When you have a baby, a chocolate wrapper’s platitudinous advice must be read in a new light. Instead of tempting you to indulge, it just mocks you, taunts you.
I think I must save this wrapper until my oldest child is five or so.
I read the Sermon on the Mount often as a child—mainly because I thought it was cool that it was the biggest stretch of red letters I could find in the New Testament. But Jesus’ teaching there is so simple and powerful that, despite my inane motivation, Jesus’ famous sermon made a deep impression on me.
One of the instructions Jesus gives quite clearly (I recently enjoyed writing a lesson on it for seventh graders) is that kingdom citizens should not pray with 1) meaningless repetition or 2) many words.
When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matt 6:7-8).
So I can’t help but read the old Catholic Encyclopedia’s statement about the rosary with some puzzlement:
It is tolerably obvious that whenever any prayer has to be repeated a large number of times recourse is likely to be had to some mechanical apparatus less troublesome than counting upon the fingers.
In one sentence we have a very clear violation of at least one of Jesus’ instructions: don’t think that many words will get you a hearing. We also have a system which appears almost designed to lead people to violate Jesus’ other instruction, the one against vain repetition. How many of us can keep repeating the same words hundreds of times without thinking about serifs—or okra, or industrial air conditioning design? Given that you started saying the Pledge of Allegiance as a kindergartener when you couldn’t understand it anyway, how many times in your whole life did you repeat it with any understanding? It is an act of extreme faith, worship, and mental toughness for me just to recite the BJU creed in daily chapel services without my mind wandering seven times around the globe. When my wife-to-be was just my girlfriend and was standing within my vision in chapel, reciting the creed without my mind wandering was manly impossible (I didn’t say humanly because maybe girls can do it; I don’t know).
I checked the Catholic Catechism. It speaks approvingly of the rosary, though it does not say much about it.
Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, etc.
The rosary—like the other practices just named in that paragraph from the Catechism—is an accretion. It is at best a temptation to disobey Jesus and, more often, a direct violation of His clear commands. I am a sola scriptura Protestant in part because Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount are straightforward and I cannot in good conscience evade them.
I don’t deny that evangelical Protestants have their own accretions, but we at least in principle have a way of recognizing them for the temptations and violations that they can be—instead of institutionalizing them and purposefully perpetuating them by investing tradition with divine authority.
I can read English, Spanish, Greek, Hebrew, German, and Latin, in that order of fluidity. Truth be known, my German is mainly structural, my Latin mainly vestigial—though the latter is strengthened by my Greek. This mix of training means I can piece together a good deal of Dutch, French, Portuguese, and Italian. At the very least, I can recognize major cognates whether Germanic or Latinate in origin. And you probably can too if you try to start paying attention to such things.
The skill of “reading” Indo-European languages I don’t know is valuable, because Bible translations in all these languages comprise something of a referendum on certain interpretation questions. I regularly check translations outside English. For example, someone asked me recently whether πείθεσθε in Hebrews 13:17 is best rendered “obey” or “be persuaded”—or “trust,” “have confidence in,” or “follow”? “Obey your leaders” or “Be persuaded by your leaders”?
Almost all Bible translations use some form of “obey” or (what has come to us in English as) “hear.” The fact that Spanish has a word obedecer and German has a word with similar meaning, gehorcht, is almost a dead giveaway that “obey” is Latinate and “hear” Germanic. But in this kind of context, they mean the same thing: obey.
Ten of the Spanish versions I have give me obedeced. Just one (La Biblia Castellana) gives me confiad (trust). The same goes for Portuguese: I get four saying obedecei and one saying tenham confiança (have confidence, trust). But all seven of my French versions choose obéissez. All eleven German versions elect gehorcht (obey). All six of my Dutch versions choose their equivalent to gehorcht. The Vulgate chose oboedite.
Most smart people who have looked at this word over the centuries would have been aware of other options with πείθεσθε and yet still chose “obey” overwhelmingly.
I view that as pretty powerful. But not infallible! There are a few translations that stray from obey. The Syriac Peshitta, which I cannot read, must have something like “persuade” because several translations of it into English read, “Be persuaded.” Interestingly, the TNIV renders πείθω with “Have confidence in.” This may reflect an anti-authoritarian bias (possible, but unlikely considering that they render the next phrase, “submit to their authority”…), but I’m more inclined to see it as a bold suggestion that just about everyone else might be missing a nuance.
BibleWorks is perfect for this kind of work; Logos isn’t. And since I do this regularly, I built a set of favorites that allow me to check different languages easily.
Just 1) close BibleWorks, 2) place the following text into your BW800.ini file (or BW700.ini if you have BibleWorks 7) at the appropriate place (you’ll see it), and 3) reopen BibleWorks.
Favorites=ESV ESV RSV NAU KJV LXT WTT NIV TNIV NKJ BNT NLT CSB NET|ESV AFR LEI LUV NBG SVV W78 W95 ESV KJV WCS ASV NIV NIB NAS RSV NKJ NRS NAU LXE WEB RWB DBY BBE YLT DRA NAB NLT NJB CJB CSB ERV ESV ETH GNV GWN HON JAM JPS JTE KJA KJG LEW LXA MGI MIT MRD NET NIRV NOR OPE PNT ROD TNIV TNK TNT R95 BNP CAB LBA NBH NVI PER R60 RVA RVG SRV BFC CRL DRB FBJ LSG NEG TOB EIN ELB ELO HRD L45 LUO LUT MNT SCH SCL ZUR BNT GNT NAU BNT SCR BYZ STE WHO TIS BGT GOC MET MGK VST IEP LND NRV VUL NOV VUC VUL VUO ACF ARA ARC BRP SBP|KJA KJA KJV RSV NRS VUL LXE BGT DRA NAB KJA|AFR AFR LEI LUV NBG SVV W78 W95|ESV ESV KJV WCS ASV NIV NIB NAS RSV NKJ NRS NAU LXE WEB RWB DBY BBE YLT DRA NAB NLT NJB CJB CSB ERV ESV ETH GNV GWN HON JAM JPS JTE KJA KJG LEW LXA MGI MIT MRD NET NIRV NOR OPE PNT ROD TNIV TNK TNT|LSG BFC CRL DRB FBJ LSG NEG TOB|SCH EIN ELB ELO HRD L45 LUO LUT MNT SCH SCL ZUR|BNT BNT GNT NAU BNT SCR BYZ STE WHO TIS BGT GOC MET MGK VST|IEP IEP LND NRV|VUL NOV VUC VUL VUO|ACF ACF ARA ARC BRP SBP|R95 BNP CAB LBA NBH NVI PER R60 R95 RVA RVG SRV||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
You will end up with a menu that looks like this:
Click the language you want, and you’ll see all the versions written in that language (I stuck a few things together, like Creole with French, Afrikaaner with Dutch). If you have failed to install some of these versions, you may have to do an “update” with your BibleWorks CD/DVD and add them.
Secret tip: You can change “German” to “Ger,” “Italian” to “Ita,” etc. and then type “d ger” in the command line to get all your German versions.
I checked, and only a few of the cool people—by no means all—are using Instapaper. I’m here to change that. Cool people of the world, unite!
You’ve just got to try Instapaper, especially if you have a Kindle and/or an iPod Touch like me.
All you do is install a Firefox extension which gives you a nice little button. Run across an article you’d like to read but can’t read right now? Click the button. Right away, your Instapaper account downloads the article and puts it in your to-read list.
It also strips the article of all but the article: no ads, no fine print at the bottom, no header, no buttons (pictures are generally included if they’re clearly part of the body of the article).
After your list of articles populates with a few choice gems, you can access them easily through an iPod Touch or similar device. (To have more than 10 articles at a time, I believe, will cost you $5—I ponied up because I knew what a value this would be to me.)
And here’s the coolest thing: Instapaper can automatically send all your articles to your Kindle in an easy-to-read format.
Also worth checking out if you have a Kindle: Kindlefeeder.
One of the most popular linguistic and exegetical fallacies in modern times is that the Greek word for love, agapao, carries in it the implication of a divine love that is unconditional and comes to us in spite of our sin.
That is not true. Context must decide if agapao refers to our proud, cliquish love for our cronies (as in Matthew 5:46), or if it refers to God’s merciful and sacrificial love for sinners (as in John 3:16), or if it refers to our love for leaders, not unconditionally but precisely because of their labor (1 Thessalonians 5:13).
A few weeks ago I got word that my dissertation defense had been moved; it’s now set for Monday afternoon, May 2. Please do pray for me if you think of it.
I’m busy preparing for the defense; the full defense draft should be turned in this week by Friday at the latest.
Here is a sneak peek at some of the slides I’ve got for the Keynote I’ll show. All text is subject to radical change…
Do you ever stumble over the difficulty of some of the words of Scripture? It’s not just obscure places and people and practices in the OT; there are significant passages in the NT which are also quite difficult or ambiguous.
Here are some points that might help you:
It’s okay for you to find some parts of the Bible difficult. It’s not okay to leave it at that. Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled, but the food they need they may have to dig for.
The Society of Biblical Literature has a series of standard abbreviations for Bible books. I particularly appreciate the fact that they do away with the unnecessary period. If you use Mark Ward’s Microsoft Word Miracle Macro, you’ll need to use these as well for it to work properly.
I left out equivalents for the OT and NT; you’ll figure them out.
Update: BibleWorks comes with an SBL abbreviation set. Go to Tools> Options > Bible Versions > Book Names > Open > books_sbl.bna > Open > OK. Now, when you export passages from BibleWorks, they will come automatically tagged with the reference using SBL abbreviations. (If you are a screen-space Nazi like me, you will want to edit the list to make the long titles match the abbreviations—this saves some space in your browse window, especially when you’re in books with long titles like 2 Thessalonians. You are welcome to use the file I created—just unzip it and use it to replace the existing books_sbl.bna file.)
|Gen||Eccl (or Qoh)|
|Exod||Song (or Cant)|
|1 Cor||1 Pet|
|2 Cor||2 Pet|
Equivalents are listed to the right.
|Add Dan||Additions to Daniel|
|Pr Azar||Prayer of Azariah|
|Bel||Bel and the Dragon|
|Sg Three||Song of the Three Young Men|
|1–2 Esd||1–2 Esdras|
|Add Esth||Additions to Esther|
|Ep Jer||Epistle of Jeremiah|
|1–4 Macc||1–4 Maccabees|
|Pr Man||Prayer of Manasseh|
|Ps 151||Psalm 151|