Sunday, 30 September 2018

2 Corinthians 3:16-18.... AGAIN!

It sometimes seems that I was born to tango with this passage. I'm trying to be as rigorous and as consistent as I can be with applying my methodology to Kyrios translation to the New Testament and am finding some more subtleties than I originally was able to treat back on my original post on this passage. Rather than updating that older post for the second time, I thought it better to put here where the translation process is up to on this passage. I needed to write down some comments on this too, so here we go:

But whenever anyone turns to Godthe Lord, the veil is taken away.
Now God the Lord is the synonymous with his Spirit, and where the God’s Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate Godthe Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing gloryfrom one degree of glory to the next, all of which comes fromis fuelled by Godsthe Lord, who is the Spirit.

  Here “God’s Spirit” is a different Greek construction to that which is given in the preceding verse, which has a more classic form (pneuma Kyriou/tou Theou). As can be seen, NIV currently draws attention to this particular form here by creating a clause: “, who is the Spirit”. In Greek, all we have is three super-dense words:

1) from (‘apo’)
2) God/Lord (‘Kyriou’)
3) Spirit (‘Pneumatos’)

 It seems like NIV could be correct in connecting, it would seem, the grammar of verse 17 with the context of Paul’s wider correspondence with the church in Corinth. The Spirit had become something quite other than the Spirit of God in 1 Corinthians (see 1 Corinthians 2:10-16, 3:16-17, 6:11, 10:3-4, 14:1-17 and especially 12:1-12).

So here in 2 Corinthians 3:18 we can go three ways.

We can go with the current NIV idea, adding the “who is” padding.

Secondly, we can recognise that both Kyriou and Pneumatos are on level pegging with relation to the action of transformation of believers from one degree to the next. Grammatically, this time, it is neither from the Spirit belonging to God not from God belonging to the Spirit. This makes sense since Paul has already pointed out that they are synonymous. But applying such rigorous attention to the grammar, while looking for alternatives to the wordy “who is”, seems to lead us to something like a hyphenated “God-Spirit” or with an ugly forward slash “God/Spirit”. A usable revision to NIV would probably need to discard this second option entirely.

A third option is to consider, as I have done, that for the modern reader, Paul’s point about the synonymity of ‘Kyrios’ and ‘to Pneuma’ in verse 17 has been made by supplying the “is synonymous with his” in that verse. Now, the language can move back to “God’s Spirit” for ‘Kyriou Pneumatos’ in verse 18, which returns us to familiar English in a unified way that still remains faithful to Paul’s point in the Greek.

Scripture taken and adapted from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (Anglicised), NIV®. Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, Inc. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Limited, a division of Hachette UK.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Hebrews 1: Jesus the divine KING

The NIV has a fitting introduction to this pivotal passage – and not I am not always that easy to please on those little sub-chapters provided by modern translations! It reads: “God's final word: his Son”. I like that. I will start by pasting the whole passage, but we will start our examination of it at verse 8.

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 
2 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.
3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 
4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,

‘You are my Son;
    today I have become your Father’?

Or again,

‘I will be his Father,
    and he will be my Son’?

6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he [or Scripturesays,

‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’

7 In speaking of the angels he says,

‘He makes his angels spirits,
    and his servants flames of fire.’

8 But of the Son, he [or Scripture] says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
    the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

Israelite kings were so entrusted with a rule that was commissioned from Yahweh himself that they could even be called, ever so occasionally, a god. The only proviso on that, of course, was that Yahweh maintained his ultimate standing in the larger scheme of things.

But just prior to this, in verses 3-4, we have what must be one of my favourite verses in the whole Bible since I began my theological quest back in 2014: After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

What's so special about that verse, you might think?

Hang on a second. Of course, it is difficult to summarise everything that a Jew packed into what we call a “name”, but it clearly included very significant concepts like personal presence and authority. There was more crossover with what we refer to English as someone's title. That might even be a better translation here: the title he has inherited is more excellent... So what might the name or title actully be here, that special name-title that God has conferred onto his Son? The answer lies in that divine-rule again. Look - it was inherited. That's how this thing works. It's total. So it's totally “divine”. And it is “inherited”, which also helps us better understand Revelation's perspective on the dual ownership of the Kingdom in Revelation 11.

One final thing - but it's going to get me to my suggestion for how to present Jesus in the contexts that speak of him being an ultimate or divinely reigning KYRIOS, so please hear me out. In the Greek the context helps parse out what we differentiate by “name” or “title”. So in the Greek, KYRIOS does connect Yahweh to Christ, you can't help it. Yet it doesn't make them interchangeable. since we see clear distinctions between the two, one being the “God and father” of the other, the clear and absolute Inheritor of the Kingdom. Since we accept God as a translation for Yahweh in the Old Testament, what could be close to that to echo the divine rule batton-passing we have seen described in these passages? These questions and scriptural highlights suggest “The King”. This is the extension we were looking at when pondering the example of Colossians 1:10.

These options prepare us fruitfully for embracing the most difficult passages that connect Yahweh to Christ, in Romans 10 and 1 Corinthians 8. These now resemble the following, but I hope they make sense when read in context, which I hope I have been able to draw out in these posts on Acts 2, Philippians 2 and now Hebrews 1.

Romans 10:9, 12-13
if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lordcarries God’s name and authority as King,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved... For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord king is King is Lordof all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord God[JB1] s name will be saved.’

 [JB1]Textual variations: τῇ χάριτι τοῦ κυρίου: τ. χ. κυρίου (D) | τ. χ. τοῦ θεοῦ (P45 C E Ψ et al.), Hurtado, p. 6.

For even if there are so-those called gods do exist, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many referred to as ‘gods’ and many lords’‘masters or kings), yet for us there is but one true God, the Father, from whom all things came come and for whom we live; and there is but one true MasterLord, Jesus Christ the King[1], through whom all things came come and through whom we live.

[1] Or: 5…many referred to as ‘gods’ and ‘masters’ … 6and there is but one true Master, Jesus Christ

Scripture taken and adapted from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (Anglicised), NIV®. Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, Inc. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Limited, a division of Hachette UK.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

More super-exaltation passages in the build-up to Hebrews 1: Colossians 1

We're on a journey to Hebrews 1 when it comes to the super-exaltation aspect of Jesus being called KYRIOS by first-century Christians. We started that part of the trek in Acts 2, dropped in via Philippians 2 and now it is time for Colossians 1. Here, then, are a few selected verses based on our key title for Jesus, Kyrios in Greek, giving us more insight into Jesus' "super-exaltation":

verse 3 We always thank God, the Father of our KYRIOS Jesus Christ, when we pray for you...

verse 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the KYRIOS, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God...

verse 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son...

verse 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

The Acts 2 and Philippians 2 analyses provide us with some helpful “packaging” for KYRIOS for Paul (or Pauline thought, if Colossians is a subsequent expression of nonetheless Pauline theology and language). Verse 3 clearly articulates “our KYRIOS” to be the Son of God and is constantly associated with God throughout this passage (which is typical for nearly all of the New Testament). Verse 10 transitions from “our KYRIOS” to “the KYRIOS”. That is significant. I had hoped that we might be able to favour a Peterson favourite (author of The Message translation), “our Master”, as a handy way to communicate to churches and disciples of Jesus their allegiance in a way that they could identify themselves:

* in their current allegiance
* in continuity with how they imagined their earliest predecessors, the first Judean followers (if imagined via a gospel with a stronger Kyrios emphasis than Mark).

However, Paul frequently does this move of identifying Jesus as “the” KYRIOS to speak of a greater sovereignty than that released over individuals or groups through their allegiance to him. So is Paul saying that Jesus is Yahweh? Wasn't Israel's god the ultimate Kyrios? You might like to think so, but for Paul, the answer is absolutely not - Jesus and Yahweh remain 2. Paul shows strong familiarity with the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which I have measured in its entirety (summaries published via this blog), which removes the article preceding KYRIOS when translating Yahweh. Paul does not do that for THE Kyrios Jesus. That said, this level of reign is massive and I am certain that the descriptor "divine" is fine. Listen, the Kingdom of God is now the Kingdom of his Son. (A more transitional theology can be found in Revelation 11:15 where there is co-ownership of the Kingdom: “the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah”. Clearly, again, we cannot be dogmatic about how we translate these lexical units.)

Moving on to verse 15, often trumpeted as proof for “the divinity of Christ”, we have this magnificent revelation. This KYRIOS, the Christ, reveals God in a unique way. He is the way to the Father, and, by appealing to another hellenistic Jewish idea of a divine and mediating logos, he is the way of the Father to bring about creation. All roads to God and from God pass via the Son - pleasing God and obedience to God and allegiance to God and honouring God. These divine interactions are so unanimous and consistent that they become virtually synonymous (e.g. "pleasing Jesus" is "pleasing God", etc.). Prior to this poing, the Jews would only see one such focal point of all these aspects, their god, Yahweh. This is all the more extraordinary when we realise that Jews like Paul were rigorously instructed to understand these qualities as God's alone, at least in this ultimate and most consistent sense. Now, quite suddenly, even creation, redemption and divine kingship intersect through this extraordinary person, Jesus.

So does this reduce in any way the redundancy of “Lord” for passages like these? Of course not! Although KYRIOS will never fade, “Lord” has to go, albeit progressively and gently. But how do we go about it for such an exalted perspective? Before I say anything else about that, let us, firstly, be straight about “Lord”: aside from religious language, there is nothing particularly exalted about that word anyway. In medieval times, lords usually only had regional power. In Roman times, Kyrios power was greater, extending up to the Emperor himself.

We already suggested for the early Christological hymn cited by Paul in Philippians 2 that a dynamic equivalent to the title of KYRIOS would be the verb to reign. That is the key idea in these exalted passages where the reach of the simpler parameters we were able to associate with “our Master” scenarios no longer function adequately. I see three potential solutions - one sticks with the hard work of rendering verbs like “to reign” or “to rule”, as worked out above for Philippians 2, and the other accepts that an alternative title can be considered for such a frequent Greek title as HO KYRIOS. I continue to reserve the specific solution to “Lord of lords” as “Commander-In-Chief” for those few scenarios in Revelation and 1 Timothy). Here are the three possibilities:

1. so as to walk in a manner worthy of he who rules, fully pleasing to him...

No - it's too clunky here. What about an alternative title? What did we establish for Mark in the story of the borrowing of the colt? His Highness (and the sky's literally the limit!)

2. so as to walk in a manner worthy of His [Royal] Highness, fully pleasing to him.

I still really like it, but am only really convinced of its suitability in the synoptic gospels' colt-borrowing story. A third possibility we have already visited at various stages:

3. so as to walk in a manner worthy of the King, fully pleasing to him.

Not bad! Since we have already seen the very close biblical association between the Greek words for King and Lord, why not go the “whole hog” and simply keep translating HO KYRIOS as the King? But does that go far enough? It might not. Look again at the extent of this reign - I said we can call it divine because it is clearly depicted as operating at that level. Although I absolutely do not think Paul was trying to say that the KYRIOS Jesus was the anarthrous KYRIOS of his Greek Old Testament, strong links are being amply provided here on the grounds of divine rule. I will save my final tweak to “the King” for Hebrews 1, which will then, at last, enable me to offer a suitable Lord-free translation for the hardest New Testament passages faced by my Lordship retirement policy: Romans 10 and 1 Corinthians 8.

Scripture taken and adapted from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (Anglicised), NIV®. Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, Inc. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Limited, a division of Hachette UK.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Bill Mounce on how we go about translation and some irony on "Lord"

In this video Bill Mounce, recognised authority on New Testament Greek and member of the NIV Committee on Bible Translation, explains his position on how we go about translating the original meaning of the biblical texts.

He helped me see that my own goals were on track. When we people hear saying "translating the original text", that is still not quite it. What we want to do, despite only having access to texts, is to get back to the original meaning so as to provide it in our target language, English (in this case). So Mounce points out that the translations cannot be considered "inspired" and also, crucially in our case with "Lord", cannot be systematic word for word substitutions!

Alas, despite this wisdom, this is almost exactly what we see NIV and many other modern translations doing with Lord.

I have left a challenging comment at the top of the comments section under this video, so let's see if and how he responds to that.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

John Darby: updated biography and naming the real heroes!

I WAS NOT quite completely correct in an earlier post I made on the French Darby translation. I had assumed that since Darby was English that his initial translation had been into English and then my subsequent interpretation of ongoing translation work by his students after his death was that it was a genius student of Darby, rather than Darby himself, who had realised the importance of recognising references to the LXX "Lord", the Greek translation of the Old Testament (and some other Jewish writings) and representing that to the French readership via an asterisk: the *Lord (Le *Seigneur).

This is not actually what my most recent information tells me, however. Apparently, Darby's main initial work was on the German and French translations directly, not the English, but here's the thing. When he worked with William Joseph Lowe and Pierre Schlumberger on the French, he introduced the asterisk. His work on other European translations, however, were apparently kickstarted by a contact from a German bible translator, Julius Anton von Poseck. This collaboration resulted in what is known as "Elberfelder Bibel". However, there are no asterisks preceding Lord in Luke 1:9 "in the temple of the Lord" (in den Tempel des Herrn). Also note that Darby's technical and subsequent translation into English of the New Testament does not seem to have featured this key addition of the asterisk.

For these reasons, I think we can attribute this breakthrough, only really developed since by Eugene Peterson in The Message, to John Darby's French translation team, William Joseph Lowe and Pierre Schlumberger. Great pioneering work, gentlemen!

Darby's picture... (sadly none for my true heroes, Lowe and Schlumberger):

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Philippians 2: drawing out the active dynamic in Jesus' title KYRIOS

Brace yourselves, today's post is actually going to be SHORT!

Let's move on from this "first" instance of Jesus' Cosmic rule we examined in Acts 2 to another. 
One obvious place to turn is Philippians 2, an early Christian hymn cited by the apostle Paul:

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is ΚΥΡΙΟΣ,
    to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11 NIVUK

We have already seen in Mark that dynamic and non-systematic options for ΚΥΡΙΟΣ have been really helpful to draw out the multiple layers of meaning and usage of ΚΥΡΙΟΣ. In keeping with our work on Acts 2 (the one God anointed and crowned to rule as KING) and given this appeal to more dynamic translation options alongside the need to retire outdated Lord language, I would prefer the verb “reign” in this instance. Thus, the confession may read:

Jesus Christ reigns, to the glory of God the Father”.

This reign is broad, covering both spheres previously perceived to be held by God alone - the heavenly realm and, within some self-imposed restrictions, the earthly realm as well. In the next post, we can see this fleshed out in some later Pauline vocabulary in Colossians 1.

Related posts:

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (Anglicised), NIV®. Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, Inc. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Limited, a division of Hachette UK.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Obstacle 5 continued: God making Jesus both KYRION and CHRISTON in Acts 2:36 is cosmic

IF YOU THINK, like I do, that "Lord" belongs to a previous generation of Christianity, what are the appropriate titles for our "Lord" Jesus? Is there a one-size-fits-all? In my post on Kyrios in Mark, we made the astonishing discovery that Mark did not make a strong connection between Kyrios and Jesus, just a small handful of passing references. Now, that was a surprise! As a result, a non-systematised methodology for translating this title in Mark was proposed.

Today, I want to move on from the gospels for a moment to examine a rather important passage reported by Luke in Acts.

So let's read Acts 2:34-36 in my adapted ESV translation, leaving KYRION untranslated for now:

For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, "'GOD said to Your Highness, "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool."' Let all the house of Israel, therefore, know for certain that God has made him both KYRION and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."
Acts 2:34‭-‬36 ESV

I gave some solid reasons in my post on Mark for adopting more royal and exalted terminology here when Mark used the Psalm quote in his colt-borrowing scene. I continue to find these reasons compelling, although they aren't without difficulty here if we still have lingering ideas that systematised translation for KYRIOS might still really be the best way to go. If that were the case, it really would be difficult to have God "making Jesus His Highness". Since our job is to unpack multiple layerings and expand the contextual nuances with Kyrios, it might be more helpful to move away from static titles. Here, the ESV like other translations sees "Kyrion" and "Christon" and probably doesn't think too much of it. These are simply translated "Lord" and "Christ". Bingo! 

But there is another way to go about this that can help modern readers not lose sight of the context of this passage, with Peter addressing these Greek-speaking Jews.

In this all-important context, Luke has Peter citing King David, in which Jesus is shown to be connected to David but also superior over him - ironically via a misunderstanding introduced by Mark, whom Luke had read. As in Mark, David is said to be addressing another King as "my Kyrios". Luke makes a similar point then to Mark in this new context. But what of that next bit, that Luke has Peter adding, that God has made Jesus both KYRION and CHRISTON? 

Let's look at Christ first - as we will see they are deeply connected. In the Septuagint, the term "Christos" is already firmly established. Saul is even described that way, and David wouldn't harm him because Saul was Yahweh's anointed king, his Christos (1 Sam 26:9 LXX, χριστὸν κυρίου). This anointing then passed, of course, to David, the new Christos (although with overlap, see 1 Sam 16:6,13). Thus the reign and the divine anointing are already naturally part and parcel in Jewish thinking.

Modern readers then should not be put off nor distracted by having their attention focussed on the action of God in exalting Christ more than the more static titles through which these actions may at one time have been communicated. Thus for Acts 2:36, we should be open to the possibility of:

Let all the house of Israel, therefore, know for certain that this Jesus [our Master] whom you crucified is the one God anointed and crowned to rule as KING.

Readers of this context might be surprised to see the early extent of this rule. Unlike David, Jesus flew through the sky to be sat at God's right hand, reigning in a divine capacity, which for a Jew is utterly unprecedented. Hence "KING" = Cosmic King. His Royal Highness has indeed ascended to as *High* a function as imaginable. Greeks already had a word for this in their naturally blended worldview between the divine and mortal realms: apotheosis. I think this Hellenised view is accepted into Christianity by some of its most influential interpreters, like Irenaeus Athanasius and Thomas Aquinas, but is even evidenced as an acceptable idea in the New Testament (see 2 Peter 1:4 and John 10:34-36). This, however, paradoxically superseded apotheosis. That's the impossible logic you get when you place Judaism and Hellenism in the same ring and think they are actually still boxing each other.

Careful, however, for although this supreme usage here in early Acts has now been provided, that does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that Kyrios now functions in any systematised way, ditching, so to speak, the previous layers and nuances or conveniently forgetting that the narratives in the gospel & Acts accounts are not influenced by events and correspondence preceding their penning, like visions of the resurrected Jesus and Paul's letters. Slaves continue to call their home-owners Kyrios, even Jewish ones. Even Jewish-Christian ones, probably. Context must and will continue to be the golden rule for understanding and translating the Kyrios-ship in question.

This translational care that I am advocating is why I place in the square brackets Peter's relationship with his Master. This inclusion would permit a fantastic semantic bridge between 2 of the key layers of Jesus' authority, being a personal Master to his disciples and God's cosmic KING SIMULTANEOUSLY. That was the power of Kyrios. We don't have a word that does that today.

ESV adaptations taken from ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Image taken from