Friday, April 19, 2019

A new New Testament Translation Bonus

I have now read most of "The New Testament - A Translation" by David Bentley Hart (17th February 2019 Post) and it has become my goto translation for study and bed-time reading.

I must say though that Hart's vocabulary far outstrips mine and he uses English words that I have not previously met - both in his translation and in his footnotes, introduction and postscript. So I always keep a dictionary close by whenever I read it.

The author's lengthy INTRODUCTION was most enlightening as it explained his approach to the translation process he adopted and the challenges he faced in translating the Greek writing styles of a wide range of original authors from 2000 years ago.

Here are some snippets ...

Hart attempted to "write a translation of scripture not shaped by later theological and doctrinal history".
"My principal aim is to help awaken readers to mysteries and uncertainties and surprises in the New Testament documents that often lie wholly hidden from view between the layers of received hermeneutical and theological tradition."
"Where the Greek of the original is maladroit, broken, or impenetrable (as it is with some consistency in Paul's letters), so is the English of my translation; where an author has written bad Greek (such as one finds throughout the book of Revelation), I have written bad English. Even then, I have not captured all the idiosyncrasies of the text."

The INTRODUCTION also contained some of Hart's personal experience while on the translation journey.
Here is an example ...

"I know that writing this translation caused me to absorb certain conclusions about the world of the early church at a deeper level than I could have anticipated. Most of them I already knew, admittedly, if often as little more than shadows glimpsed through a veil of conventional habits of thought - for instance, how stark the dualism really is, in Paul's letters and elsewhere in the New Testament, between "flesh" and spirit", or how greatly formulations that seem to imply universal salvation outnumber those very few that appear (and rather nebulously) to threaten an ultimate damnation for the wicked."

All of Hart's INTRODUCTION (and his even lengthier POSTSCRIPT) are informative and worthy of frequent perusal, and are a bonus supplement to the publication.

And of course, to me, his discovery of God's plan of universal reconciliation/salvation just through his non-theological, unbiased translation of the Greek Scriptures was a highlight, and confirmation of the necessity of accurate translations to correctly understand God's plan for His creation, and almost worth the price of the book alone.

Blessings, Barry

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

2019 Easter Reflection

The events we celebrate at Easter each year are summed up by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthian Church.
Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.
He was buried, and
he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.
[1 Corinthians 15 : 3 -4 NLT]

Paul gives some insight into God's purpose in these events when writing to the Roman Church.
(Jesus) was surrendered to death because of the offences we had committed, and was raised to life because of the acquittal secured for us.
[Romans 4 : 25 Weymouth]

And who are the 'we' and 'us' that are in focus here?
Christ himself is the means by which our sins are forgiven, and not our sins only, but also the sins of everyone.
[1 John 2 : 2 GNB]

Which Paul sums up in this way, demonstrating the superiority of Jesus (the heavenly man) over Adam (the earthly man).
For just as through Adam all die, so also through Christ all will be made alive again.
[1 Corinthians 15 : 22 Weymouth]

So this Easter let us remember that we are celebrating what Jesus has done for everyone, not just the Church, since Jesus is a successful Saviour, not one who only gets the job partly done.

Have a blessed and celebratory Easter.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Who or What is the Real Church? - Part 4

Fourthly, the Church has been given the Holy Spirit.
We have discussed so far that the Church is the Body of Christ, the community of those who have been called or chosen by God for a particular role in God's plan for His creation, and have been given the faith to embrace the gospel message that has been revealed to them.

The role God has for the Body will take more than human skills and effort, so it is not surprising that God has another gift He gives to prepare and equip them for it.

And that gift is the Holy Spirit.
Quoting Peter, speaking to a Jewish audience on the Day of Pentecost:

"Each one of you must turn away from your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive God's gift, the Holy Spirit.  For God's promise was made to you and your children, and to all who are far away—all whom the Lord our God calls to himself." 
[Acts 2 : 38 - 39 GNB]

Paul also affirms that the Gentiles God has chosen and to whom He has given faith are also given the Holy Spirit.
And you (Ephesian Gentiles) also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance ...
[Ephesians 1 : 13 - 14 NIV]

Paul then demonstrates this joint position with:
For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body - whether Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
[1 Corinthians 12 : 13 NIV]

So, as well as a guarantee of our inheritance, what benefit does this gift of the Holy Spirit give members of the Body?
They actually have God living in them and with them.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.
[Romans 8 : 9 NIV]

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
[1 Corinthians 3 : 16 NIV]
What is God's purpose in this?

to teach them -

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
[Jesus quoted in John 14 : 26 NIV]

to help them make right decisions -
The peace that Christ gives is to guide you in the decisions you make; for it is to this peace that God has called you together in the one body.
[Colossians 3 : 15 GNB]

to fully reveal the purpose of Jesus' mission to them -
The helper whom I will send to you from the Father will come. This helper, the Spirit of Truth who comes from the Father, will declare the truth about me.
[Jesus quoted in John 15 : 26 GW]

to empower them -
And now I will send the Holy Spirit upon you, just as my Father promised. Don’t begin telling others yet—stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.
[Jesus quoted in Luke 24 : 49 TLB]

to mould them into the image of Christ -
And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
[2 Corinthians 3 : 18 NET]

So the real church, the Body of Christ, has been chosen, given faith and the Holy Spirit ... to do what?

Part 5 coming after Easter.
Blessings, Barry

Friday, April 12, 2019

Guidance from Charfles Darwin

I read lots of creation-evolution literature, mainly to justify and strengthen my Biblical creationist views and to bolster my scientific and theological arguments against Darwin's General Theory of Evolution (GTE).

I haven't written on GTE in my BLOG as the BLOG's focus is on God's extravagant grace and the reconciliation of all creation to Himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, I might begin to do so in the future, as belief in GTE (yes, it is a belief system) has some serious implications for Christians and the foundations underlying their Christian faith.

Today's post about Charles Darwin is consistent with my main focus without directly addressing GTE.

There are many quotes from The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809–82 by Charles Darwin available on the Internet, but one of them is especially relevant to some of the points I have made in several previous posts.

Charles Darwin was initially training to be an Anglican minister, but "I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation".

"I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all of my friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine."
We have seen in many previous posts that poor translations in most popular Bibles of verses involving "hell", "eternal" and "age-during or age-ian" have distracted readers from God's true gospel that Jesus' death and resurrection have secured the eventual reconciliation of all His creation. (Check out *God's Biblical Plan* posted on January 8th for a recent quick summary.)

In addition, the mainstream church has rarely preached this gospel message, promoting rather that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world will not be successful and that God will
annihilate or endlessly torment most of His creation at the final judgement.

Who would really want to be committed to such a cruel and unsuccessful god, whose stated purpose for the world could be so easily sabotaged?

But this is not the case at all. The gospel of Jesus Christ is really good news - not a mixture of good news for some and bad news for the majority.

In all his wisdom and insight God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ.
This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head. [Ephesians 1 : 8 - 10 GNB]

and Jesus' own words:
"When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me." [Jesus quoted in John 12 : 32 GNB]
Christ himself is the means by which our sins are forgiven, and not our sins only, but also the sins of everyone. [1 John 2 : 2 GNB]
I can't help wondering what Darwin's influence on the world might have been if he had not been so influenced by the incorrectly translated text he was reading, and become an Anglican clergyman instead.

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Parable of the Generous Donor (GD)

GD, a wealthy businessman in a small country town, arranged for $1million to be deposited into a bank account for each resident.

GD's son found out about what his father had done and began telling his friends about it.
His friends began enjoying a quite different lifestyle due to their newly-discovered wealth, and, out of gratitude to GD, found ways to support and promote the businesses owned by GD.
As well as living a more affluent lifestyle, when the time came, luxurious aged care for people of such wealth was easily arranged.

But not everyone heard the good news that the son and his friends were telling, and some who did hear the news, didn't believe it and therefore continued to live carefully from week to week from their pay packet - they continued living their modest lifestyles, even though technically they were now wealthy.

As each one aged and needed supported aged care, their assets were assessed to determine the level of care that could be afforded for their remaining years.
It was soon discovered that each person was surprisingly wealthy and so very comfortable and well-resourced accommodation and care was easily arranged.

Indeed, the entire population of the town spent their final years in the best of aged accommodation and care, due to the provision and generosity of GD.

This is how GOD has arranged for the final existence of His entire creation through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ.
This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head.
[Ephesians 1 : 9 - 10 GNB]

Blessings, Barry

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Who or What is the Real Church - Part 3

Thirdly, the Church is the Community of Faith
We have discussed so far that the Church is the Body of Christ, the community of those who have been called or chosen by God for a particular role in God's plan for His creation.
(Let's not forget, with all this talk about the Body of Christ being specifically chosen, that God has also chosen all mankind to be saved at the end of the ages before "we step into eternity" together.  See the previous "God's Biblical Plan" posted in January 2019)

To perform their task or chosen role, members of the Body of Christ will require faith.
Because the gospel is pretty hard to get your head around without it.

Imagine trying to understand the gospel - the God of creation sending his Son to earth in a human body, His virgin birth, His death for our sins, His resurrection, His promised return, God being reconciled to us even as sinners, God's promise to reconcile all of us to Him eventually, etc.
It's way beyond what we would call rational. (See the previous "Is God Rational?" posted in August 2013)

We could not accept such a fantastic story without God's intervention in some way.
The gospel needs to be revealed to us - and then believed by us.

My understanding is this: If, before the foundation of the earth, God has chosen those who are to be members of the Body of Christ, then those chosen must hear the gospel (have the gospel revealed to them) and be given the faith to embrace it at some point in their life's journey on planet earth - the chosen need to be given the faith to act upon the gospel God has arranged for them to hear.
(Conversely, those who do not hear the gospel, or who hear the gospel but are not given the faith to believe it, have not been chosen to be members of the Body of Christ. Their salvation, their reconciliation to God, must wait until an event beyond their time in their earth-suits.)

Jesus (the Head) and we (the Body) have been given the faith to fulfil the roles God has given us. Both are referenced in this one verse from Hebrews.

Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God's throne. [Hebrews 12 : 2 GNB]
Jesus required faith to complete His challenging mission. (See the previous "The Faithfulness of Jesus" posted in May 2017)
The Body requires faith to embrace the message and embark on its mission (which we will discuss in the final post of this mini-series).

The Gentiles listened with delight and extolled the Lord's Message; and all who were pre-destined to the Life of the Ages believed.
[Acts 13 ; 48 Weymouth]

So then, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through preaching Christ.
[Romans 10 : 17 GNB]

Confirmed by Paul's personal experience ...
Though I was previously a blasphemer and a persecutor and had been insolent in outrage. Yet mercy was shown me, because I had acted ignorantly, not having as yet believed; and the grace of our Lord came to me in overflowing fulness, conferring faith on me and the love which is in Christ Jesus.
[1 Timothy 1 : 13 - 14 Weymouth]

Yes, we are blessed by our early calling but we are not to boast about our being chosen or our being given faith.
And because of God's gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you.
[Romans 12 : 3 GNB]

What is so special about you? What do you have that you were not given? And if it was given to you, how can you brag?
[1 Corinthians 4 : 7 CEV]

Correct. The Body of Christ is not special - just chosen earlier than the rest of mankind and equipped for a specific task.

Blessings, Barry
(Part 4 coming in the next post)

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Who or What is the Real Church? - Part 2

Secondly, the Church is the Community of The Called or The Chosen
I appreciate that this makes it sound like the Church is an exclusive club - but it is.
That's God's choice, not mine.
You don't have to look far to see how exclusive it is, how few might be in the Body of Christ compared to how many who are not, just in the place where you live.

(But keep reading to the final post in this mini-series to discover why this smallish group has been chosen to receive its calling before the eventual reconciliation of the remainder at the consummation of the ages - the called have a distinct role to play in God's plan for His creation.)

Reports of God's calling of those he has chosen permeates all of Scripture. Here's a small sample relating to the church.

Symeon has related how God first looked graciously on the Gentiles to take from among them a People to be called by His name.
[Acts 15 : 14 Weymouth]

James said this referring to Simon Peter's earlier comment that "God originally made a choice among you that from my lips the Gentiles were to hear the Message of the Good News, and believe."  [Acts 15 : 7 Weymouth]
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints ... [1 Corinthians 1 : 1 - 2 NIV]

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. [James 1 : 18 NIV]

God has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.
[2 Timothy 1 : 9 - 10 NIV]

It is clear that the Church is a community of people who have been specifically called (chosen) by the Spirit of God to be members of the Body of Christ, and incredibly, that choice was made by God before time began.
That's how God operates - always choosing people, as individuals or groups, to implement His plans.
And we'll discuss what that plan is for the Body of Christ in a coming post.

Let's see a few more examples of God's choosing throughout Biblical history.
After Adam and Eve sinned, God promised that He would undo the curse of sin that the human race inherited. [Genesis 3 : 15]

After Cain killed Abel, God gave them another son named Seth (meaning the set or appointed one) as the one appointed to take the place of Abel.
God later chose Noah (meaning comfort or rest), a descendant of Seth and a righteous man, to save mankind when God judged the wicked in the flood.

Through Noah's son Shem (meaning name, fame, renown) God chose another man named Abram (meaning high or exalted father) to be an ancestor of Jesus Christ.

God's plan in calling Abram, who was later called Abraham, was to make a great nation of people who would be, not only the people from whom the Messiah would come, but also they would be God's chosen nation (Israel), a witness and example to all other nations. [Genesis 12 : 1 - 3, Exodus 19 : 3 - 6

In fact, Abraham was to be more than the father of just one nation, but of a multitude of nations - those of the circumcised (Hebrews) and those of the uncircumcised (Gentiles). [Genesis 17 : 3 - 6, Romans 4 : 11 - 12]

And what about the mighty Pharaoh, who thought he was completely in charge of his world. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very reason I have raised you up, so that I may demonstrate my power in you, and so that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." [Romans 9 : 17 LEB]

And finally the words of Jesus as He responds to the grumbling of the Jews: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me should draw him ..." [John 6 : 44 DBH]

It is clear that one's calling into the Body of Christ is God's doing, God's choice - and His alone. It is not a choice that we make, no matter how often we hear people saying things like "I invited Jesus into my heart" and "I decided to become a Christian" or "I decided to give Christianity a go". It is not an "I" decision at all: it is solely God's choice as to whom He calls into the Body of Christ. 

Interestingly, C.S.Lewis admits he was dragged into the church kicking and screaming, definitely not his choosing at the time.

To finish, an interesting point from the Greek of the New Testament.
The word klesis is translated in English as 'a calling' and the word ekklesia is translated as 'church' or assembly.
Notice the similarity between these Greek words demonstrating that the church consists of those who have received a calling by God.

Blessings, Barry
(Part 3 coming in the next post)