Some thoughts on Jeremiah 23

Interesting parallels and chiastic structure in this section:

23:2a “You have scattered My flock and driven them away” (specific actions of shepherds)

23:2b “you have not attended to the sheep” (general indictment)

23:2c “I will attend to you” (general promise of Yahweh’s appropriate justice)
23:2d “for the bevil of your deeds” (specific condemnation of shepherds)

Or comparing vs 2 with 3 and the difference in what has been done and what Yahweh will do.

23:2 (Shepherds who destroy)
  • scattered
  • driven away
  • not attended
23:3 (what Yahweh will do)
  • I will gather the remnant
  • where I have driven them (note contrast with shepherds driving away)
  • I will bring them back to the fold
And the result:

23:4 (Yahweh’s actions continue)
Shepherds will care for them
They shall fear no more nor be dismayed
None shall be missing

Ultimately it is God’s appropriate justice upon the shepherds and the nation that leads to their captivity. But it is also his appropriate justice to bring them back to their own land.

23:8 (Yahweh says) “… Then they will live on their own soil.”

Some thoughts on Jeremiah 14

Just struck me in my reading this last week, how we often jump to 31:34 as the new covenant, but fail to note the law’s preparation for that new covenant. Do we sometimes short circuit God’s work in our lives by trying to wiggle out of the condemnation of the law? In the process the law no longer threatens but acts like a car monitor, “Your door is ajar.” Worse the gospel loses it sweetness and freshness.

Consider how God uses Jeremiah to avoid both extremes. In Jeremiah 14:10b we read: [Yahweh says]: 

Therefore the LORD does not accept them; now He will remember their iniquity and call their sins to account.”

What a statement of law! God will remember their iniquity and call their sins to account. Facing the sternness of the law will bring them (and us) to our knees. 

We can’t help but see this law preparation for the people, so that in captivity, the gospel declaration in Jeremiah 31:34 rings with even greater clarity and brings true hope to those suffering. Jeremiah points the people ahead to the new covenant, in Yahweh declares,

“… for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

The law remains to condemn sin. The gospel remains even brighter to remove sin from us – that is what Jesus did. That is what the people of Israel looked forward to; that is what we look back to in its fulfillment.

Some thoughts on Jeremiah 9

I recently began another read through Jeremiah. So here are a few random thoughts that struck me. In 9:23-26 there is a pivotal text also referenced by Paul (1 Cor. 1:31). In 9:24 we read that Yahweh “practices lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness.”

‏ עֹ֥שֶׂה חֶ֛סֶד מִשְׁפָּ֥ט וּצְדָקָ֖ה

Many years ago in seminary I examined the relationship between justice (מִשְׁפָּ֥ט) and righteousness (וּצְדָקָ֖ה) relative to their occurrences in Isaiah. At the time, it seemed that in particular “justice” carries a dual focus depending on what is happening. I had begun translating the word as a phrase “appropriate justice”; that is, when God acts, for the one in faith, appropriate justice is salvation, but for the one outside faith, appropriate justice is condemnation and judgment.

So in this context of Jeremiah 9, God invites “those who boast in the Lord” to share in that which delights Yahweh (9:23-24). On the other hand, the one who does not boast, the “uncircumcised” (nations or Israel, uncircumcised in heart) will experience “appropriate justice” in the judgment, “in the days which are coming.”

That also seems to fit with Paul’s eschatological understanding in 1 Corinthians, and in particular 1:30-31. “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ ” (NAS 95)

Brackets and the Amplified Bible

Nick Norelli had a comment on his blog about adding theological bias to a translation by including words in brackets. I would say that it is even worse with the Amplified Bible. The Amplified Bible can give good insight into the original language text, but it also causes problems by presenting something out of context, especially by including words/phrases in brackets. By giving several alternatives for a Greek/Hebrew word in a specific instance, it almost appears that the specific Greek/Hebrew could mean any of those things. However, the meaning of the word is determined by, and derived from, context, that is, the surrounding words/sentences. Thus, to imply that a specific Greek/Hebrew word could mean one of several different different things, because there are lexical (dictionary) definitions (or better, glosses) available is not helping us understand the meaning of that word in this specific context.

This also leads to interpreting and commenting rather than translating in the Amplified Bible.

Issues of translating vs. interpreting the text — two examples from the Amplified Bible

1 Thessalonians 1:10

AMP: And [how you] look forward to and await the coming of His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead — Jesus, Who personally rescues and delivers us out of and from the wrath [bringing punishment] which is coming [upon the impenitent] and draws us to Himself [investing us with all the privileges and rewards of the new life in Christ, the Messiah].

Words inside [ ] indicates “Amplified” phrasing, words which are added to the text. First, note that the “coming wrath” is restricted by the added words [“upon the impenitent”]. The Greek text has 

EK THS ORGHS THS ERXOMENHS (from the wrath, the coming).

There is nothing about the restriction of the wrath.

Even more questionable is the last added phrase [“investing us with all the privileges and rewards of the new life in Christ, the Messiah”]. There is nothing in the Greek text that corresponds to this phrase. This is purely commentary, not translation, made to appear as if it is specifically intended by the Greek text. It is misleading to say the least.

1 Thessalonians 2:3

AMP: For our appeal [in preaching] does not [originate] from delusion or error or impure purpose or motive, nor in fraud or deceit.

There are main concerns here: the first is with the inserted text [“in preaching”]. The Greek word is παράκλησις (PARAKLHSHS), often translated as exhorted or comforted. But nowhere is the connection made with this word and preaching, unless the word κηρύσσω (KHROUSW) is present in the context. In other words, the Amplified Bible has limited this appeal to a preaching context when the text does not allow such a restriction/limitation.

Also in this text, how many items in last portion of the text are actually mentioned in the Greek text? From the AMP it would appear at first glance as if there are six items that Paul enumerates. Yet the Greek text has only three. Now the question arises, why the expansion? And then, why those particular words for expansion because the six listed do not exhaust the semantic domains of the three Greek words? The reader is left with a false impression, twice in this verse alone, because the Amplified Bible is not translating but interpreting and providing commentary by adding words in brackets.

Relationship between Theology and Worship

 Nick Norelli responded to a question about whether theology affects doing church, specifically worship.

Here was my initial response. From a Lutheran perspective, theology and worship are intimately connected. Thus, justification by grace through faith is not only the pillar by which the church stands or falls, it is the heart of worship (or strictly “divine service” – meaning God serves us through Word and Sacrament, and we respond in service with praise, prayer, and singing).

This also means that our theology and worship are Christocentric, while also being Trinitarian. The invocation (”in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”) is Trinitarian and Baptismal. Note that Lutheran worship traditionally begins with those words, and not the common Protestant one (”We make our beginning in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit), because we see worship as not only God centered, but God-initiated. The God who baptized us is the God who calls us into to his presence to receive his gifts in the Word and in the Lord’s Supper. The invocation is matched by the Trinitarian benediction (Numbers 6:24-26). This is not a conclusion but a sending with the promise that all that God has bestowed in the service now goes with the person. This matches the use of Numbers 6 as the blessing before the Israelites begin their extended journey.

Of course, there is much more to this, which I hope to address in the near future.

The Passive/Receptive Life

Oswald Bayer wrote an excellent book, Theology The Lutheran Way. Here is an insightful comment from that book.

What does the passive/receptive life (vita passiva) or the passive righteousness (iustitia passiva) mean, systematically for faith and theology? The righteousness of faith is passive in the sense that “we let God work in us by himself and we with all our powers do nothing of our own.” “Faith, however, is a divine work in us which changes us and makes us to be born again of God, John 1[:12-13]. It kills the old Adam and makes us altogether different, in heart and spirit and mind and powers” (cf. Deut. 6:5). Faith then is entirely God’s work and not a human achievement. We can only “suffer” it. Christian righteousness, which is passive, is entirely opposite to works-righteousness. We can only receive it. We do not work but let another work in us, namely, God. Christian righteousness is not understood by the world. It is hidden from people trapped in themselves and want to boast of their own achievements. It is hidden from those who not only want to make something of themselves but who want to be self-made people.

Oswald Bayer,
Theology the Lutheran Way, Lutheran Quarterly Books, edited and translated by Jeffrey G. Silcock and Mark C. Mattes, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007 [orig. 1994]), p. 24.

Quick update on NLT Chronological Bible

I have been on two trips the past ten days (one flight, one auto) in which it was inconvenient to take the Chronological Bible. But with the references, in the back, I was able to take a convenient sized Bible (NLT Compact, leather edition). So, I was able to continue the readings, even though I didn’t have the specific resource. But Sunday night I was able to begin again with the “box.” Thanks again for a handy resource.