Thursday, 19 July 2018

Obstacle 2: Lord of Lords

In the endearing little love story between Tina and Archie we saw Tina is the church and Archie is the Lord Jesus Christ. The old-fashioned name "Archie" that Archie wants to change is "Lord". 

I believe a translation overhaul is needed for "Lord" in many modern Bible translations both in English and other languages. This overhaul is necessary for a relevant and yet faithful religious institution like Christianity.

The Number 1 question was how to translate the Hebrew name for God, "Yahweh". I finally arrived, after two years of researching the issue, at the idea that GOD, all caps, would be a good solution. Eugene Peterson got there first though!

This only makes the suggestion all the more palatable, as I have arrived at the same destination as Peterson but via, I am sure, a different route, bringing more grammatical substance than Peterson's work had access to.

Overcoming Hurdle 2: "Lord of lords"

If you make this move - to switch the Yahweh translation from "The LORD" to "GOD", then there are some fresh problems to solve - I identify five of these. Overcoming the first obstacle, we established that is more than faithful to ancient tradition to apply the lower case "g" to god, permitting the possessive "GOD, our god". This now leaves us excellently placed to approach the second hurdle, Lord of lords.

But if we are moving "Archie" away from "Archie", then doesn't "Archie of Archies" present a double problem?! Fortunately, as impressive as it sounds, it is a very rare title in the Bible, and even there applied in various ways (adapted from ESV version):

Applied To God:

Deuteronomy 10:17
For GOD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.

Psalms 136:3
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever

Applied To God or Jesus:

1 Timothy 6:15
...which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords

Applied to Jesus

Revelation 17:14
They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

Revelation 19:16
On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords

Lord of lords as a poetic device

Notice how in only one instance is Lord of lords not paired up with another grand title; either "God of gods" or "King of kings". There is a poetic insistence in there to draw out a response from the listener. In other words, although given in title language, there is no actual or rather static title of Lord of lords but rather an insistence that this is as important as a person can get and as high an authority level as a person can exert.

Interestingly, exactly the same profile results if you stick "King of kings" into a search field in a Bible concordance. You get human references (not just Jesus!) and you get divine references (the Israelite god, Yahweh), and you also get that pairing up with other adulating or poetic "titles".

It is not straight forward to replicate all that into English. As rare as "Lord" is today in non-religious contexts, the title "Lord of lords" is purely religious (and really confirms the overarching premise to be honest, of the need for a Lord overhaul), but that is sadly still the way many translations still feel safest: stuck inside the religious bubble of Lord. Peterson clearly sensed the need to break God and Jesus out of that bubble when it came to single-use "Kyrios", but for these five, even he only managed to scrap two of the "lords". To his credit, it is always nuanced and adapted. Let's see how he did it.

Deuteronomy 10:17
God, your God, is the God of all gods, he’s the Master of all masters

Psalms 136:3
Thank the Lord of all lords.

1 Timothy 6:15
Undisputed Ruler

Revelation 17:14
Lord over all lords

Revelation 19:16
Lord of lords

Already in Deuteronomy Peterson is giving the reader a hint of how he is going to give modern readers a breakout method from the crusty old "Lord": Master. Apart from GOD, this is the other special card he has to play and he is going to play it hundreds of times with Jesus. That part of the Lord Overhaul Operation is something we will be examining in a separate post and our hardest of obstacles of all, Obstacle 5: The Lord Jesus.

1 Timothy introduces a title that I regularly return to in my musings, that of ruler. I quite like it, even though, sadly, "Ruler of rulers" sounds ridiculous. 

One of the grand titles that everyone still gets is King. History doesn't always noticed that the poetic titles and the literal executive power titles have slowly been separated. So whereas before kings and queens had more or less ultimate say over their countries (think taxes and wars especially) and it was up to local governors to execute their commands, nowadays, kings and queens are more symbolically or religiously invested. It is their head executors are really the ones in charge (like Prime Minister, which, by the way, is also ridiculous sounding, way too British and, in contrast with the observations made of the cumulative poetic adulation in the biblical framework, it is perfunctory and static). 

But I have a couple of fresh suggestions, if I may. It's my blog and piece, so I may as well, but I really do feel that for these five instances we have two quite decent candidates:

  1. Commander-In-Chief.
  2. Condensing into or substituting "King of kings".


A commander-in-chief, also sometimes called supreme commander, or chief commander, is the person or body that exercises supreme operational command and control over a nation's military forces. As a technical term, it refers to military competencies that reside in a nation-state's executive leadership—a head of state, a head of government.

Commander-In-Chief I think is an interesting contender as it manages to contain the aspect of awe and accumulation with other grand titles like "Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith" (curiously I note that the Queen is no longer "Lord High Admiral" of the Royal Navy - did she resign?!). It also has an official power. She has to give her green light to important acts like going to war.

King of kings

My second suggestion is to say that sometimes the repetition is not necessary in the target language. The most famous example for Septuagint scholars is that of Adonai-Yahweh. Since both were translated as Kyrios, the translators ummed and ahhed between "kyrios kyrios" and a simple "kyrios". There are also other examples of where since earliest times translators of the Bible have been sensitive to the issue of redundancy. What this, therefore, legitimises us to do is ask the following question: does a simple "King of kings" suffice to translate what was previously emphasised in parallel language ("King of kings and Lord of lords")? I would go further to say, yes it does suffice (see my suggestions below for the New Testament examples)!

Since we only have the five instances, we can write out the suggestions in turn, again in adaptation of the ESV:

Deuteronomy 10:17
1. For GOD your God is God of gods and Commander-In-Chief, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.

2. For GOD your God is God of gods and King of kings, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.

Psalms 136:3
1. Give thanks to the Commander-In-Chief,
for his steadfast love endures forever

2. Give thanks to the King of kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever

1 Timothy 6:15
1. ...which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Commander-In-Chief

2. ...which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings

Revelation 17:14
1. They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Commander-In-Chief and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

2. They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

Revelation 19:16
1. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Commander-In-Chief

2. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings

And not a "lord" in sight!


Lord of lords can either be rendered King of Kings or Commander-In-Chief.

In my next post I will proceed to the 3rd obstacle in the path of the Yahweh translation, GOD.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Green or Brown?

Innovative building design for appartment block design in Alès, southern France. 

Every time we drive past these appartments, my children (and me) are fascinated by the way in which the colour of the walls metamorphoses from brown through green and back to brown again. The other morning, while fetching birthday croissants from the baker's, I took the time to record the effect on camera.

The first photo gives a sweep of the vista in panoramic mode. But let's break it down.

The first two pictures give us an idea of how the colour appears when looking at the appartments from an angle.


The colour starts off a "pure" green and in the second photo the appartments appear to begin to metamorphose into brown.

The more we approach viewing angles that are perpendicular to the walls, the more the colour shifts to brown to such an extent that all trace of green is swallowed up in brown. 

Increasing the viewing angle still further slowly returns the apparent colour to green again.

Why am I telling you this? 

There are actually two applications, one is to a previous theme of the blog (development of a Triune God theology) and the other to the usage of "Lord" in modern Bible translations.

We didn't get to The Trinity overnight: more like a pregnancy

Let's take the Trinity one first. Readers of the blog may recall that I developed a historical model for the development of the Christian idea of a Triune God that I referred to as the Triune Hub. This is basically a cumulative summary of a number of well established "mutations" that Christianity brought to Judaism: see Jewish Roots Of The Trinity. In the same way that we cannot say that there is a snapping moment at which the appartment walls "switch" from green to brown, nor can we see early evidence for an instantaneous switching of God. It is false to say that in the first century and in light of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, that the Jewish Christians now understood God to be triune. It is also historically false to say that the way things had been reconfigured theologically for early Christians, was not significant enough to:
  • speak of a rejectable Jewish sect
  • centre Jesus and the Holy Spirit centrally in a theological conceptual hub previously populated or dominated by Yahweh alone
  • baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (as opposed to a Spirit-blank John-style baptism)
In addition to its subsequent enshrinement in Scripture, first-century Christian documents enter into a hermeneutic process that would be used to defend against a dissection or subordination order of the F, S & HS. Early and later "heresiarchs" would consistently provide negative threats to this recentering. This binding up together in worship, discussion and action of all three is reinforced for centuries to such an extent that eventually the notion of "substance" is introduced - and the walls are increasingly brown. Eventually, Godhood substance, equally shared, becomes simply God, thus the Triune God is "born" - after a looooong pregnancy.

From LORD to GOD

I sometimes wonder if I am even bordering on insanity for even thinking about the phasing out of "Lord" from Christian discourse and Scripture. But, I know it could happen. Not only could it happen, but it could happen without me even living to see it. Right now things remain very "green". Many Christian gatherings across the world today would make such a project seem about as likely as walking water. Every prayer is punctuated by "Lord", sometimes to a crazy degree, much higher than in any normal conversation we would use someone's name or title.

But then Peterson just went out there and splashed around a small splattering of very acceptable brown paint. He translated thousands of times over, in his early 2000s publication of The Message, the Hebrew Yahweh with ... GOD, not LORD.

Now, my research on the anarthrous nature of the Septuagint translation of Yahweh provides extra (dare I say more scholarly?) legitimacy to this translation choice. Maybe a tiny bit more brown. 

Where could extra brown-ness come from? My suspicion is that the church is going to have an ever-increasing battle with relevance to modern culture. Part of the drive for relevance concerns language. Old words, as invested with love and identity as they may still be today, are steadily disappearing and replaced with more meaningful equivalents. The greater the emotional investment, the slower that process is (and has to be).

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Jewish Roots of the Trinity update

While on holiday I was struck by a visual experience that I felt illustrated powerfully two suggestions this blog has made and is making now, but it caused me to look back at a post I made on 8 May 2017, when I wrote a post that would become one of my more significant and most visited posts: Jewish Roots of the Trinity. I even translated it into French. But I realised as I re-read it that it needed updating, which is what I have now done. I haven't touched the explanation, which I still feel is accurate and is reflecting my longer-term historical perspective on the development of a Triune-God theology. However, the bullets I wrote were not as clear as I had hoped and mingled the various Christian mutations of the Jewish worldview in a way I now found confusing.

The bullets still remain theologically dense - but now I am sitting the Triune Hub idea on three clearer Christian mutations, explorable by work clustered around N. T. Wright for the first mutation on resurrection, Larry Hurtado for the second on Jesus-worship and Dominic Crossan for the third on the Spirit-empowering participative kingdom.

If you can't be bothered to read the changes there, here they are in there (I hope) clearer form, first in English, then in French:

The first-century mutation, the Triune Hub, is making Jewish sense of:
  • the Jesus events: death, postmortem encounters and enthronement visions mean the resurrection of God's Messiah and Son, physically absent but envisioned exalted and reigning at a cosmic level: at God's right hand.
  • This super-exalted raised Messiah is also a clear instruction to worship God's annointed and continue to "follow" him.
  • the unforeseeably early resurrection of Jesus winds the eschatological clock forward and prepares a new eschatological window: outpouring of the Holy Spirit, empowering God's people to advance the inevitably victorious kingdom foreshadowed by Christ's victory over death and evil during the Easter-Passover weekend.
La mutation du premier siècle, Le Moyeux Trinitaire, fait sens pour un juif chrétien de :

  • Les évènements de Jésus : mort, rencontres post-mortem et visions d'intronisation doivent signifier la résurrection du Messie et Fils de Dieu, physiquement absent mais perçu en vision comme exalté et comme ayant reçu une autorité ultime et cosmique: à la droite de Dieu.
  • Ce Messie "super-exalté" signifie clairement l'instruction divine de louer l'Oint de Dieu et de continuer à le "suivre".
  • Cette résurrection précoce et imrévisible de Jésus avance le programme eschatologique et prépare une reconfiguration des propheties des dernniers temps: l'effusion eschatologique de l'Esprit Saint, habilitant Le Peuple de Dieu par le symbole du baptême, d’avancer l’inévitable Royaume victorieux anticipé par la victoire du Christ sur la mort et le mal pendant le week-end de Pâque.

By the way, I took the time to photograph this experience and have begun drafting the post to share with you soon!

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Obstacle 1: GOD our God

I hope you enjoyed the endearing little love story between Tina and Archie - did you work out the symbolism?

Tina is the church. Archie is Christ. Barbara... was just a helpful character for the narrative to work! The old-fashioned name "Archie" that Archie wants to change is "Lord". 

Farewell LORD, Hello GOD

In the post before the Tina and Archie story I outlined the translation overhaul I believe is needed for "Lord" in many modern Bible translations both in English and other languages. I also said why this overhaul was necessary for a relevant and yet faithful religious institution like Christianity.

The Number 1 question was how to translate the Hebrew name for God, "Yahweh". I finally arrived, after two years of researching the issue, at the idea that GOD, all caps, like we see with the occasional "Lord GOD" occurrences we sometimes we in some traditional translations, would be a good solution. My wife thought this was a hilarious conclusion after so much work to arrive at something apparently so obvious. But this was before I delighted in discovering Eugene Peterson already arriving at a similar conclusion about fifteen years earlier!

You can see the Message (MSG) wikipedia page here, where I just had to do a minor edit. The person doing the post had the good idea of taking a few passages in different translations in order to illustrate the distinctive flavour of the Message translation. Unfortunately, they had apparently done a copy-paste of the passage in Psalms 23 without checking it - the small caps of "OD" next to the capital "G" got converted back to lowercase. 

This only makes the suggestion all the more palatable, as I have arrived at the same destination as Peterson but via, I am sure, a different route, bringing more grammatical substance than Peterson's work had access to.

Overcoming Other Hurdles: Yahweh our God

I identify five more important hurdles, even if all of these are relatively small or even tiny in comparison to the thousands of simple Yahweh occurrences. Today we will also attempt the first of these additional hurdles: Yahweh our God. In fact, Yahweh + possessive + God breaks down roughly as follows:

  • Yahweh our God, approx 90 times,
  • Yahweh your God approx 150 times,
  • Yahweh his God approx 30 times (plus "Yahweh Israel's God, approx 90 times)
  • Yahweh her God = never!
  • Yahweh my God approx 20 times,
  • Yahweh their God approx 40 times.
Total: approx 420 times

So far, I have shown nothing but love for Peterson's approach, but here I'm not so sure his gloss works particularly well: "GOD our God" (the Message). Although Peterson does not seem to have any qualms over it (he's just using his normal methodology) I think it's clunky. Not the GOD bit, obviously.

You see, you already have something very special going on with the unification of title and Name in GOD, so to get a variant of that word again in a capitalised G-God two words later requires a lot of mental gymnastics for the reader: according to my brief calculations in around 420 places. There has to be an improvement to that, and Tom Wright, Michael Heiser and others have prepared it for us perfectly, even if their logical answer may not be one that Jews or Christians (more "Tina"s) today may love. But the logic and another reason I will give in a minute will reassure us I am sure.

In his introduction to the Resurrection of the Son of God, one of his exhaustive studies on early Christianity, N. T. Wright is clear that a correct and initial way of describing any deity needs a lowercase "g", even when depicting the god of the Jews (who were surprisingly exclusivist). Jewish monotheism in the first and previous centuries was not at all a worldview in which there existed exactly one god, but rather that this deity, surprisingly, requires allegiance to him alone. Although Wright doesn't remind us here, the Jews also understand their god to be a very special god indeed, championing him "God of gods" (Deuteronomy 10:17, Joshua 22:22, Psalms 136:2, Daniel 2:47 & 11:36)

Michael Heiser agrees and his whole theological framework hangs off a form of henotheism* that fits the Divine Council portrayal of Palms 82 and Deuteronomy 32:8-9 really well.

We are going to look at these passages now to see how they highlight the henotheistic divine Council worldview of the time, using a more classic translation of ESV (MSG unfortunately really strays from the clarity of other mainline translation traditions here). Even in good translations, it is so easy just to skip over the Deuteronomy verses and miss it, but this is what it says (ESV):

8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
    when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders/territories of the peoples
    according to the number of the sons of God.
9 But the LORD's portion is his people,
    Jacob his allotted heritage.

Ancient near Eastern religions of the time of Israel believed in a plurality of divine beings. The Israelites were no different. What was fresh about Israelite theology was that one god, the Creator god, was the Head god, who presided over His divine council. The Israelites had the enormous privilege of being the nation chosen by him as his uniquely his own.

What this means is that when used possessively, my, your, his, her, our and their god, we are not exegeting from a monotheistic culture as we have often assumed and our transitions have reinforced. Since Yahweh is the greatest of the gods there was no problem there, but there is no attempt to deny the existence of the others. Those are the gods of the other nations.

Example. I was born and grew up in a small city in the south West of England called Exeter, and enjoyed following my local soccer team. When I attended a match I would stand with my friends in the tribunes and sing football songs, some of which were inspiring, some rude and others just silly. It's one of the silly ones that helps me communicate my point here: "Exeter City FC: by fast the greatest team the world had ever seen". Imagine for a moment this really was true and the Grecians could smash Brazil 10-nil no problem! An Exeter fan, in this fantasy world, would still not mind his team being written "team" - nor would a Brazilian mind in a more realistic world. The context and direct wording is enough to establish the supremacy of the club. It doesn't need to be written "the greatest Team", because the thing of which they are the greatest is the category "football teams". In the same way, the thing of which Yahweh is the greatest is the category "gods".

As a result, it is also correct and even less confusing to use this possessive approach in the Bible, "Yahweh your god", etc.

Since we have seen a suitable candidate for Yahweh translation is GOD all caps, then we have our translation solution for obstacle 1:

"GOD your god".

In my next post I will proceed to the next obstacle in the path of the translation, GOD.

*Not all scholars like speaking of henotheism any more, which is odd to me as the ideas it contains are alive and kicking hard!

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Blind Lover Tina Discovers Name Change

TINA is crazy in love with Archie. They've been in love and dating for decades, and are a reminder to all their friends and family that love is certainly not bound by physical disabilities, in this case on both sides. You see, Tina went blind as a child and Archie has been deaf and dumb all his life but can see just fine. Communication can still be a challenge but like all couples they find they understand each other's moods and needs quickly even if details are sometimes frustratingly difficult to get across.

When they first met they were introduced and assisted in communication by Tina's older sister, Barbara who, like the rest of the family on both sides had been delighted that the chemistry was working out. Since the sisters were close and Barbara was still useful at times for communication on occasion they lived close to each other.

Then something quite unexpected happened. Archie, who had been thinking through some rather deep and existential questions, decided he really needed a new start in life. Although a friendly guy, he had become quite settled into his routine. While companionship with Tina was fulfilling, he got it into his head that really Archie was more a name of his parents' generation. There were still no signs of he and Tina being able to have children - maybe that was it. Whatever the cause, it was time to reintegrate with society, get involved with local community projects, volunteer to help others in difficulty, hang out, watch footy in the local pub... and change his name. He wouldn't lose it completely, but he didn't want any extra perceived weirdness in addition to the fact that he couldn't speak like most other people. So he would switch his first name with his middle name, Sam. Just one problem - how to tell his blind companion? He knew immediately who to contact and texted Barbara asking her to come over to help him in breaking the news to Tina.

Barbara was faithful and true to her impeccable record and did not over-enthuse nor did she judge - she knew that she was best serving her sister and brother-in-law by remaining as neutral as possible.

It didn't go well. Tina heard the news from Barbara and just shook her head in disbelief at first, but when she sensed from Sam (Archie) that Barbara was simply relaying information she had learned from him, she began alternating between disbelief, denial, anger, then a kind of blunt refusal. You see, for a blind person to know someone, even more is invested into the name: "but I only know you as Archie! You're my Archie - you can't be anything else"! Sam's heart melted and he felt torn. He knew that his desire to integrate more into society had become deeply associated in his mind with the name change. He knew it was a big deal, but it was a big deal he was ready for. There was still plenty of continuity. He'd still look the same, be the same person both intrinsically and officially, but socially he was Sam now, not Archie. But it was rocking his relationship with the woman he loved most in the world, and he couldn't bear to see Tina's heartbreak like this. It was just too much for her to take in, and as the minutes turned into hours, even poor Barbara was visibly, and audibly tiring. They all agreed to take a break and carry on the next day and, as the elder sister wisely suggested, to perhaps "sleep on it".

True enough, sometimes the next day things can seem different and a solution dawned on Archie even as he brushed his teeth. Although he couldn't possibly imagine what it might be like for Tina to love a man she had never seen and whose voice she had never clearly heard articulate a single sentence, it started to dawn on him that he may have underestimated the magnitude of what he was asking her to take on. By the time Barbara had arrived, he laid it out to her and she couldn't hide the relief from her eyes. "Hi Tina, how are you? I just have to tell you straight away what Sam, er, Archie er, you know, just suggested to me!" Her excitement was tangible and Tina already felt a little of the tension lift from her face. "Ar...Sa.... he suggests that he have both names! What do you think? He says sorry, he knows now that he was asking too much of you, that he has no idea how important the name you know him so deeply by is to you. He didn't want to shake you, even though he still wants deep change and more connections in his life. So will you please keep calling him Archie, but not mind if others call him Sam?"

It was all still so much to take on, but over the next few days Tina began to see the wisdom in this compromise. Her partner really wasn't comfortable with Archie any more in his growing groups of friends and fellow volunteers. Both of them started to see Archie as a special name, just for her, almost like "darling" and they both soon readjusted successfully to this new state of affairs.


Friday, 29 June 2018

Let's (at last) translate Yahweh and Kyrios into modern English!

So where does all this research into ancient Divine Name translation take us for modern-day translation?
Let's take Yahweh first. Reverting back to "Yahweh", simply transliterated into English, was a preference of mine for a couple of years. When reading or studying the Old Testament, I even began tricking my brain to replace LORD with  "Yahweh", which is kinda freaky!

So could Catholicism-endorsed "Yahweh" be a good solution?

Part of my research has included an international survey of different translations*, which I think could be further analysed into families. Like French Catholics, for instance, Eglish-speaking Catholics use the Jerusalem Bible that states in Deuteronomy 6:4: 'Listen, Israel: Yahweh our God is the one (or "Yahvé", in French). Like these Catholic translations, I noticed some Asian and new translation languages (maybe a Wycliffe policy) preferring transliteration too. Strangely, the mainline Italian translation, however, doesn't agree with this transliteration business practiced by Catholics elsewhere! The Vatican-endorsed Italian Conferenza Episcopale Italiana goes with the more (Protestant?)  il Signore (the Lord). So even the Catholics seem to be either lost or in a state of disunity on this question of how to translate Yahweh, as they actually endorse both possibilities!


The entrenchment of LORD (Signore, Seigneur, etc.) is interesting and everywhere. It actually speaks to the underrated significance of the ancient Greek Septuagint, itself a fascinating but complex window on potentially earlier Hebrew texts than those we access via the Aleppo and Leningrad codexes and perhaps even earlier than (or geographically distinct from) the dead sea scrolls discovered mid 20th century in Israel. There are deep-seated and complex arguments both ways as to the Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls differences on the translation/transliteration choices. Why does it matter? Simply because no-one yet has a good argument to satisfactorily explain the LORD development with consistent dating. Dating matters because if translating the Old Testament's Yahweh, we want to know if there were even "Lord" undertones, overtones, or any tones at all. Well, a fascinating comparison between 1 Chronicles 17 and 2 Samuel 7 by Koog Hong suggests that there is indeed a link, even if he dots his "i"s and crosses his "t"s in an illogical way to my mind. The point is that it is possible that it may have entered Jewish practice to read one thing with your eyes but say another out loud in the context of religious gatherings.

I could go on for ages about this, sorry, but I'm trying to stick to the point: there are two problems with the English LORD that concern translation:

1. It is prefixed by the definite article, "the". So it is not quite true to say that "LORD" translates Yahweh in may translations, but rather "The LORD". That is obviously neither true of Yahweh, but nor is it true of the Septuagint.

2. Hardly anyone says "Lord" any more, although many Christians don't realise this.


ONE translation I hadn't looked at yet in my international survey of Yahweh and Kyrios translations (and weirdly this idea came to me in the early hours!) was to check Eugene Peterson's famous The Message - check it out! Peterson is super respected and not only have his books sold well but his Message translation has been very successful and seems to be standing the test of time. He went and translated, I'm guessing, all the 6867 Yahwehs that I counted "GOD"! I say, result! There's a score right there, BUT I would be surprised if he had explored like me how every single one of those Yahwehs were translated into koine Greek (not modern Greek). So I guess I'm excited, because, like with the Triune Hub, my proposal is going to sit predominantly on and tie together happily accepted practices.

So Peterson is a solid reference, but translating Yahweh by GOD does not solve everything, it's simply clearing the first of at least 7 hurdles. First, what does it solve? Both the above points, in fact. In English, we quite happily use this title as a name, which seems to be exactly what those early Greek Septuagint translators were aiming for. So GOD is faithful to that principle. Secondly, "God" is still as used and understood as ever, unlike "Lord".

Other problems

So we still have some other hurdles ahead of us that we will begin to navigate in the next post:
  1. "GOD our God" (the Message)
  2. "God of gods and Lord of lords"
  3. Hebrew "divine combos", esp. Adonai Yahweh and Yahweh Elohim
  4. New Testament references to God the Father (e.g. "The kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ", Revelation 11:15)
  5. The Lord Jesus: Jesus was "made Lord" (Acts 2:36); the Lord Jesus Christ" (most translations of Jesus' full title in Greek, e.g. Acts 11:17)
Obviously, I have nothing definitive to offer, but I think I may have at least some potential connections for most of these extra hurdles now that Peterson has helped us over the first and most formidable! (I will add any further hurdles I have forgotten here as I proceed).

I can already share that I believe I can tie 1, 2 and 4 together happily with accepted practices. For 1, I will be referring to N.T. Wright and Michael Heiser. For 3, I will be consulting multiple mainstream translations and the Septuagint interpretive pattern itself. For 4, I will be leaning on the French Darby translation and some of my own work on 2 Corinthians 3:16-18.

My suggestions for hurdles 2 and 5 are fresh (i.e. mine and therefore probably valid for quicly shooting down in flames) but avoid simplistic or systematic translation. I feel confident they can lead to workable outcomes if in agreement with the general diagnosis of a "Lord" overhaul. I hope 5 will become clearer as this work gains momentum and interaction. This hardest of hurdles, how to translate today the "Lord" title attached to Jesus, is a challenge that will never see a fully satisfactory translation due to diversification and politicisation of authority positions in our modern society. Nonetheless, 5. can legitimately follow Peterson's suggestion in some instances.

So there're a few more posts needed right there! Thank you so much for your interest.

* the survey I reference here is a slowly advancing and incomplete study that I haven't yet published

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Yahweh Translation Survey Results Out Here!

Hi everyone, I have just completed an apparently needed survey of the Hebrew Bible and Septuagint to examine exactly how the most significant names of the Israelite god, Yahweh and Adonai, were translated into the Greek Kyrios, while also factoring in Greek case. Yahweh, it has long been considered, was convened as "anarthrous" in the Greek translation *Kyrios*, now at last we know quite how much, and what that looks like right across the OT canon. The upshot of this is that Peterson seemed to have sensed something significant when he translated Yahweh by GOD in The Message, not the redundant "the LORD".

But let's get back to the data before we run away with English translation implications.

This first graph tells us that the rates of article before Kyrios (nominative "the LORD") and Kyriou (genitive "of the LORD") are typically very scarce indeed, with Job being a radical outlier. Let's exclude Job now to zoom in on the rest.

So now we can access a more nuanced picture of the rest of the canon. We can summarise it to say that the Pentateuch is, as expected, super low and precedent-setting, although even those first five books we will see some interesting further variation in the following graph. The traditionally ranked "first" historical books of Joshua and Judges seem to follow that pattern before rates increase for 1 Samuel through 1 Kings. 2 Kings, Chronicles, Nehemiah and Ezra bring the rates back down. That is significant in re-evaluating Hong's claim that an early euphemism is evidenced in 1 Chronicles 17, "after" 2 Samuel 7 was written (there is clear literary dependence between the two, but either the Chronicler changes Adonai Yahweh into Yahweh Elohim (Hong) OR Samual changes Yahweh Elohim into Adonai Yahweh. This survey, along with other historical data around the trickiness of the Yahweh Name in particular, might favour the latter scenario, contra Hong. That's quite significant.

Psalms provides the greatest number of arthrous translations of Yahweh into ho kyrios and tou kyriou: 56 by my count. Clearly, this translator and the translator of Proverbs (if not the same) were aware of the translational practice but did not feel quite as bound to it. On the minor prophets, what we notice is quite a wide range of fluctuation of this awareness, which fits well into the likely ad-hoc nature of the establishment of the translation of the latter parts of the Hebrew Bible.

What about the other Greek cases?

Well, they're all over the place, mostly. Deuteronomy is a notable exception, however, and could point to it being the original blueprint for the anarthrous rule.

Note, the graphs exclude the books Esther, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, none of which have retainable data on the question.