Monday, April 22, 2019

WM 121: Part Two: Notre Dame & the TR



I have posted WM 121: NASB 2020, Notre Dame & the TR (listen here).

This episode has two parts.

The first part is a review of some of the upcoming changes to the New American Standard Bible (NASB), coming in 2020. See my notes for Part One here.

The second part is a suggested analogy between the fire/reconstruction of Notre Dame and the TR. Below are my notes for Part Two:

This article is an attempt to draw an analogy between the destruction and proposed restoration of the Notre Dame Cathedral and the traditional text of Scripture.

One of the biggest news stories this week was, for course, the fire that destroyed a substantial part of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (on Monday, April 15, 2019). The source of the fire is still unexplained, though online rumors have run rampant about the possibility that it might have intentional act of arson or terrorism. Over the last year there have apparently been hundreds of acts of vandalism against French churches and Christian religious objects. One would have to be particularly dull not to be suspicious of the fact that the fire occurred during the so-called “holy week” leading up to Easter Sunday.

It is hard not to see symbolic significance in the damage done to this church, which had long been an icon of the Christian and RC heritage of France. I wonder how many poems will be written that memorialize this fire as a reflection of demographic, political, and religious changes in France and the West as it enters a post-modern and post-Christian era.

In a much-discussed online Rolling Stone article, posted the day after the fire and titled “How Should France Rebuild Notre Dame?”, EJ Dickson notes that the fire did not end up doing as much damage as some initially feared. He cites Jeffrey Hamburger, a Harvard art historian:

The fact that the building did not collapse — a concern in the hours immediately following the blaze — serves as a “powerful testimony to the skill of medieval builders,” Hamburger says. He credits the survival of the structure to the building’s iconic rib vaulting and flying buttresses, which prevented collapse. “It’s worth remembering why they went through the trouble building it this way — it wasn’t for aesthetic reasons, it was for fire-proofing,” Hamburger says. “In a way, what we have here is proof of concept.”

After noting the building’s role in French history and the fact that it serves as the “Point Zero” or supposed center of the city of Paris, the article offered this startling observation:

But for some people in France, Notre Dame has also served as a deep-seated symbol of resentment, a monument to a deeply flawed institution and an idealized Christian European France that arguably never existed in the first place. “The building was so overburdened with meaning that its burning feels like an act of liberation,” says Patricio del Real, an architecture historian at Harvard University.

The article also discusses the very difficult question of how the reconstruction of the cathedral should proceed. The cathedral began to be built in 1160 and was completed a hundred years later in 1260. It was built on a site that had previously held not only a fourth century Christian church but also on a site where a Roman temple to Jupiter was once situated. Over the years various additions and renovations were added, including a spire (now destroyed by the fire), in the nineteenth century.

With regard to reconstruction, the question arises as to which church should be reconstructed. The original completed in 1260? The church as it stood in April 2019? Should, for example, the spire be restored or left out? Should it be modernized with contemporary innovations and features? There is also the realization that no exact reproduction can be achieved in our day. We simply do not have the skilled workmen and artisans today who completed the original work by hand using pre-modern methods. We cannot do today what was done then.

Here is another quote from the conclusion of the RS article:

Although Macron and donors like Pinault have emphasized that the cathedral should be rebuilt as close to the original as possible, some architectural historians like Brigniani [an architecture professor at the City College of New York] believe that would be complicated, given the many stages of the cathedral’s evolution. “The question becomes, which Notre Dame are you actually rebuilding?” he says. Harwood [architecture professor at the University of Toronto], too, believes that it would be a mistake to try to recreate the edifice as it once stood, as LeDuc did more than 150 years ago. Any rebuilding should be a reflection not of an old France, or the France that never was — a non-secular, white European France — but a reflection of the France of today, a France that is currently in the making. “The idea that you can recreate the building is naive. It is to repeat past errors, category errors of thought, and one has to imagine that if anything is done to the building it has to be an expression of what we want — the Catholics of France, the French people — want. What is an expression of who we are now? What does it represent, who is it for?” he says.
Hamburger, however, dismisses this idea as “preposterous.” Now that the full extent of the damage is being reckoned with — and is less than many initially feared — he sees no reason to not try to rebuild and preserve one of the few remaining wonders of medieval architecture. “It’s not as if in rebuilding the church one is necessarily building a monument to the glorification of medieval catholicism and aristocracy. It’s simply the case that the building has witnessed the entire history of France as a modern nation,” he says. “[You] can’t just erase history. It’s there, and it has to be dealt with critically.”

So, why this reflection on Notre Dame de Paris? Certainly it is intriguing on many levels. What it brought to my mind, given the general interest of this podcast in the text and translation of Scripture, are the parallels that might be suggested between Notre Dame and the traditional text of Scripture (the Hebrew Masoretic Text of the OT and the Greek TR of the NT).

The traditional text of Scripture is not a physical edifice, like Notre Dame, but it is a priceless literary artifact that reflects the history and heritage of Christianity in both the West and the East. One might say that Notre Dame was there for some nine-hundred years, and the traditional text only represents a printed tradition of some five-hundred years. Even if we granted only a five-hundred-year span for the traditional text, that would be significant, but, in fact, we might just as well cogently argue that its legacy extends even further back. The Masoretic text goes back to Ezra and the TR reflects a predominant, organic ecclesiastical consensus largely present in the Byzantine tradition and confirmed by the Protestant orthodox in the Reformation and post-Reformation eras that, we might argue, goes back to the apostles. So, in fact, while Notre Dame has only a nine-hundred-year history, the traditional text has stood for over two thousand years.

To continue the analogy, we were told that this text had been severely damaged through blazing corruptions and errors in transmission from some unknown sources. In hindsight, however, many now fear that the damage might have been done from inside out by post-Enlightenment scholars who saw the traditional text as a monument of a bygone era, whose significance was eclipsed by modern “advances.” Such scholars likely saw the traditional text as the historian in the RS article says that some modern Parisians saw the Notre Dame, as “a deep-seated symbol of resentment, a monument to a deeply flawed institution … that arguably never existed in the first place.” Many, no doubt, saw and stillsee the toppling of the traditional text as a “liberation.”

Despite claims of its total collapse under what can only be described as the withering claims of modern criticism, further examination shows that the structure actually stands up still quite well, a testimony to the “proof of concept” not only of the inspired writers but also of the providentially guided tradents of the text. It still serves quite well as a “Point Zero” for finding the true center for Christian faith and practice.

While some would still suggest undertaking radical reconstruction to get back to the as yet undefined and elusive original, others suggest that the moment to be seized for making supposed modern updates and improvements. To borrow again from a scholar in the article, one might observe, “The question becomes, which [text of Christian Scripture] are you actually rebuilding?” The traditionalist, however, rightly recognizes that such an undertaking is fraught with difficulties and unintended consequences. For starters, we simply do not have the artisans and skilled laborers to undertake such a task. We cannot do now what a previous generation so expertly did under divine providence. Our attempts to tinker with and improve might be devastating for its preservation for future generations.

Of course, this analogy breaks down. Notre Dame has been severely damaged, and it will need to be repaired. The traditional text, however, though under intense assault, has not yet been consigned to the flames. To both the chagrin and wonder of many, it still stands as a monument to God’s immediate inspiration of his Word and his providential preservation of it. It does not need repair or replacement, but appreciation and admiration.

JTR


WM 121: Part One: NASB 2020



I have posted WM 121: NASB 2020, Notre Dame & the TR (listen here).

This episode has two parts. The first part is a review of some of the upcoming changes to the New American Standard Bible (NASB), coming in 2020. Below are my notes for Part One:

Introduction:

The NASB is currently being updated for 2020. The NASB NT was published in 1963 and the OT in 1971. It was based the ASV (1901). An updated edition was released in 1995 and new updated edition is planned for 2020.

A recent post (3.26.19) on the Evangelical Text Criticism blog listed five of the upcoming changes (see the post here) in the new edition. Here they are with some of my comments added:

Five changes in the NASB 2020:

1 Thessalonians 5:14

We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. NASB 1995


We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. NASB 2020
JTR comments: The Greek word is adelphoi. This reflects the desire for gender inclusivity. Yes, Paul was writing to the whole church (men and women), but the term used by Christians was not “brothers and sisters” but “brethren” or “brothers.” Literal accuracy is lost and perhaps some theological accuracy.
Micah 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good… NASB 1995


He has told you, a human, what is good... NASB 2020
JTR comments: The Hebrew is adam, man. This is another example of the trend toward gender inclusivity. The new reading seems to sacrifice readability for political correctness. While “O man” sounds contemporary, who would say, “you, a human”?
Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” NASB 1995


Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified nor dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” NASB 2020
JTR comments: The KJV reads, “be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.” One wonders why the urgency for making the changes here. They do not seem to be compelling.
Luke 1:38
And Mary said, “Behold, the Lord’s bondslave; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. NASB 1995
And Mary said, “Behold, the Lord’s slave; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. NASB 2020
JTR comments: The Greek is doulē, a female slave or servant. John MacArthur has recently argued for the doulos term to be rendered as slave, rather than bondservant (see here). In the American context at least confusion could arise over the slavery in the first century world and in later centuries (as in the American South).
John 1:18

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. NASB 1995

No one has seen God at any time; God the only Son, who is in the arms of the Father, He has explained Him. NASB 2020
JTR comments: There are two changes here.
The first presents the most intriguing doctrinal change. The text here has been debated (see WM 56). Two key readings emerge: either [ho] monogenēs theos or ho monogenēs huios. The former is the reading of the modern critical text (see NA28), while the latter is the reading of the TR (so the KJV reads: “the only begotten Son”). Interestingly, the latter is also the reading of the THGNT (2017).
The new NASB, however, does not clearly follow either option but seems to combine them in a way not reflected in any textual reading (as appearing in the NA 28 apparatus anyhow, something like: theos monogenēs huios).
It also renders monogenēs not as “only begotten” but simply as “only.” Interestingly enough, this makes the NA 2020 read like the NRSV: “It is God the only Son….” This view of monogenēs as meaning “unique” or “one of a kind” is reflected in James R. White’s The Forgotten Trinity (Bethany, 1998; see pp. 61-64 and especially footnote 27, pp. 201-203). Does this view, however, disregard the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son? See the recent collection of essays arguing for the retrieval of this classic doctrine: Fred Sanders and Scott Swain, Eds., Retrieving Eternal Generation (Zondervan, 2017). 
The second renders the Greek word kolpos not as “bosom” or “breast”, but as “arms.” This is a movement away from a literal word-for-word rendering. Greek has a word for arm (braxiōn), but it is not used here. Is “bosom” really so hared to understand? Why make this change?
Conclusions:
One of the major problems with modern translations is their lack of stability. This undermines their usefulness for memorization, liturgy, and scholarship.
Particularly problematic is the apparent tendency in the NASB toward gender inclusivity at the expense of literal accuracy. Was nothing learned from the TNIV fiasco (released 2002, discontinued 2011)?
JTR

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Vision (4.19.19): Joseph of Arimathea: A Secret Disciple


Image; Joseph of Arimathea Among the Rocks of Albion, engraving, 1773, reworked c. 1810, by William Blake (1757-1827). Medieval legends suggested Joseph brought the "Holy Grail" to Britain.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 19:36-42.

And after this Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore and took the body of Jesus (John 19:38).

John agrees with the other three Gospels (cf. Matt 27:57-58; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:51-52) in saying that a man named Joseph of Arimathea took the lifeless body of the Lord Jesus from the cross. Who was Joseph?

Each of the Gospels give us bits of information about him:

In Matthew 27:57 he is described as “a rich man” and as “Jesus’s disciple.”

In Mark 15:43 he is described as “an honorable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God.”

In Luke 23:50 he is also described as “a counsellor” but also as “a good man, and a just” man.

And in John 19:38, John says he was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews.”

Why was Joseph a secret disciple? Perhaps because of his wealth, or because of his position as a counsellor among his fellow Jews, or because as a good and just man he feared having cast upon him the scorn and opprobrium that was cast upon Christ.

Joseph indeed stands forever immortalized in Scripture as one who tried to keep quiet his commitment to Christ due to fear of man.

We need to remember, however, that though Joseph had been a secret disciple, at this moment of crisis, at the very time after Christ had been crucified, his fear was taken away and he stepped forward to honor Christ by giving his body a proper and respectful burial.

Think of the courage it took for him to approach Pilate to beseech him “that he might take away the body of Jesus.”

Calvin notes that here we have “a striking proof that [Christ’s] death was more quickening than his life.” Christ now extinguished the passions belonging to the flesh of Joseph. So long as ambition and love of money reigned in Joseph the grace of Christ had no charm for him, but now he began to disrelish the whole world.

Ryle said: “But his case teaches us that there is sometimes more spiritual work going on in men’s minds than appears. We must not set down every one as utterly graceless and godless, who is not bold and outspoken at present. We must charitably hope that there are some secret disciples, who at present hold their tongues and say nothing, and yet, like Joseph, will one day come forward, and be a courageous witness for Christ.”

Joseph had indeed been changed by the passion and death of Christ on the cross, and he is, therefore, a harbinger of myriads of timid and fearful men who are made bold when they are gripped by this great reality (cf. John 12:24-26).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Eusebius, EH.2.4-6: Caius Caesar and Philo of Alexandria



Image: Marble bust of Caius [Gaius] Caesar (AD 12-41), Roman Emperor (AD 37-41). Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum, Copenhagen.


A new installment has been posted to Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 2, chapter 4-6 (listen here).

Notes and Commentary:

Eusebius here traces early Christianity against the backdrop of the reign of Caius [Gaius] Caesar, also known as Caligula.

He notes the emperor’s appointment of Herodian rulers in Palestine.

He also discusses the influence of Philo, the great Jewish philosopher of Alexandria.

He notes the mental instability of Caius and his announcement of himself as a god, and how Philo represented the Jews in Rome before the unstable emperor.

He claims to draw his accounts both from the writings of Josephus and Philo.

Eusebius discusses Caius’s bitter hatred of the Jews and how he set up his image in synagogues and even tried to make the Jewish temple in Jerusalem a shrine to “Caius the new Zeus manifest.”

He also describes an incident of Pilate’s violence against the Jews—clubbing to death those who opposed his use of religious funds to build an aqueduct.

Eusebius sees the suffering of the Jews and the ultimate fall of Jerusalem as a divine penalty “for their crimes against Christ.”

JTR

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Vision (4.13.19): Blood and Water



Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 19:31-37.

But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water (John 19:34).

The soldier likely thrust the spear into Christ’s side to verify his death. So Calvin observes: “he did so for the purpose of ascertaining if he were dead.”

There have been many explanations, physical and metaphorical, for the “blood and water” that flowed from Christ’s lifeless body.

Physically, it suggests that the spear pierced the pericardium, from which flowed both the watery fluid and blood.

Metaphorically, many interpretations have been suggested, including:

The water represents his divinity and the blood his humanity.
The water represents his baptism and the blood his crucifixion.
The water represents the Holy Spirit and the blood the Incarnation of the Son of God.
The water represents sanctification and the blood justification (Matthew Henry).

One of the most popular interpretations has been sacramental. The water represents baptism and the blood the Lord’s Supper. John Chrysostom said that when believers took the cup, they were “drinking from His very side.” J. C. Ryle, however, warned that to draw such a conclusion here may tend to “vulgarize” the sacraments and “bring them into contempt.”

Some have drawn parallels to 1 John 5:6-8 which begins: “This is he that came by water and blood” (v. 6) and continues by speaking of the three that bear witness in heaven: The Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost (v. 7), and of the three that bear witness on earth: “the Spirit, and the water, and the blood” (v. 8).

John offers us no inspired interpretation of any symbolic meaning related to the blood and water. At the least, we can affirm this as a historical reality. It really happened. And I think we can say that the primary purpose of this description is to affirm the real and actual death of Christ on our behalf. Christ tasted death for us. The older we get the more the realization comes to us that we too will one day pass over that river of death. And the closer we come to that reality, the more we appreciate the one who died and bled for us.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Eusebius, EH.2.3: Flooding the whole world with light: Summary of Acts 10-11



Image: St. Peter's Cave Church near the site of ancient Antioch. It was built by Crusaders c. 1100, on a mountainside cave site where early Christian supposedly met, and restored in the nineteenth century.

A new episode is posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 2, chapter 3 (listen here).

Notes and Commentary:

This is another very brief chapter. It focuses on the spread of the Christian movement and how it “began to flood the whole world with light like the rays of the sun.”

Eusebius indeed sees the triumph of Christianity reaching to the planting of churches in every city and village and with these churches “crowded with thousands of men.” One wonders, however, at this very positive assessment in the early fourth century when Christians were still in the minority in the empire, when many areas were not evangelized, and when paganism still had life and strength.

He sees Christianity as moving men from idolatry and polytheism to monotheism, and from irrational to rational worship. The emphasis is on the reasonableness of the faith and the inevitability of its spread.

He draws on Acts 10-11 to note the conversion of Cornelius under Peter and the rise of the church at Antioch under the teaching of Barnabas and Paul, as well as the prophesying of Agabus from Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-28). He notes that the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” in Antioch (Acts 11:26).

Eusebius expresses what could be called a confident and triumphalistic view of Christianity.

JTR

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Eusebius, EH.2.2: Pilate's report to Tiberius



Image: Marble bust of Tiberius Caesar, British Museum


A new installment is posted in the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 2, chapter 2 (listen here).

Notes and Commentary:

Eusebius conveys here a legend that apparently circulated in early Christianity (and which he seems to accept at face value), which says that Pilate, the Roman governor under whom Jesus was crucified, sent a report of his death and resurrection, as well as his deity, to the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Tiberius then referred this report to the senate, but they rejected it.

He cites a written portion of this report which he claims appeared in the writings of Tertullian. Lake, however, notes that this citation is unknown in the extant Latin writings of Tertullian.

Eusebius stresses that Tiberius approved of the report, even if it was rejected by the senate, and that he did not persecute or impede the early Christian movement. Eusebius is thus likely providing a precedent for imperial favor for Christianity, relevant to his own setting and the rule of Constantine.

He also points to the providential work of God in allowing the early Christian movement to spread unimpeded by the empire.

JTR

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Opening Ceremonies: Cove Creek 2019



Image: Teams gathering on the field for opening ceremonies at CC (4.6.19)

Baseball season has arrived. Opening Ceremonies were held yesterday (4.6.19) at Cove Creek park, where my family has been playing ball for over fifteen years. This is my fifth consecutive year as head coach of the Cove Creek Major League Pirates. (11-12 year olds). There is something special about this last step before moving on to the "big field."

Cove Creek benefactor and commissioner John Grisham missed opening ceremonies this year to be in Minneapolis for UVA’s final four appearance.

The Pirates lost our morning opener 4-0 to the A’s, but the team looked good.

Opening ceremonies always begin with an opening prayer (great thing about a private park is that you can still have public prayer) and the national anthem. I’ve given the opening prayer several times over the past years and was honored to be asked to do so again this year. Here was the prayer I offered yesterday:

Gracious and loving God,

Today we can say with the Psalmist, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof: the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).

We give you thanks for your creation, for giving to us healthy minds and healthy bodies, and for giving us wholesome recreations to enjoy like baseball.

We ask your blessings, in particular, upon this upcoming season at Cove Creek.

We give you thanks for all the benefactors, staff, officials, and volunteers who will serve here this season.

We thank you for the coaches and parents for their instruction and support.  Help us to encourage excellence in competition without being overbearing or unkind.  Make us to be circumspect in our criticism and liberal in our praise.

We ask that you would watch over and keep the physical safety of the young men and women who will take the field here. Help them to honor their parents and all those in positions of rightful authority.   Help them to strive for excellence in proportion to their abilities, to be fair in competition, encouraging to their teammates, and generous in both victory and defeat.

Help us to remember the command of Christ, first, that we would love you with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and, second, that we would love our neighbor as ourselves.

We ask this in Christ’s name, Amen

Now, play ball!

JTR