Vacation Ponderings on Steadfast Love

July 31, 2011 at 8:08 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, God's Love | Leave a comment

I have spent the last week camping at Vedauwoo, Wyoming with my wife, daughter and niece.  It was a good week of rest and fun, and I had no phone or computer with me.  It was good to have some extended quiet times and prayer walks among the rocks with the Lord.  While I was out, I read the middle chapters of Romans and some Psalms.  I was impressed every day with God’s amazing love.  I have been reading the ESV, and I like their translation of this word as “steadfast love,” for it is a word of more than just love; it includes mercy and faithfulness as well.  Here are some of the great passages I pondered during the week:

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his steadfast love endures forever.”  (Psalm 107:1)  This great psalm tells of the people God has redeemed from trouble.  Each stanza of the song tells of people who were redeemed from the desert, from darkness, etc.  In each case, “they cried to the Lord in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress.” (vv. 6, 13, 19, 28)  Since God has redeemed them, the song encourages, “Let them give thanks to the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works among the children of man.” (vv 8, 15, 21, 31)  Then it all ends with “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.” (v.43)  If you are one of God’s children, then consider from whence he has called you, and give thanks for his great love.

That same day I read Romans 8, “What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  .  .  .  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The next day, I pondered and prayed through these words of Psalm 108, “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.  For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.  Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! “

Since I have been preaching through Hosea, in a series called “God’s Love for Wayward Sinners,” I turned to Hosea 11, a chapter I have always called one of the greatest expressions of God’s love in the Old Testament.  God pours out his heart concerning his children, whom he has made and redeemed, even though they are determined to turn away from him.  “How can I give you up, Ephraim?  How can I hand you over Israel?   .  .  .  My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.  I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim.  For I am God, and not man – the Holy One among you.  I will not come in wrath.” (v. 8-9 NIV)  Wow!  No matter how often we turn away from God, he still loves and pursues us; his love for us is aroused; he will not condemn.  As it says in Romans 8, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Finally, in Romans 9, we are told that God loves us and shows us mercy for the sake of his glory.  “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory  .  .  .  ?” (vv. 22-23)  Interestingly, this rhetorical question is followed by two quotes from Hosea.  Psalm 109 repeats this theme with these words: “But you, O God my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!” (v. 21)

Take some time in the near future to ponder the steadfast love of the LORD.  It is utterly amazing how much he loves us.

Scribal Variances and Bible Errors

July 18, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Posted in English Bible Translations, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 1 Comment

Moore to ponder asked a question in the comments section of the previous post, and the lengthy answer, which is still too brief to be a great explanation, requires more than another comment.

Theresa,

Thanks again for reading and for your comments.  I see now I should have preferenced the previous post with some things that might have kept your kinds of questions from coming up.  The post is directed to a very small target group, and some who haven’t studied these matters could understand them to say there are errors in the Bible.  I am not addressing those who prefer the KJV because they like the poetic language or because they grew up with it, but at a group that believes only the KJV should be read in English and that all others are simply wrong.  One look at your posted devotions tells one you are not in that camp; if you were you wouldn’t quote so many different versions.

However, there is a small group that believes all versions other than the KJV are heretical, and they are very vocal about it.  They base their argument on the manuscripts that the KJV was translated from.  And that opens up a whole new world of issues that could be discussed.

Have you ever heard someone say, “You can’t trust the Bible because it has thousands of errors;” or “The Bible has been translated and retranslated so many times that we really don’t know what it says.”?  These types of criticisms are addressed in the Manuscript Game to help people see that we really can trust the Bible.  There are thousands of scribal errors in the manuscripts of the New Testament; we have over 5,000 manuscripts, and no two are exactly alike.  But scribal errors in the manuscripts are not the same thing as errors in the Bible.  Without a printing press, everything had to be copied by hand over and over for centuries, and scribes, as careful as they were, sometimes made mistakes.  Read the italicized sentence again; it is very important but often ignored by liberal critics.

However, the vast majority of the scribal errors are absolutely inconsequential when it comes to the meaning of the Bible.  They are spelling variations, which were common in the old world; slight word order changes, which are meaningless in Greek; and common name and title substitutions, like substituting Jesus, Christ Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus our Lord, or Jesus Christ our Lord for one of the others.  Even with these differences, it is easy to determine the original wording in most of these cases.  The vast majority of scholars who do this kind of work are in agreement on what the original words of the New Testament were.

In answer to your question about errors in the passages you quote.  There are not any in the passages or in their meaning, but there may be some in the different manuscript copies of those passages.  A quick glance at my references tells me that there are none in Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 2:15 and Matthew 4:4.  However, there are some variances amongst the manuscripts of Romans 10:9.  Some say “confess with your mouth lord Jesus;” some “confess with your mouth lord Jesus Christ;” and a few “confess the word with your mouth that Jesus (is) lord.”  This is typical of the kind of variances there can be.  Not one of them has significance, and the meaning is perfectly clear.

By the way, variances of this type are in every piece of ancient literature.  This is not just a Bible issue.  The Bible has more of these scribal errors simply because we have so many more ancient manuscripts of the Bible.  But, even with those, is better attested than any other piece of ancient literature.  We can have more confidence in it than anything else we read from the old world.

In the few places where the meaning of a specific passage is at stake, the meaning and message of the Bible never is.  One can prove all the fundamental doctrines of Christianity from most any reputable translation of the New Testament, or from almost any ancient manuscript of the New Testament (if they can read it!), because the meaning of the Bible is clear.  I say “reputable” because there are a few translation with unchristian biases that influenced the translator’s work.  I’ve never seen you quote one of those; you may not even own one.

When I study the NT I read as much in the Greek as possible, and I refer to the ESV, NIV, NASB and NET most often.  However, since I have an interest in the history of the Bible in English, I have collected over 50 different English translations of the NT or parts of it, and sometimes I refer to all of them!  Most people have no idea there are that many.

We can have great confidence that God has clearly spoken in the Bible, and we that know what it says.  If these matters are interesting enough that someone wants to do more study, there are some books that could be read to help clarify the matter.  The New Testament Documents, Are They Reliable? by F.F. Bruce is probably the most well known.  And a really good presentation that requires no language understanding is How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot.

P. S.  Thanks again for reading.  I have enjoyed your comments and posts since we first connected.  You’ve never heard of the Manuscript Game, because it has only been used here in our church, but some here are trying to find a way to market it on a broader scale.  It is a fun educational tool.

Questions for KJV Only Advocates

July 14, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Posted in English Bible Translations, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 2 Comments

I lead “The Manuscript Game” with some people from my nephew’s small group.  This game is designed to give participants confidence that we know what the original documents of God’s Word say, in spite of how often it has been copied and recopied; in spite of what critics say about not being able to know because our copies are so many generations removed from the originals.  It is a great exercise, and if you are interested in the game, let me know.  I might be able to lead it for you too.

One of the guys playing the game had been influenced by the King James Version Only (KJVO) teaching.  I’ve lead this game with some who had been influenced by that teaching before, but never to this extent.  David wasn’t a sold out KJVO advocate, but he did know the arguments they use.  The Manuscript Game reveals some of the fallacies of their thinking.  I even try to convince the people playing that the majority manuscript is the correct one, and have only been successful convincing one person of the roughly 50 who’ve played it, and even that  was a temporary convincing for one round of the game.   Even David argued strongly that the oldest manuscript should be way more authoritative than the majority.

After leading the game I was thinking about the arguments for the KJVO philosophy and have some questions you can ask someone who thinks that way.  I don’t consider myself an expert on this matter, but I have read some of the KJVO material, and these questions address the arguments used in that material.

1. Why do you say that the KJV was translated from manuscripts “closer to” the original rather than manuscripts that “are identical” to the original?  This question is important because KJVO advocates are so adamant that God would never allow his Word to be corrupted, yet every manuscript is unique with its scribal errors; no two are alike.  If God wouldn’t allow his Word to be corrupted through scribal transmission, then we should have a manuscript that is “identical to” not “closer to” the original.  Can you actually make that claim?

2. If God will not allow his Word to be corrupted, then why did he allow so many different manuscripts to be out there?  Of the over 5,000 existing manuscripts of the New Testament, only one at most can be identical to the original.  The KJVO advocates I’ve heard proclaim they are certain they have God’s Word because they use the majority text.  They play the same game of looking at the textual evidence and deciding which variants are correct, they just eliminate a big chunk of evidence before they play, for even the “majority text” is an eclectic edition of many other variants.

3. What hard evidence do you have that Textus Receptus (or majority text) is closer to the original than any other manuscript or textual family?  This question points out that KJVO advocates eliminate a huge amount of evidence – the very evidence that destroys their dearly held theory.  Unless they can give a solid reason why this evidence should be eliminated, then this question proves they are using circular reasoning.  If they argue that the best manuscripts haven’t survived as well as the corrupt ones, then, once again, they deny their own dearly held belief about God’s Word never being corrupted, because God allowed only the corrupt versions to remain.

4. Does your argument that Textus Receptus is closer to the original, when there is so little evidence to support it, play directly into the hands of the critics who say we can’t know the original because the Bible has been copied and recopied so many times?  They, just like you, want to ignore the hard evidence that gives a level of certainty about the original in favor of an all-or-nothing theory.  They use the same methods as you, they just opt for the nothing side of the conclusion.

5. Have you ever read the preface to the 1611 KJV?  The translators of the KJV admit that there were good translations before theirs and that other good ones would follow.  They go so far as to say that “varietie of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures,” and “We affirme and auow that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God.”  Why do your claims about their translation work go way beyond their own?  And how can you say there is only one English translation, when they recognized so many others?  Even when they quote scripture in the preface to the KJV they quote other translations, usually the Geneva Bible!

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