My friend Ken Berding wrote a recent blog post explaining his concerns about using The Message. As he pointed out, people often treat it as a Bible translation, when it is actually a very loose paraphrase. One of Ken’s observations is that The Message routinely adds meaning to or subtracts meaning from the original Greek and Hebrew text. While doing detailed work in the Greek New Testament and in several English translations, I have repeatedly found this to be true.
In Jesus’ Shepherd Discourse in John 10, Jesus contrasts himself with “the thief.” “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it in abundance.” If you hear this verse quoted in a sermon, or see how people use this verse online, you will usually hear that the thief is Satan. But is that what Jesus meant?
In Philippians 3:8, the apostle Paul compares his religious credentials to knowing Jesus. The difference could hardly be more emphatic: “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” is of “surpassing value,” but Paul’s past success is like σκύβαλα (skubala). σκύβαλα is commonly translated as rubbish, refuse, or garbage, but sometimes more strongly as dung, in both ancient and modern translations (Vulgate, Tyndale, KJV, NET). Some have suggested another four-letter translation, stronger than dung.
While teaching Greek, I used to say that σκύβαλα is the closest thing to a swear word you can find in the New Testament - and I was repeating something that I had heard or read quite a few times. C. Spicq's Greek lexicon even suggests that σκύβαλα should be rendered crap. But is it true? Is σκύβαλα a swear word, or maybe a rude word? Or is it unobjectionable?
It is commonly claimed that when Jesus used the phrase “I am” (ἐγώ εἰμι, ego eimi), he was making a direct reference to the name of God in the Old Testament, YHWH. There is some truth to this, but I want to suggest three important caveats to this claim:
- “I am” (ἐγώ εἰμι), by itself, is not a code for the name of God;
- “I am” is only intended to refer to deity in some of Jesus’ sayings;
- Paying too much attention to the “I am” part of the sentence distracts readers from paying attention to the rest of the sentence.
I am the very model of a Doctor of New Testament,
I exegete pericopae in weather fine or inclement,
I know the difference between a codex and a Chester B,
and even if a manuscript is Byzantine or Westerly.
“Geologist claims Jesus was married… and had a SON: Expert says he has proof son of God was buried in 'family tomb' along with wife Mary and his brother” screams the headline. The sensational headline, along with the release date on Easter weekend, should be our first warning to take the announcement with a grain of salt.
To understand what these claims are, we need to go back to a (widely discredited) documentary, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” released by documentarist Simcha Jacobovichi in 2007.
The message of Easter is much more important than its chronology. Still, people often ask me questions about chronology in the Gospels. In my earlier post, I answered questions related to the date of Easter and the apparent difference between the chronology found in John and in the Synoptic Gospels. Today, I answer a few questions related to the "three days and three nights."