Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Vision (4.30.15): More Names for God's People

In last week’s Vision article, I gave a partial list of some of the Biblical names and titles given to God’s people in the New Testament. Here are a few more to add to the list:

Saints (Philippians 1:1; Note:  In the NT this term is never used in the singular but always in the plural; it does not describe “super” Christians but all of God’s people);
The seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:29);
Heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17);
Servants of Christ (Ephesians 6:6);
Strangers (1 Peter 1:1);
Sons of God (John 1:12);
God’s husbandry (1 Corinthians 3:9);
God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9);
           A new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17);
Fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God (Ephesians 2:12);
The salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13);
The light of the world (Matthew 5:14);
A good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3);
The circumcision which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3);
The bride, the Lamb’s wife (Revelation 21:9).

May meditation upon these titles encourage us in the faith as we consider who we are in Him.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Report on Reformed Baptist Brethren and the Nepal Earthquake

I got this email news report today from Pastor Boon-Sing Poh of the Damansara Reformed Baptist Church in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, regarding the recent massive earthquake in Nepal and its impact on some Reformed Baptist churches there:

April 28, 2015

Dear Brethren & Friends,

Our long-time friend Pastor Samuel Rai of Canaan Baptist Church, Pokhara, has sent in his initial report on the earthquake of 25 April 2015. His congregation was in worship when the ground shook for about five minutes. The people were shaken by the experience, although there was no damage to the building. They were even more shaken to hear, later, of the devastation in other parts of Nepal. Five districts were most affected, viz. Gorkha, Nuwakot, Kathmandu, Kavre, and Sindhupalchowk. The epicentre of the earthquake was at Barpak in Gorkha district, causing the worst devastation there. The death toll has exceeded 3,500 while the injured has exceeded 7,000. A number of affected areas have not been reached, due to distance, isolation, and damaged roads. Communication is slowly being restored. 

The government of this poor country was totally unprepared for such a major disaster, despite the many warnings given by seismologists before that. Major earthquakes of magnitudes 8.5, 6.7 and 6.8 were recorded in the years 1932, 1988, 2013, and now in 2015 it is of 7.9 magnitude. There is no modern machinery to rescue those trapped under buildings nor equipment to detect others under the rubble. 

The news has come in that many Christians throughout Nepal died while they were worshipping, crushed by the collapsed buildings or by the stampede of the panicking people. Nepal is a predominantly Hindu nation such that Christians worship on Saturday, Sunday being a working day. The survivors have to witnessed the death of loved ones and the destruction of their houses and cattle. To make matters worse, there is a shortage of food, water, and proper sanitation. Most of the people are staying out in the open fields, stricken with fear and not knowing what to do. 

Samuel Rai has dispatched teams of people to villages that are affected to do rescue and relief work, especially to Gorkha and Dhading near Kathmandu. Samuel Rai has five churches there, while other churches are linked to Canaan Baptist Church in Pokhara in some ways. The church in Richet, where Samuel Rai also runs a Bible School, is totally destroyed. Of the 127 families of about 500 people in the church, 261 persons were killed. Pastor Man Bahadur Tamang is seriously injured, while his wife and daughter are dead. A team of helpers is on the way there, but transportation is a problem. At Gorkha Barpak, which was the epicentre of the earthquake, 90% of the houses and all the churches were destroyed. Some 210 people were found dead, while many are still missing. Some 32 pastors in this area were trained under the Bible Education by Extension (BEE) programme run by Canaan Baptist Church, Pokhara. Samuel Rai has dispatched a team there, led by Pastor Chhetra Baramu. 

Together with other churches, Pastor Samuel is arranging for emergency needs to be brought to the affected areas - food, medicine, blankets, tents, water supply, etc. Funds collected will be wholly channeled to these needs. Samuel Rai asks for prayer that the Lord will open many hearts to the gospel and comfort the churches that are faced with such a tremendous challenge at this time.

There is also a page on the Gospel Highway website of the Reformed Baptist Churches of Malaysia that allows you to contribute to the "Nepal Earthquake Fund."

These photos accompanied the news report above:

Monday, April 27, 2015

Blackburn Quote

A friend shared this meme with a 2014 Keach Conference quote from Earl Blackburn:

Sunday, April 26, 2015


Images:  I enjoyed watching some cardinals visit our bird feeder off the back porch this Lord's Day afternoon.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Youngblood: Israelite monotheism not the result of a "process of evolution"

I’ve been getting ready for teaching another Old Testament Survey class this summer by reading a new assigned book, Ronald Youngblood’s The Heart of the Old Testament, Second Edition (Baker Academic, 1971, 1998).  Youngblood traces various OT themes, including monotheism, sovereignty, election, covenant, theocracy, law, sacrifice, faith, and redemption.

I was struck by his discussion of monotheism in the OT.  He notes that modern historical-critical and comparative religion scholars have tended to see monotheism as “a product of evolution.”  So, there was a “process of evolution” in the religion of Israel from primitive animism (belief in spirits in natural objects), to polytheism (belief in many gods), to henotheism (also called monolatry, belief in one superior god among many gods), and, finally, to monotheism (belief in one true God).

Youngblood, however, responds:

But it simply cannot be shown that there is a universal tendency of the part of polytheistic religions to gradually reduce the number of deities until finally arriving at only one deity.  Indeed, in some instances such a religion may even add more deities as its adherents become aware of more and more natural phenomena to deify.  At any rate the Old Testament teaches that monotheism, far from being evolved through the centuries of Israel’s history, is one of the inspired insights revealed to the covenant people by the one true God himself (p. 11).

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Vision (4.23.15): Who are the followers of Christ?

The New Testament uses numerous names and titles to describe the followers of Jesus Christ.  Each of these names teaches us about who we are in Christ.  Here are a few to ponder:

Christians (first used at Antioch:  Acts 11:26);
Disciples (Acts 6:2);
Brethren (Galatians 5:13);
Friends (3 John 1:14);
Little flock (Luke 12:32);
The body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27);
Little children (1 John 2:1);
The elect (Colossians 3:12);
Believers (1 Timothy 4:12);
Those “of this way” (Acts 9:2);
The sect of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5);
The beloved (1 John 4:7);
The called of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:6);
Living stones (1 Peter 2:5);
The Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).

This list is certainly not exhaustive.  As you read the Scriptures in daily or family devotions this week, look for more descriptions of believers and meditate on the significance of those names.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

John Owen: "for all translation is, of necessity, interpretation"

Have you ever met some more-pious-than-thou brother who claims he gets all of his theology directly from the Bible itself and never from the interpretations of men?  This type of person will sometimes make the claim, for example, of being neither an Arminian nor a Calvinist but simply a Biblicist.  Perhaps these are of the same sort about whom Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:12, those who claimed to follow neither Paul nor Cephas nor Apollos but only Christ.  Such a person is often little aware of the fact that he is shaped more by modern American individualism and religious privatism than primitive Christian piety.  In his book The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Canon Press, 2001), Keith Mathison calls this approach “solo scriptura” rather than the Reformation concept of “sola scriptura.”  This type of person is also prone to decry academic learning in favor of his experience (as if the two have to be mutually exclusive).  Thus, he criticizes those who commit time and effort to study, whether learning Biblical languages or reading the great past and present interpreters of the Christian tradition, as being filled with “head knowledge” rather than “heart knowledge” (something he naturally assumes that he has in spades).
In John Owen’s Adversus Fanaticos (translated by Stephen P. Westcott as “A Defense of Sacred Scripture Against Modern Fanaticism” in Biblical Theology:  The History of Theology from Adam to Christ [Soli Deo Gloria, 1994]:  pp. 769-854) he offers a masterful critique of the Quakers, the charismatics of his day, who apparently held to a similar supposedly “interpretation-free” fantasy.  At one point Owen points out the self-contradiction inherent in those who claim not to be dependent on the interpretations of men but who cannot read the Bible in the original languages and so must be dependent on the interpretations offered in translations:

On one hand they desire to be self-consistent (which thing they seem to greatly desire) and so reject all interpretation, yet, on the other, they can hardly claim to utilize the words of Scripture alone for, after all, they only have that in translation (being as they are for the most part unlearned and having no language but our vernacular).  To reject all interpretation would thus be to deprive themselves of the Scriptures entirely, for all translation is, of necessity, interpretation.  Yet to reject our English version on those grounds would be an unheard of example of folly and wickedness (p. 806).  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In the end, do you align yourself with nihilism or hope?

Note:  Here is one of the applications drawn from the April 5, 2015 CRBC sermon "But now is Christ risen" from 1 Corinthians 15:1-20:

Has Christ given you a hope not just for this life but also for that which is to come?

Julian Barnes is a celebrated British writer who has won the coveted Man Booker Prize for his literary work.  In 2013 he wrote a memoir titled Levels of Life in which he primarily tells of his grief after his wife of 30 years died.  Rarely has one written so honestly and perceptively about grief.  The saddest part of the book, however, is just how hopeless it is.  At one point he writes:

When we killed—or exiled—God, we also killed ourselves.  Did we notice that sufficiently at the time?  No God, no afterlife, no us.  We were right to kill Him, of course, this long-standing imaginary friend of ours.  And we weren’t going to get an afterlife anyway.  But we sawed off the branch we were sitting on.  And the view from there, from that height—even if it was only the illusion of a view—wasn’t so bad (p. 94).

The sad thing is that here is a man who realizes the comfort that knowing the Lord and the hope of the resurrection might bring to him, but who persists in suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.

In the end, all those who deny the Lord will find to their dismay that He is.  And the reality of his existence does not depend on their approval.  And all those who have persisted in their disobedience will find that they too will experience the resurrection, but, sadly, it will not be the resurrection of life but what Jesus himself calls in John 5:29 “the resurrection of damnation.”

In the end, the question is, Do you align yourself with nihilism, hopelessness, and despair?  Or, Do you align yourself with meaning, hope, and life?

Friday, April 17, 2015

New Book Defends The Traditional Ending of Mark's Gospel

After doing a post today on a new Word Magazine (# 35) that relates to preaching the traditional ending of Mark, a friend sent me a link to a new book by Nicholas P. Lunn, The Original Ending of Mark:  A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 (Pickwick Publications, October 2014). Pickwick is an imprint of Wipf and Stock.  Lunn has a PhD in Hebrew and serves as an OT tutor at Spurgeon's College in London and as a consultant with Wycliff Bible Translators (see this bio).  I have ordered a copy and will hope to do a review at some point.  Very thankful to see what appears to be a reputable contemporary challenge being offered to the modern critical consensus regarding the Ending of Mark. Will the next generation turn the tide and return to the traditional text of the Bible?  The back cover has blurbs from Pieter J. Lalleman, the Academic Dean at Spurgeon's College; Maurice Robinson  of SEBTS; and (surprisingly) from Craig A. Evans of Acadia Divinity School.  Evans even says the following:

Nicholas Lunn has thoroughly shaken my views concerning the ending of the Gospel of Mark. As in the case of most gospel scholars, I have for my whole career held that Mark 16:9-20, the so-called 'Long Ending,' was not original. But in his well-researched and carefully argued book, Lunn succeeds in showing just how flimsy that position really is. The evidence for the early existence of this ending, if not for its originality, is extensive and quite credible. I will not be surprised if Lunn reverses scholarly opinion on this important question. I urge scholars not to dismiss his arguments without carefully considering this excellent book. The Original Ending of Mark is must reading for all concerned with the gospels and early tradition concerned with the resurrection story.

Word Magazine # 35: Can we preach the Ending of Mark?

Image: The curious ending of Mark at 16:8 in Codex Vaticanus where, uncharacteristically, the column that follows is left blank, as if the scribe planned to continue the narrative.

I just posted Word Magazine # 35:  Can we preach the Ending of Mark? to In this episode I review an April 2, 2015 Baptist Press article by David Roach titled, "How to preach the Gospel of Mark's 'long ending.'" Baptist Press is the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. The article appeared just before Easter to given guidance to pastors about choosing to preach on the resurrection narrative in Mark 16:9-20.

The writer lists the typical objections to the traditional ending of Mark:

1.  "Some of the earliest manuscripts" do not include it.

Response:  In reality only two extant Greek manuscripts definitely omit the traditional ending:  Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.

2.  Some Church Fathers do not quote it and one (Eusebius) writes against it.

Response:  The evidence from the Church Fathers is sketchy at best.  The citation in Eusebius may well be traced to Origen.  On the other side, Irenaeus clearly quotes from and approves the traditional ending of Mark.

Dean Burgon's description of the Church Fathers:  "giants in Interpretation, but very children in the Science of Textual Criticism" (Last Twelve Verses of Mark, p. 127).

3.  The style of Mark 16:9-20 is markedly different than the style found in the rest of Mark.

Response:  Such differences are often in the eye of the beholder.  There is good reason to say that the style of Mark 16:9-20 is Markan (i.e., original to Mark's Gospel).

The article proceed to survey five Southern Baptist Pastors from across the nation to get their views on (1) whether or not Mark 16:9-20 is the original ending to Mark and, therefore, Scripture and (2) whether preachers should take it as a text.  Of the five surveyed none affirmed that Mark 16:9-20 was the original ending of Mark, though a few thought it should be considered Scripture.  Two of the five said they would not preach from the passage but would end their exposition at Mark 16:8.  The other three said that though not original, the text was still in the Bible and so they would preach it while giving some explanation of the textual difficulties.

I note that this survey reveals just how deeply the influence of modern historical criticism (and text criticism in particular) has pervaded modern evangelical Christianity.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Vision (4.16.15): More New Testament Words

In last week’s Vision, I gave definitions for five key New Testament words.  Here are five more:

Euangelion:   This word means gospel or “good news.” It is made up of two words.  The prefix -eu means “good,” so a “utopia” is a good place, a “euphemism” is a good alternative way to say something, and “euthanasia” supposedly means a good death.  The second part of the word is angelion, which means message or news.  It is close to the Greek word angelos which means angel or messenger.   The gospel is the good news of what God has done in Jesus Christ.  By his death on the cross and his resurrection we have the hope of eternal life when we repent of our sin and believe in Jesus.  In Romans 1:16 Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ:  for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  This word is the root of English words like evangelism (preaching the gospel) and evangelist (one who proclaims the gospel).
Koinonia:  This word means fellowship or partnership.  This does not merely refer to sharing potluck meals together and having friendly conversations.  It does refer to the close bond that believers share with one another but also to their mutual covenant to be engaged in supporting and encouraging gospel ministry.  In Acts 2:42 Luke lists fellowship as one of four things the first believers continued in steadfastly (the others being:  the apostles’ doctrine, the breaking of bread, and prayers).  In Philippians 1:5 Paul expresses thanks to God for the believers in Philippi, “for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.”

Martus:  This word means witness.  A witness is one who gives evidence or testimony to the truth.  In Acts 1:8 Jesus told his disciples, “and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”  This term is also the root of the English word martyr.  A martyr is one who gives witness to faith in Christ by the sacrifice of his life.  Stephen was the first Christian martyr (see Acts 7).

Parousia:  This word means “coming.”  In secular Greek it would refer to the arrival or visit of a royal figure or an important political dignitary.  It also had the simple common meaning of an arrival or visit of a special guest (see it used in this way to refer to the “coming” of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus to Paul in 1 Corinthians 16:7 and the “coming” of Titus to Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:6). For the first Christians this word became a technical term for the second advent of Jesus in glory at the end of history to judge the world.  In 1 Corinthians 15:23 Paul says that all will be made alive at Christ’s “coming.”  In 1 Thessalonians 4:15 Paul speaks of those who are alive “at the coming of Lord” not preceding in the resurrection those who have already fallen asleep (died) as believers.  Christ second advent is “the blessed hope” of Christians (Titus 2;13).
Theopneustos:  This word literally means “God breathed.” In the KJV it is translated as “inspired by God.”  The word is made of two parts.  The first comes from theos, the Greek word for God and the root for words like theology (the study of God).  The second pneustos refers to the process of breathing.  Paul uses this term in 2 Timothy 3:16 to describe the special nature of Scripture when he says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.”  It literally reads, “All scripture is theopneustos.” In 1 Thessalonians 2:13 Paul commended the Thessalonians, because they received the word of God “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle   

Monday, April 13, 2015

Projects, etc. (4.13.15)

Gaps in blog posts here usually mean I've gotten involved in a project here or there.  I am not complaining about being busy.  I hate it when people do that (me included).  We all have the same amount of time.  For the most part I usually only do things I choose to do and enjoy doing.  The life and the world which God has given us have more to explore and experience than we have time to enjoy.

A blog I occasionally enjoy reading is that of Dave Black, NT Professor at SEBTS in Wake Forest, NC and gentleman farmer in Virginia.   Black uses his blog literally as a web-log to chronicle his life.  When Facebook came out a few years ago, my wife and I intentionally chose not to sign up (though we are thankful that Ethan McG. set up and manages a FB site for our church).  Recent things I've read about FB contributing to adultery and causing depression in teens by feeding envy have confirmed that this was the right decision for us.  I think it would likely have been a major time waster for me.  I don't hate technology or media.  I like it too much.   I do not mean to judge you if you do FB.  I just think it would challenge my self-control.  Think of me as the "weaker brother."  Anyhow, I do not want to be self-indulgent here, but I want to post a bit about projects (and other things) I've been up to lately.

Renovating my basement and making a study:

The last few weeks I've been taking a day here and there to work on finishing a section of my basement to create a study.  Over the last few years my study has been the breakfast table, which my wife has allowed me to pile high with books, papers, Bibles, etc.  while transferring all family meals to the dining room table.  My books have been spread throughout the house from our bedroom, to shelves I had built in the basement, to various boxes here and there. My friend and church member John B., who is a legit carpenter and Jack-of-all-trades, has been giving me some help along the way with putting up drywall, taping and mudding, and building shelving.  Here are a few pictures from the job site:  

Baseball Coaching:

Saturday was Opening Day at Cove Creek.  This is Cove Creek's 20th year and my family's 11th consecutive year at the park.  I did not grow up playing baseball (I was more into football and basketball) but have become a fan of the game through my sons' love for it.  It is a game that takes particular skills that only become honed through practice and repetition, whether throwing a ball, catching a pop-up, digging up a grounder, or connecting with the bat. The complexity of the game's rules, strategies, and traditions also make it an intellectual challenge.

Somehow I started volunteering as an assistant coach about nine years ago--mainly because coaches wanted to secure my son Samuel for their teams, not because I could coach.  I was telling a friend on Sunday that one of the things that has been good for me and my family especially in the past five years as we transitioned from one church to another was the continuity of keeping the same circle of friends at Cove Creek.  Many of the friends we've made there are Christians, and many are not.  None are members of our church. This has been healthy for us.  A few years ago nearly all our friends were within one circle (the church to which we belonged) and when we left that circle, we lost a good number of those relationships. We still believe passionately in serious covenant commitment to our local church and hold some of our dearest and closest friends there. But we also now realize that having a circle of friends only within your local church can be insular and confining.     

For the past four years I have served as Head Coach for the Hot Rods, a Rookie League team that first Isaiah and then Joseph played on. This year I am the Head Coach of a Major League (11-12 year olds) team (the Pirates) that includes Isaiah.  We got our first victory of the season Saturday in a 6-4 a nail biter over the Braves, with Isaiah pitching the last 2 and a third innings to secure the win. Joseph is in his first year in the Minor Leagues and getting to play kid-pitch for the first time.  His team lost a close one 4-3, but he played a solid four innings at second base, pitched the final two innings without allowing a run, and got a legit single at the plate.  Here are some pics:

     Image:  We had beautiful Spring weather for Opening Day.  Opening Ceremonies is a highlight with an opening prayer by a local minister (which I've also done a couple of times--It's a  private park!) and a patriotic rendition of the National Anthem.

Image:  Cove Creek benefactor and League Commissioner, the author John Grisham (in the red Washington Nationals cap), consults with the park Manager Jennifer Williams before the Opening Ceremonies.

Image:  Here are Isaiah and I, along with Donnie M and his son Conner.  Donnie and I have been coaching our boys together for the last five years.

Image:  Joseph on the mound ready to hurl the ball.

Pulpit Exchange with Emmanuel Baptist Church in Verona:

On Sunday (4.12.15) I had the privilege of Lord's Day pulpit ministry at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Verona, VA.  Their Pastor, Bryan Wheeler, was preaching at CRBC.  I did three messages:

Sunday School:  My Testimony

I also enjoyed lunch and hospitality with the McCaskill Family, former missionaries in Thailand.  Great family, great church family, great to visit with them.  Pics:

Image:  The building

Image (taken from the EBC website):  The people


OK, this really isn't a project, but I wanted to note that we have been praying for Ethan McG. from our church who left the Monday after Easter Sunday to begin 8 months of mission support service in Japan.  In a church plant there are lots of firsts, and Ethan is our first member to be sent out to do cross-cultural ministry.  He has set up a blog describing his journey.  In his Day Zero post he extends heartfelt thanks (in his own distinctively Ethan way) to various friends and family, including folk from our church, for their support.


Friday, April 10, 2015

"Why I Prefer the NASB over the KJV": Review: Part 5: Quality of Notes

Image:  A marginal translation note at Acts 27:40 which appeared in the original 1611 publication of the King James Version.

This is the fifth and final part in a series reviewing the brief online article by Daniel Stanfield titled “Why I Prefer the NASB over the KJV.”  In Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4, I responded to the preface and first three paragraphs of the article.  With this post we move on to the fourth of four paragraphs. Here is Stanfield’s fourth paragraph in full (in italic) followed by my response:

4. Quality of Notes - NASB While almost all KJV Bibles are published with some kind of notes, none are version inclusive. The NASB does include a particular set of notes with the text which pertain directly to the rendering. The first example of these notes is the notation of the literal translation in those instances where a word or phrase is not literal. A second set of notations identify certain passages as being included or excluded in various manuscripts, or giving readings found in alternate mss. Other advantages of text notes include the use of the small-capitals font when the New Testament is quoting the Old Testament, the marking of the Greek historical presents [sic] tense, and the capitalization of personal pronouns which refer to deity. The fact of the matter is that the English Bible is a translation, and as such, justifiably calls for adequate translation notes, notes which are bountiful in the NASB and completely absent from the KJV.

JTR Response:  I must admit that I do not easily comprehend what Stanfield means by the opening sentence of this paragraph.  He refers to “almost all KJV Bibles” being published with “some kind of notes” but “none are version inclusive.”  I do not get his point here.  The KJV was, in fact, originally printed with copious scholarly notes by the translators in its original publication in 1611.  These notes were edited and expanded in later editions of 1701 (by Anglican Bishop William Lloyd), in 1762 (by F. S. Paris and H. Therold of Cambridge), and in 1769 (by Benjamin Blayney).  For more on this, see Alan J. Macgregor, Three Modern Versions:  A Critical Assessment of the NIV, ESV, and NKJV (The Bible League, 2004):  pp. 94-95.  I thus offer three responses to Stanfield’s argument:

First, the editorial notes added by the original translators of the KJV and of subsequent editors are, by definition, version inclusive, in that they are notes specifically related to the translation choices reflected in this version.  Therefore, the nebulous charge that the KJV does not include “version inclusive” notes is simply inaccurate.

Second, perhaps the confusion here relates to the fact that over time the KJV came to be the most widely reprinted English translation.  It is held in the public domain.  Most modern editions which reprint the KJV do not include the original notes, and they are not legally bound to do so.  Far from being a drawback, however, the fact that the KJV is in the public domain and is not controlled by any publishing company, foundation, or Bible society might well be seen as an advantage.  The translation is protected against promotion of it merely for financial gain or personal influence.  Furthermore, if one wants to read original and expanded KJV notes, there are editions which continues to reprint them, including Oxford and Cambridge editions. 
Third, the most important aspect of the KJV as a translation, or, for that matter, for any translation, is not the notes which accompany the text of the translation but the text upon which the translation is based and the quality of the translation itself.   With regard to text, as already noted in this series, the KJV is based on the traditional Hebrew Masoretic Text of the Old Testament and the Textus Receptus of the Greek New Testament.  The present author and many others believe that this text, the acknowledged standard of the Reformation period, is preferable to those based on modern critical texts, which arose during the Enlightenment and modern periods. With regard to the quality of the translation, it is generally agreed that the KJV is an outstanding literary work, which has had an unparalleled impact in Western history, religion, and culture. Are there not good reasons to retain this venerable translation in personal study and devotion but, perhaps most importantly, in public worship?

After noting what he perceives to be the inadequacies of the KJV with regard to “notes,” the article proceeds, correspondingly, to extol the value of the NASB’s “notes.”  Three kinds of examples of this are cited, but, again, no specific references or citations are made to the NASB itself to verify or illustrate these points.  The three suggested improvements in the NASB include the following:

(1) Stanfield suggests that the NASB is superior to the KJV, because it provides a more literal alternative in the notes when it chooses to use a less literal rendering in the main text of translation.  Perhaps the NASB does this in some cases (though no examples are cited), but in the example I cited in Part Four of this series from Acts 21:9 the NASB provides no notes to explain why it chose to depart from the literal Greek text and describe Philip’s prophesying daughters as “prophets.”

(2) Stanfield suggests that the NASB is superior to the KJV, because it supposedly provides notes which offer information on the original language manuscripts which the NASB follows and on alternative traditions.  The fact is that the NASB textual notes can be very misleading.  Rather than providing objective information, the notes simply reflect the consensus viewpoint which supports the modern critical text.  For example, the note at Mark 16:9 says, “Later mss. add vv. 9-20.”  What it fails to say is that only three extant Greek manuscripts end the Gospel of Mark at v. 8 while the vast majority of manuscripts (thousands), including ones of great antiquity, include it.  Furthermore, if one were to choose a translation simply on the basis of the number and quality of its textual notes and explanations, he would have to choose the New King James Version (NKJV), which provides numerous detailed notes on disputed textual issues.

(3)  Stanfield suggests that the NASB is superior based on several other facets of its editorial layout, including:  setting off Old Testament quotations in a distinct font, “marking” the historical present [Note:  The NASB uses a star symbol to indicate places where it renders a present tense verb in the Greek NT in the past tense in its translation, upon the assumption that it is grammatically a historical present.], and the capitalization of personal pronouns for the Deity.  A couple of these points have been previously discussed in this series.  I would again make the observation that all of these supposed advantages are, in fact, examples of translational interpretations, which might not always be considered to be improvements. Furthermore, with specific regard to capitalization of pronouns for the Deity, I might add that if one believed this to be a mark of superiority in an English translation, then one might well prefer the NKJV, which does this more frequently and systematically than does the NASB.  In fact, I do not take this to be an improvement but, rather, a practice that weakens the usefulness of both the NASB and NKJV.

To conclude, notes might be helpful for a translation, but they are not essential.  The author does not prove to any degree why the NASB’s notes make it a superior translation, and he is simply in error when he says such notes are “completely absent” in the KJV translation tradition.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The Vision (4.9.15): New Testament Words

For Christians a word is worth a thousand pictures.  I remember when I started taking New Testament Greek in seminary and discovering, to my surprise, that I already knew many of the Biblical terms from listening to sermons and teaching.  Here are just a few such Biblical terms that hold importance for believers:

Agape:   This word means love (KJV:  charity).  Though it may refer to the love a husband has for his wife (cf. Ephesians 5:25:  “Husbands love your wives…”), in the New Testament it more often has the technical meaning of love among Christian brothers, rooted in the love that Christ has demonstrated for believers (see the New Commandment in John 14:34-35).  The great “love chapter” is found in 1 Corinthians 13.

Christos:  This word means The Anointed One, Christ, or Messiah.  It was the key title that the early disciples gave to Jesus.  Peter made this confession to Jesus:  “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
Diakonos:  The basic meaning of this word is servant or minister (in the informal sense of one who ministers or serves the needs of others).  It is likely used in this way to describe Phoebe of Cenchrea (Romans 16:1) and Epaphras (Colossians 1:7).  The root sense of the word is one who goes through (dia) the dust (konos) for others.  The term came to have a technical meaning to refer to the office of deacon in the early church (cf. Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-13).  The English word “diaconate” comes from this word and refers to the body of deacons within a church. 
Ekklesia:  The basic meaning of this word is assembly or gathering.  At root the term means “the called-out ones.”  In secular Greek it was used to refer to political or public meetings.  It is, in fact, used in this way in Acts 19:32 to describe the mob which gathered in the theater at Ephesus, instigated by the silversmith Demetrius, to oppose Paul.  For Christians it came to be a technical term for their gatherings for worship and fellowship.  It is translated as “church.”  Jesus said:  “… I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).  From this term come English words like ecclesiastical, meaning “having to do with the church,” and ecclesiology, meaning “the doctrine of the church.” 

Episkopos:   This word means bishop or overseer.  The word has two roots.  The first is the prefix epi- from the preposition meaning “upon” or “over.”  Think of English words like epidermal (upon the skin) or epicenter (over the center).  The second is the verb skopeo, which means to look at or to watch.  Think of English words like to scope, periscope, microscope, or telescope.  In the New Testament, this word is used in a technical sense to refer to a church officer who serves as a teaching elder or pastor in a church (cf. Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:2).  He watches over the church, as a shepherd watches over a flock, knowing that Christ is the Chief Shepherd (cf. 1 Peter 5:1-4).  From this word there later came terms like episcopal, referring to a form of church government which posits “bishops” who preside over various churches.  In the New Testament, however, the bishops did not rule over many congregations but were local church elders in one distinct assembly.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The British and Foreign Bible Society Greek New Testament, Second Edition (1958)

On Monday, I stopped by the Daedalus Bookshop on the Downtown Mall, one of my favorites, and found a copy of a British and Foreign Bible Society Greek New Testament, Second Edition (1958; 1960 reprint).  The first edition of this Greek New Testament was published in 1904.  This second edition with expanded critical apparatus was completed in 1958 to mark the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the society.  This second edition was the result of a collaboration between Erwin Nestle of the German Bible Society and G. D. Kilpatrick of Oxford University.  It represents the attempt to adopt a modern critical text over the traditional text and to use this text as the basis for scholarship and translation.  It also represents the effort to adopt a uniform and ecumenical modern critical text combining German and British scholarship.  This was finally achieved in 1979 with the publishing of the 26th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, which shared an identical text with the United Bible Society Third Edition of the Greek New Testament (1975).

Here are a few pictures:

Image:  Title page

Image: 1958 Preface by W. J. Bradnock

Image: Here is the page with the ending of Mark.  Note that the apparatus is inserted after Mark 16:8.  The apparatus also includes the Latin text of the so-called "Intermediate Ending" from the Old Latin codex k (Bobbiensis) 

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Vision (4.2.15): Create in me a clean heart: Reflections on Psalm 51:10-11

Image:  Scene from Crabtree Falls, Nelson County, Virginia

Here are some notes adapted from last Sunday morning’s exposition of Psalm 51:

One commentator has called Psalm 51 “the liturgy of a broken heart.”  Martin Luther said that in Psalm 51 “the doctrine of true repentance is set before us.”  Let us consider the petitions found at the heart of this psalm in vv. 10-11:

In v. 10 David offer the petition, “Create in me clean heart, O God….”  This is not a request for the LORD to change David’s situation, but to fundamentally change him.  The Hebrew verb here for “to create” is barah.  It is the same verb used in Genesis 1:1 to describe the creation of heaven and earth.  The only subject of this verb in the Old Testament is God himself.  It describes the kind of creating that only God himself can do.  The synonymous parallel is found in v. 10b:  “and renew a right spirit within me.”  James Luther Mays observes:  “What is unclean is inimical to God.  A clean heart would be a mind and will open to God, oriented to God” (Psalms, pp. 202-203).

The next verse begins with a negative petition:  “Cast me not away from thy presence….” (v. 11a).  As a king David knew what it was like both to grant and to deny petitioners access to his presence.  Here David acknowledges that he has a sovereign who can exclude or dismiss him from his royal presence.  Consider also the parallel phrase: “and take not thy Holy Spirit from me” (v. 11b).  If God’s Spirit is holy how can it abide with those who are unclean? And yet it indwells every believer who remains a sinner even while he is being progressively sanctified.  This is only one of the two places where the term “Holy Spirit” is used in the OT.  The other is found in Isaiah 63:10-11 where the prophet describes God’s dealings with sinful Israel.

When we consider the Incarnation, we often wonder at how an infinite and holy God could condescend to become a man.  What a marvel that the Word became flesh!  This verse poses a different, yet similar, question:  How does God allow his Holy Spirit to indwell converted and yet sinful men?  What a marvel that he does not take his Holy Spirit from us!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle