Archive for the ‘study’ Category

CB022240When I wrote the previous article on reading and studying the Bible as “Splashing or Scuba” I left off at an intermediary state: “skin-diving”. From there came the nationwide news story of “Conservapedia.com” and their attempt to rewrite the Bible thousands of years later from a biased point of view and from the 1611 KJV.

That was an example of attempting to scuba-dive with no tank, regulator, BCD, octopus, and certainly no depth computer.

So, in fact, we were able to see, in the previous article how not to do it, and in the meantime some of the serious work that needs to be done if you want to go deeper in scripture.

I did a commentary on Paul’s letter to the Colossians which I am preparing for free download here at The Grand Book. It is incomplete (it ends at 4:6, but attempts to hit the meatier parts of this profound Christocentric letter).

It took me at least 6 months to write it, mostly because I had to do all of the work myself, which could be tedious. But  hey, try reading seven commentaries on one book (in detail), then doing the additional Greek word study when necessary. Then you have to type it all up (this included my creating my own Greek character font for my Mac…and NO, the “symbol” font will not work).

BCDI’ll stop whining. Point is, you at your church or small group have a tremendous opportunity.

Without trying to be critical, have you often found small groups to deal in a general, even cursory way with passages in question?

I have been to many small groups, and the idea is necessary because churches need “Church beyond Church”. So we have small group Bible studies, but are we really studying? Are we really exploring the texts of God’s Word, or are we answering pre-canned questions looking for the “right” answer, or afraid of speaking the wrong one?

Admittedly, I am not the norm. I was built to both teach and to go deep. This is not required of everyone by ANY stretch of the imagination. But wouldn’t you like to have other biblical images and passages that you understood come to mind as your preacher or pastor delivered their message on Sunday mornings or at a weekly study?

Let me use a silly example. I bought an old Volkswagen bug. It’s a 1969 classic and beat up in some ways. The windshield wipers don’t work (which is lots of fun this time of year!) the sunroof leaks water (talk about full immersion…this is not sprinkling after a good Arkansas rain), and up until recently the hood and right front fender looked like that part of the ship in Aliens that is all corroded and looks half eaten. The carburetor in back sometimes spurts/leak gas. I keep a fire extinguisher in the passenger side of the car.

Now where would I be without a toolkit, or just standard American sockets instead of metrics?

But what if two friends from the local “Bug Club” come over with their ramps, their tool boxes, a fresh look and some experience? We can talk about the best way to really handle the “issues” at hand and think and work things through. It is also a lot more fun!

So my suggestion, along those same lines, is not that you have a master teacher (unless your pastor or biblical education teacher) but rather a facilitator who feels so led and who knows how to keep things moving and let everyone speak and be heard.  Then comes a simple, yet radical idea.

Scuba-Diving-Courses What about assigning a commentary each to people in your small group. For those more academically inclined it could be an English translation of a Greek commentary for the passage in question.

This is not as hard as it sounds. A Young Life leader taught me (a high school C- student) how to do this at age 19. So, let’s say one member shells out $25 for the complete four volume hardbound set of Vincent’s commentaries. That’s a start.

The group decides to study, say Colossians.  It is small, and written to mostly uneducated Gentiles living in what is now Turkey (Asia Minor). It shouldn’t be too hard. Next you ask your pastor or a good teacher what good commentaries are available on Colossians?

ten_plagues_puppetsSadly, these books will NOT be available at your local Christian bookstore, or very rarely. Instead, however you mtestamintsay yet be able to get either these “testamints”  ; or the Ten Plague finger puppets. Hours of fun, but they will not help you make friends or help your kids (or adults) understand the Bible (but you will have the fresh scent of mint on your breath).

So you will have to go to Amazon or CBD.com. Even at CBD you may find it hard to actually find the commentaries (it was not always so). But they are there. For individual commentaries I suggest Amazon. They may be able to get you a very affordable used copy of an important one.

Let’s say there are ten people in your small group, which means 7-8 show up (this is very good) weekly. They are more apt to show up and simply DVR or TIVO House, or Lost, or CSI whatever if they actually have something ahead of time to share. (Note: I am not being cynical. I would show up to, but would DVR  some of those programs, especially Fringe or Fast Forward) . They may also invite friends, as a small group with coffee and snacks is a lot less intimidating than church may sometimes be at first.

N.T. Wright on Colossians and Philemon

N.T. Wright on Colossians and Philemon

Divide them up as you wish, or trade off every once and awhile since you are studying the same passage together ahead of time before you meet.

For Colossians, I would get a number of commentaries: N.T. Wright’s book ($12), and F.F. Bruce’s commentary (pricey at $30 but anything by Bruce is nearly priceless). The Bruce book will be the most detailed, but still accessible (give it to a nerd like myself).

If all this seems a bit over-intellectual (I could barely write an English sentence at 19), then also add these: Max Lucado’s commentary, or  J.B. Lightfoot’s commentary updated by J.I. Packer (this may be a bit heady too, but if you can figure out Facebook apps, you can get this).

I would steer you away from good books by good men like Bill Hybels and John MacArthur because they are both somewhat “pre-processed” and that misses the whole point. Who wants to see snapshots of someone else’s scuba dive when they can dive in themselves?

No, you want to study personally, then come together to discuss what you have learned, what questions you have , and share personal reflections that relate.

51nCQ9Q9guL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_But also, a good devotional book like Sam Storms Hope of Glory, may really add a whole new devotional angle on Colossians. You may find (if someone plays music) that one or two of these reflections  take the study and frame them more personally, naturally leading to worship. Or, perhaps someone, has been assigned to find a song to play from a  CD that covers some of the issues of the passage.  Be open to letting people’s natural and spiritual giftedness come out in this!

C.S. Lewis one commented that every good piece of theology should also lead into worship.

batfish-and-scuba-divers-1Other suggestions. Create a Facebook fan page where each of you can blog in relevant passages from what you are reading ahead of time. The  key to this is to explore the depths of God’s Word together and enjoy that exploration together.  Add what you like. Journal individually, or not.

If you hit a problem or an argument breaks out about a passage talk with your pastor (though those who scuba together are taught over and over to protect and look after each other!). You can even write the author (in the age of email this is not always impossible).

Of course you can write me as well. But I prefer you first do it in your small group under your pastor’s care and encouragement. I can guarantee, that as long as you keep a humble and teachable attitude, your pastor and others will be delights, no…inspired by your studies as a group.

You will experience real connection with what you are studying and will find you are thinking about it throughout the week. I believe this is part of God’s intention in protecting and providing the Word to you and I.

As always, please leave comments and questions. If you feel you want to do this and want further advice you, or your pastor can email me and thereby get my phone number.

I am in the Greater Little Rock area to assist. Why? It’s what I do.

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"The Trinity Being Koi" oil on canvas (20"x30") Christopher MacDonald

“The Trinity Being Koi” oil on canvas (20″x30″) Christopher MacDonald

I was starting to find ways of making my long commentary on the book of Colossians available for free download here. Upon looking at it more carefully (I wrote it years ago) I realized it might be a bit frightening if it was thought that serious study of a biblical text was that lengthy.

It isn’t, or does not need to be. I wrote it as a teacher, poet and wanted to exhaust myself on the project.

The reality is the books of the Old and New Testament are amazing in that they are available enough for the youngest child to splash around in safely; yet of you wish to go deeper you can choose, skin-diving, scuba-diving, or nitrous-oxide mixture deep sea diving and never touch bottom.

It is unlike any other collection of writings I know of in this way. Even now, reviewing just the first few verses of Colossians, I see whole areas still wide open to explore.

Does that mean I do not have a basic and clear understanding of those verses now? No. I do. Does it mean that you by yourself or with a few friends could not also quickly come to that same basic and clear understanding? No. You can and if you want to, I will do my best to help you load up a simple toolbox to do just that (I know, I am mixing metaphors…sorry).

childwadingSplashing about

When kids get out in the water they love just splashing around, feeling the water… playing. Sometimes we can make study or reading of the Bible more complex than it really is. It’s unique qualities allow for both. This little video is not about the Bible, but it is about how the “learned” with their massive assumptions can often miss the simple points that a child can grasp.

Of course, it helps if that child is Albert Einstein, but still.

I do not think this little video is saying much about God’s existence. Rather it deals with, to some extend, the problem of God and evil.

Point here is that for adults a good translation (most are) of the Bible and perhaps a Bible Dictionary, can be enough to simple reading. The Bible dictionary will help answer some technical or cultural questions about things we know little about.

Having a Bible with extra wide margins can be good to write down questions or reflections.

Thomas MacDonnald skin diving in Maui

Thomas MacDonnald skin diving in Maui


For anyone who regularly skin dives you have,  just by the equipment you have purchased or rented (biofins, a good mask, snorkel)  oriented yourself to go beneath the surface. As you float ot the top look down and breathing through your snorkel you have plenty of time to decide what you want to explore and estimate your best route there.  Your fins will allow for faster propulsion for greater depth, and your mask will allow for superior visibility. And, you can go down as many times as you like (within reason. Your only drawback is not being able to stay down for a much longer time for more detailed examination.

This would be akin to having a good commentary on the book in question. Each will have advantages. Some best on language, others on culture. Then there are those who have taken the time to topographically map the whole of the Pauline corpus (all of Paul’s writings) for a grander view of major themes. This can be as simple as looking at all of Paul’s opening “salutations” and what they mean, or were meant to mean.  Or maybe something as advanced as looking up all the passages where Paul talks about “life in Christ“.

Remember you have the advantage of having all of these letters, (or most, we know one of Paul’s to the Corinthians got lost because he mentions it). While it is true that the letters to Colossae, Philemon and Ephesians probably made the “rounds to several townships” those who had Colossians in their possessions had no idea of what Paul had written Rome.

You do.

All for know. Part two later. Let me just say, both of the above are great (splashing and skin-diving). I am not suggesting everyone become a Bible scholar. And your pastors have been trained to deal with deeper issues (they have scuba equipment for your benefit).

What I am suggesting is that you have many options open to you. If someone gives you an interpretation of a passage or passages that seem bogus, they may well be. In the book of Acts the church members of Berea were called “more noble” because  they compared what itinerant teachers were passing off as truth. questioning (respectfully) is a very good thing.

My last though this morning is about how we often do “Bible study”. I think I have a new model, or if not new, perhaps a very old one that should be revisited.

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In 1999, Penguin publishing asked Irish rocker, and lead man for U2, Bono to write the introduction to a new collection of the Psalms from the King James Bible. Just as surprisingly, Bono accepted the assignment with zeal and really managed as a poet and writer himself to nail it pretty good. The book is available from Amazon and other places.


The entire text:

Explaining faith is impossible…Vision over visibility … Instinct over intellect … A songwriter plays a chord with the faith that he will hear the next one in his head.

One of the writers of the psalms was a musician, a harp-player whose talents were required at ‘the palace’ as the only medicine that would still the demons of the moody and insecure King Saul of Israel; a thought that still inspires, if not quite explaining Marilyn singing for Kennedy, or the Spice Girls in the court of Prince Charles…

At age 12, I was a fan of David, he felt familiar … like a pop star could feel familiar. The words of the psalms were as poetic as they were religious and he was a star. A dramatic character, because before David could fulfill the prophecy and become the king of Israel, he had to take quite a beating. He was forced into exile and ended up in a cave in some no-name border town facing the collapse of his ego and abandonment by God. But this is where the soap opera got interesting, this is where David was said to have composed his first psalm – a blues. That’s what a lot of the psalms feel like to me, the blues. Man shouting at God – ‘My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me?’ (Psalm 22).

I hear echoes of this holy row when un-holy bluesman Robert Johnson howls ‘There’s a hellhound on my trail’ or Van Morrison sings ‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless child’. Texas Alexander mimics the psalms in ‘Justice Blues’: ‘I cried Lord my father, Lord eh Kingdom come. Send me back my woman, then thy will be done’. Humorous, sometimes blasphemous, the blues was backslidin’ music; but by its very opposition, flattered the subject of its perfect cousin Gospel.

Abandonment, displacement, is the stuff of my favourite psalms. The Psalter may be a font of gospel music, but for me it’s in his despair that the psalmist really reveals the nature of his special relationship with God. Honesty, even to the point of anger. ‘How long, Lord? Wilt thou hide thyself forever?’ (Psalm 89) or ‘Answer me when I call’ (Psalm 5).

Psalms and hymns were my first taste of inspirational music. I liked the words but I wasn’t sure about the tunes – with the exception of Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’. I remember them as droned and chanted rather than sung. Still, in an odd way, they prepared me for the honesty of John Lennon, the baroque language of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, the open throat of Al Green and Steve Wonder – when I hear these singers, I am reconnected to a part of me I have no explanation for … my ‘soul’ I guess.

Words and music did for me what solid, even rigorous, religious argument could never do, they introduced me to God, not belief in God, more an experiental sense of GOD. Over art, literature, reason, the way into my spirit was a combination of words and music. As a result the Book of Psalms always felt open to me and led me to the poetry of Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon the book of John… My religion could not be fiction but it had to transcend facts. It could be mystical, but not mythical and definitely not ritual …

My mother was Protestant, my father Catholic; anywhere other than Ireland that would be unremarkable. The ‘Prods’ at that time had the better tunes and the Catholics had the better stage-gear. My mate Gavin Friday used to say: ‘Roman Catholicism is the Glamrock of religion’ with its candles and psychedelic colours … Cardinal blues, scarlets and purples, smoke bombs of incense and the ring of the little bell. The Prods were better at the bigger bells, they could afford them. In Ireland wealth and Protestantism went together; to have either, was to have collaborated with the enemy, i.e. Britain. This did not fly in our house.

After going to Mass at the top of the hill, in Finglas on the north side of Dublin, my father waited outside the little Church of Ireland chapel at the bottom of the hill, where my mother had brought her two sons …

I kept myself awake thinking of the clergyman’s daughter and let my eyes dive into the cinema of the stained glass. These Christian artisans had invented the movies … light projected through colour to tell their story. In the ’70s the story was ‘the Troubles’ and the Troubles came through the stained glass; with rocks thrown more in mischief than in anger, but the message was the same; the country was to be divided along sectarian lines. I had a foot in both camps, so my Goliath became religion itself; I began to see religion as the perversion of faith. As to the five smooth stones for the sling … I began to see God everywhere else. In girls, fun, music, justice but still – despite the lofty King James translation – the Scriptures.

I loved these stories for the basest reasons, not just the New Testament with its mind-altering concept that God might reveal himself as a baby born in straw poverty – but even the Old Testament. These were action movies, with some hardcore men and women … the car chases, the casualties, the blood and guts; there was very little kissing.

David was a star, the Elvis of the bible, if we can believe the chiseling of Michelangelo (check the face – but I still can’t figure out this most famous Jew’s foreskin). And unusually for such a ‘rock star’, with his lust for power, lust for women, lust for life, he had the humility of one who knew his gift worked harder than he ever would. He even danced naked in front of his troops … the biblical equivalent of the royal walkabout. David was definitely more performance artist than politician.

Anyway, I stopped going to churches and got myself into a different kind of religion. Don’t laugh, that’s what being in a rock ‘n’ roll band is, not pseudo-religion either … Show-business is Shamanism: Music is Worship; whether it’s worship of women or their designer, the world or its destroyer, whether it comes from that ancient place we call soul or simply the spinal cortex, whether the prayers are on fire with a dumb rage or dove-like desire … the smoke goes upwards … to God or something you replace God with … usually yourself.

Years ago, lost for words and forty minutes of recording time left before the end of our studio time, we were still looking for a song to close our third album, War. We wanted to put something explicitly spiritual on the record to balance the politics and the romance of it; like Bob Marley or Marvin Gaye would. We thought about the psalms … ‘Psalm 40’ … There was some squirming. We were a very ‘white’ rock group, and such plundering of the scriptures was taboo for a white rock group unless it was in the ‘service of Satan’. Or worse, Goth.

‘Psalm 40’ is interesting in that it suggests a time in which grace will replace karma, and love replace the very strict laws of Moses (i.e. fulfil them). I love that thought. David, who committed some of the most selfish as well as selfless acts, was depending on it. That the scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries used to shock me; now it is a source of great comfort.

’40’ became the closing song at U2 shows and on hundreds of occasions, literally hundreds of thousands of people of every size and shape t-shirt have shouted back the refrain, pinched from ‘Psalm 6’: “‘How long’ (to sing this song)”. I had thought of it as a nagging question – pulling at the hem of an invisible deity whose presence we glimpse only when we act in love. How long … hunger? How long … hatred? How long until creation grows up at the chaos of its precocious, hell-bent adolescence has been discarded? I thought it odd that the vocalising of such questions could bring such comfort; to me too.

But to get back to David, it is not clear how many, if any, of these psalms David or his son Solomon really wrote. Some scholars suggest the royals never dampened their nibs and that there was a host of Holy Ghost writers … Who cares? I didn’t buy Leiber and Stoller … they were just his songwriters … I bought Elvis.

There are other excellent books on the Psalms. I  would point out the one by Walter Brueggemann (anything by Brueggemann is good..just a bit “thick, if you get my drift). Also several books are on “praying the Psalms” including a hermeneutics (biblical interpretation) expert  James Sire. These type of books point out the direct usefulness of the Psalms because the Psalms are filled not only with praises, but often bitter complaints, questioning, laments…the sort of prayers that often people are afraid to pray to God, but obviously need not be.

But nobody nails the collection of Psalms like Bono. David was the first “Elvis” and his reasoning is air-tight. He also  manages to deftly, but directly answer the question “head knowledge” versus experience of God.  The one can impress a friend over espresso, but only the latter can comfort your soul when you feel genuinely lost.

Next time you wish to rail at God, pick up the Psalms and find a good one. Whether the Psalmist is King David, or an anonymous writer…the language, anguish, anger, sadness, confusion, etc are things everyone can relate to. It will give you boldness in your prayers (hey…God knows anyway, right?)

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Topics from the Conservapedia.com front page.

Topics from the Conservapedia.com front page.

Stringent note: Almost everything said here about this Conservative group and it’s flagrant fouls has been done is spades by Liberal groups in equal or worse measure. This is not about politics Left of Right. It is about messing with or changing the Word of God. Get it? 


Well, it seems certain that the new Bible “translation” by the folk at Conservapedia will not be translating the words of Jesus in red. In fact in many cases they will not be translating the Bible at all, but changing the meanings of specific passages to 1) remove anything they deem supportive of American Liberalism); and 2) to accentuate any passages that can be made to seem more Conservative, free-market and down-right Republican.

We are not talking about a commentary on the Bible by Conservatives. Nothing wrong with that except it would not be based grammatically or linguistically. We are talking about literally changing or deleting words from legitimate translations.  Here is their agenda verbatim:

Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations. There are three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning:

  • lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ
  • lack of precision in modern language
  • translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.

Of these three sources of errors, the last introduces the largest error, and the biggest component of that error is liberal bias. Large reductions in this error can be attained simply by retranslating the KJV into modern English.[1]

As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:[2]

  1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
  2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, “gender inclusive” language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
  3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level[3]
  4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop;[4] defective translations use the word “comrade” three times as often as “volunteer”; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as “word”, “peace”, and “miracle”.
  5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as “gamble” rather than “cast lots”;[5] using modern political terms, such as “register” rather than “enroll” for the census
  6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
  7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
  8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
  9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
  10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word “Lord” rather than “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” or “Lord God.”

Thus, a project has begun among members of Conservapedia to translate the Bible in accordance with these principles. The translated Bible can be found here.

Now let’s be clear. If suddenly there appeared a “Liberalapedia” with their translation using a similar, but Liberal, approach in this way the objections would be exactly the same.

In previous posts I have talked about the difference between “exegesis” – “reading out of the text” and the dangers of “eisogesis” – “reading into the text”. This is far worse. This is actually changing the accurate  translation of the text itself.

I’ll give you an example tomorrow, but let’s  look at the basic presuppositions of “errors” found by Conservapedia.

  • lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ

Lack of precision? The Bible translations we have our the most rigorously studied and researched documents of any collection of works in human history.  If you want the definitive work on this in English read Bruce Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. It is not only a primary source of scholarship (that is readily accepted and used by Liberal and Conservative theologians alike), it is a great cure for late night insomnia.


  • lack of precision in modern language

The very reason we have so many translations is because there are variances in time sand places when it comes to the English language. But the meaning between the easier to read NIV does not alter the meaning that is found in the more literal (and therefore more “choppy”) translation like the NASB.  The very need for a translation to replace or stand alongside the KJV (1611) is how English has changed between 1611 and 2009. I have a fine library of English puritan literature from the 1700s, some in the original English of that time. It is damned hard to read!

To be sure, the etymological meaning of specific words from the best manuscripts can bring out richer meaning, especially when added to First Century cultural studies and archeological finds. This is not what these folks are talking about. They mean to ignore the plain meaning of these words in their original context and superimpose not only an interpretive grid over the texts to change their meaning, but actually mistranslate  words.

This is no different than our friendly, but textually misguided Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have also “changed” the meaning of the text to fit their beliefs (more on this in articles on what James Sire calls “Scripture Twisting”. )  [Note: and by the way, the next time Mormon Missionaries or JW’s show up on your door, do NOT be mean to them or shine them on. It’s a tough gig, and they are trying, in a sense, to “earn” their salvation. I invite them in for water or tea and offer to pray with them together (they can lead). Sure, as a former apologist I could rip their arguments to shreds, but what’s the point of that? They more than not, really want God. I find that noble and at times brave.]

The  last “error” they state is the most absurd. For a moment I thought I was reading an article on The Onion.

  • translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.

Of these three sources of errors, the last introduces the largest error, and the biggest component of that error is liberal bias. Large reductions in this error can be attained simply by retranslating the KJV into modern English.

Why in the heck would you EVER do a translation of the Bible from an earlier English version from 400 years ago when we have Greek manuscripts that we can use that are 1900 years old?

Now the King James Bible is a remarkable translation. Given the manuscripts they had at the time (1600s) compared to the massive number of manuscripts we now have (and which date back to within 30-50 years of the original autographs), you could argue that the translation they came up with is almost “miraculously” accurate.

It was assumed that with each new find (manuscripts dating back closer and closer to the First Century) that major errors would be found. Some “strains” of slight errors were found and could actually be traced as they ran their course through later copies. They were in consequential.

Anyway, not to bore you any further (or at least at a later time), the  question is still “why in the heck would you take a translation in English from 1611 and use that as the “Textus Receptus” (the starting point) for a new translation over Greek, Coptic and other early manuscripts much closer to the originals? That would be like choosing an English translation of Caeser’s Gallic Wars that was derived from 3 manuscripts written 800 years after the originals instead of starting over with the newly found  300 manuscript copies, written in Latin that dated back to within 100 years.

Are they insane?

The answer is pretty obvious. But in case you are as slow as these Conservapedia guys are, you would only opt for that if you could only read English, had no idea how to deal with Latin, manuscript evidence or would be let within two miles of the manuscripts because they don’t recognize your credentials in Electronics from the University of Phoenix (apologies) online.

Just to give you an example (and I will NEVER ask you to do this yourself unless you write me and really REALLY want to learn how).
Let’s say I am studying a passage that uses the word “peace”. In Greek that is “eirene”. Of course the context is important (that’s all the other words that happen to also be in the sentence, paragraph and chapter). But let’s say I want to know what the word “peace” means to a First Century Colossian when his village get’s a letter from Paul.

First, I go to an Interlinear. That is a word for word translation with the Greek words on top, the closest English word below. It reads very choppy because word order is different in Greek than English. The verb can be the last word of a very long sentence!

Some are not so bad…like the end of Colossians 1:2 “Grace    to you   and   peace   from   God   Father   of us.”

But let’s say you want to know what the word “peace” meant (and by the way, this group wants to strip that word out by some accounts) in that time and culture (and language). From there I have to get my Analytical Greek lexicon (as I am not brushed up on my Greek declensions and am lazy)  that will tell me the root word (as it may be in a plural, possessive…blah blah form here).

From there I can consult some Greek Commentaries (some written long before this idiotic culture war in America) for someone that has already done the work. But maybe they are tired of doing it because Paul almost ALWAYS uses this in his opening salutation.

So from there, knowing the root word in Greek I have to crack open the correct volume (one of ten) of the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (translated from the German) which is about $400. But I have them.

From there, I can look up “eirene” (sorry no Greek fonts)  and read the uses of it prior to New Testament times (including the Inter-testamental period), its usage in other documents of that exact time, its use in the early church times and even beyond. Pages and pages of information done by the best Greek scholars the world has ever seen (no one is racing to replace this set).

From this we learn interesting things that, while held in check to some extent (nuances), can help us gain a greater understanding of how those Colossians Gentiles would have understood Paul’s letter to them that we now call “scripture”.

For example, one core meaning of the word “eirene” was “right relationship in every sphere of life”. That is part of Paul’s wish for this young church, and for us as well.

The Bible, particularly the New Testament, has very little to say about government. The only “government” it is interested in is the “Kingdom of God” as outlined on the Sermon on the Mount and the other Gospels.

In a sense, theological Liberals have done the same thing with the “Jesus Seminar” which I object to on the same essential grounds. Even the term “The Jesus Seminar” is deeply ironic. It is an attempt to strip out the actual words of Jesus from the Gospels because they do not agree with the “Seminars” presuppositons (read opinions).

They don’t like what Jesus has to say any more than those at Conservapedia. In some ways The Jesus Seminar may be worse because they hide their agenda behind a veil of pseudo-scholarship.

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