Monday, March 27, 2023

Two Latin Tips

Thinking about studying Latin? Two tips:

1, Learn Ecclesiastical Latin. This is what Jerome and the church fathers used.

2. Use this book. It's the best one out there in my opinion.

The Reason Behind Scripture

Jesus is the Word, the Reason behind every word of Scripture. It is his logic we see in every sentence. This is why Scripture has mathematical precision. Its beauty, its grandeur, its magnificence is no accident. 

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Tomorrow: The Greek Perfect

Tomorrow in Greek class? The perfect tense -- my favorite. For an introduction to this tense, Jim Voelz's video is hard to beat. 

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Jesus Is Lord

Why were Christians in the second and third centuries sent to their deaths in the arena? Not because they were saying, "Jesus is God." The Romans would have smiled and said, "Fine. We'll add him to our list." But when these Christians heard the term "Lord" (kurios/dominus) applied to the Roman Caesar, they said, "Awfully sorry, but I'm afraid he's not. There is only one Lord, and his name is Jesus Christ." For that, they were sent to their deaths.

The hallmark of authentic Christian spirituality is when a person proclaims from the heart, not "Caesar is Lord," but "Jesus is Lord" (1 Cor. 12:1-3). He is the Lord of the Old Testament who has come to us with all of his divine authority. He is the  Lord of all creation, and Paul insists that anything that contradicts this claim is counterfeit. 

We need to be warned about trying to have a spirituality without Jesus' authority. He made all things, and all things are made for his glory. The hallmark of authentic Christianity is that this lordship of Jesus Christ is worked out in our lives, even in our titles (Jesus alone is the church's Senior Pastor). 

I'm Going to the Museum of the Bible!

I've wanted to visit the Museum of the Bible in DC ever since it opened in 2017. We ran past it during the Marine Corps Marathon and I thought, "What interesting architecture." 

Well, I just added to my calendar a visit to this famous museum on April 21-22. Lord willing, I will be attending the ETS Eastern Regional Meeting which is being hosted by the Museum of the Bible. Your registration for the conference provides a one year pass to the museum. Somehow I've managed to get a hotel right across the street. Should you care to join us, here's the conference flier. And here are the papers to be presented at this year's meeting (yes, I'm included). 

Oddly enough, I've attended more regional ETS meetings than annual ones, mainly because I enjoy the more intimate setting. I once served as the president of the ETS Far West Region, but that was a million years ago. 

See you in DC! 

Friday, March 24, 2023

Drifting Away from the Truth

When I was 16, my high school band played a concert on the island of Maui. Rather than flying back to Oahu with the other students, I decided to sail home on a friend's 35-foot yacht anchored in beautiful Lahaina harbor.

We set sail at daybreak and threaded our way between Lanai and Molokai before entering the Molokai Channel, also known as the Ka'iwi Channel. It's known as one of the most treacherous channel crossings in the world. In the 26 miles between Molokai and Oahu the ocean plunges to 2,300 feet below sea level, creating unpredictable currents. Just get 1 degree off course and in a little while you'll be way off course. At last, a small dot appeared on the horizon. It was Diamond Head, and I knew we were safe. 

There are 4 types of dangers to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are the sheepstealers who say, "Come to us. We alone have the truth. We alone do it right." There are the peacebreakers who sow confusion within a congregation and rob it of its unity and peace. There are the sidetrackers who take the curiosities of Scripture and turn them into centralities. And there are the truthwarpers who offer 95% truth and 5% error. In Galatia, these people were the teachers who were adding circumcision to the finished work of Christ. In Corinth, they added gnosis, esoteric knowledge. Today, our leading universities, even some claiming to be Christian, are the locus of the most amazing brainwashing in leftist identity and the most amazing violations of academic freedom. Agree with the controlling elite -- or else. In our quest for academic respectability, academics try to be players in the wider society, not recognizing that the wider society couldn't care less what the Bible really says, unless it is to support what the culture thinks. And so churches tend to drift from the truth. But even being off course by 1 degree can have disastrous consequences. Pastoral passivity is often justified as an appropriate response for leaders in these churches. But as both the Galatians and the Corinthians proved, it is all too possible to do evil sincerely. Faulty theology always leads to faulty spirituality and faulty ethics. 

This is why I teach Greek. I do not tell my students what to believe. My hope is that I can equip them with a tool that will enable them to arrive at the clear and certain truths of one's Christian faith, including the divinity of Jesus Christ, the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible, and the evangelical mission of the church as willed and founded by its Head. God wants us to discover the difference between a Sunday School faith and a living, gutsy belief that is more than skin deep. 

2022 Taxes Are ... Done

Tonight's celebration dinner at Denny's.

Yes, I'm celebrating the fact that today I sent off my Federal, Virginia, and North Carolina tax returns. Always a good feeling! 

My Morning

I had the BEST workout this morning. I did an hour of cardio with light dumbbells. 

I did 50 pullups.

Then I ran for an hour at the high school track.

Other than that, I don't know what else to say except that I'm thoroughly enjoying this knock dead gorgeous day with temps in the mid-80s. I plan to work outdoors for about 4 hours and then grab me some dinner. Oh yeah, this IS a blog about the Bible, so I'll share with you in another post what I thought about during my morning time in the word. 

Enjoy your day wherever you are. 

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Maintaining Momentum in Your Study of Greek

Very happy with today's workout. Despite having lifted seriously now for over a year, I still seem to have a high level of motivation. 

Weight training, like any endeavor, is subject to the law of diminishing returns. The wonder seems to fade after a bit. It can't be sustained. 

Today I'd like to apply this to those of you who are studying Greek. If you're struggling in your studies, how can you maintain or regain momentum? I would say that memory is a very important factor here. Some people have better memories than others, but in general it's very easy to forget what you learned a week ago if you didn't repeat it in the meantime. Of course, it gets easier after a while because you begin to develop an intuition about how the language works. In addition, learning Greek is easier if you already have foreign language learning experience, or if the new language is related to the language you already speak. But in general, when you learn a new language, many things you learn are completely arbitrary. I think this concept encodes why beginners often give up languages. Something that has worked for me and for many people is called "spaced repetition." Using SR can be very advantageous as well as very motivating. You know that in a short time you can get to the level where you at least have a general idea about a lot that's written in the language. The key is to make consistent progress. I'm not sure if I spend more than 3 hours a week learning Spanish, but I spread that out so I learn a little each day. As with so many other endeavors in life, doing a little each day is much more effective than doing a lot once a week. If you are a beginner, not only are a certain number of study hours necessary, but this must also be accomplished within a short enough period of time to see real progress. When you know the core vocabulary and the basic concepts of syntax, the language stops being completely arbitrary, and you can relate things you learn to the ones you already know. Yes, it takes practice, dedication, and determination, but a consistent daily effort seems far better than trying to eat the whole watermelon at once. As the learning process continues, we will reach the point where exposure to new concepts just fits our cognitive ability.

Four final thoughts if you will:

1. Tell yourself that language learning is simple even if it's not easy. You just need time and patience.

2. Don't listen to those who tell you that you can't do it. Most people around you have never learned a foreign language. You are different. You know you can become very good if you just stay consistent. 

3. Find the best textbook to learn the language you target. One book is enough. Go slowly, and do all the exercises.

4. Don't be afraid to fail. Everyone makes mistakes. We all have setbacks. Use the "fall forward" approach. Fail quickly, then listen to the correction. Failure can = improvement.

Hopefully these are some useful tips you can use in your learning. Bonne chance! 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

God Will Not Overlook Even the Smallest Effort

Today I wore my holy ("hole-y") shirt to the gym. I've had it for years. I should probably throw it away but I can't bring myself to do that. 

Earlier I studied 1 Thess. 4:1 in my morning Bible time at Bo's. 

As I read, an idea began forming in my subconscious mind. I let it surface and examined it. Here's what I discovered. 

You don't have to have mastered New Testament Greek to please Jesus. 

You see, the brilliant thing with these new Thessalonian believers is that a start had been made with a life that pleases God. The Thessalonians were already pleasing him. Paul says so, right here: "Now then, dear brothers and sisters, we urge and exort you in the Lord Jesus that, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more." Paul's 3-week mission in Thessalonica had begun a church, and these former pagans in that city had made their start. 

Greek student: Have you done that? Are you on the way to doing that -- making a start with New Testament Greek -- however tentatively, however anxiously, however imperfectly? Have we taken that first step? If we have, then we are already pleasing to God! That's so encouraging. What a joy as a student to wake up every morning and say, "How can I please God in my studies today?" Paul is overwhelmed with thanksgiving that his new friends in Thessalonica have begun so well. Now he says, maintain and increase the impetus. "Are you pleasing God?" he asks. "Yes," he says, "and I am so grateful for that. Now you must do this more and more."

As students of Greek, let that be our motivation. "I want to please God more and more in my studies." Becoming a serious student of the Bible is a process, not a step. You start off with the alphabet and then you gradually become more and more proficient in the language. It is a long process. It is a lifelong process. But, says Paul, that's God will for us. That is what pleases him. He will not overlook even the smallest effort.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Spring Time on the Farm

Balancing a professional career with a rural lifestyle hasn't always been easy, but I think I'm getting the hang of it. When it's springtime there's no greater joy than sprucing up the farm, including spraying Round Up next to all the houses and outbuildings. 

The day was beautiful. Temps are warming up, and the fields are eager to be cultivated. One of my kids came over today and cut a beautiful flower off a bush he planted over 20 years ago. He was so excited, and so was I. My daughter brought me some freshly baked banana bread. Two of our goats should be giving birth shortly. The sheep are as sweet as ever. Tomorrow I hope to spread some fresh mulch around the trees in the front yard. 

There is always something to do here the whole year round.

The Joy of Being a Novice

It's always so much fun to listen to a student after class go on and on about how they are enjoying their study of Greek. We've only covered 9 chapters out of 26 but already they feel the joy of mastering what they have learned even though there is still so much farther to go. When you start something new, be it a language or a sport, you'll be a bit bewildered about everything. But your heart will be on fire. That's the spirit I urge you to embrace as you follow me on my weight lifting journey. Here I am after today's workout. 

Every second of it was enjoyable. When you start something new, don't overthink it. Just plunge in with your whole heart. I remember teaching myself German before heading off to Basel. I began with sentences like "Das ist ein Mann," or "Ist das Butter?" I can't tell you how exciting it was to make progress even if it was at a snail's pace. Every little inch of progress feels special. Being a beginner is scary at times, but nothing will ever replace that initial fire that got you started in the first place. 

No matter how old you are, don't be reluctant to try something new. Being a beginner is such a blessing! 

Monday, March 20, 2023

The "I Don't Have Time" Excuse

Did you know that 5 million Americans waste almost 2 billion dollars each year on unused gym memberships? But here's the deal. Even with spending only 1 hour, 3 times a week at the gym, you still can totally see great progress. Let's dump the "I don't have time" excuse for good. 

It's Gonna Be Hard

We're at that point in the semester where studying is just plain hard. But remember: The act of transforming yourself into a serious student of the New Testament is much more than merely taking courses in Greek. It's you sacrificing who you are to become who you want to be, and then using steel to beat your new form into being. So yeah, it's gonna be hard. 

Matt. 1:21 in Hebrew!

"Personal pronouns" is our topic du jour in Greek class today. Look at all the verses in the New Testament we get to translate as a result.

One of my examples is Matt. 1:21, where the English reads, "You will call his name Jesus, for he himself will save his people from their sins." "Jesus," of course, is Hebrew for "The Lord saves." It was a very common name in the first century. But what made the naming of this Jesus unique is that not only would he be called "The Lord saves," he is the Lord who saves. The word play is made abundantly clear in the Hebrew:

The circled word on the right is "Jesus" (Yeshua). The circled word on the left is the verb "he will save" (yoshia). 

Yeshua yoshia! 

Yep -- Hebrew is practical not only for Old Testament study but also for New Testament study. 

Matthew 1 in Hebrew. 

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Gym Etiquette

In my first year of gym work I've gotten tips and advice from others in the gym. Here's one of the best. Don't ask, "How many sets do you have left?" When people are working out they usually don't want to be interrupted. They want to focus on the exercise they're doing without having someone pressuring them to finish. Just be patient and find a different exercise to do until they're done. 

Where Do You Worship?

What a difference it would make in all of our lives if we really understood that the answer to the question "Where do you worship?" is not "First Baptist" or "St. Paul's" but "everywhere."

A Brief Reflection on Singleness

This year Becky and I would have celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary. But God had other plans. The older you get, the more you realize that relationships aren't quite the facile, simple thing of story books. Mistakes are made. Casualties are sustained. Death intervenes. 

I have now been single for almost 10 years. One thing I've discovered is that singleness is a gift of God. That's exactly what Paul calls it in 1 Cor. 7:7 -- a charism, a grace gift. This one verse unlocks the entire chapter. "Each person has his or her own grace gift from God." There isn't one fixed plan for every Christian when it comes to marriage. Marriage is the norm, no question about it. Paul exalts and elevates it. Marriage is a precious gift of God to the human race. I recall this every time I run the Dallas Marathon, which goes past the exact spot on White Rock Lake where I proposed to Becky in 1976. Paul is all for wholehearted, full-blooded marriage. He himself, of course, had the gift of singleness. He was able to cope with it and make it work in his own life. To be single is to possess a charismatic gift from the Lord, just as much as it is to be married. Singleness is a calling. It isn't for everybody. It might not even be my permanent calling. But at the moment it is my calling. The world says, "Get teamed up at all costs." It fails to see every phase of life as a precious opportunity to fulfillment and usefulness. 

Every calling has its opportunities and privileges, and every calling has its restrictions and challenges. Paul wants everyone to know that marriage is an option -- it's not for everyone -- and that there are some really good things awaiting those who pursue God's calling to singleness.

Two Bible Reading Hacks

When Paul writes a sentence like, "We do not want you to be ignorant" (1 Thess. 4:13), he's using a figure of speech called litotes. A litotes expresses an affirmation by denying its opposite. Paul really means, "We really want you to know!" Remember that the next time you see a litotes when reading the Bible.

Also, in the ancient world, reading was done aloud. Today we read silently unless we're reading to children. Studies have shown that we're able to recall about 30% of words we read aloud but only 10% of words we read silently, partly because reading aloud is relatively slow due to the extra step of producing sounds. Try reading the Bible out loud and see if that makes any difference in your understanding of the passage or its retention in your brain. And, of course, if you're studying Greek vocabulary, you will always want to say the words out loud in addition to writing them down. 

Saturday, March 18, 2023

How Bad Is Missing a Week of Study in Your Greek Class?

My beginning Greek grammar has 26 chapters. I designed it so that a teacher could cover 13 chapters each semester -- certainly a manageable load for most students. But even the most dedicated students will miss a class every now and then. Is that bad, and will it have a negative impact on your results?

First off, keep in mind that if you're only missing one class a semester, this really isn't an issue in terms of your overall learning. It does represent a missed opportunity to truly master that lesson by participating in class discussion and in doing some of the exercises in class with your instructor, but it won't actually have an overall negative effect. So even if you do miss one class during the semester, you'll be fine as long as you study that chapter on your own and keep the rest of your study habits consistent throughout the remainder of the semester. 

At the beginning of each semester I always tell my students, "Try not to miss a class if you can avoid it. It's not impossible to get caught back up if you do, but it will makes things more difficult for you. Greek is already challenging enough without having to play catch up." 

In any case, if you're asking, "What will happen if I have to miss a day of class?", then the answer is that if it only happens rarely it probably won't make any difference in the overall picture. If you do have to miss a class, just get back on track the best you can and don't stress out about it. Having to miss a class on occasion in college or seminary is normal, but try to make sure that it's rare. 

Friday, March 17, 2023

Sports and Happiness

David Price's essay 3 Questions to Detect Sports Idolatry is one of my favorites on the subject. Here are 5 of my favorite takeaways from the article:

  • "God didn't create sports; people did. But people created sports in response to the world God created."
  • "... God's gifts are always in danger of getting turned into idols."
  • "Is your commitment to sports standing in for delight in God?"
  • "Unthinking rejection or unthinking enjoyment of sports are both failures of Christian discipleship."
  • "The Christian with a rightly-ordered, Christ-centered worldview is uniquely positioned to enjoy athletic competition as a good gift from God."

At 70, if not grown wiser, I have at least come to understand how important activity is. How could anyone not enjoy being active when he or she is in union with the One in whom we live, move, and have our being? Now I realize that while both activity and relaxation are sources of happiness, there is a greater happiness to be found in the companionship of God in all one does. I continue to strive for that goal. 

Fun with Palindromes

If you use my beginning Greek grammar, you might not realize it, but by chapter 6 you have encountered two Greek palindromes, sophos ("wise") and alla ("but"). Palindrome is a Greek word meaning "running back again." It refers to a word or sentence that reads exactly the same forwards and backwards (as in sophos and alla). Here's a longer Greek example, attributed to the fourth century church father Gregory of Nazianzuz:

  • "Nipson anomēmata mē monan opsin."
  • "Wash my transgressions, not only my face." 

Apparent, palindromes are literally in our genes. I've always enjoyed these examples:

  • "A man, a plan, a canal, Panama!" 
  • "Step on no pets."
  • "Madam, I'm Adam." (Her name "Eve," of course, is also a palindrome.) 
  • "Too far, Edna, we wander afoot."
  • "Was it Eliot's toilet I saw?" 
  • "So many dynamos!"
  • "Tis in a potato pan I sit."
  • "Was it a rat I saw?" 
  • "Racecar."
  • "Kayak." 
  • "Deified."
  • "Rotator."

Here's one in German:

  • "Nie grub Ramses Marburg ein."
  • "Never did Ramses bury Marburg." 

And in French, if you ask someone if they know a palindrome and they say, "non," they just used a palindrome. There's got to be a palindrome in Hawaiian but I haven't found it yet. 

Finally, I leave you language geeks with a challenge to translate this Hebrew palindrome.


Thursday, March 16, 2023

Fascination with Plurals

Languages are inherently messy things. With lots of exceptions to the rules. This leads to all sorts of questions like, "What, then, are all those rules for?" I was reminded of this on Monday when a student asked me about these three words:

  • hoi agathoi mathētai
  • The good disciples

He said, "Look at those endings. Why aren't they all -oi?" The answer is that grammatical agreement doesn't necessarily mean there will be agreement in spelling. 

English has its own fair share of weird plurals. What, for example, is the plural of "mongoose"? 

I'm reminded of that old tale about the zookeeper who wanted to buy a pair of these animals but wasn't sure what the plural was. So he wrote, "Please send me a mongoose. And while you're at it, please send me another." In Hebrew, the plural of "cherub" is "cherubim." Which made me chuckle the first time I read "cherubims" in the King James Version. (Yes, it actually uses that word.) 

An example you're probably more familiar with is "alumni," as in "I'm an alumni of Biola University." Alumni is actually plural. The correct singular form would be alumnus (for a man) and alumna (for a woman). "Data" is a plural noun, the singular being "datum." Yet we still say, "The data is clear." (Pedants, of course, will insist that we use the "correct" verb "are.") Ditto for "The criteria [plural noun] is ...." 

If you're really smart, you can tell me the plural of "vortex." But if you're a fairly normal human being, you probably can't. Oh, and did you know the plural of the Latin word "opus" is "opera"? Aaargh!!!!

Plurals are endlessly fascinating to language fanatics. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Tonight's Walk

Improving Your Posture Through Pull Ups

Like other tall men, I've never had the best posture. You are most likely slouching due to weakness in your upper back, specifically the thoracic spine. It is not only causing a pelvic tilt, but it is forcing your shoulders to round forward. As I've started working out and lifting, I've noticed a remarkable improvement in my posture. I actually know what it feels like to stop slouching and stand upright. It's not just about having strong glutes but about strengthening the thoracic spine. And the one exercise that has been of most benefit to me in this regard has got to be the pull up. 

It not only targets your upper back but also mobilizes the spine and helps strengthen the lats. I have begun performing about 35 daily pull ups, 5 days a week. I am so thankful to God for the results. Right now I believe that good posture is a prerequisite for a quality running performance. 

I wish you all the best in your life and your endeavors to be the fittest person you can possibly be.

On the Craft of Teaching

Teaching is demanding and sometimes frustrating work. But it offers the reward of great joy and fulfillment to those who have been called to it and who throw themselves into it with prayer, love, and vision. God bless all you teachers out there! 

For All the Saints (Best Version Ever!)

Watch this fabulous singing of the great hymn, "For All the Saints."

Look at the audience/choir as the camera passes over them. Music sung like this is surely enough to stop most mortals right in their tracks. Just watching this from home on my computer with my humble little speakers, I was able to feel the power and emotion of every note. I can only imagine what it must have been to be there and hear it live. I have never heard this hymn sung with such dedication and feeling before. I am in tears. Thank you, British evangelicals, for your magnificent rendition of the hymn I thought of the moment Becky went home to heaven. 

Why I Love the Anabaptists

They believed in:

  • serving instead of ruling
  • biblical authority instead of ecclesiastical tradition
  • brotherhood instead of hierarchy
  • the towel instead of the sword
  • the headship of Christ instead of that of any pastor
  • the church as a living organism rather than as a human institution
  • the reign of God instead of a political kingdom
  • the power of suffering instead of the cult of power
Michael Sattler, Anabaptist martyr.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Skinny Me!

There's really no purpose to this picture other than I wanted you to see that I once wore a tie while growing up in Hawaii. 

My guess is that it was Easter time. The other thing you'll notice is that I was on the skinny side. As in "skinny-as-a-rail" skinny. Now, the locals where I lived tended to be the opposite. Hefty would be an understatement. This meant that I was often made fun of because of my scrawny appearance. I remember once seeing a guy in Intermediate School who had these giant veins sticking out of his biceps. Man, that looked cool. Life, I guess you could say, turned competitive. "I can look like that, too," I said secretly. Of course, I never did. Luckily, I didn't care that much. I was skinny old me. Plus, who needed big muscles to paddle out to Flat Island? 

Reminiscing about this got me thinking about all the random stages of weight I've gone through during my 70 years on this planet. Oh man, how I "loved" seeing my love handles for the first time. You know how it goes. As time goes on you get careless about your diet and lack of exercise. In an effort to get fit, I began changing my eating habits. I never abstained from anything in particular. I just wanted to eat cleaner. Then I began running. Running to lose weight is all fine and dandy as long as you balance that with healthy eating and some very basic weight training. That's where things pretty much stand for me today about 58 years after that picture was taken. 

The truth is, we all have to look in the mirror. My body type is large, which means I will never look the same way I did when I was a kid. All I can try and do is model moderation, balanced eating, and moving your body in a way that makes you happy. For most of us, we only have ourselves to blame if we are overweight or obese. You may be sick of hearing me talk about it, but I believe we have a responsibility to take care of the temples God has entrusted to us. 

Major kudos to all of you out there who have quit making excuses and who wake up every morning thinking about how grateful you are that you get to move your body that day. Remember, what you do every day matters more than what you do every once in a while. Health is something to start caring about today. And maybe, just maybe, the only thing that needs to change is your way of thinking. 

"Missionaries" Or "Mission-Partners"?

A well-known evangelical church in London refuses to call their 46 members who have been sent abroad "missionaries." They prefer instead "mission-partners." They realize that the "mission field" is all around them, and they go out to make friends with them, not with any hidden motive but simply to share with them the love with which Jesus has loved us all. All -- sent and senders alike -- are partners in mission. 

The problem in using the term "missionaries," as in "This Sunday our guest speaker will be a missionary," is that it implies that we are not all missionaries. Such a mindset makes us oblivious to the field all around us and to our responsibility to share the Good News with others. 

I think I'll start using that wonderful expression from now on: mission-partners

Is It Spring Yet?

Ready for warmer weather. Brr. 

How Should We Translate Pros in John 1:1?

Ever get stuck in a rut? I do. But I don't mind because I actually enjoy the rut I'm in.

Bible study.



See? RUT!

If you inspect the first photo above, you'll see that I was in John 1 this morning. Here's why. Last night in Greek class, I had the joy of introducing my students to the most common prepositions in that language. Four of them can be rendered "with," including the one circled below. 

The main idea of pros is "to" or "toward." Only occasionally does it mean "with." You normally find meta or sun meaning "with." However, when John writes "and the word was with God" in verse 1, he uses the less common word pros


Here are my thoughts, and they are guaranteed to bore you to tears. 

It seems that the Greek preposition pros implies something that neither meta nor sun do. You can't see this so much in English but you can in other European languages. All major English translations of John 1:1 stick with the conventional "with" in John 1:1. Likewise, most Spanish translations use the normal Spanish word for "with" ("con"), though I did find one that used "junto a" instead. French, you ask? French translations all use the normal word for "with" ("avec"). Finally, what did the Germans do? Now this is where things get really interesting. Every beginning student of German knows that the normal word for "with" in that language is "mit." But in John 1:1, all the German Bibles I was able to consult used "bei" instead. 

So that's the raw data. Let's unpack it. 

Let's begin with Spanish. This morning at the gym there were three ladies speaking Spanish with each other. They were happy to answer a very simple question I posed to them: "Cuál es la diferencia entre 'con' y 'junto a'?" Here's basically what they said. See all these people in the gym? We are "con" them. But you and I? We are "junto a" each other. The idiom "junto a," they said, implies "next to," "beside," "alongside," or "near." Here's an example:

  • "Fabiola siempre se sienta junto a Lorenzo cuando hay examen para poder copiarse de él."
  • "Fabiola always sits with (= next to) Lorenzo when there's a test so she can copy from him." 

This is the same concept you find in German between "mit" (again, the usual word for "with") and "bei." In German, you use "bei" when 

1. Stating that something is nearby:

  • "Die Tankstelle ist bei dem Einkaufszentrum." 
  • "The gas station is next to (right by) the shopping center."

2. Stating that something or someone is at a place or an event:

  • "Sie lebt bei ihrer Tante."
  • "She lives with her aunt."

3. During an event while one is doing something:

  • "Sie ist beim Rennen hingefallen."
  • "She fell while running."

With both the Spanish "junto a" and German "bei," the emphasis seems to be on the physical proximity of something. Oddly enough, this is precisely the same distinction in Latin between its normal word for with ("cum") and the word the Vulgate uses in John 1:1 ("apud"). This idea is completely lacking in the English word "with"! 

So what to do in John 1:1? I don't really know. There are so many subtle nuances in the Greek that maybe it's simply impossible to transfer all of them into English. But in my opinion, anything is better than a simple "with." Let me grab Williams' and Wuest's paraphrases from my shelves and see what they do with John 1:1. Here's the Williams New Testament:

"In the beginning the Word existed; and the Word was face to face with God; yea, the Word was God Himself."

And here's Kenneth Wuest's The New Testament: An Expanded Translation:

"In the beginning the Word was existing. And the Word was in fellowship with God the Father. And the Word was as to His essence absolute deity." 

Notice that Wuest adds "the Father," no doubt echoing the thought of verse 18 that Jesus is "in the bosom of the Father," meaning that Jesus and the Father have always enjoyed the closest possible intimacy. My own paraphrase might sound something like this:

"Before anything else existed, there was the Word. He has always enjoyed intimate fellowship with God the Father. In fact, the Word himself was God."

Much more could be said about John 1:1 but I've got to clean the house. There are depths in this verse which we will never plumb. All I've done is to paddle in the shallows. I can say I'm still glad I tried. Digging deeper like this is very rewarding to me personally. John 1:1 is symbolic for me of the careful attention to detail God paid when introducing his Son to us. 

So ... your turn. How would you render John 1:1? 

Monday, March 13, 2023

Van Bruggen's The Ancient Text of the New Testament

I'm in Wake Forest for my sports massage and my Greek class and lookie here what I found on my shelf:

I bought it in 1976, the year I began teaching. Most people have never heard of Jakob van Bruggen but he was a leading textual scholar in his day. The book is about the rejection of the Byzantine text -- as well as its value, age, and nature. Can it ever be rehabilitated? he asks. Great question! 

You can get a copy of the book here

Sunday, March 12, 2023

That Dastardly Word "The"

My poor Greek students. Recently I had them learn the word for "the" in Greek. 

It has 24 forms. Yes, 24! I had to explain to them that, well, European languages seem to have a fetish for articles, unlike, say, Mandarin, which has none. Now, if you've ever studied German, all of this will be familiar to you. German, like Greek, has three genders, which means that articles can be masculine, feminine, or neuter. They can also be singular or plural, and they either be in one of the four so-called "cases": nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative. Moreover, in German, all the other words you use with the article have these things as well. 

Believe it or not, at one time English had different forms of "the" for the three genders. How, then, did all of these forms become simply "the"? Nobody knows for sure. The most popular theory is that it happened during the Middle English period (1100-1400). People in Britain then had two languages around  -- Old English and Old Norse. Both of these languages had genders, but quite often the genders didn't match up. It's sort of like "apple" is masculine German but feminine in French. It's thought that this confusion was enough for people to stop bothering about gender at all. I recall a similar phenomenon while traveling in northern Germany, where "Plattdeutsch" (Low German) is spoken. Plattdeutsch is kind of a cross between German and English. As a result, you might expect it to handle the word "the" a bit uniquely. This is, in fact, the case. Plattdeutsch has just one article for both masculine and feminine words. It is de. If something is neuter, you say dat, though you can also say de. So it's de Appel, de Beer, and dat/de Water. (High German: Der Apfel, die Birne, das Wasser.) 


I tried to reassure my dear students that learning the gender of words in Greek (or any other language) is not necessarily a nightmare but just something you do as you go along. Your brain can handle it. My native English has no genders, but the other languages I know either have three (Greek, Latin, German, Dutch) or two (French, Spanish). Currently, I'm teaching myself Hawaiian. In Hawaiian, you use both ke and ka to translate "the." Ka is the most commonly used form (about 80 percent of words). This means that if you have to guess which form to use, guess ka. Ke is used before words that begin with these letters:

  • k
  • a
  • e
  • o

All other words take ka (with very few exceptions). Here are some examples:

  • ke akua (the god)
  • ke kanaka (the man, human)
  • ke lani (the heaven)
  • ka wahine (the woman)
  • ka 'ohana (the family)
  • ke kupuna (the grandparent)
  • ka makua (the parent)
  • ke keiki (the child)
  • ke aloha (the love)
  • ke kula (the school) 
  • ka aina (the land)
  • ke eia (the life)
  • ke kai (the sea)
  • ka mokupuni (the island)
  • ka pono (the righteousness) 
  • ka hale (the house)

Our state motto is (as kids we could recite this by heart):

Ua mau ke eia o ka aina i ka pono. 

Literally: "Is perpetuated the life of the land in the righteousness" = "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness." Lovely, don't you think? 

So how do you make Hawaiian nouns plural? Interestingly, while English nouns change their form to make a plural, Hawaiian nouns do not. Instead, both ke and ka change to . Thus ke keiki (the child) becomes nā keiki (the children). Otherwise, you can't tell whether a noun is singular or plural in Hawaiian except by the context. When I was growing up, I sometimes heard someone say in church, "Now the keikis will be dismissed to children's church." But that's not exactly correct. You just need to say, "Now the keiki will be dismissed to children's church." Here's another example that you might be familiar with if you've ever been to Kauai. "The Nā Pali overlook is one of the most visited sights on that island." Pali is the Hawaiian word for "cliff." So what would Nā Pali mean? That's right! You akamai! 

Okay, that will have to do for now. Gotta go and check up on the sheep -- or is it nā hipa/ta probata/die Schafe/las ovejas/het schaap/les moutons?????

Baa bye! 

A Simple Hack for Studying Greek

Establishing a regular schedule of study can be even more important than having a lot of time. Without discipline, time can easily be wasted. With a regular routine of study, even small swaths of time can produce great results. 

Fellow Teachers, Do We Love Our Students?

It's snowing today and so I will be indoors all day, examining some of the most important textual variants in the New Testament, including this one in 1 Thess. 2:7. 

The question is, did Paul write "gentle" or "babies"? However, what started out as a study in textual criticism quickly morphed into something perhaps much more important. For as I pondered Paul's words, I was struck by his use of the metaphors "mother" and "father" to describe his work among the Thessalonians. Since I too am a teacher, I think his point is very well taken. As a mother and father to our students, we are to be gentle, affectionate, encouraging, and nurturing. As Paul writes (verse 8), "We loved you so much that we were delighted to impart to you not only the gospel of God but ourselves as well, because you had become so dear to us." The Bible tells us that, as teachers, this is how we are to be regarded by our pupils. Do we truly love them? They know whether we do or not. You cannot fake love. 

Without love, trust erodes. 

Without love, respect withers away. 

Without love, I am ultimately a failure as a teacher.

Teacher friend, do your students know you love them? Pastor friend, do your people know you love them?

In the 19th century, a Scottish pastor wrote these words:

When I was first settled in a church, I discovered a thing which nobody had told me and which I had not anticipated. I fell in love with my congregation. I do not know how otherwise to express it. It was as genuine a blossoming of the heart as any which I've ever experienced. And it made it easy for me to do anything for my people.

As with the church, so with the seminary. Our classrooms should never be places where love is absent. Let's remember that, fellow teachers, when we return to campus tomorrow. 

Saturday, March 11, 2023

"My Soul Magnifies the Lord"

Loving me some Gabrieli tonight. 

The Magnificat is one of the most ancient Christian hymns. It derives its name from the first word of the Latin Vulgate text (Luke 1:46-55): Magnificat anima mea, Dominum, "My soul magnifies the Lord." It is a paean of praise for the Lord's mercy upon Israel and for the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham and the patriarchs. The best part about this performance is that it is all Scripture. This is clearly the best interpretation out there of one of the world's most beautiful sacred pieces. Gloria Deo. 

Lloyd Ogilvie on the "Call to the Ministry"

Years ago, I published a study of Paul's letters to the Thessalonians. Imagine this scene: Your church is only a couple of months old and yet the apostle Paul can say that it has become a model congregation. In fact, as I noted yesterday, the gospel had echoed forth like a thunderclap from Thessalonica to all of Greece, both in the North (Macedonia) and in the South (Achaia). Becoming a Christian means just that -- that you simply can't keep quiet about the change that has happened in your life. Don't we see this in 1 Thess. 1:8-10? This passage is perhaps the most complete account of conversion in the New Testament. There are 3 steps:

1. The Thessalonians had "turned" to God from idols (God substitutes). 

2. They had begun a life of service to God, exchanging one form of slavery (to idols) for another (to God).

3. They had begun to look expectantly for the return of Christ, who would accomplish the final step in their salvation. 

Thus we see that from the very beginning of Paul's ministry in Europe his converts understood that they had been called to the service of God. They had been called into "full-time Christian service," if you will. We might even call this "every-member ministry." And it is all the more significant when you consider that the church at Thessalonica was still in its infancy.

For the life of me, I can't fathom why more churches today don't take this teaching more seriously. For it is God's will that every local church should be filled with faithful "ministers" from all walks of life. Indeed, as Paul makes clear elsewhere (Eph. 4:11-12), the responsibility of elders is not to monopolize but to multiply ministries. 

In this wonderful interview with Lloyd Ogilvie, we hear this great pastor say the following:

The Bible is very clear that anyone who believes in Christ is called into the ministry. So the church ought to be an equipping center for the ministry of the laity. It's what happened beyond the church. You know, I remember Dick Halverson, whom I mentioned earlier. He said you can't send people into the world to do the work of ministry. They're already there. And what a great insight that was.... God has deployed the laity to do the ministry. I remember, I always refused to call myself a "minister." I believe that every Christian in my congregation was a minister. So sometimes I put on the front of the bulletin: 4 pastors and 6,000 ministers. 

Friend, read that again. 

I have yet to see the following on a church marquee. Maybe yours will be the first. 

First Baptist Church _____________

Senior Pastor: Jesus Christ 

Ministers: Every Member

Assistants to the Ministers: The names of your pastors

This is what conversion looks like. Becoming a Christian is an acceptance of the fact that God has called you into full-time Christian service. And slowly you begin to notice that he is working on you from the inside out to give you a new purpose, new values, and a new pattern for life as a lifelong servant of Jesus Christ. 

Those So-Called "Cheat" Meals

I'm a cheater. Not only that, I advocate cheating. As in cheat meals. Even if you're trying to eat clean, you should probably forget about being a perfectionist. Personally, I allow for about 20% of my weekly meals to be so-called cheat meals from my favorite high fat, high-processed foods. Fitness is a lifelong endeavor, and trying to eat "clean" all the time is unrealistic and also totally unnecessary. As long as the majority of your diet is based on healthy, unprocessed foods, you will be able to easily meet your nutritional needs in terms of vitamins, minerals, and quality proteins. 

Here's my cheat meal for today. I had 3 tacos and a third of a glass of Pepsi. 

As you can see, I'm a Taco Bell aficionado. I not only love their tacos, I love their Doritos tacos. That's about as unhealthy as it gets. I call it "flexible" dieting, but it's actually cheating and, as I said, that's perfectly okay. 

The following pics will show you why I cheated today. Today's workout was the culmination of 5 days of intensive training at the gym. Workout intensity is the single most important factor in your entire workout plan and should be treated seriously if you want to optimize your gains. 

I always end my workouts with simple stretching exercises.

So there you have it. I cheated today because a little body pampering never hurts. Now it's back to the straight and narrow as I chase down my health and fitness goals for 2023. 

If you're a beginning bodybuilder, just understand that it's not a question of "If I put in the work I MIGHT succeed" but rather "If I put in the work I WILL succeed." (Greek students, take note!) 

Happy weekend, y'all!


Friday, March 10, 2023

Men, Don't Forget: Your Wife Is Your Sister Too

Guys, are you married? If so, you have a sister-wife. You can read my thoughts on that subject here

The Thunderclap of the Gospel

One of my favorite Pauline letters is 1 Thessalonians, which I was reading this morning in my Bible time

I've taught the exegesis of this book some 20 times in my career. If you're anything like me, it's impossible to think of the apostle Paul without thinking about missions. It's almost as if that's all he thought about. Missions was serious business with Paul. He knew it would take blood, sweat, and tears. And the flame of the gospel, once it began to fan out into (and beyond) Europe, eventually ended up on an island in the Pacific where an 8-year old boy took a deep breath, steeped into the aisle, and went forward in church to surrender his life to Jesus Christ. 

How did the gospel get from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth? The answer is found in 1 Thess. 1:8. Today I was awestruck by the verb Paul uses to describe it. See that word I've circled? 

That one word tells us exactly everything we need to know about what the great Roland Allen once called "the spontaneous expansion of the church." But here's the interesting thing. No one is quite sure about the best way to translate the word into English. The Greek verb comes from exēcheō. A shorter form of this verb is found two times in the New Testament, where we find both of its possible meanings:

  1. to echo/sound/ring out = 1 Cor. 13:1 "resounding gong"
  2. to make a loud noise = Luke 21:25 "roaring of the sea" 

Of course, I couldn't wait to see how various translations rendered the word. Here's a sampling:

  • NIV = rang out
  • ESV = sounded forth
  • KJV = sounded out
  • Luther = ist auserschollen
  • Schlachter = ist ... erklungen
  • LBLA = ha resonada
  • DHH = se ha extendido
  • LSG = a retenti
  • Vulgate = diffamatus est

All of these translation mean virtually the same thing, namely that the word of the Lord sounded forth or rang out. Coverdale, however, went with "noysed out." Which leads me back to my original question: Which idea did Paul have in mind when he used this verb: echo or noise? The church fathers don't help us much here. Chrysostom felt that Paul was referring to a trumpet call. Jerome, on the other hand, preferred the idea of loud thunder. Maybe I should leave it at that. But I am not content. Deep inside me is a God-given urge to make the best of a confusing situation, at least in my own mind. So, without any further ado, allow me to give you my 10 suggestions for rendering Paul's verb into English, beginning with my least favorite and ending with my number 1 preferred translation. Ready?

10. echoed forth

9. noised abroad

8. rang out

7. sounded forth

6. trumpeted forth

5. resounded forth

4. reverberated forth

3. rumbled forth

2. roared forth

And my NUMBER 1 choice is ... 

1. thundered forth

Hence I might render the phrase as "For the word of the Lord has thundered forth from you ...." Turn this into a paraphrase, and we get: "For the word of the Lord has echoed forth from you like a thunderclap ...." The idea is similar, I think, to an editorial I read in the New York Times after Queen Elizabeth died. It appeared on Sept. 8, 2022 and the author was Mark Landler. He wrote:

But news of her death still landed like a thunderclap across the British realm, where the queen was a revered figure and an anchor of stability. 

How about you? What's your preference? 

I'll close with the words of John Stott in his Thessalonians commentary (p. 37). He says that "the gospel proclaimed by the Thessalonians made a loud noise, which seemed to reverberate through the hills and valleys of Greece." 

Yes, even to the shores of Kailua Beach.