Why I used NAS

Over the past two years I have looked at translations that might be appropriate in our congregation. Essentially we have been using HCSB and GW, alternating on a quarterly basis; right now we have been using GW. Both translations have good qualities for use in our situation. Both have some weaknesses. This last Sunday, both translations left something to be desired.

Last Sunday in the Narrative Lectionary, the Gospel reading was John 11:1-44. The theme was obvious from v. 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live even if that person dies.” But here is what GW has:

John 11:25 GW   Jesus said to her, “I am the one who brings people back to life, and I am life itself. Those who believe in me will live even if they die.”

The translation is legitimate, but it also runs into a problem. Namely, there are a few texts which are so well known, even by nominal Christians. This is one of them. Psalm 23 is another. So, I thought we might use HCSB.

John 11:25 HCSB Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.”

Okay HCSB seemed to be the right choice for this Sunday.

John 11:33, 38 HCSB

But then as I explored using HCSB, I ran into another issue. The translation may be legitimate, but it is so jarring that people might be so distracted by it, that they miss the greater thing in the text.

John 11:33 When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, He was angry in His spirit and deeply moved.

John 11:38 Then Jesus, angry in Himself again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.

Most translations provide: “He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled.” I won’t go into the details, but notice how “angry” changes the focal point. And the first question that arises is: What is Jesus angry at? Himself, for delaying too long? His friends, Martha and Mary, for not believing what He says? The crowds? Sin?

The problem is that nothing in the text suggests an answer. HCSB has a footnote, but again, it is speculation. In the process, though, the center of the text, what Jesus is revealing in Himself, is sidetracked.

The Solution

So I chose NAS for this text.

John 11:33 NAS When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled,

John 11:38 NAS So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.

And it worked well. The reading was not a long, complicated Pauline sentence (i.e. Ephesians 1:3-14). But for this Sunday NAS was the right combination.John1125

A few important blog posts

Although my schedule has been hectic and writing is a backseat option until the end of this week, I have discovered several important blog posts recently.

My good friend, Rev. Dr. Curt Leins, National Mission Developer and Assistant Presiding Pastor of The AALC, wrote about the temptation that has crept into western Christianity over the past 30 years. Temptation to be like God

Rev. Mark Surburg challenges us as we see what Lithuanian Lutherans are presently doing. Mark’s thoughts: Lithuanian Lutherans take in Syrian refugees. Would we?

Kelly writes a blog about helping those who struggle with depression: 10 Ways to Show Love to Someone With Depression

Pastor Dustin Parker writes about change and Lent: Change: A Lenten Journey

May these important words help you in some way.

One question raised this past week was: What are you doing for Lent? Perhaps the better question is: What is God doing in and through you for Lent?

Come to Jesus—where he may be found

Come to Jesus—where he may be found

(PS I hope to be back to blogging in a week or so)

Slavery and me

I tend not to publicly offer opinions on politics, etc. But this topic is more than that. As I saw a Facebook post about slavery today, I realized how this affected me.

Slavery Today

Slavery has bothered me for many years. While I may speak against it in Bible class (according to the topic, issue, etc.) and privately, I never delved into the topic in any serious way. I ask myself: Is this enough?

Do we know anything about slavery? Is it a minor, side issue for us because we either don’t see it or refuse to see? What if my granchildren were kidnapped and sold into slavery? Then how would I respond?What if it was a neighbor or extended family member?

I am not pointing a finger at anyone. Just raising the issue. See EndItMovement for some additional information.EndItMovement

The Greater Slavery

As much as human slavery bothers me, slavery to sin does more so. And this slavery affects every single person. As Paul wrote: “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

The problem is that we are very good at identifying others in slavery to sin. But we are less than candid with ourselves. God does not let us off the hook, though.

Paul talks about the power of Baptism in the life of the Christian (Romans 6:1-10). He notes: “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3)

This is not just theology, but practical living. Paul continues:

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death,c or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. (Romans 6:16-19)

So, am I a slave to sin? Or a slave to righteousness? As I look at my life, sometimes I wonder.

Is my anger righteous or defensive and protective? Is my attitude toward others one of superiority or humility? Sadly, I am a slave to sin more than I want to admit.
And that is a tragedy. I can see someone in slavery when surrounded by bars, pimps, whips, threats. But my slavery? More sedcutive, more tantalizing, more promising. But also more intrusive. I can’t turn off the internet of my mind. I can’t change the TV channel in my memories.

The Greatest Release

I remember the night that the first Vietnam POWs were released in early 1973. At the time I was taking my physical to join the military. I remember the looks, the expressions of joy and the marks of imprisonment. 18 months later one of the longer held POWs became my first commanding officer. For a year, every week, I arranged for him to spend two hours talking to our command officers (pilots and intelligence officers) about his experiences.

It was not very pretty (he had been tortured). Slavery is never is pretty. But God does not leave us to wallow in sin, doubt, fear, attacks, criticisms… In Romans 6:11, Paul first uses the imperative (command) in Romans.baptism_2

Because of baptism, we have been released from sin and its tyranny. Thus, Paul writes:

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Note that he is not telling us that we have to do something to be freed from sin. Only God can do that, and he has done that through our baptism in Jesus (Romans 6:1-5). Rather, here Paul urges us to believe what God has already worked and done for us and in us.

Human slavery and trafficking in the modern world is complicated, protected, profitable, despicable. There are many strands, but there are movements to end it. I support such movements.

Slavery to sin in the modern world is as old as the story in Genesis 3. It takes even more to overcome this kind of slavery. It would take an act of God. In fact, it did take an act of God: Jesus died on the cross to take away our sin. John announced when he first publicly pointed to Jesus:

Real Ugliness—true Beauty

Real Ugliness—true Beauty

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

And Jesus accomplished that, fulfilling Isaiah 53 (as well as many other prophecies) and then confirmed by the apostles, 1 John 2:2; 1 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21, etc.

Let’s not let slavery to sin dictate our lives—to give glory to God.

Book Review: Apostle of the Last Days

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Because “eschatology” (end times or last days study) can cover a wide range of approaches, many of them not consistent with Scripture, I tend to be cautious when reading any book on the topic. Pate offers an excellent overview of Paul’s writings on the topic. While I do not agree with everything he wrote, the book is still worth reading and digesting.9780825438929

Pate addresses five components of eschatology: 1. New age has come, 2. It is cosmic and universal, 3. A Savior inaugurates the new age, 4. The new age/Savior is predicted in sacred writings, 5. The new age is celebrated through rituals. Then he looks at each of these components relative to the various movements and influences in the first century: Hellenistic religion (realized eschatology), Roman Imperial Cult (realized eschatology), Merkabah Judaizers (realized eschatology), Non-Merkabah Judaizers (inaugurated eschtology), and Paul (inaugurated eschatology). See page 21 for a helpful table of the each of these aspects.

In the Introduction, I found his set up of the issue compelling. He gives a quick overview of Paul’s letters and the apocalyptic sense of the Gospel. This corresponds with my study over the past 30 years. While on the academic level, this has been debated, by the time “lay” level books are written, much of the eschatological/apocalyptic perspective is either negated or twisted to meet an agenda. Pate offers a way forward to address the issue academically but also pastoral. I thought it interesting and instructive that he carefully notes that “suffering Messiah” does not appear in pre-Christian writings. The primary text used in Christianity for this is Isaiah 53, but he notes that it does not use the word Messiah, but servant.

In his treatment of Galatians Pate provides a fine foundation for the eschatological perspective of Paul. At the same time he briefly addresses the issue of the New Perspective on Paul (NPP), with a table of Sanders, Dunn, and Wright (p. 72). Pate aligns himself with the traditional understanding of justification rather than NPP. In his footnote he raises the assumption of NPP “It was only Lutheran exegesis that gave the false impression that Paul ever had a negative view of the Law” (p. 71). Therein lies a problem with the entire NPP; it misunderstands Lutheran exegesis.

In 1 and 2 Thessalonians, an area of special interest for me over the past 30 years, the author correctly challenges the idea of a “secret rapture of the church” before the coming of Christ. His table of comparing 1 and 2 Thessalonians with the Olivet Discourse (via Douglas Moo) is very helpful in understanding and interpreting these texts.

The most helpful and enlightening chapter for me was 1 and 2 Corinthians. At the same time, I have reservations about the four influences can be summarized in one concept as Petrine: “We will now put forth the theory that Torah-centered wisdom mediated by the Spirit adequately accounts for each of these influences, the source of which can well be traced to the Petrine party” (p. 126). While much is valuable, such a stance seems closed when Paul talks about the Spirit mediating the wisdom, even as Paul does in 1 and 2 Corinthians. I need to ponder this more.

Following his position (adequately demonstrated), then is that the real opposition to the Gospel in Corinth comes from Jewish context and especially mystic Jewish context, not Hellenistic. Especially helpful in his summary was the five fold imagery that Paul uses for Christ-centered leadership: 1. Agricultural 2. Architectural, 3. Financial, 4. Gladiatorial, 5. Familial. As he notes, “[Paul wanted] to jolt the Corinthian church into the reality that their divisive spirit was born out of exalting human leaders over the cross of Christ, God’s wisdom” (p. 144). That quote is almost worth the price of the book itself!

In Colossians I thought his presentation of the similarities and differences between Paul and Qumran was well done (pp. 210-4). Likewise the chapter on the Pastoral epistles was well done, thoroughly researched and presented.

His chapter on the theology of Paul was succinct yet thorough and a fine summary of what he has presented throughout the book. He provides a matrix of the contexts of theological categories (theology proper, Christology, pneumatology, anthropology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, and then Eschatology itself) with the specific areas of eschatological topics that he has addressed.

Some concerns

I think the issue of the Lord’s Supper (pp. 148-9) is left incomplete and unsatisfactory. Pate writes: “Such drastic divine measures shocked the Corinthian church into realizing that the Lord’s Supper, like baptism, did not magically protect them” (p. 149). And yet the essence of both baptism and Lord’s Supper are the eschatological focus of the community in the now, not yet form. Paul certainly reaffirms that in 1 Cor. 10:16 and again in 11:26. The reality of the Lord’s Supper is not a “magic protection’ but the giving of God has promised on an ongoing basis, forgiveness of sins. One confusing thing about his table on p. 154 at the bottom is having “the outer person” on the right and “the inner person” on the left. Normally reading a table like this in a left-to-right manner, we would expect the new on the right side of the table.

Pate makes an unfortunate choice in his words in regard to Romans. “The bad news of justification” (p. 176). That is a wrong understanding of justification (which is only Good News). The bad news is from the Law of God stating the requirements to meet and the judgment on failure to meet. Another concern in Romans is his comment on 11:25-26, specifically, “in the future the nation of Israel will indeed accept Jesus as their Messiah” (p. 179). That is only one possible understanding of the text.

Final Thoughts

A very well written book and can be useful for the pastor or seminary student. But I think it needs to be read in light of the theological concerns I have mentioned.

Editing

Sadly, there several editing mistakes, a couple which are significant.

p. 31–33 the numbered list is repeated

p. 174-176 major formatting issue (everything is indented, as if from a quote, but it is not).

Other editing errors were found on the following pages: 56, 104, 139, 143, 208.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

43 Years Ago

43 Years ago today my wife and I publicly declared that we were wife and husband.

It was cold! After all, northern Minnesota in February what would you expect. It got to a high of 10° about the time of the wedding (1 PM), and dropped to -40° that night.

Why February 20? Well, in the ancient days, the pastor would not marry anyone during Lent. So instead of our original plans for a March 20 wedding (spring break from college), we had to move the wedding to the Saturday before Ash Wednesday. The irony? The altar guild had already put up the purple paraments, so our non-Lenten wedding has purple theme.

Our wedding was at Mount Olive Lutheran, Bovey, MN. The photographer was famous for the painting “Grace.” The Enstrom shop was only two blocks from the church.

The night before

With the rehearsal completed, we all went to my parents’ house (and mine until the next day). Where did we find room to fit all those people in our small house??

My groomsmen were my two brothers and my wife’s brother. Ushers were three college friends: Benjamin Tsang [Hong Kong], Paul Bentrup, and Randy Wourms. Standing with my bride were: her sister, her closest friend from high school, and my younger brother’s girl friend at the time.

Everyone left by 10 PM. Growing up on the farm, we didn’t have many late nights.

Wedding Day

One PM wedding, so late breakfast, early lunch at our house. Not sure about at my wife’s house. One word to describe it outside? Cold!

The wedding was about ½ hour long, but we had used the extended vows (by our request). The church was packed (about 150 people), in the balcony and around the main level, and some couldn’t even get into the church.

My Bride! Beautiful

My Bride! Beautiful

Bride and Groom

Bride and Groom

Photos were taken soon afterward, as well as outside. How did my wife stand in 10° weather with only her wedding dress on for the photos? Can’t imagine! At least I had on a tux coat.

WeddingRC-Car1971

Good thing we didn’t pay attention to road signs!

Then a one block walk to the City Hall for our reception, about 300 people. Food, food, and more food!! As that wore down, the entire wedding party moved to my in-laws house. We had supper about 6 PM, and then a wedding dance near our home. Again a packed house with polkas, schottisches, waltzes, and some mid 60’s rock and country.

We left about 11 PM (Why did we stay so late??) We drove to Cass Lake to stay in an $8/night room.

The next morning, on our way back to our new home, we stopped at Randy’s parent’s restaurant in Cohasset, MN. Great meal. And what a surprise, after the meal they told us that the meal was their wedding present to us!

Where has the time gone?

We have moved 28 times since the marriage. I taught high school math and physics, taught one year Calculus in college. I served on active duty in the US Navy (Intelligence) for 9½ years. I graduated with MDiv and STM from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, serving congregations in Nebraska and Missouri. I served as an analyst at Sprint for 8 years, and have served in The AALC since 2008, as President of American Lutheran Theological Seminary and Pastor of Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church, Frazier Park, CA.

It’s been a ride! Many times fun, exhilarating, uncertain, discouraging, and joyful. The biggest thing is that we have shared God and His love in Jesus Christ. And we have two sons, a daughter-in-law that is more like a daughter, five grandchildren, and one great grandson.

Love you

Love you

God is good, faithful, our Rock and Fortress — as always.

The Ugliness of the “Missing”

Yeah, that title got my attention, too.

By “ugly” I am not referring to the missing person (our son), the homeless person, the one suffering from mental illness (our son). I am not setting up myself above as a judge of anyone in this post.

The ugly side of the “missing” is me, as a parent of a missing person, or more specifically, my attitude. Let me explain. But be warned, it is ugly.

Our older son has been missing off and on for the past 30 years. When he was 15 he would go missing for 2-4 days at a time. I would often drive around various neighboring cities trying to find him. On occasion I would find him under cardboard lean-tos, or abandoned houses, or police stations. He was diagnosed as bipolar in 1986.

By 18 he began his first stint in prison, and has been in prison five different times. So, in that sense he was missing; sometimes we learned he was in prison months after it took place. For more background, see this post.

Throughout that time, I struggled with any phone call. Was it the police? Did they find him dead somewhere? Was it him who was calling? Was he wanting only money for alcohol or drugs? I hated to answer the phone.

By the late 1990’s he was truly among the missing. We had not heard from him in 10 years. Finally we heard from him and met him on a trip to the other side of the country in March 2008. It was a good visit.

But I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. What was coming next?

He has been missing since that time.

So where’s the ugly? In my internal struggle.

For the past 30 years I dreaded getting a call that he was dead. But I also inwardly dreaded the thought that he was alive. And all that such a situation might entail. Could I live through another 30 years that were the same as they had been?

Several times I have watched the movie Bringing Ashley Home, based on the true story that Libba Phillips went through trying to find her sister, Ashley. It was close to what we experienced with our son. But I remember one scene when Libba’s mother said she had reached the end of trying to deal with Ashley’s life, disappearance, etc. And I have felt that same way at times.

It has taken time to deal with the ugliness of my attitude. Time to work through the forgiveness for my attitude. Time to reflect on my own frailties and limitations as a parent, as a person, as a Christian. Time to know once again, that it God’s strength—not mine—that allows me to live in the present. And yes, to confess that I still love him, and I want to see him some day.

This has been a difficult post to write, to expose my own failings, to relive the past, to realize how much it is part of my present.

But I can’t not share this. If it helps one person, then it is worth it. Perhaps other parents or family members have struggled inwardly with the same thing. Perhaps they will not feel lonely like I have many times over the past 28 years. Your feeling is not unusual, and you need not live under that cloud for weeks, months, or years.

HCSB: Messiah vs. Christ Pt. 2

After a couple comments on the previous post on Messiah or Christ, I decided to check into the matter a little more. That is, I looked at the criteria in HCSB, namely Messiah in primarily Jewish context and Christ in Gentile context. I looked at two NT books in which the consensus favors the view that they were written to Jewish readers.

Please note: I write this with great respect for the translators of HCSB (and other translations). I am not questioning their motives, integrity, or expertise. My concern is to help those who must rely on translations for their reading, hearing, and studying of the Bible.

Hebrews

Christ: four times: Heb 3:6; 10:10; 13:8; 13:21

Messiah: eight times: Heb 3:14; 5:5; 6:1; 9:11; 9:14; 9:24; 9:28; 11:26

So, Messiah more prominent in Hebrews. But then I have to ask why the four occurrences of Christ?

Heb. 3:6 But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are that household if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.

Strangely this entire section 3:1-18 has to do with Jesus being compared to Moses. Messiah would be expected in 3:6, since it is used in 3:14. Then, why Christ in 3:6?

Heb. 10:10 By this will of God, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.

This occurs in the section, chapters 8-10 which focus on the difference between the priesthood and sacrifices of the Old Testament vs. the priesthood and sacrifice of Jesus. Given that context, which is thoroughly Jewish from a first century perspective, the use of Christ in 10:10 seems to violate HCSB’s own stated objective.

Heb. 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

This famous and well loved passage seems almost like the old sweater I wear from 25 years ago. It just fits. But again, the question is whether Christ or Messiah should be used. In this section, though the author urges, “Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith” (13:7). And every leader mentioned in Hebrews 11 is Israelite/Hebrew/Jewish. It seems obvious to use Messiah in this context.

I also understand the issue of “name” in regard to Jesus as a basis for using Christ  (from HCSB Introduction). But this seems to run counter to the other objective. And how much is Jesus Christ truly a name (because the title Christ is attached to Jesus) or a combination of name and title (i.e. in my case, Pastor Rich)? Is it just convention because we are so familiar with this particular text?

Heb. 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—with the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ. Glory belongs to Him forever and ever. Amen.

This use in 13:21 is very similar to 13:8, but with the added thought that the immediately preceding clause references “the blood of the everlasting covenant,” a definite Hebrew/Jewish thought in light of the preceding five chapters.

1 Peter

Interestingly 1 Peter provides the opposite emphasis regarding each translation choice, namely Christ is dominant.

Christ: 17 times 1 Peter 1:1, 2, 3 (2x), 7, 11, 13, 19; 2:5, 21; 3:18, 21; 4:1, 11, 14; 5:10, 14

Messiah: 3 times 1 Peter 3:15; 4:13; 5:1 (but see 1:11 for another possibility)

So the question becomes why those three times is Messiah used? And what about 1:11? The first one is another famous and well memorized text.

1 Pet. 3:15 but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

For me the biggest obstacle to this is that 1 Pet. 3:18 uses Christ rather than Messiah.

1 Pet. 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm, but made alive in the spiritual realm.

thus, in this case, it would appear better to use Christ in both or Messiah in both. The next one has the same issue of immediate context, but even more puzzling because the topic is parallel (suffering, ridicule):

1 Pet. 4:13 Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory.

1 Pet. 4:14 If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

And this relates to the next use of Messiah, namely sufferings

1 Pet. 5:1 Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you:

The one text in which it seems contradictory in the same sentence does not use Messiah, but messianic.

1 Pet. 1:11 They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when He testified in advance to the messianic sufferings and the glories that would follow.

So, the question remains: would someone who does not know Greek be able to correlate the uses of Christ/Messiah and why one translation choice in a context would necessitate it rather than the other? And then would the reader be able to keep straight that both terms refer to the same thing? And even more difficult, would a hearer be able to do that?

HCSB: Messiah or Christ

HCSB: Messiah vs Christ

In the Introduction to the HCSB, we read this note:

The HCSB translates the Greek word Christos (“anointed one”) as either “Christ” or “Messiah” based on its use in different NT contexts. The first use of “Messiah” in each chapter is also marked with a bullet referring readers to the Bullet Note at the back of most editions. (p. viii)

Then in the back about that bullet point, we read:

Messiah Or the Christ, the Greek word is Christos and means the anointed one. Where the NT emphasizes Christos as a name of our Lord or has a Gentile context, “Christ” is used. Where the NT Christos has a Jewish context, the title “Messiah” is used.

That sounds good, and generally I can accept such a position. However, this last Sunday our Epistle reading was Ephesians 2:11-22. Here, specifically vv. 12-13, is where the inconsistency of such an approach does not help the reader/hearer, nor does it maintain the desired separation indicated above.

12 At that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.

Note that in v. 12 there is already confusion, since Paul is writing about the Gentile believers (“excluded from citizenship of Israel”), yet the translation offers a Jewish understanding of the word, namely Messiah. Then in v. 13 the Gentile term is used (is it a title or name?), namely Christ. And at the end of v. 13, the Gentiles (“who were far away”) receive the benefits of the Jewish term, Messiah. Again, a contradiction of the stated objectives.

It seems that a better approach is to use “Messiah” (or “Christ”) in the entire section, but not switch back and forth, especially since these two verses seem to violate the guidelines given by the HCSB Introduction. I would favor “Messiah” throughout the NT, because the dividing line is too ambiguous in passages like the above.

HCSB changes in John

In my continuing work on the Gospel according to John (translating and now preaching) I have come across a couple of changes that are noticeable to those who have used a “traditional” translation. I use the term “changes” to indicate that the HCSB choices in translation differ from traditional renderings (i.e. KJV, RSV, ESV, NIV). Thus, it is not a negative term to describe HCSB choices.

John 3:16 (οτως — “so” vs. “in this way”)

Greek: οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν ⸆ τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ᾿ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

ESV: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

HCSB: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

The Greek word (οὕτως) can be translated as “so” or “thus,” or “in this way.” Notice that ESV translates this as “in this way” in Matthew 1:19 and “thus” in John 5:21. So context is critical (as always) in determining the meaning of a specific word.

It appears that the traditional rendering comes from an antiquated understanding of the English word “so.” In contemporary English “so” used with “love” indicates “so much.”  Thus, the understanding is “God loved the world so much…” But is that consistent with the context?

In the preceding section Jesus tells Nicodemus that the person who is born again/from above (3:3) by the work of the Holy Spirit, namely this is how it is done. Nicodemus ushers in the next section with his question:  “How can these things be?” (3:9) In other words, he is not questioning the magnitude of what is being done, but “how” it will be done.

The example Jesus points out to Nicodemus confirms the manner in which God saved the people. Moses raised up the serpent in the wilderness (3:14). Now the “Son of Man will be lifted up” [Jesus] (3:14b). John 3:16 continues that thought about “how” God will do this. Namely,  “For God loved the world in this way: …”

I think that HCSB (and GW) have a better translationjohn

John 11:33 (so also 11:38) ( νεβριμσατο —”angry” or “deeply moved”)

In BDAG* we see three possible glosses (translation choices) for ἐνεβριμήσατο (enebrimeœsato);

1. insist on something sternly, warn sternly Mk 1:43; Mt 9:30.

2. As an expression of anger and displeasure in Mk 14:5.

3. to feel strongly about something, be deeply moved J 11:33, 38

Note how the translations are divided on how to translate 33, 38

HCSB: He was angry in His spirit and deeply moved.

NLT: a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.

ESV: he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.

NAS: He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled,

NKJV: He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.

GW: he was deeply moved and troubled.

NET: he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed.

The NET has this footnote:

Or (perhaps) “he was deeply indignant.” The verb ἐνεβριμήσατο (enebrimeœsato), which is repeated in John 11:38, indicates a strong display of emotion, somewhat difficult to translate — “shuddered, moved with the deepest emotions.” In the LXX, the verb and its cognates are used to describe a display of indignation (Dan 11:30, for example — see also Mark 14:5). Jesus displayed this reaction to the afflicted in Mark 1:43, Matt 9:30. Was he angry at the afflicted? No, but he was angry because he found himself face-to-face with the manifestations of Satan’s kingdom of evil. Here, the realm of Satan was represented by death.

I struggle to see which is the best way to translate and understand this text. Both HCSB and NLT use the anger imagery. Studying the word and my research indicates the depth of emotion displayed by Jesus. But the question is: is “anger” appropriate in this text? For me, anger is definitely a negative emotion, while I also understand that God expresses His anger in Scripture. But is this the best translation choice in the text?. Further, the challenge is to determine where Jesus’ anger is directed. HCSB footnote has this explanation:

The Gk word is very strong and probably indicates Jesus’ anger against sin’s tyranny and death. (HCSB footnote for vs. 33)

While that is likely or may be true theologically, does that come from the context? There is no specific sin to which Jesus is angry. And death was around Him in other contexts, in some of them Jesus also raises them from the dead. Note that in John’s Gospel the second sign is healing the official’s son (4:46-53) while Jesus seems harsh, he is directing it to the unbelieving generation, not the son nor the official. So also John 9 with healing the man at the pool of Siloam.

Consistent with that, it seems better to have a more neutral translation for the Greek word, with the strong denotation (ESV, NAS, GW, NET), without the negative connotation of “anger.” Thus, Jesus’ response in 11:35 is weeping, which matches the others who grieve. This choice then follows #3 in BDAG.

*BDAG: Bauer-Danker-Arndt-Gingrich Lexicon

Ministry in the trenches

As we look at pastoral theology and life, the temptation is to look at current trends and jump on the band wagon of the latest technique, the sure fire method of leading the church. But Eugene Peterson offers another look for us in his book Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work. More than 30 years ago he observed the temptation to follow the latest fad, and the corresponding lack of pastoral use of older resources. He comments:

Instead of subtly nuanced abilities in pastoral visitation we get training in mass visitation movements, misnamed evangelism, that promise to fill the pews on Sundays. Instead of letters of spiritual counsel we get slogans designed for mass media. Instead of models for patience we get pep talks and cheerleader yells to work up church spirit. And if our lumpish congregations refuse to wave their pom-poms on signal, we stalk off to another congregation, and another, until we find some people dumb enough to put up with such antics. (p. 13)

While he wrote that before email, internet, Facebook, twitter, etc., he identifies the substitutes for pastoral ministry still evident today. Even more he continues with the exhortation to not overlook the prior work done by God through others:

But we are not the first people to stand over the rubble and wonder which stone to put where in the rebuilding work. The “tell” of pastoral work is a considerable mound on the plain of ministry. And the strata of occupation are clear: there is an Augustinian layer, a Benedictine layer, a Franciscan layer, a Lutheran layer, a Calvinist layer, a Wesleyan layer, a Kierkegaardian layer—all using biblical stones. The one thing we must not do is wander off and try to find a new building site. (p. 13)

Pastoral ministry can be lonely, difficult, agonizing, joyous, fruitful, discouraging, encouraging, and more. Lest we think ourselves facing something new, by studying the previous generations of pastors we find that our circumstances are not new. Rather they bring about faithful ways of service in a new environment. We can learn from those who have gone before us.Pastoral-Ministry

This is true for the great writings of previous generations. But it is equally true for men who have served long years as pastors who can bring a young pastor alongside to watch, listen, and learn. In that sense pastoral theology is as much caught as it is taught.

As I look back over the past 30+ years, I discover that God placed me under the influence of several faithful men who shared their lives and ministries. They did so, not by holding up “successes,” but holding up life and failures, and most importantly how God works in the midst of all that.

Where I have failed, I  know others who have as well. When I struggled with depression, I thought I was alone. Yet I learned not long ago that Luther battled depression. That was an eye-opener for me. But they were still used by God to achieve His saving and sanctifying work.men-praying

I learned forgiveness, restoration, reconciliation in the midst of life’s agonies. In the trenches of life scarred by sin—including my own—I learned about pastoral theology and life. Eugene Peterson’s book has been part of that journey as well. He points us to God’s Word to be used in ways that may be unique for our era, but they have been proven in ancient ways for providing care for God’s people.

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