Book Review: Jesus the Messiah

Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King is a monumental work with a breadth of coverage and detail that is not often matched; it is not intended for a casual read nor quick study of Scripture. It is a fine volume and will be a valuable addition to many personal libraries. The audience is for “anyone seriously versed in Scripture” (p. 35). Specifically, “it is written for all those who wrestle with how the messianic portrait and claims of Scripture for Jesus work within human history and divine revelation” (p. 35), and it helps “nudge others to consider moving beyond the notion that all First Testament readings about ‘messiah’ were fixed and only spoke directly about Jesus” (p. 35). Obviously that is a tall order. The authors do an admirable job of presenting material to lead them to this goal. While there may be individual points to disagree with, the book achieves its purposes.

Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King
Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King

The book follows the subtitle, as each author presents one major section: Promises (Johnston), Expectations (Bateman), and Coming (Bock).

1. Promises of Israel’s King: Johnston follows the promises from Genesis through Zechariah. He covers the major messianic figures, especially the Davidic trajectories in chapters 2 and 3. I was surprised, though, that nothing was mentioned in regard to Joshua and the commander of the army as potential messianic background and promise (Josh. 5). The extended discussion of Isaiah was excellent. However, the absence of Isaiah 7 and 8 in any of the discussion left untouched another perspective of promises.

Extensive material is available for detailed study in these critical areas. The move of Genesis 3 discussion to an appendix was not convincing; the more I read the book and followed the arguments, it seemed even more critical that it should have been within the first section.

2. Expectations of Israel’s King: This section covering the inter-testamental period and the development of the Messianic expectations during the second temple period. He notes three challenges for studying this time period: 1) limited resources, 2) blurred vision (familiarity with Second Testament and early church opposition to Judaism), and 3)lack of historical and social sensitivities.

This is the section that is least familiar to most readers. Therefore, the extensive tables and maps and lists of leaders, writings, etc. are extremely helpful. This section alone makes the purchase of the book worthwhile.

3. Coming of Israel’s King: Bock’s presentation looks at the New Testament documents as presenting the fulfillment of the promises and expectations. He offers many details and valuable summaries. I think the strongest part of this section is his work with Galatians, 2 Corinthians, and Romans

The major disagreement I have with this section does not relate to content, but rather methodology. In the first two sections there was a strong emphasis on following the chronological development of the promises and expectations of Israel’s King. Yet in this third section, Bock does not follow that. Thus, he starts with Revelation and the Catholic Epistles, then proceeds through Paul’s letters, and finally the Gospels.

Despite his attempt to justify that approach it goes contrary to everything presented to that point. That moves Revelation and the Catholic letters out of chronological sequence as well as canonical sequence. And these writings have the least to offer in the Second Testament in this whole project (see the number of times “Christ” is used compared to Pauline letters). Note: This criticism does not subtract from the actual information and argument he provides

Layout and Typeface

The typeface is very readable even though smaller than most books of this kind. There are sufficient headings and subheading to facilitate finding something or reference it later. Unforunately the subtitles in the chapters are in a light orange color, which is not nearly as easy to read, especially in low light conditions.

The tables are easy to read and provide important information in a condensed format. This becomes important when consolidating newer material (for many readers) regarding the inter-testamental period (i.e. see p. 326). The maps are excellent with vivid colors and decent contrast. However, the font size could have been a little larger for easier readability (see p. 242, and especially the legend).

Noticed one typo on p. 254, second paragraph, second line: the second sigma in χριστοσ does not have the final form, which should be: χριστος.

Conclusion:

Well done to Kregel Academic for offering this book to the Church. This book adds considerably to the library of those who want to study and teach this information. It seems that the ideal target is a pastor or theologian who could use this as a reference to teach the topic in a congregation or college course. My reason for the 4 stars and not 5 relates to the movement of Genesis 3 discussion to an Appendix and the odd pattern that Bock followed in the third section of the book.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for providing a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Advertisements

Worthwhile reading

This past week there have been some excellent blogs to get us thinking, reflecting, praying. I may not agree with everything the bloggers post. That’s okay, because these people have some important things for us to read/hear. We cannot hide our heads in the sand and pretend they don’t exist.

Thanks to the bloggers:

Rescue is coming: The Exodus Road by Jessica

The Secret Pain of Spiritual Abuse by Anna

A Lovely Note by Emily

Revelation One by Rev Fisk

The Crisis of Evangelical Christianity: Reformation Essentials by Michael Horton

Revenge or Restoration? Why I Told My Story by Joy

Facebook, Memes and Christlikeness by Dustin

====================

As you will note those blogs cover the full spectrum of the Christian life, from the lows of spiritual abuse to the joys of a note to a mother. Behind all these, we find Christ: sometimes hidden in the agony and sorrow of our sin or the sin of others, sometimes evident in the love between God’s redeemed people, sometimes evident in speaking the truth. No matter where you are on this spectrum, this week is special.

This week is Holy Week. We follow Jesus from the cheering crowds of Palm Sunday to the jeering crowds on Good Friday. We participate in the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday. We see the awful cost of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. We hear the words of abandonment expressed by Jesus. He endured all that out of love for us. We never have to experience the fullness of that despair. Even in our worst times. We know that Jesus has been there, done that, and is still there for us, and will be for us.

Romans 8:38-39 GW

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us. We can’t be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation.

An Unexpected Consequence

I am about ⅔ through the book by Dave Brunn, One Bible, Many Versions. The more I read, the more I appreciate his approach and how he presents the material. And it hit very close to home in an unexpected way. While he does not formally advocate it, he very much demonstrates humility in this whole process of translating and evaluating translations.

As I teach seminary classes I remind the men that humility is critical in pastoral ministry. That characteristic goes a long way toward opening doors for bringing God’s Word to people in all circumstances. But it extends beyond even local pastoral care.

Humility goes a long way for all who want to evaluate translations; and so I am speaking to myself as the first subject who needs to be reminded of this.

I am humbled by the fact that while I know Greek and Hebrew, the people who are involved in all aspects of translating the Scriptures are experts in their individual fields. The fact that Dr. Micah Carter (HCSB), Dr. Ray Clendenen (HCSB translator/editor), Dave Brunn, Dr. Ernst Wendland (translator in Zambia), Wayne Leman (reviewer of translations, Cherokee, at betterbibles blog) and others have visited this blog is humbling. They have been kind and gracious in their responses to my questions and concerns. Likewise, Rod Jantzen and the team at Baker Publishing (for God’s Word translation) have been very helpful and responsive over the past year. I am humbled by their approach and willingness to read, listen, and write.

A little history

In late 1980, as I was finishing my nine year commitment to the Navy, but couldn’t leave until the summer of 1982 for seminary, I decided to teach myself Greek. I had taken two years of Latin, three years of German before college, and then a one year evening course of Russian while on active duty. So I had a sense of language structure. And I was able to go through Machen’s book at a decent clip, finishing almost a year ahead of our move.

When it came time to move to the seminary, I was asked to take the Greek qualifying exam. As it turned out I could have easily completed and passed the exam. But instead I opted to take the seminary Greek course with Dr. Robert Hoerber (obviously no credit, but did have to pay the tuition). Best decision I ever made. While it could have been an easy class (it was for me), it was far more. As he taught, my grasp of Greek deepened over that year. It wasn’t about passing a test to get out of a class, it was to better learn the language.

Even more, I began to appreciate how Dr. Hoerber exhibited humility in his teaching. He was a world class Greek and Latin scholar, and still helping young(er) men learn and appreciate the importance of Greek for pastoral ministry. Dr. Jonathan Grothe and Dr. Erich Kiehl were scholars yet gentlemen in the best sense of the word. And I am humbled to have been one of their students.

What does this mean?

That is a good Lutheran question! In humility I could go to a false sense of humility and stop the blogging on translations. Or in my case, this has caused me to reevaluate myself and recommit myself to further study of Hebrew and Greek. Not to nitpick translations, but to get a far better feel for those languages. To continue to learn even more about language structures, syntax, linguistics, etc.

Thank you to all for your encouragement in this process. And a special thank you to Dave Brunn for causing me to reflect on this important attitude when examining translations. An unexpected consequence of his writing. But just what I needed. May God grant this verse be true of me today.

This is the Lord’s declaration. I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and trembles at My word. (Isaiah 66:2b HCSB)

Is “acknowledge” enough?

In my translation work for our Sunday morning Bible study (Matthew), I was working on 10:32-33 this morning. 

32 Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ὁμολογήσει ἐν ἐμοὶ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὁμολογήσω κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν °[τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς·  33 ⸂ὅστις δ᾿ ἂν⸃ ἀρνήσηταί με ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἀρνήσομαι ⸉κἀγὼ αὐτὸν⸊ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν °[τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς.

My first step in translating is to examine each word, then the relationship between the words (where the real action takes place!). The two highlighted words indicate my focus in this post. Over the past 30 years I have always translated the word in most contexts as “confess” (see BDAG, #4 under ὁμολογέω).

As usual, after translating and thinking about it, I began looking at translations for these two verses. Then I discovered two primary English words to translate this word in the Matthew passage: confess and acknowledge.

Matthew 10:32

NAS  “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.”

NKJV “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.”

ESV “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,”

HCSB   “Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven.”

NIV “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”

NET “Whoever, then, acknowledges me before people, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” (“confess” in footnote)

NAB “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.”

NLT  “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”

GW “So I will acknowledge in front of my Father in heaven that person who acknowledges me in front of others.”

NJB  ‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of human beings, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.”

As I thought about this, I wondered whether “acknowledge” in English is strong enough to carry the sense of the word. The Greek word seems to have more intended than a recognition, especially in light of 10:33 where the opposite is denial. That is, are “acknowledge” and “denial” opposites?

For instance, If I walk into a room and look around and see someone I know on sight, I may acknowledge the person. That may be nothing more than a tip of my head to acknowledge that I recognize the person. But my denial would be unmistakable in the room. (Consider another illustration of how “acknowledge seems to be weaker: “acknowledgement of receipt.”)

I also observe that “confess” is used infrequently in this sense in every day English. While I might be understand the word, many may not. It appears that NJB offers a viable alternative for this verse.

Interestingly, when we examine other similar texts, such as Romans 10:9-10, several of the above translations then use “declare” as the translation of ὁμολογέω, and a couple switch to “confess” (ESV, HCSB, NAB, and NLT).

Romans 10:9-10

NAS that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

NKJV  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

ESV because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart othat God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

HCSB If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.

NIV If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

NET because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.

NAB  for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

NLT  If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.

GW If you declare that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God brought him back to life, you will be saved. 10 By believing you receive God’s approval, and by declaring your faith you are saved.

NJB that if you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and if you believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. 10 It is by believing with the heart that you are justified, and by making the declaration with your lips that you are saved.

Interestingly, not one translation uses “acknowledge” in Romans 10:9-10. It appears that “confess” and “declare” are the preferred translations. It seems that either choice would also be better in Matthew 10:32–33. Jesus is preparing his disciples for the opposition they will encounter as he sends them out. The persecution will not be based on a simple or mere acknowledgement, rather on a positive statement: confessing or declaring Jesus before others.

If anywhere, the translation choice in Matthew 10:32 should be a stronger one than “acknowledge.” Notice I am not advocating the practice of having one Greek word translated identically everywhere. Rather, the two passages (Matthew 10 and Romans 10) offer very similar contexts. See also the following passages:

John 9:22; John 12:12; 1 Timothy 6:12

1 John 2:23; 4:2; 4:15; Revelation 3:5

One Bible, Many Versions

If you have read this blog over the past two years you know my interest in Bible translations and the theory behind each.

One of the major debates/controversies in Bible translation is the approach taken, usually divided into two sides: formal equivalence (“word-for-word”) and functional equivalence or dynamic equivalence (“thought-for-thought”). From the rhetoric, it would appear as if any who uses the “other” method/approach is no longer faithful to God’s Word.

Yesterday I received another book on this topic:

Brunn, Dave. One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal? IVP Academic, 2013.

One Bible, Many Versions
One Bible, Many Versions

This is not strictly an academic book, rather it is the result of the work of a missionary translator from 1980–2001. He translated the Bible into the language of the Lamogai people in Papua New Guinea. Thus, his experience directly and practically relates to finding the best way to communicate the truths of Scripture in the language of the people.

This is very refreshing because he is not another arbiter of which side is better, but rather he looks at the whole debate with new eyes. This is summarized in his Introduction:

Rather than emphasizing the difference between Bible versions, I will highlight the similarities. Rather than making a case for one philosophical position, I hope to bring the philosophical positions closer together. Rather than describing dissimilar Bible versions as mutually contradictory, I aim to demonstrate that they are mutually complementary—even mutually dependent. (p. 17)

I also like the fact that he uses appropriate visual tools!

As you read this book you will find that it includes a significant number of examples, charts, and illustrative diagrams. My intention is to let the real evidence speak for itself rather than arguing theoretical ideals. (p. 17)

He quickly shows that even “word-for-word” translations use “thought-for-thought” principles. He presents a table that is five pages long, with examples of two translations (NKJV and ESV) that are on the “word-for-word” side of translations. But then in the final column he provides the NASB, considered the most “literal” of all English translations, which in every case provides a “thought-for-thought” translation of the same passage.

Further, he provides evidence of three other translations, NIV, NLT, and GW, which are considered firmly in the “thought-for-thought” realm, but give essentially literal renderings while NASB, ESV, and HCSB give “thought-for-thought” translations in the same passages.

While I have only read the first 40 pages, I appreciate what he sets out to do, his approach, and his insights. His reasoned voice is necessary. I look forward to reading and studying the rest of the book.

Several years ago I began teaching about translations. I made the statement that we cannot set up one English translation by which to judge all other English translations. Rather, we have to always go back to the original language texts (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek). Thus, we can look at the English translations as aids in helping us understand what the underlying text is saying/meaning.

Do each of us have our favorite translations? I would expect so. I grew up with KJV, then for the past 36 years have used NASB, and also served in the testing of GW translation from 1987 to 1995. But I am not absolutely glued to those translations. I live in an area which is 98% unchurched; thus, the use of a translation is critical because we can be precise, yet not communicate with people at their level.

Jeremiah 23:6 and NIV 2011

NIV 2011 offers many improvements in its translation over NIV 1984. Yet there are puzzling changes that seem odd at best. I wrote about the lack of a consistent translation of αγιοι, NIV eliminating “saints” totally from the New Testament. 

Another one is the change in Jeremiah 23:6

בְּיָמָיו֙ תִּוָּשַׁ֣ע יְהוּדָ֔ה וְיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל יִשְׁכֹּ֣ן לָבֶ֑טַח וְזֶה־שְּׁמ֥וֹ אֲֽשֶׁר־יִקְרְא֖וֹ יְהוָ֥ה ׀ צִדְקֵֽנוּ

It is the last line that is of concern.

NIV
In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteous Savior.

NIV 1984
This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.

NAS
And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The Lord our righteousness.’

HCSB
This is what He will be named: Yahweh Our Righteousness.

ESV
And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ 

CEB
And his name will be The Lord Is Our Righteousness

NLT
And this will be his name: ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’

Comments:

The Hebrew for the final phrase is rather straight forward: Yahweh tsidquenu. For most translations the distinction is whether the verb “is” should be supplied or not. Hebrew allows that addition, but does not require it. Some claim that the supplied verb “is” becomes a play on the name of the king Zedekiah, “Yahweh is righteous.”

But the NIV 2011 change involves more than a supplied verb. In fact, it adds a noun “Savior” and then makes the noun “tsidqenu” into an adjective. Yes, there is the mention of “saving” in the first part of the verse, but is a verb form. Thus, it seems forced, at best, to add “Savior” and then to change the noun into an adjective.

This seems like a departure from making the NIV more helpful to understanding the text of Jeremiah 23:6.

NKJV Single Column

I have become a fan of single column text Bibles. Of the single column Bibles available, I think God’s Word (GW) translation has the best layout of any Bibles published. If you haven’t seen one, go to a bookstore and look at one.

Recently I saw a new addition to the NKJV line of Bibles, a single column text only Bible, and since the genuine leather binding was ½ price ($23.95) I bought it. I wanted something with decent font size and readable typeface, as well as format for personal devotional reading and possible public reading. It also had to be in paragraph format, not individual verse layout like most NKJV and NAS Bibles. This one fit the bill.

Bible Specifics:

Leather, Black
Pages 1,798
Font size: 9 pt
Width 6.1 / Height 1.8 / Length 9.2
Publication Date   04/19/2011

This is strictly a reading Bible, so no cross references, no study notes, no maps. Interestingly on the box it indicated that there are “in-text references and explanatory footnotes.” However, that can be a little misleading because there are only reference notes for specific OT quotes in the New Testament (as footnotes, not in-text), and the explanatory notes deal only with manuscript issues (comparing textual basis of Textus Receptus (TR) vs. NA/UBS text). For my use that is all I wanted, but some might be a little disappointed in that.

Helps for Reading the Bible:

Read Your Bible Through in a Year

30 Days with Jesus

90 Day Overview of the Bible

Passages for the Christmas Season

Passages for the Easter Season

Concordance  to the New King James Version

(obviously the concordance is nowhere complete, but it is serviceable)

Looking at the Physical Characteristics

Bleed-through is a little worse than I wanted. However, after reading for a few days it is not as distracting as it was initially. Also, the bleed-through shows up more in this photo than it appears in real life (see illustration).

NKJV Poetic section
NKJV Poetic section

While the text is single column and in paragraph style, the indentation and spacing between paragraphs need improvement. (see illustration)

NKJV paragraphing
NKJV paragraphing

Even though NKJV has an awkward (no indent) style for poetic and prophetic sections, at least there is separation between units of thought. Thus, it is still easier to read than say the HCSB in poetic sections.

Conclusion

I find this size Bible, font size, and overall feel to be exactly what I wanted. The bleed-through can be a distraction. But this is what I was looking for in NKJV regarding a reading Bible.