Timothy 2 : 4). Indeed, he has allowed us all to be stubborn and disobedient so that he can have mercy on us all (Romans 11 : 32).

God appointed his Son, Jesus Christ,
to be the heir of all things (Hebrews 1 : 2), placing all things under his control (Ephesians 1 : 22), and to all of them he will give eternal life (John 17 : 2), through the giving of himself as a ransom for all people (1 Timothy 2 : 6), so that all people will see God's salvation. (Luke 3 : 6)

Jesus, knowing that God had given him authority over all things (John 3 : 35 and John 13 : 3), promised to draw all people to himself (John 12 : 32), and lose none of them (John 6 : 37 - 39).  However, if any of them does stray, he will go after them until he finds them (Luke 15 : 4).

Jesus came so that all people should come to belief (John 1 : 7 and 9) ensuring that the world would be saved through him (John 3 : 17) - his grace bringing salvation to the world (Titus 2 : 11) by taking away the world's sin (John 1 : 29 and 1 John 2 : 2). As Jesus said, "I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world" (John 12 : 47), and he did this by destroying the works of the devil (1 John 3 : 8), destroying death and bringing life and immortality through the gospel (2 Timothy 1 : 10).

So, not only has sin been dealt with (Hebrews 9 : 26), but Jesus gave his life for the life of the world as well (John 6 : 33 and 51). Yes, every descendant  of Adam who has inherited death from him will become a descendant of Christ and will therefore inherit life from him (1 Corinthians 15 : 22).

Jesus completes his work when all things have submitted to him (Philippians 2 : 10 and 11), and he hands over his kingdom to God so that God becomes everything to everyone (1 Corinthians 15 : 24 - 28).


Consequently,
we can be assured that God will bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ (Ephesians 1 : 10), having brought justification and life to all people (Romans 5 : 18), that assurance being confirmed by the knowledge that God's gifts and call are irrevocable (Romans 11 : 29).
 

Surely a quick summary like this can be used as a reasonable excuse for being a heretic.  

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Is Faith Needed for Salvation?

Well, it depends on which salvation and whose faith we are referring to?

Let's sort out the salvation question first.
As you know, one of our theme texts is 1 Timothy 4 : 10, which sits under the search box beside every post on this BLOG.

We have placed our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all, and especially of those who believe. {GNB]
So all humanity will be saved eventually, but there is something special in store for believers.

Previous posts have explored the universality of the world's eventual salvation using texts such as ...

God made known to us the secret of his will according to his good pleasure, which he himself had previously decided, to be put into effect when the times reach their completion - to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. [Ephesians 1 : 9 - 10 BV]
After everything is under the power of God's Son, he will put himself under the power of God, who put everything under his Son's power. Then God will mean everything to everyone. [1 Cor 15 : 28 CEV]
However, not everyone will need to wait for the ages to be completed to receive their salvation. The "especiallies" are those who have become believers - have believed that Jesus died for the sins of the world - during their lifetime on earth, and will enjoy their salvation and inclusion in the Body of Christ during the remaining ages, which includes the Millennium and the New Heavens and Earth.

So there are two salvations - one for believers during the ages and continuing  beyond them, and one for the remainder of humanity at the completion of the ages - another illustration of the first fruits and the main harvest in Hebrew agricultural terminology.

What about the faith question?
Long time readers of this BLOG will know that many of our popular English translations of the Bible have translation errors which have been used to mislead people regarding several aspects of God's plan for us.
The ownership of the faith needed for both the salvation of the main harvest and the first fruits is another victim of these errors. 


Because of the age-old tradition in many Church circles that we are saved by making a decision for Christ or by inviting Jesus into our hearts or by some other initiative taken by us, most modern translators have read such a position into the texts.


In those translations, the Greek "faith OF Jesus" is translated as "faith IN Jesus". It was the faith or faithfulness of Jesus, Jesus Christ's faith in his Father's purpose for him, that took him to the cross to secure our salvation.
(I have a fuller discussion of this in the post "The Faithfulness of Jesus" published on May 2nd, 2017 for those interested.)

 
We had (then) and still have (now) absolutely no input into it. Jesus did it all! With no assistance from us everyone will eventually be reconciled to God without lifting a finger. Yes, Jesus was successful in dying on the cross for the sins of the world.

However, to be in the Body of Christ, to be among the first fruits, to have life during the ages, we need to believe in the finished work of Christ for mankind and to be available as a co-worker with Christ in His kingdom work.


We need to have faith in the finished work of Jesus.
And that faith is also a gift from God for those He has selected for that role during the ages.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God [Ephesians 2 : 8 NIV]
Consequently, to be among the first fruits, to be in the Body of Christ, to be saved during the realm of time (the ages), to have age-ian life, we need to have received the faith to believe in the faithfulness of Jesus in dying for our sins.

So, is faith needed for salvation?
For the eventual salvation of the world, the faith of Jesus was needed.
For the prior salvation of those chosen to be in the Body of Christ, the faith to believe in the finished work of Jesus will be given.

(And when the last of these have been been born, and heard the gospel, and been given the faith to believe it, the Body of Christ will be complete and this current age will be completed.)


Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Which is Better - Calvinism or Arminianism?

I have sometimes been asked to choose between Calvinism and Armianism, on the assumption that Christian Universal Reconciliation is not a legitimate option.

Very briefly, the god of the Calvinists has the ability to save all mankind, but doesn't choose to, whereas the god of the Arminians wants to save all mankind, but does not have the power or ability to.


The real God, the God of the Bible, has the will, power and ability to save all mankind, and sent Jesus to be the Saviour of the world to make sure that happens. In the introduction to The Really Good News About God", I briefly describe Calvinism and Arminianism and show the short-comings of each.


There are some people who tell me these are the only two positions that can be held, so, Barry, which one do you hold?
Well, if you put it like that I would have to say I'm a Calvinist, but not a Calvinist of the common variety.


I believe God has the will and strength to save those he has chosen to save ... but I broaden that number to everyone (on the basis of solid Biblical evidence you will find in the book}.


OK. I'll give you a sneak peek right now.

Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
(1 John 2 : 1b - 2 NIV)

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 
(Romans 5 : 18  NIV)

I have also discussed this position more thoroughly in a previous post "The Third View" published on June 6th, 2010.

Blessings, Barry