Reflections on Christmas

This year Christmas has been a true blessing. Christmas Eve worship was God-honoring and a blessing. Christmas day was the same. And then today, we had the most in worship in a while. Great music all three services, great congregational singing. After divine service on Christmas day, we had an enjoyable meal with friends.

This was also a lonely Christmas. In April, we learned of the death of our sons’ birth mother. She actually died in late 2013 (in Korea) but we didn’t find out about that until the end of April. It affected our younger son more than we thought. And in the process, it was a loss for us as well. In a way it was surprising loss for me, but as I have pondered this, I realize that even though we had never met, we had a very close connection. We pray for our sons’ sister as well, since she no longer has her mother, and has never had a connection with her brothers. Maybe God will open doors there as well.

In June, my wife’s younger brother died after several years of battling cancer. We had the privilege of knowing he came back to faith in Jesus earlier this year. So our visit with him in June (just a week before he died) was filled with Scripture, prayer, pleasant memories, and a warm but also sad goodbye.

We also saw my mother in June, celebrating her 88th birthday. Very good time of conversation, love, and sharing Jesus. She died near the end of August, dying less than 18 hours after moving into an assisted living facility. In my time of reflection since then I realized she was the closest relative I had, a person who knew me and could me my moods, etc. Yes, loneliness, but also a deeper joy of knowing her, and being known by her. In the same way , but deeper what Paul wrote: “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God” (Galatians 4:9).

Then one of my closer friends growing up, much like an uncle to me, died in October (my only uncle died in 1974 and I had only seen him 4-5 times in my life). So many good memories of our time playing guitar, and even more he was always encouraging in my playing. We worked together a few times. He was big, strong, and a hard worker; and he was a devoted follow of Jesus.

Then there is our family in the church here in California. The people are so kind to us, welcoming us from the beginning. We celebrated with a group one night playing guitar and singing, plus feasting on great food. Even more, they have been very supportive and encouraging throughout the 4½ years we have lived here. They are true brothers and sisters in the faith in so many ways.

Then there is the larger fellowship in The American Association of Lutheran Churches (TAALC) who have been a true blessing. At the National level Dr. Leins (Presiding Pastor), Pastor Dean Stoner (Missions and Development), and Bonnie Ohlrich (Executive Secretary to Presiding Pastor and Seminary President) have been a joy to serve alongside. Then we have the seminary professors and all our seminary students. They continue to challenge me in my faith and in my teaching of the faith. What a joy and blessing to know each of them.

This Christmas has been a special blessing: remembering the birth of our Savior, and all the gifts God continues to shower on us. And then to have shared lives with several people who are no longer with us. But each has enriched my life, and I learned more about them and the God who loves unconditionally in Jesus Christ.

 

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Modern English Version: Layout and Readability

I have considered Bible translations for the past 30 years. Obviously solid translations handle issues in all these areas: words, phrases, syntax, linguistics, etc. Another area that is important to help the reader (silently or orally), which is not a translation issue per se, is the layout of the translation. I think God’s Word translation has the best layout design of any translation (including using only one column). See here for a discussion of layout, aural connections, and readability be sure to read comments).

We see the changes in layout over the centuries with the manuscripts, the move from all capital letters with no spaces between words, to small letters to spaces between words. The story of the birth announcement to the shepherds looks a little different in the two ways ( had to add breaks in the first example in order to display properly in the blog):

 INTHESAMEREGIONTHEREWERESOMESHEPHERDSSTAYINGOUTINTHE
FIELDSANDKEEPINGWATCHOVERTHEIRFLOCKBYNIGHTANDANANGEL
OFTHELORDSUDDENLYSTOODBEFORETHEMANDTHEGLORYOFTHELORD
SHONEAROUNDTHEMANDTHEYWERETERRIBLYFRIGHTENEDBUTTHE
ANGELSAIDTOTHEMDONOTBEAFRAIDFORBEHOLDIBRINGYOUGOODNEWS
OFGREATJOYWHICHWILLBEFORALLTHEPEOPLEFORTODAYINTHECITYOF
DAVIDTHEREHASBEENBORNFORYOUASAVIORWHOISCHRISTTHELORD

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ cthe Lord.

Layout and design do make a difference, and that has been an issue especially noticed in the print era.

Contemporary layout issues

For more formal equivalence translations, I like NAS and NKJV (much better than ESV) and have used both translations in readings this past year and for sermons. However, both use a layout scheme that can be confusing for reading. In poetry sections, both translations use capital letters to begin each line, regardless of the preceding punctuation (if any punction). And neither translation uses indentation to help the reader. Note this example from NKJV for Psalm 49. NAS has the same problem.

Psalm49NKJV
NKJV Psalm 49

 

 

 

 

As I have been reading and using MEV, I noticed almost immediately the different layout that MEV uses with regard to each of these problematic areas. Here is the same Psalm 49 in MEV. The lack of capitalization and the indentation makes it easier to read and follow with the eyes.

Psalm49MEV

Another layout issue

Despite the better layout of the MEV, there is a problem with the layout, in terms of paper weight and bleed-through (NKJV has same problem). Notice in the both photos that the print from the other side shows through. Keep in mind, that it appears worse in the photo below than in real life. But with MEV’s smaller font size, the bleed-through becomes more noticeable. Here is an enlarged view of the same MEV passage.

Psalm49MEV

Some thoughts on MEV

I will have more comment son MEV translation this coming week. Overall, I can say that I am very pleased with it. My wife and I have used it for our nightly devotional reading the past two weeks. Further, we will use MEV for our readings for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There is a familiarity with rhythm and cadence. At the same time MEV has improved some of the words choices (better than NKJV).

 

Fall Qtr 2015 Finished

Grading completed for Fall Qtr—Yay! Excellent students, great discussions, much learning. Blessed with young students in seminary (almost all much younger than me!);

Great professors of theology:

The Rev. Dr. Curtis Leins
The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Pulse
Dr. Adam Francisco
The Rev. Dr. Craig Henningfield
The Rev. Richard Shields

Pastor Dave Spotts (teaches Greek and Greek reading class)

Thanks to everyone to male ALTS what it is today. Special thank you to Bonnie for making it all work behind the scenes.

ALTSlogo

Seminary Update

Longer PerspectiveALTSlogo

The start of a new year is a good time to step back and look at American Lutheran Theological Seminary (ALTS). More importantly we look forward to further strengthening and expanding of our seminary.

We are blessed to have two routes for pastoral service in our church body. One is the the on-campus route and the other is online. Each route offers excellent opportunities for preparing men to serve as pastors; these routes are not contradictory but complementary, each with its own strengths.

On Campus

Through our arrangements with the LCMS, our students have the privilege of studying on campus at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN (and Concordia Seminary, St Louis, MO). The students gain the benefit of top notch professors, they also study in an environment with daily worship and daily dialog with other students.

The first two years are on campus with some participation in a local congregation. The third year the student, now called a vicar, serves full time in one of our congregations. The fourth year the student returns to campus to complete the Master of Divinity degree.

Online

Over the past five years we have developed an online curriculum for the Master of Theological Studies. At the 2014 Convention the program was approved as an accepted route for appropriate pastoral training leading to service as pastors in The AALC. The students also have the opportunity for continuing service to congregations as part of their pastoral formation.

While there are differences between the programs, there is significant overlap of study. Each approach has distinct advantages for training pastors.

Current Status

On Campus Status: We currently do not have any students on campus; but we have two candidates for probable enrollment in Fall 2016. If you know of men who might be interested in seminary, please have them contact me.

Online Status: For Winter Quarter we have 22 men enrolled in the pastoral track, three women desiring theological education for service apart from the pastoral office, and two lay leaders. We currently have six professors teaching theology and another teaching Greek. With this approach, we hope to offer every online class at least every other year, and possibly more often.

Translating confuses connections

Translating any text from one language to another faces many challenges. Simplisticly some want one word in language A to match perfectly with language B. Some might be tempted to say this is the most “literal” translation. Interlinear translations follow this technique. However, it doesn’t take more than a couple examples to demonstrate why this approach fails.

Another approach claims a “general gist” of the original work, commonly known as “paraphrases.” These translations remove any semblance of translation (word context). Perhaps the two most common are The Living Bible from the 1970s and The Message of more recent vintage. Neither would be good for serious study.

In between those extremes we have two general groups of Bible translation approaches:

1. Formal Equivalence (sometimes called Word-for-word, but that is a misnomer)

The following translations represent this approach: NAS, NKJV, ESV, RSV, NRSV, HCSB, NET

2. Functional Equivalence (or meaning based)

The following translations represent this approach: GW, NLT

Some translations are difficult to categorize. Probably NIV is the best example. Sometimes the translation follows the Formal Equivalence and sometimes Functional Equivalence. Unfortunately the translators provide no basis to understand which approach is being used in a specific context and why the change. In that sense, NIV fits somewhere between the two groups.

Translation choices and connections made by the reader

This post is specifically about how a translation choice may be acceptable, but cause confusion about the connections between the thoughts of the text. I have chosen 1 Peter 3:21 as an example of where the connection can fail based on translation choices.

Greek: ὃ καὶ ⸁ὑμᾶς ἀντίτυπον νῦν σῴζει βάπτισμα, οὐ σαρκὸς ἀπόθεσις ῥύπου ἀλλὰ συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς ἐπερώτημα εἰς θεόν, δι᾿ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

I have given several translation choices and grouped the translations based on that word choice.

“antitpye”

NKJV: There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

“corresponding to”

NAS: Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you — not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience — through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

HCSB: Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

ESV: Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

NJB: It is the baptism corresponding to this water which saves you now—not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience given to God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

GW: Baptism, which is like that water, now saves you. Baptism doesn’t save by removing dirt from the body. Rather, baptism is a request to God for a clear conscience. It saves you through Jesus Christ, who came back from death to life.

“prefigured”

NRSV And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

NET: And this prefigured baptism, which now saves you–not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience to God—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

NAB: This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

NLT: And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“symbolizes”

NIV: and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God

REB: This water symbolized baptism, through which you are now brought to safety. Baptism is not the washing away of bodily impurities but the appeal made to God from a good conscience; and it brings salvation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

WEB: This is a symbol of baptism, which now saves you – not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

As we look at each of the translations, it is apparent that word choice is not skewed based on the translation philosophy. Formal Equivalence and Functional Equivalence translations fall into the same choice (i.e. NAS and GW, or NIV and NET).

So what is the text in Greek saying? The Greek has ἀντίτυπον, transliterated as “antitype” in NKJV. Thus, something in the Old Testament serves as a “type” and points ahead to a greater fulfillment in the New Testament, the “antitype.” There are several examples:

David the Lord/King (type) —> Jesus as Lord/King (antitype) (Matthew 22:42)

temple in Jerusalem (type) —> Jesus is temple of God (antitype) (John 2:19-21)

Atonement sacrifices (type) —> Jesus is perfect sacrifice (antitype) (Romans 3:24-25; 1 John 2:2; Hebrews 9:23-26)

So, in the context of 1 Peter 3:21, we find that Peter is giving us the type as the saving of people through the water at the time of Noah.

For Christ also died for sins bonce for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. (1 Peter 3:18-20 NAS)

Thus our diagram would look like this:

Saving of eight people through water (type) —> Baptism now saves (antitype)

So, “Baptism now saves…” and is the antitype, which is a greater thing than the saving of the eight people in the flood. Note this from BDAG: “A Platonic perspective is not implied in the passage.”

So where is the confusion?

The confusion is exemplified by the NIV translation choice (“and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also.”). But because of the popularity of the NIV it  reflects a misunderstanding even for those who use other translations.

The text is often read this way:

Saving in the flood (type) —> baptism, which is a symbol of saving (antitype)

The conclusion is that baptism does not save because it is only a symbol of saving, not the real act of saving. Having taught this passage for the past 30+ years, I found everyone coming from a “baptism is a symbol of my action” background understands the text this way. Of course, there is another problem with this reading of the text, and that is the presupposition of the reader, prior to reading this text. The presupposition is that baptism is “my act showing my faith.” Unfortunately, this presupposition leads to different understanding this specific text, but also Acts 2:38-39; Romans 6:1-11; Ephesians 4:4-6;.

So, in this case a translation choice can easily be misunderstood to support a wrong view of baptism, hence, translating confuses connections.

Baptism really does save.