Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wow! Reformation Christianity still lives in Sydney

It's just sentimentality on my part (although my own background is Protestant fundamentalist, I am an atheist and brought my son up as a Catholic) but I must admit that I still do enjoy smelling a whiff of the old fire and brimstone in the article below by immensely-influential Sydney Anglican clergyman Phillip Jensen. Beliefs such as his have transformed the world

Roman Catholicism is a very diverse thing and what you see in the Philippines is not necessarily what you see in the streets of Sydney. It has a Protestant face in the Protestant world. Recently we've been getting into the Stations of the Cross here in Sydney with World Youth Day in 2008, but not all 14 Stations of the Cross are going to be done, only I think eight of the Stations of the Cross - I can't remember the exact number.

The ones that are going to be done are the ones that are in the Bible, but the extra ones, like Veronica, well they're not in the Bible. They're not going to be done in the streets of Sydney. Now in one sense it is because they haven't got time, space and energy to do all of them, and in one sense it is out of courtesy to Protestants that they choose to leave out the ones that are not in the Bible.

But if Martin Luther came into Sydney and saw Roman Catholicism and its Stations of the Cross, he'd say, "Ah, they've cleaned up their act." So there are certain aspects of Catholicism in the Protestant world which are much more acceptable to where Luther would have been.

But no. Things are actually worse than in Luther's day because since Luther's day the Roman Catholic Church not only calcified itself explicitly against justification by faith alone, or the authority of the scriptures alone, or salvation by grace alone, etcetera; not only calcified itself against that back at the Council of Trent but since then you've had the Vatican I Council in 1870, which clarified the idea that the Pope can speak infallibly.

A faithful Roman Catholic would say, "Well, they're just saying what we've always believed," but in fact it was not until 1870 that it was ever said that this is really what the belief is. Since then we're not too sure how often the Pope has spoken infallibly but the one occasion on which everyone agrees he did was in the 1950s when he declared that Mary had been bodily assumed from the grave. Well, that's not in the Bible anywhere. And why would she be bodily assumed from the grave? It's all part of the Maryology that has come in. It has also identified the immaculate conception of Mary; that is, that Mary was without sin. Well, that's nowhere in the Bible.

So since the Reformation we've had the infallibility of the Pope, the sinlessness of Mary, the bodily assumption of Mary. These things show you that Roman Catholicism has moved since the Reformation - but it has moved further away from us, not closer to us.

NOW in Vatican II there was an opening up - people were "separated brothers" and things like that - but with all due respect to the genuineness of their attempts to be more ecumenically open - and certainly I'm appreciative of the sense of which we can live in a tolerant acceptance of each other - it was only a year or two ago that the Pope made quite clear that the Anglican Church, Presbyterians, are sects, cults; we are not the true church.

So you can't get salvation through us; you are moved into fairly serious deviation. And so Protestants can be very warm and fuzzy towards Roman Catholicism but it's not actually reciprocal. We are not really seen as God's people in Christ Jesus because the Pope is seen as the vicar of Christ. Now from a Bible-believing point of view, that is an appalling blasphemy because the Holy Spirit is the vicar of Christ.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bible publisher faces $60M federal lawsuit over homosexuality

In the article indented below, we read that a homosexual is upset that some Bibles translate the Greek word "arsenokoites" in 1 Corinthians 6:9 as "homosexual" instead of "sodomite". Politeness gets you nowhere, it seems. My Abbott-Smith Greek Lexicon just gives "sodomite" as the meaning of the word. The word that Americans spell as "ass" (NOT meaning a donkey) is spelt and pronounced in the British Commonwealth as "arse". It is tempting to see a convergence with the Greek there!

I note that the highly-regarded New English Bible published by the Oxford University Press renders the passage as "homosexual perversion". Wow! Are they in big trouble! Actually, nobody is in big trouble. The lawsuit is so thin that it is obviously just "go-away" money that the guy and his lawyer want. I hope Zondervan resists.

Some more points: The historic Geneva Bible translates the word as "buggerers" so that is pretty frank too. And note that in the original Greek, St Paul groups together for condemnation both sodomites and effeminates ("malakoi oute arsenokoitai") so it is perfectly clear that he is condemning homosexuality generally -- JR

Christian publisher Zondervan is facing a $60 million federal lawsuit filed by a man who claims he and other homosexuals have suffered based on what the suit claims is a misinterpretation of the Bible. But a company spokeswoman says Zondervan doesn't translate the Bible or own the copyright for any of the translations. Instead, she said in a statement, the company relies on the "scholarly judgment of credible translation committees." That is to say, setting aside whether the federal civil rights lawsuit is credible, the company says Bradley Fowler sued the wrong group.

His suit centers on one passage in scripture -- 1 Corinthians 6:9 -- and how it reads in Bibles published by Zondervan. Fowler says Zondervan Bibles published in 1982 and 1987 use the word homosexuals among a list of those who are "wicked" or "unrighteous" and won't inherit the kingdom of heaven. Fowler says his family's pastor used that Zondervan Bible, and because of it his family considered him a sinner and he suffered.

Now he is asking for an apology and $60 million. "To compensate for the past 20 years of emotional duress and mental instability," [I can believe the mental instability] Fowler told 24 Hour News 8 in a phone interview. He claims the company is misinterpreting the Bible by specifically using the word homosexuals. Fowler admits that every Bible printed is a translation, interpreted in some way, but he says specifically using that word is not a translation but a change. "These are opinions based on the publishers," he said. "And they are being embedded in the religious structure as a way of life."

More here

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The anarthrous predicate in John chapter 1

Apologies for that technical heading. I am just following up on the point of Greek grammar that I raised yesterday. What it is all about is the way ancient Greeks used their word for "the" (the definite article -- which is "ho" in our Greek case in John 1:1). In New Testament Greek, the classical Greek usage of referring to "The god" (ho theos) was adopted, rather than using simply "God" (theos). "Theos" was in other words treated as a noun rather than a name. So the god of the Hebrews was referred to as "The god", just as Zeus in the Greek pantheon was referred to as "The god".

So whether anybody is referred to as "The god" (ho theos) or not is significant. In the NT it is the Greek equivalent of our name "God". I hope that is not too obscure.

And the point about John 1:1 is that the Logos (word) is NOT refered to as "The god" (ho theos) but rather as "god' (theos). So the Logos is of the substance of gods but not "The god".

An objection that sometimes arises to that interpretation, however, is that there is a custom in Greek writing, perhaps a lazy or an economical custom, of omitting the definite article in the predicate (the anarthrous predicate) if it is already given in the subject. This is sometimes urged as the explanation for the missing definite article in the predicate of John 1:1.

While that may be true in general, however, it is clearly not applicable to John's writing in the passsage concerned. Just a few lines down in John 1 we read: "kai ee zoe een to phos ton anthropou" ("and the life was the light of men"). The article is used in BOTH the predicate and the subject. And note that John is again there referring elliptically to the same guy whom he earlier referred to as the "logos" (word). In both cases he is referring to Jesus Christ. So John was writing carefully there and was clearly NOT adopting the anarthrous predicate convention.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Geneva Bible

A great pleasure! I have just received my copy of the recently reprinted Geneva Bible, the translation that the Pilgrim Fathers mainly used. The Geneva Bible was the popular version in the English-speaking world until the "official" King James Bible gradually supplanted it.

I bought my copy via World Net Daily and it cost me rather a lot, which may seem rather mad since I already have many Bibles, including three recensions of the Greek New Testament (i.e. in the original Greek) and some excellent modern translations. But it is exciting to read the words of the Bible just as they were read by the great English Protestant reformers who changed the world and whose reforms are the basis of our entire modern civilization.

Because it was so popular in its day, the Geneva Bible underwent many printings, not all of which were identical. The version I have is a reproduction of a 1599 printing. The King James Bible, of course, was first printed in 1611.

I tend to judge Bible translations by their translation of the first few verses of the Gospel of John. John 1:1 is much used by afficianados of the originally pagan Trinity doctrine to justify their nonsensical dogma. So I was most pleased to see that the Geneva translators gave in their footnote a much better sense of the original Greek than we usually see. The Geneva Bible was renowned in its day for its many informative footnotes and they are still a useful resource. The explanatory footnote for John 1:1 reads: "The son of God is of one, and the selfsame eternity or everlastingness, and of one and the selfsame essence or nature, with the father". That puts the sense of the original much more clearly than the literal translation of the original text itself. The underlying idea in the Greek original -- that the Logos was of divine essence -- is clearly there in the Geneva footnote.

If I were to express the meaning of the original Greek in a purely Anglo-Saxon vocabulary, I would translate it as "And of god-stuff was the word". (See also my many previous exegetical comments on John 1:1 -- e.g. here and here)

So the Geneva Bible did allow the people of the 16th century to get close to the original meaning of the New Testament. And the transformative power of doing that was evident then and continues to this day. Those now ancient words still have enormous power to move the minds of men. The many clergy of the "mainstream" churches who think they have a better or more "modern" message to preach from their pulpits are just self-defeating fools. There is no substitute for the original Gospel.