Convention Results

The AALC had its National Convention in June. I was privileged to be the Bible teacher for the convention. I explored the topic of making known God’s love and the implications of that for us as Christians.

  • Luke 15:1-10 Knowing the Father’s Heart
  • Luke 15:11-32 Demonstrating the Father’s Heart
  • Luke 7:36-50 Knowing Those in Need
  • Luke 24:44-49 Revealing the Father’s Heart

The Convention brought two very positive results:

  1. Election of the Rev. Frank Hays as Presiding Pastor, a retired Navy chaplain.
  2. Approved resolution for altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS.

Both signal a bright future to the AALC, endorsing our commitment to confessing the Christian faith as Lutherans and committing ourselves to missions focus in all congregations.

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The “Day” and time

How easily time slips by! In the two months since my last post time and energy demands have increased greatly. There seems to be a break in the demands, so I hope to get back to the series on technical terms in original language texts and correspondingly in translations. However, given the time demands, I may shorten the studies considerably.

I remember as a young child that a day was a long time, and a year? That was beyond imagination for how long that was. Now, a day disappears before I can turn around, or so it seems. In reality, as a six year old, a year was 1/6 of my life. But now, a year is… well, about 1/60 of my life.

In light of the eschatological focus of the “Day of the Lord” (previous post) I have begun to observe the truth of how “soon” Jesus’ return will be. This has personal application as well. According to the Psalmist our time on earth is “fleeting”. Thus, I come face-to-face with my legacy as a person of God. How will I spend my “time”? Will it be meeting deadlines that others impose? Will it be ordered by my God? Will I have time to do all I want… or better, need to do?

So, I am taking time to sort out time and my use of, or waste, of time. Sometimes it isn’t pretty, but that shouldn’t be surprising since I am still a sinner. At the same time, I am beginning to see God’s use of my time, and what happens when I dedicate my time, all of my time, to him. It is okay to say “no” to demands on my time, if the time really belongs to the Lord.

So, I am having the “time of my life”, as I wait for the “day of my life” in Jesus.

Technical Terms – 2 (Day of the LORD – DOL)

Several studies have examined the DOL, each with their own particular contribution. In his seminal work, Ladislav Cerny observed that the DOL study must eventually encompass both the origin and content of the DOL [Ladislav Cerny, The Day of Yahweh and Some Relevant Problems (Prague: Nakladem Filosoficke Fakulty University Karlovy, 1948), vii.]. Since 1948 the major focus of scholarly endeavors has been on the origin of the DOL. While Mowinckel dominated the scene with his contention that the DOL grew out of the cultic festival celebration, Gerhard von Rad broke new ground with his claim that the DOL emerged from the holy war tradition [Gerhard von Rad, “The Origin of the Concept of the Day of Yahweh,” Journal of Semitic Studies 4 (April 1959), 97–108]. A. Joseph Everson summarized the main proposals for the origin of the concept in his article in 1974. In addition to these, he noted F. Charles Fensham’s theory that the covenant tradition (treaty-curses) formed the basis of the DOL. Meir Weiss advocated the theophany motif. Despite the value of these studies, they fell short, as evidenced by Everson’s critique. “All of these origin studies of the tradition are confronted, however, by the problematic fact that specific locution of the Day of Yahweh are found only in the writings of the classical prophets and in the book of Lamentations [A. Joseph Everson, “The Days of Yahweh,” Journal of Biblical Literature 93 (September 1974), 330].

Conscious of Everson’s critique, most scholars since then have concentrated their studies on the prophetic writings, most often limiting themselves to those passages that specifically contain the exact phrase, DOL (16 total). Those passages are: Isaiah 13:6; 13:9; Ezekiel 13:5; Joel 1:15; 2:1; 2:11; 3:4; 4:14; Amos 5:18 (2 x); 5:20; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7; 1:14 (2x); and Malachi 3:23 [Chapter and verse citations are according to the Hebrew text, BHS]. Yet as Cerny, Everson, and Yair Hoffmann concede that there are many other phrases which are very close in form and must be included [Yair Hoffmann, “The Day of the Lord as a Concept and Term in the Prophetic Literature,” Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 93 (1981), 37–9].

Appropriately, then, expressions such as “the day of Yahweh’s wrath,” “the day of Midian,” and “the day of battle” fit within this study. The most frequent phrase, “in that day” (בַיּוֹמ ההוּא), which occurs ~200 times in the prophets alone, expands the field of study dramatically. I disagree with those who follow P. A. Munch, [The Expression Bajjom Hahu: Is It a Terminus Technicus? (Oslo, 1936)] who claimed that it was essentially a connective. The plural of the phrase, “in those/these days.” also falls within the scope of such an investigation. Even terms such as “time” (עֵת) and “year” (שָׁנָה) apply toward the development of the DOL concept. Everson, followed by Hoffmann and others, claims that “it is methodologically more difficult and dangerous to include such references in the basic field of evidence” [Everson, 331. Hoffmann, 39]. While I agree that it is more difficult to expand the field, I contend that it is methodologically dangerous to not include these other references.

Thus, if the DOL is both a technical term and a broad concept, a prophet may develop his understanding of the concept by using related expressions, especially “in that day.” Another prophet may express the concept, describing events associated with the DOL without specifically mentioning the DOL (i.e. Micah). In both cases the prophets would be concerned with the DOL. This approach seems more consonant with the DOL origin and would more accurately reflect the prophetic understanding of the DOL. Critical for further study (another major paper) is the study of DOL must take into account the given time period. For instance, Hosea and Micah, normally forgotten in DOL studies, offer additional textual territory for study and development. The combined study of these eighth century prophets should then be the basis on which to study later prophets, particularly Zephaniah and Joel.

Translations of Yom Yahweh in the Later Prophets

Isaiah 13:6
Isaiah 13:9
Ezekiel 13:5
Joel 1:15
Joel 2:1
Joel 2:11
Joel 3:4 (2:31 Eng)
Joel 4:14 (3:14 Eng)
Amos 5:18
Amos 5:18
Amos 5:20
Obadiah 15
Zephaniah 1:7
Zephaniah 1:14
Zephaniah 1:14
Malachi 3:23 (4:5 Eng)

The following translations consistently used “day of the LORD” as the translation for Yom Yahweh in all 16 passages:

NKJV, NAS95, ESV, NRSV, HCSB, TNK, NIV, TNIV, GW, so also REB and NLT2 except these omit any translation at Zeph. 1:14 [2nd])

Interestingly, HCSB used “day of the LORD” in Isa. 13:6, 9, and Ezek. 13:5, and in all other occurrences used the capital letter D to highlight it: “Day of the LORD”. This suggests that the translators wanted to insure that the readers understood the phrase as a technical term (of some type).

NET varied its translation of Yom Yahweh, by using the possessive form “the LORD’s day” occasionally (Isa. 13:6, 9, Amos 5:18 [2nd], Amos 5:20; Zeph. 1:14 [both].

CEV showed the greatest variation, and no seeming consistency. Thus, “day of the LORD” is used only at Joel 2:1, Joel 4:14, and Zeph. 1:14 [2nd]. Otherwise, it translated the phrase as:

“day” – Isa. 13:6, Joel 2:11, Joel 3:4, Amos 5:18 [1st], 5:20, Obad 15, Zeph. 1:14 [2nd], and Mal. 3:23
“time” – Isa. 13:9, Amos 5:18 [2nd], and Zeph. 1:7
“soon” – Joel 1:15
untranslated – Isa. 13:9

Conclusion:

Such a survey suggests that Yom Yahweh had indeed become a technical term in the prophetic literature in the original languages. The evidence above also shows that English translations consider it a technical term by not varying its formula “day of the LORD”, except for CEV.

Technical Terms in the Bible – 1

I have been re-reading Biblical Words and Their Meaning (2nd ed) by Moises Silva. In the chapter on “Semantic Change in the New Testament” he notes how some words in Greek narrow the range of meanings and hence become technical terms. He writes,

Second, and much more frequently, we notice reduction in the meaning of words… Of the numerous examples to be found in the New Testament, we may note ευαγγελιον, ‘good news,’ specialized to ‘the good news,’ that is, the gospel. We must understand that once the semantic range of a term has been narrowed, we are less dependent on the context when we wish to grasp the meaning of the word. that is, the word becomes more precise: a more or less definite referent (what the word stands for) is automatically associated with the word itself. These are the terms that become technically charged at times, so that they serve as “shorthand” for considerable theological reflection. (p. 77)

Then he continues to examine Changes due to Semantic Conservatism, producing a list of technical terms (pp. 79ff.).

Because the nature of the study is so vast, I will focus on three very narrow aspects of technical terms:

  • identify some original language terms that became technical terms,
  • examine how these terms are translated (specifically into English)
  • determine, if possible, whether the translated terms also serve as technical terms in English.
  • The latter aspect is pertinent today because we have many translations that seem to avoid English technical terms in the Bible. Some translators question whether English should resort to technical terms at all. This raises another issue: if translators do not use English technical terms when the original language text does, then how well do the choices of other English words reflect the original language technical term?

    Obviously this is a major undertaking and will not be a “10 minute research.” For the sake of limiting the scope of this examination, I will concentrate on 6-7 words in the Hebrew and 6-7 words in the Greek.

    Here is my Hebrew list to examine

  • יומ יהוה Yom YHWH (Day of the LORD)
  • ברית Berith (covenant/testament)
  • חסד Hesed (lovingkindness, covenant love)
  • צדכך Zedek (righteousness)
  • םשפת Mishpat (justice)
  • תרה Torah (“law”, “principle”, etc.)
  • In the NT, I think the following merit examination

  • δικαιοσυνη dikaiosune (righteousness, justify)
  • χαρις charis (grace)
  • νομος nomos (law)
  • Silva further cautions,

    We should note that these theological examples usually involve, not a factual change in the referent, but a subjective change in the speaker’s understanding: for example, once a Greek speaker identified true wisdom with the Old Testament conception, his use of σωφια must have changed.

    So, this begins an interesting and, hopefully, a thought-provoking exercise. If anyone has suggestions for either Hebrew or Greek words that could be part of this, let me know.

    Further Thoughts on ESV

    No translation is perfect. However, ESV does an admirable job of presenting the intent of the underlying (original) languages (Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek). For the most part I wouldn’t hesitate to encourage people to use it. From a liturgical perspective, ESV has much to commend itself.

    Having said that, though, there are some problem areas, some in English as the following illustrate, and some in changing the meaning (John 20:23).

    Overall, NAS tends to be choppy, although not unreadable. But in these specific passages (and others I have found), the ESV is not only choppy, it presents awkward English.

    Isaiah 22:17
    ESV “… He will seize firm hold on you”
    NAS95 “And He is about to grasp you firmly”

    The NAS correctly uses the adverb. I realize that the ESV is following the KJV/RSV tradition and so continues that use in this verse. But the adverb is expected according to current English usage.

    Isaiah 63:10
    ESV “therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them”
    NAS95 “Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them.”

    It seems that the ESV is missing the word “he” before “himself” (read it aloud to catch the incongruence).

    Jeremiah 10:25
    ESV “Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not, and on the peoples that call not on your name.”
    NAS95 “Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You and on the families that do not call Your name.”

    The ESV is inconsistent in placing the negative. In this case, it is awkward, yet in other places the negative is placed with the helping verb (“do”) as in the NAS.

    Jeremiah 12:6
    ESV “… they are in full cry after you”
    NAS95 “…even they have cried aloud after you.”

    One has to ask what does “full cry” mean to the average speaker/reader of English in this sentence? I think of a hunting dog spotting the prey. Again, the ESV is following the KJV/RSV tradition and so continues that use in this verse, but the phrase does not reflect current English usage.

    Jeremiah 12:11
    ESV “… but no man lays it to heart.”
    NAS95 “… because no man lays it to heart”
    NKJV “… because no one takes it to heart”

    I would say that both ESV and NAS95 present unnatural English; NKJV does better.

    Jeremiah 31:8
    ESV “Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and her who is in labor, together…”

    NAS95 “Behold, I am bringing them from the north country and I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and she who is in labor with child, together…”

    NKJV “Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the ends of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and the one who labors with child, together…”

    The ESV misses on two counts: The use of “her” is awkward and yields very unnatural English. Also, the other elements in parallel all have the definite article in English, which would suggest that the NKJV has rendered the parallelism best.

    Isaiah 10:7 ESV
    But he does not so intend,
    and his heart does not so think;
    but it is in his heart to destroy,
    and to cut off nations not a few;

    Try to read it orally and see whether it is clear, natural English?

    ————————

    The following is a passage in which the ESV translators abandon their guidelines and present an inaccurate translation.

    John 20:23
    ESV: If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.
    NKJV: If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

    In the Greek the word κρατῆτε has the sense of “hold fast, or retain” (BAGD, 448). The ESV misuses the word “withhold” in this context. Notice that it appears as if the ESV is claiming that disciples are controlling the forgiveness – “they are lording it over someone by withholding forgiveness.”

    However, in the Greek, it is clear that what the disciples retain or hold against the person are the sins (plural), not forgiveness.

    ἄν τινων ἀφῆτε τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἀφέωνται αὐτοῖς

    if ever of whom you forgive the sins, they are forgiven to/for them

    ἄν τινων κρατῆτε κεκράτηνται

    if ever of whom …. you retain, they have been (and are still) retained …

    Note, the parallel construction of the sentence. The direct object in the first part is “the sins” (τὰς ἁμαρτίας); the indirect object is “to them” (αὐτοῖς) . In the Greek of the second part of the sentence, the direct object and the indirect object are not supplied. But normal Greek structure means that the direct object and indirect object previously mentioned would carry over. Thus, the second line would translate:

    if ever of whom [the sins] you retain, they are retained [to them]

    Note that ESV changes this, so that it takes the verb of the first part of the sentence and makes it into a noun to be used as the direct object in the second phrase. I don’t know of any other case in which such a practice is followed, especially by a translation that favors an “essentially literal” approach.

    Some have noted that the Greek word κρατῆτε also means “to restrain” or “to hold back”. So the question arises: Can this mean that they to retain the sin or the forgiveness of sin?

    The answer is: neither. That is, the direct object in the sentence is τὰς ἁμαρτίας (“sins”) – plural. Note, that “forgiveness” is not in the noun form in the sentence, rather it is the verb parallel to “retain”. Thus, the parallel of the verbs is: “forgive” / “retain”. Now the question is what is forgiven and what is retained? In the first phrase, the direct object of “forgive” is τὰς ἁμαρτίας (“sins”) – plural. So they are to “forgive sins”. In the second part of the sentence there is no direct object associated with “retain”, and so the normal Greek sequence is to repeat the direct object of the earlier verb: “retain the sins”? The question then arises whether “retains” is appropriate translation in this context.

    If a person claims that the direct object of “retain” is “forgiveness”, then the only way to get that is to ignore the first direct object, change the the first verb into a noun and make it the direct object of the second verb (none of which the Greek does).

    So, no matter how you slice it, in this text, the ESV is inaccurate, and reflects a poor choice.


    Luke 1:53 ESV

    This Sunday morning (liturgically Advent 4), the Gospel reading caught my attention. I had mentally read the passage many times in the Greek and in several translations preparing for the Bible study on Luke (in the past two months). But I had not read it aloud. When I heard it read this Sunday, I grabbed the bulletin to see whether the person read it correctly – he did. But the text itself was “wrong”.

    The reading, Luke 1:39-56, was from ESV. Note 1:53:

    he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent empty away.

    I think many people read it in their minds (like I had before this Sunday) and make the necessary mental adjustment so that it reads correctly. But when this is read orally, it is clear how awkward the English phrasing is.

    The way it is written, “empty” functions as noun/pronoun as the direct object (substitute “them” and see how you would speak it). As it is, I would wonder whether “empty” was lonely when sent away? Was “empty’s” feelings hurt?

    In reality, the word “empty” should be an adverb telling “how” the rich were sent away. Thus it should read:

    he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.

    Thus, a typically good liturgical translation (ESV) fails in this specific liturgical text.

    Just to clarify my use of the ESV: I use several translations for preparing Bible studies, in addition to the original language texts. ESV is one of them, but I personally prefer the combination of NAS, NKJV, HCSB, and GW. However, the congregation where I teach has now started using the ESV for Sunday readings – because Concordia Publishing House began using ESV on the back of the bulletins beginning with Advent 1 Sunday (four weeks ago). And CPH used the ESV as the base for the liturgical sections of the new hymnal published in August (Lutheran Service Book – LSB)

    In the past couple of years I was encouraged by the ESV translation because of its “standardized” liturgical texts (i.e. Ps. 116:12-13, 17-19, Ps. 136:1, Is. 6:3, John 6:68 etc.). However, the more I have read the ESV (about 1/2, so far), the less I like it. I find it not as easy to read as NAS and NKJV, which are usually considered “choppy”. Could I teach using the ESV? Yep, just like I can with other translations. But I would use it with caution.

    Given my exposure to the ESV over the past year (through private reading/devotion and some teaching), I would definitely state that the NKJV is a much better liturgical translation.

    Doctrines of Church and Ministry

    I think it important to lay out the critical doctrines and ask questions related to each, so that doctrine becomes the basis for our practice. My goal is to stimulate doctrinal and theological reflection, examination, and purpose in determining who we are and where we as Lutherans stand on this issues.

    Background reading:

    Matthew 16:13-20; Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Peter 2:8-9; Ephesians 4:11-32; Matthew 28:16-20; Matthew 18:15-20; Matthew 24:4-5, 10-11, 24; Acts 20:27-32; Romans 16:17-18; Ephesians 6:10-17; Galatians 1:6-10; 3:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 1:6; 1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Hebrews 13:17


    Augsburg V (Ministry of the Church/Office of the Ministry), Augsburg VII (The Church), Augsburg VIII (What the Church is); Apology VII and VIII (The Church); Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope.

    1. Priesthood of All Believers

    What is the Church?

    What is the doctrine of the Priesthood of all believers?

    How does that relate to the authority/privileges of Baptism, Lord’s Supper, Absolution?

    What congregational responsibilities are included in Priesthood of all believers?

    What about avoiding false teaching?

    What responsibilities do congregational members have relative to their pastors?