HCSB and WELS Translation Liaison Committee

The WELS Translation Liaison Committee just posted their latest comments regarding the HCSB translation. (http://www.wels.net/about-wels/synod-reports/translation-liaison-committee/translation-liaison-committee) Overall, the work is solid and the committee is to be commended for its diligent work. For the most part I agree with everything they have noted. In a couple cases I will offer additional thoughts. I will not comment on the Plan of Salvation page because previously I have advocated that it not be included. If I don’t address a specific passage it means that I support the WELS Committee suggestions.

Six Translation Suggestions for Some Key “Sacramental Verses”

I am very much supportive of the points made in these texts. I came across this when I was preparing the Maundy Thursday worship service. I had intended to use the HCSB but stopped short because of the use of “established” in the words of institution. τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐστὶν ἐν τῷ ⸂ἐμῷ αἵματι (1 Cor. 11:25 “This cup is the new covenant in My blood” NAS).

In Matthew 3:11 HCSB has [John said:] “I baptize you with water for repentance” which is a fine translation. However, the footnote skews the text considerably with “Baptism was the means by which repentance was expressed publicly.” The problem is that there is nothing in the text to support anything that the footnote suggests. It is a case of imported theology from one specific group. I noticed this same kind of imposition of this kind of theology in the translation the Voice Bible, but even stronger: “I ritually cleanse you through baptism*…” with the footnote: “Literally, immerse in a rite of initiation and purification.”

Although not technically a Sacramental verse (although it is in the context), Acts 8:37 needs clarification. I agree with the suggestion to put the entire verse in a footnote. Even the footnote that is used is not clear; HCSB makes it appears as if the textual evidence is equally split on the inclusion of the text. The reality is that the manuscript evidence leans far toward the side of not including the verse (see NET footnote below).

NET footnote: A few later MSS (E 36 323 453 945 1739 1891 pc) add, with minor variations, 8:37 “He said to him, ‘If you believe with your whole heart, you may.’ He replied, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” Verse 37 is lacking in {P45, 74 ℵ A B C 33 614 vg syp, h co}. It is clearly not a part of the original text of Acts. The variant is significant in showing how some in the early church viewed a confession of faith. The present translation follows NA27 in omitting the verse number, a procedure also followed by a number of other modern translations.


This extended discussion relates to my own frustration with HCSB. Either go fully with Yahweh or LORD, but don’t switch back and forth. The WELS Committee makes a strong case for using LORD, based on the LXX, NT, and early church usage of those texts containing the tetragrammaton. In light of that I would opt for their solution.

Slave or Servant

I think the Committee makes some good observations and this translation of δουλος needs attention. At the same time, I don’t think a wholesale change should be made. One of my book reviews last fall was by Joseph Hellerman. Embracing Shared Ministry: Power and Status in the Early Church and Why it Matters Today. Kregel Ministry, 2013 provides additional information on this topic. One of the key insights is that the class-conscious people of Philippi would understand the nuance of titles. There were two levels of society: Elite and non-Elite. The lowest level in the non-Elite status was not household servants, but slaves.  The expectation in that culture is that Paul would be Elite, in fact, the highest level of Elite, and so the expected title would be “apostle” in the greeting. But Paul uses δουλος, the only time he uses it unadorned. That seems intentional to separate even from household servants.

My suggestion then is to follow the WELS recommendation except that the nuance of each use must be carefully considered. It’s not an absolute: either servant or slave, but context would determine the specific translation choice.

Christ/Messiah in the New Testament

I wholeheartedly support this position of the WELS Committee. See my posts here and here.

The Use of “Should” and “Must” in the Translation of the New Testament

Although I have not addressed this issue on my blog, I am right in synch with the Committee regarding the changes. At times the use of “should” and “must” almost has the sense of a ruler-entrenched teacher waiting to snap my knuckles. Not exactly what the Biblical text has in mind.

Capitalization of Pronouns for God

I have used primarily NAS and NKJV for the past 37 years. Capitalization of divine pronouns seemed like a natural. Of course as I began translating I realized that it was English editor/publisher decision and nothing more. In the last 20 years I have used many other translations that do not capitalize divine pronouns.

The WELS Committee makes an excellent case for not using capitalization for divine pronouns. Another problematic text is Genesis 32:24-32, in which the Hebrew doesn’t indicate even by specific names, but pronouns are used throughout. Compare how HCSB and NAS deal with this.

NAS 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

HCSB 24  Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that He could not defeat him, He struck Jacob’s hip socket as they wrestled and dislocated his hip.  26 Then He said to Jacob, “Let Me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.” 27 “What is your name?” the man asked. “Jacob,” he replied. 28  “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” He said. “It will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked Him, “Please tell me Your name.”

Even capitalization doesn’t help identify the players. “Jacob” isn’t in the Hebrew in v. 25 for instance.

“Man” and “Men” in Contexts where Women are Included

I was glad to see this issue addressed. Generally HCSB does better than ESV, and HCSB does okay in some places, but as the WELS Committee noted, they are inconsistent. In addition to the WELS suggestions on changes I would add Psalm 1 and Psalm 32:2 (especially 32:1 has it correct).

Psalm 4:1 How long, exalted men, will my honor be insulted?[change to: How long, people, will my honor be insulted?]

It seems odd that בְּנֵ֥י אִ֡ישׁ  (“sons of man”) would be translated as “exalted men.”

Many other examples can be cited. It appears that the WELS Translation Committee has done a fine job of highlighting changes that could make HCSB an even better translation. Well done!


Book Review: Judges and Ruth

Chisholm, Robert B., Jr. A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Kregel Exegetical Library). Kregel Academic, 2013.9780825425561

If you are looking for a detailed, exegetical, linguistic, and homiletical commentary on Judges and Ruth, then this is a commentary at the top of the list.

In the Introduction (pp. 1-105) Chisholm covers Chronology, Narrative Structures, Proclamation, Preaching, and other introductory matters. Interestingly he provides three possible chronologies of Judges, two for the early 15th century and another for 13th century. He examines the arguments for and against each view. I thought it a little odd that he does not come down definitely on one of the three. Nevertheless, his presentation of the data is very good, helping the reader follow the arguments, and to come to his/her own conclusions.

He asks two questions that are of more recent interest. Does Judges have a political agenda? (pp. 62-67) and What role do the female characters play? (pp. 69-81) In both cases he deals with the answers based on the text itself. His careful study offers insights in both cases, especially the role of female characters. This whole section well serves the careful reader/student.

Chisholm accepts the canonical form of Judges and consequent literary structure, which is another positive of this commentary. “I believe that the book, when examined in its canonical form, is a unified work…[which] is not as susceptible to the kind of speculative fancy that litters the history of biblical higher criticism” (p. 15) This approach also informs and guide his literary analysis, and the proclamation.

His approach to literary and narrative structure is detailed, yet very concise, and so it takes time to sort through the data (pp. 81-8). But the survey is well worth the time for the reader. Helpfully, he uses these insights in each section of his translation throughout the book. This provides a convenient way to check translation and structure at the same time. Given many other commentaries that separate and then seldom refer to it, Chisholm’s work is consistent and helpful. Well done.

Another significant value of this commentary is the emphasis on linking the exegetical, linguistic, literary study with the move to proclamation, not limited to a nod in that direction, but thorough presentation for each section of Judges (and Ruth). Each major section of text includes the following subsections: Translation & Narrative Structure, Outline, Literary Structure, Exposition, Message & Application (including homiletical trajectories). The breadth and depth of each is helpful for understanding the text, and moving into a preaching/teaching situation.

The commentary on Ruth is equally informative and usable. His discussion of the role of Naomi as a major character along with Ruth and Boaz provides a different perspective for each subsection. The note about the role of public vs. private discourse is enlightening. “Public events tend to focus on Naomi’s dilemma and its resolution, while private conversations highlight the commitment of the characters to the well-being of others” (p. 558). Interestingly, the author notes that both Boaz and Ruth seem to function as a type of Christ—worth further investigation and thought.

This book will prove to be a valuable resource for anyone preaching or teaching on the Old testament. It helps to know your Hebrew when you use it, although you can still benefit from it without Hebrew. There might be areas of disagreement on Chisholm’s points, but he provides the necessary detail to explore further and come to your own conclusions. One area I expected a little more development (than just Boaz and Ruth) was the Christological significance of both Judges and Ruth.

Overall, this is one of the best books that Kregel Academic has produced. Well laid out, logical, and thorough. This is an excellent commentary, worth reading and referring to often if you teach or preach on either book.

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

Context of Matthew 18:15-35

Limits of study

Obviously it is difficult to jump into the middle of a text without understanding the context. Our text comes at the end of the fourth discourse, which describes the ekklesia (church), i.e. the New Messianic people of God (13:54–19:1). There are two parts in this discourse.

The previous section (13:54–17:27) focused on the deeds as Jesus separates Himself and His disciples from the first century Jewish understanding of what it means to be God’s people. In other words, the former way of living (under the old covenant) is passing away, and Jesus begins to contrast what the new covenant [testament] means for living. This separation begins with the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth (13:54-58). The death of John (14:1-12) highlights that the prophetic preparation for the Messiah has been completed.

Then follows a series of miracles that demonstrate particular aspects of the Messiah’s work and what they means for His disciples. The feeding of the 5,000 highlights not only Jesus’ power and authority, but even more the heart of God— “He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them“ (14:14). Rather than the “shepherds” of Israel who saw the crowds as ones to be manipulated, used, and exploited, Jesus saw the people as they were, people in need.

In addition to the feeding miracle Jesus walks on the water, which only His disciples see, then heals the sick in Gennesaret. These miracles demonstrate his authority over all creation, extending compassion as needed. Yet, even then the disciples face the reality of their lack of faith. Contrast that with the two “outsiders” who are commended for their faith (Matthew 8:10-11; 15:28).

The conflict between Jesus and the rulers of the Jews increases as we move into chapter 15. The old way was to examine the externals as the measure of law-keeping, and obedience to God. The tradition of the elders is exposed when Jesus points to Word, namely Isaiah, to condemn them (Matthew 15:8-9). It isn’t what goes into a person that defiles, but what comes out, comes out of the heart (15:10-20).

Jesus ventures into another Gentile area, Tyre and Sidon. Note that while Jesus came to Israel, it is also true that Jesus was preparing for Matthew 28:16-20 by His own extension of the message beyond Israel. In this case the Canaanite woman reveals true faith. Two more miracles follow this story. Again, note the divine characteristic in 15:32, “And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, ‘I feel compassion for the people.’ ”

Yet remarkably in Matthew 16:1-4 the Pharisees and Sadducees ask for a sign. They see, but do not see. The contrast for the new people of God is that seeing comes from faith. After explaining the real problem of these leaders, Jesus now asks the disciples who He is—the context and object of faith. Peter gets the identification correct: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The source is not Peter’s deduction, but the revealing work of God. Sadly, in 16:21-23, Peter also exposes how little he knows what his confession really meant. Peter wants a Savior of his own making. He gets much more in Jesus.

Jesus explains more about what this confession Peter made when He said: “I also say to you that you are Peter (Πέτρος masculine referring to Peter), and upon this rock (πέτρᾳ feminine referring to his confession, not to Peter) I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” This confession also leads to the issue of forgiveness of sins, a theme that is central in our main text, 18:15-35.

But the confession also includes Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus, thus, contradicts one of the major expectations of the Jewish people: the Messiah would lead them to victory over the Romans. Such a confession includes the disciples to deny themselves and follow Jesus, cross language that will be fully evident in chapters 26-28.

Chapter 17 adds to the disciples’ confusion. Jesus, the one who will be killed, is not transfigured in front of three disciples. Then He follows that with another prophecy of His death and resurrection. It’s like the disciples have been given a puzzle with many pieces, yet the pieces seem to come from many different puzzles.

Chapter 18:1-14

This text provides the immediate background and transition to our text of interest. The question in 18:1 reveals how the disciples are still thinking in the old paradigm. “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus clearly refutes such thinking when he uses a child (“a child, normally below the age of puberty” BDAG). In other words, the wisdom and superiority of an adult perception of greatness are not in the mix. It is an issue of faith, something the disciples have missed repeatedly.

In 18:5-9 Jesus goes even further. It is not a matter of (self-imagined) greatness, but rather how do the new people of God treat the “least” in the kingdom. Leading one of the least into sin has great consequences.

[Jesus said:] “…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! (Matthew 18:6-7 NAS)

The least includes the lost among them, those who go astray (18:10-14). Notice, too, that the finding of the lost is critical, but also the the resulting rejoicing. God desires that not one be lost.

With this background we see that Jesus will usher in a new kingdom, the church (ἐκκλησία). It will be far different than what the people had experienced under the old covenant. Relationships will reflect God’s perfect love and compassion. Anything that interferes with the relationship of the church is to be dealt with following the pattern of greatness in the new kingdom.

This then leads us into the text of 18:15-35.

Matthew 18 Intro

I have been interested in studying the Gospel According to Matthew for at least two decades. That interest has been sparked further by the congregation I serve and the Seminary teaching I am doing. In the current congregation during Sunday morning Bible Study we have been looking at Matthew since September 2011. And I have been teaching Matthew in the Seminary this Spring Quarter (2014).

In the congregation we have focused on Matthew 18:15-35—for two months. What could occupy us that long on one text? In the next series of blog posts I will address some of what we learned and discussed. Is it worth the time? Absolutely. And we could have spent more time on the text! As I explore this, you can see how the text itself and the application could easily lead to this. And you will understand how much is missing in this series of posts.

Structure and Organization

Commentaries offer different approaches to looking at the structure of Matthew’s Gospel. Jack Kingsbury examines the structure, Christology, and kingdom theology. He sees the structure revolving around three parts: the person of Jesus Messiah, the proclamation of Jesus Messiah, and the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Messiah. While not necessarily agreeing with his structural analysis, I have found his approach helpful in filling in some gaps with other approaches.

Daniel Patte focuses on two points for commentary: 1. The structure is based on Matthew’ faith (level 3 for those familiar with Voelz’s hermeneutical approach). While this gives good insights, it is tenuous because we have little to verify level 3 kinds of issues. 2. Opposition passages. This approach can help the student because the growing tension between Jesus and the Jewish leaders (in particular) is obvious as one reads the Gospel.

David Scaer also follows a level 3 understanding of the Gospel. His focus is on the Matthew as the first catechism. So he views the structure (within the five fold discourse below) from the perspective of Matthew writing a catechetical document.

These and many other resources are excellent aids for the student of Matthew’s Gospel. See at the end of this post selected resources. For instance, Franzmann’s commentary is easy to overlook due to its age, and non verse-by-verse approach; but it is a profitable read for the student—more than one time.

Perhaps the most common structural view of Matthew is the Five Discourse approach. This basic five division structure comes from noting these specific passages:
7:28 And when Jesus finished these sayings,

11:1 When Jesus had finished “ordering”
13:53 And when Jesus had finished these parables
19:1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings
26:1 When Jesus had finished all these sayings

This leads to the following structure, which is derived from study notes in Dr. Robert Hoerber’s class in 1982-3.

Five Discourses in Matthew’s Gospel

Introduction: Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1:1–4:16)

I. First Group: Annunciation of the Kingdom and the Call to Repentance (4:17–7:29)

A. Deeds: (4:17–25)
B. Words: Sermon on the Mount (of Matthew) (5:1–7:29)

II. Second Group: Compassionate Messiah seeks the lost sheep of the house of Israel (8:1–11:1)

A. Deeds: 10 Messianic deeds of power (8:1–9:35)
B. Words: Mission discourse (9:36–11:1)

III. Third Group: Contradicted Messiah conceals the Kingdom from those who rejected it, and further reveals it to those who have accepted it (11:2–13:53, NB 13:11)

A. Deeds: (11:2–12:50)
B. Words: Seven Kingdom Parables (13:1–13:53)

IV. Fourth Group: The Ekklesia (church), i.e. the New Messianic people of God (13:54–19:1)

A.. Deeds: (13:54–17:27)

1. Separation from Judaism (withdrawals)
2. Communion with His followers

B. Words: Principles for the New Ekklesia (18:1–19:1)
NB: Matthew is the only Gospel using Ekklesia (16:18; 18:17 [2x])

V. Fifth Group: Messiah gives His disciples a sure and sober hope (19:2–26:1)

A. Deeds: Judean Ministry (19:2–22:46)
B. Words: Discourse on Eschatology (end times) (23:1–26:1)

Conclusion: Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Matthew (26:2–28:20)

The next post will concentrate on the place of Matthew 18:15-35 within this structure.


Selected Reading List

France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew. Vol. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2007.

Franzmann, Martin H. Follow Me: Discipleship According to Matthew. Concordia Publishing House, 1961.

Kingsbury, Jack Dean. Matthew: Structure, Christology, Kingdom. First Thus ed. Augsburg Books, 1991.

Patte, Daniel. The Gospel According to Matthew: A Structural Commentary on Matthew’s Faith. Fortress Pr, 1986.

Scaer, David P. Discourses in Matthew: Jesus Teaches the Church. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2004.

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

(found the source for this: Amy Young: An open letter to pastors: the words express exactly my heart)

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss this year through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

To those who have aborted children, we remember them and you on this day

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children, we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who step-parent, we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren, yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.


This photo is of my (not Amy’s) mother, 1944



Another thought-provoking blog:

A Mother Like No Other