Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hebrew Torah Scroll Discovered

Before we get too excited over this “find,” a few sobering thoughts come to mind.
·        That’s 1155-1225 AD, not BC: it is a “modern” document.
·        Carbon dating is a tricky and notoriously unreliable method.
·        Maimonides (1135-1204), the great eagle would not have approved this scroll.  How did it get past him?  Because it is older?  Unlikely.
·        Maimonides is not the first and only guardian of Hebrew text transmission.  If Maimonides were the first and only guardian of Hebrew text transmission, the entire Hebrew Scripture would be cast in doubt.
·        The Masoretes published as early as the seventh century, six hundred years after the Crucifixion of Christ, to create and maintain the standardized Hebrew text, which Maimonides later protects.
·        Both Latin and Greek translations preserve an older, better Hebrew prototype.
·        The Dead Sea Scrolls, which contain both Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, also provide better data.
·        This “find” needs to be confirmed by the firsthand examination of equally competent Hebrew text experts.
·        Even if confirmed, we have found nothing more than a beautiful relic, a piece of Bible art; nothing is changed concerning Old Testament textual criticism.  Not a single letter of the Hebrew text is improved.

This discussion confuses the issue.  The question is and ought to be, “What Bible was in the hands of Jesus and His Apostles when they preached?”  The emphatic answer to that question is, a Greek Bible: there is little evidence for anything else.  Paul was a learned Jew: why didn’t he write in Hebrew?  Peter was a Jew: why didn’t he write in Hebrew, especially in his letters to primarily Jewish congregations?

We add to this information the fact that during this period Christians and Jews were bitter adversaries.  No less than four hundred men vowed to abstain from food until they had killed Paul.  I guess they all starved to death.

Another question arises.  Why should we give more credibility to that which is handed down within Judaism, than to that which is handed down within The Church?  The Church is the guardian of God’s truth, not Judaism.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Church 3

The Child

The little child lay pitifully on the cold hard floor crying ceaselessly, and would not be comforted.

Father and mother were fighting bitterly.  She pushed him; he pushed back.  It had come to blows.  All the aunts and uncles had chimed in, thousands of them: it was an old and very large family.  Even some of the other children had joined in the fight.  Now some of the aunts and uncles were so disgusted that they disowned the rest of the family.  Others saw it as a means to further their personal interests and betrayed the family for profit.

The little child lay pitifully on the cold hard floor crying ceaselessly, and would not be comforted.  Most of the big people concluded that it was a temper tantrum, which was only partially true: obviously, they concluded, the child was out of control and needed to be punished.

It did not occur to any of the big people that they were out of control.  None of them realized that when father, mother, aunts, and uncles stopped fighting and made peace that the little child would stop crying.

The Roman Catholics and the Orthodox are fighting bitterly.  Arguments have come to wars.  All the Protestants have chimed in.  Even their descendents have joined the fight.  Century-old battles are refought every day.  Truth is trampled underfoot.  Now some of the Protestants are so disgusted that they disown the rest of Christianity.  Some parties have gone into the business of approving sin, and have betrayed Jesus, Who bought them with His precious blood.

The little child lay pitifully on the cold hard floor crying ceaselessly, and would not be comforted.  Father and mother were fighting bitterly.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Psalms Project 1

The Psalms Project

The Project Overview

We have undertaken a large project with the goal of developing a deeper understanding of the Psalms, and a deeper relationship with the God of the Psalms, as well as with the people of the Psalms.  We started this project as a result of a previous proposal: that anyone could profit spiritually by reading the Psalms as prayers.  We proposed a schedule for this prayerful reading of the Psalms completely through once a week; or, failing that, as often as possible.  We committed to following our own suggestion: so, after months of toil and many failures several things are becoming clear.[1]

One thing is clear: we hunger for a deeper, better, more prayerful understanding of the Psalms and of the God of the Psalms.  It seems that available translations do not adequately satisfy this hunger, so our project is simply to produce a better rendition of the Psalms, and make it available to you for your prayers as well.  This is hardly a one-man project, so we hope that many of you will get involved in the various steps of the project, and make the so necessary contributions without which we cannot succeed.

Ultimately, we hope that a set of living documents will be produced, and that as these living documents are changed and improved they will become the Standard Psalter for the whole English speaking, or at least the whole American Church on earth.  It is a painful reality that the British English and American English dialects are growing apart; the same thing may possibly be true of various British English dialects.  Sadly, the commonality of language, understood in the King James Version, no longer exists: we spell and vocalize words differently; we no longer speak the same language.  We are not trying to do the impossible: to repair an irreparable breach, to produce a Psalter for all speakers of English.  However, that would be a happy accident, if it ever happened.

So far, in our project, we note that we have been changed.  It is one thing to know about God.  It is quite a different thing to know God.  Some folks are fond of calling this an apophatic relationship with God.  We deplore this use of the term apophatic; think it somewhat confusing; and because confusing, believe it is unnecessarily divisive.  We began with God’s relationship with us, and now we can feel that relationship deepening.  If you wish to call that apophatic, you may.  We believe it suffices: that it is important to know God for Himself, to appreciate and cultivate the relationship that He has begun in us, to grow in friendship with Him, and to meet and love His other friends as well.  So, in our project, we have fallen more deeply in love with God.  We call this simply, knowing God.

We have also noted that our understanding of the greatness and Glory of God has increased.  We have long appreciated the book and idea that, Your God is Too Small, J.B. Phillips.[2]  More and more, repeated reading in the Psalms has made this theological necessity, more experiential.  We used to know that God is necessarily big.  Now, in coming to grips and identifying with the struggles of the various Psalmists, this bigness has grown beyond something known about; it has become an increasingly felt reality.  Daily troubles are diminished as they are seen more and more from the perspective of God’s Person and Temple.

Moreover, we have begun to perceive increased detail in the Psalms.  The Psalms are at one and the same time historic and prophetic, contemporary and immediate.  We frequently experience a major theological, historic point; the Psalmists, in the face of their problems return to major historic landmarks for fortification, reassurance, and strength: the creation, the Abrahamic Covenant, the judgement of Egypt, the exodus, the Mosaic Covenant,[3] the Davidic Covenant.  These great historic milestones are mixed with New Testament prophecies: details of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Christ, details of His coming heavenly Glory, details from the Apostles lives.  Both the historic and prophetic elements are seen together against the contemporary life of the Psalmists themselves; the Psalmists understand that the elements of their spiritual warfare are explained by salvation history and resolved in salvation prophecy: everything is ultimately reconciled and redeemed in the final and second coming of the kingdom.  All of the events concerning the earthly Tabernacle and Temple are gloriously seen as pictures of the eternal heavenly Temple.  Finally, as we prayerfully read we become more and more immediately identified with the reality of the history, the fidelity of the prophecy, the urgency of the Psalmists, until at last our spiritual warfare meshes perfectly with their spiritual warfare.

What this means is that the Psalms are an excellent Old Testament review, a majestic New Testament preview, a superior analysis of spiritual warfare, and a profound application for life, all rolled into one small package.  At last, we begin to grasp the fact that we wrestle not against flesh and blood.[4]  The Psalms have now taken on new life in us.  God is at work.[5]  Now it is time for us to respond.[6]

The Basic Project Plan

What we purpose to accomplish is a project in several parts.

In the first part, we hope to make a living paraphrase of the Psalms from the King James Version.  We will begin with an electronic copy of the King James psalms: this copy is subject to continual perfecting and correcting.  Then we will replace archaic word forms: all sorts of ancient pronouns, as well as — est and — eth verb forms, a few very obscure words may also be replaced at this level.  Next, we will remove unnecessary uses of the imperative you[7], which are no longer, in common English use and only confuse.  Extra helping verbs will also be deleted.  We will capitalize all pronouns that refer to God.  Finally, we will read and reread the resultant paraphrase until it seems smooth to us.  Please note, that this paraphrase will not attempt to be wildly paraphrastic, but rather will strive to stay as close to the text as possible.  In its published version the paraphrase will strip away all verse numbering, as these are thought to be obstructive; and the sentences will be gathered into paragraphs.

In the second part, we hope to make a detailed comparison of our Psalms KJB Paraphrase with the Masoretic Text (MT).  This will serve to remove unnecessary words and represent the MT as accurately as possible.  If observations seem appropriate, they will be reflected backwards into the paraphrase.  Otherwise, they will simply be retained in a new and third document, Psalms MT Revision.

In the third part, we hope to make a detailed comparison of our paraphrase and our MT Revision with the Latin Vulgate.  Since we are not at all fluent in Latin, we will be using The Jerusalem Bible as an aid.  If any of you are skilled with Latin, we could use your help.  Our goal is to work backwards from the MT toward a better basic text, backward toward the Bible as Jesus held and used it.  Because Jerome is the dominant expert at this point of study, we wish to learn everything possible from his experience.  We hope that this will also go a long way toward drawing Protestants and Roman Catholics together.  This will result in a fourth document, Psalms Vulgate Revision

In the fourth part, we hope to make a detailed comparison of all our previous work with the Septuagint (LXX).  Having moved backwards in time, we hope at last to reach the Bible as Jesus and His Apostles touched it.  This fifth document we hope will be a faithful translation of the 33 AD Greek Psalter into American English.

In the fifth part, we hope to make a comparison with several existing translations.  If we are lucky enough to find any without significant differences, we will be able to give thanks to God and endorse them.  If we are not so lucky, we hope to have created a starting place for future devotion and progress.

In the sixth part, we hope to collect these various documents, Psalm by Psalm, examine several commentaries, and produce our own commentary on the Psalms, one psalm at a time.

In the seventh part, we hope to make these documents available to everyone who is interested, to leave them as living and open documents, subject to continuous improvement, and all free of charge without any claim to property rights.  To this end, we hope to publish samples as we go along.  “Freely you have received; freely give.”[8]

Here is a First Sample

Psalm 1.             

Blessed [is] the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.  His delight [is] in the Law of the Lord; and in His Law, He[9] meditates day and night.  He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth His fruit in his season; His leaf also shall not wither; and whatever He does shall prosper.

The ungodly [are] not so, but [are] like the chaff, which the wind drives away.  Therefore, the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.[10]

Psalm 2.             

Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Christ, [saying], “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”

He Who sits in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.  Then shall He speak to them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure.

Yet have I set my King on Zion, my holy hill.  I will declare the decree: the Lord has said to me, “You [are] my Son; this day have I begotten You.  Ask of me, and I shall give [You] the heathen [for] Your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth [for] Your possession.  You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”

Be wise now therefore, O you kings.  Be instructed, you judges of the earth.  Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.  Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish [from] the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.  Blessed [are] all those who put their trust in Him.[11]

Psalm 3.             

A Psalm of David,[12] when he fled from Absalom his son.

Lord, how are those increased who trouble me?  Many [are] those who rise up against me.  Many [are those] who say of my soul, “[There is] no help for him in God.”  Selah.

You, O Lord, [are] a shield for me, my Glory,[13] and the lifter up of my head.  I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill.  Selah.

I laid me down and slept.  I awaked, for the Lord sustained me.  I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set [themselves] against me round about.

Arise, O Lord.  Save me, O my God.  For You have smitten all my enemies [on] the cheekbone.  You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.  Salvation [belongs] to the Lord.  Your blessing [is] on Your people.  Selah.[14]

[2] and
[3] the Law, the Decalogue
[4] Ephesians 6:12
[5] Psalm 119:126
[6] Psalm 118:24; 122:1; 2 Corinthians 6:2
[7] ye: go instead of go ye
[8] Matthew 10:8
[9] These pronouns are capitalized because we believe that the Blessed Man is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
[12] Although David writes concerning himself: with his prophetic eye, David sees the sufferings of Christ afar off, yet strangely and mysteriously imposed over his own sufferings.
[13] We believe that David refers to the Glory of God, resident first in the Tabernacle and later in Solomon’s Temple.  We believe that Jesus is the first return of that Glory from 4 BC to 33 AD, and He is the second return of that Glory for which all Christians long.