Other Side of the Fence

Paul’s letters always start with the same greetings: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3).”

To our modern ears, that sounds like nothing but mandatory politeness. In Paul’s day, however, those few words carried so much theological and cultural weight. “Grace to you” was a standard Greek greeting; “peace to you” was its Jewish equivalent.

In the first century world, there were three relational hostilities: the Jews looked down on the Greeks, and the Greeks despised the Jews; men were dismissive of the women, and women were embittered toward men; free people saw slaves as sub-humans, and slaves resented the free people in return (Scott Sauls, 2015; Galatians 3:28). Continue reading Other Side of the Fence

The Shifting of the Ground

[The problem with] twentieth-century Old Testament theology was its inability to come to terms with history as it had been understood in nineteenth-centry criticism and as it continued to operate rather uncritically in the twentieth century. We have already seen how, since Gabler in 1787, Old Testament study was generally understood as a historical study. The emergence of history as a primary co-discipline of Scripture study at the end of the eighteenth century signaled the determination of Bible scholars to break free of church interpretation that had longed regarded philosophy as its proper co-discipline. Continue reading The Shifting of the Ground

Sorcery and Fortune Telling

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune- telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. —Acts 16:16-18 ESV

In a space of just two verses, the Bible gives us a glimpse into the nature and activity of evil spirits and how they could do something as mind-boggling as fortune telling. In the original Greek, the text says that the slave girl was possessed by the python spirit. The Macedonians believed that this serpent was the guard of the oracle of Apollo and it gives the power for second sight and ventriloquism to anyone it possesses, something eerily similar to Voldemort’s parseltongue in the Harry Potter novels. The fact that this slave girl had been widely recognized for her craft in Macedonia meant that the city was under the grip of her spiritual influence. This begs the question: How do we think Biblically about sorcery? Continue reading Sorcery and Fortune Telling

The Problem is We Are Lazy

RC Sproul:

We fail on our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.

Failing Slowly, Privately

And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. –Judges 8:27 ESV

Gideon delivered Israel from the oppression of the Midianites. He was one of the big wigs in the book of Judges who won many battles in the name of the God of Israel. When the people asked him to be their ruler, he refused. He only wanted one thing: for people to give him their earrings, the spoils they got from the Ishmaelites. It was a seemingly innocent request, until he made an ephod out of it and snared himself, his family, and the nation with idolatrous worship. Continue reading Failing Slowly, Privately

Reaching Spain

In Romans 15, Paul mentioned that he has been meaning to go to Spain to preach the word of God. At that time, Spain was considered the end of the known world. No one knows if he actually went there but R. Kent Hughes believes it doesn’t matter:

To us arrival is everything, but to God the journey is most important, for it is in the journey that we are perfected, and it is in hardships that he is glorified as we trust him. Continue reading Reaching Spain

Five Knowable Categories in the Natural Sciences

In John MacArthur’s opening lecture at the Inerrancy Summit earlier this year, he quoted English philosopher Herbert Spencer who believed that there are five knowable categories in the natural sciences:

1. Time
2. Force
3. Motion
4. Space
5. Matter

By quoting Genesis 1:1, MacArthur believes that Spencer’s five categories are answered in the first sentence of the Bible alone. In the beginning (time) God (force) created (motion) the heavens (space) and the earth (matter).

How Do You Explain the Missing Verses in the Bible?

Few days ago, I got tagged in a friend’s Facebook post about missing verses in the Bible, specifically John 5:4 and Acts 8:37. Why does the King James Version have these verses but not the ESV and other modern translations? How do you explain these missing verses? Here’s my answer:

When the KJV was translated in 1611, the existing manuscripts at the time included John 5:4. However, over the years, after many archaeological findings, it was found out that older and more reliable manuscripts did not include verse 4.

Modern translators removed verse 4 but left a footnote to alert the reader that in some older English versions of the Bible, a verse was there. This is not a devious plan to deceive us or sabotage the Christian faith. This is just an adjustment to the English translation because a more reliable manuscript was discovered. A discerning reader would see the footnote, look up what it means, and move on. If the reader is a bit familiar with original languages, he could check his Greek or Hebrew Bibles and see for himself. The same explanation applies to Acts 8:37, Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14, Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46, Luke 17:36, and Luke 23:17.

Few thoughts:

One, if you really think about it, it sounds a bit scary. It makes you want to ask: What else did they remove? Do we have the correct Bible?

Relax, it’s really not that scary. They didn’t remove anything that can be attested from reliable manuscripts; and yes we have the correct Bible. The more archaeological findings we have, the “purer” our translations become. Bible translation is a rigid science: no one could just take away a verse or a word without being called out by other scholars in the field. What we have now is the best there is. If you doubt that, just use multiple translations to be safe.

Two, no crucial themes of the Bible are affected by these changes. No teaching on heaven, hell, redemption, character of God, Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection are affected. The verses in question are minor in significance. This means that whether John 5:4 and Acts 8:37 (or the other verses mentioned) are there or not, we would still have the same teachings in the church.

Three, it is true that some versions omit the name Jehovah but that’s only because they replaced it with the name Yahweh, or the all caps LORD. I know that our English ears can’t quite catch the phonetic similarity of Jehovah and Yahweh but those familiar with German or Dutch phonetics will see the connection right away. If you are so worried that the word “omnipotent” is taken away, maybe that’s because it is replaced with the word “all powerful.” Both words mean the same thing. We should also know that the Holy Ghost in KJV is now translated as Holy Spirit in almost all modern Bibles and that Calvary is the same place called Golgotha. A quick search on free Bible resources online would go a long way.

Four, there are people who make shocking claims online about some devious undertones to this whole translation problem. I understand why some of us would panic but before we jump to some bizzare conclusions, it would be good to read the preface of our Bibles first. Translators usually explain the philosophy of their work on the preface to help readers make sense of their choice of words. I don’t normally use NIV2011 because of its gender-neutral translation (also because I’m a bit loyal to NIV1984) but I do recognize its merits. For a few years now, I have been using ESV for the reasons listed in this post by Kevin DeYoung.

One way to protect yourself from “being deceived” of the biases of some translations is to use multiple translations side by side. This advice may not have worked few years ago but today, the YouVersion App for mobile devices gives us free access to hundreds of Bible versions at our fingertips. In my case, I use the ESV as my main Bible but alongside it I also consult NIV1984, HCSB, New King James Version, and New American Standard Bible. This is my own way of making sure that what I’m reading is closest to the original.

Why You Need to Read the Boring Parts of the Bible

Everyone who reads the Bible knows the feeling of getting stuck with ‘boring’ names and measurements in some passages: the genealogies of Genesis 11, 1 Chronicles 1-9, and Matthew 1; the measurements of the ark of the covenant and the temple; the names of people who helped rebuild the wall in Nehemiah’s time; and many more. This begs the question: can we just skip them and get to the exciting parts?

I suggest not. I believe that reading the ‘boring’ passages of the Bible is a spiritually enriching exercise. Three reasons: Continue reading Why You Need to Read the Boring Parts of the Bible