Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Bibles, English Language


Can we trust our modern English language Bibles?  What choice do we really have?  Unless we are committed to becoming expert at each of the dozen or more levels of technology that it takes to become a Bible translator, we will have to accept the output of each of these kinds of experts:

  •         archaeologists
  •        radiocarbon technologists
  •        epigraphers
  •        ink and material experts
  •        restoration experts
  •        preservation experts
  •        cognate language experts
  •        experts at meter and scansion
  •        literary experts
  •        historians
  •        grammarians
  •        lexicographers
  •        and much, much more.

It takes a veritable army of experts, a team of various skills, working side-by-side to take the scope and work of translation from moiling in the sands of deserts or in the dust of ancient libraries to a finished published and printed output.

We have no real choice.  Pick any translation we like; pick several if we wish: then ask the Holy Spirit to teach us what they mean.  Better yet, ask the Holy Spirit to help us with our choices.  Which of these translations is inerrant?  None.  Which of these translations is protected by the providence of God?  None.  All English language translations are seriously flawed.

Truth Tests

This seems like some sort of truth test.  Perhaps we are asking the wrong question if what we want is the Truth.  John declares:

“You have Anointing from the Holy.[i]  You also know all.[ii]  I did not write to you, because you do not know the truth; but, because you know her; and because any lie is not of the truth.  Who is the liar, if not the denier[iii] [who claims] that Jesus is not[iv] the Christ?  This is the antichrist, the denier of the Father and the Son.  Any denier of the Son, neither has[v] he the Father.[vi]  You, therefore, let[vii] what you heard from the beginning dwell in you; if what you heard from the beginning would dwell in you; you will also dwell in the Son and in the Father.  This is the promise which He promised us, the life eternal.  I wrote these to you about your [would be] deceivers.[viii]  The Anointing which you received from Him, dwells in you; so, you do not have need that anyone would teach you: but, as the same Anointing teaches you about all; is true; is not a lie; and just as He taught you, dwell in Him.  Now, Dear Children,[ix] dwell in Him; so, whenever He should be revealed we would have confidence and might not be ashamed before Him in His Presence.” — 1 John 2:20-28
John, indicates that the real test of Truth is having the right relationship, not in finding the perfect translation.  Specifically, he indicates that it is the internal, indwelling Holy Unction, the Holy Spirit, Who, confirms in us, more than any other spiritual fact, that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is God in exactly the same way that the Father is God.[x]

Deniers, Liars, and Antichrists

There remain among us, to this very day, a great number of world religions and a wide variety of cults that deny this spiritual fact openly: they openly deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.[xi]
Blunt Denial
Denial comes in a broad variegation of patterns.  There is, of course, blunt denial.
Partial Affirmation
More commonly, denial comes in the form of a partial affirmation: Jesus is a great prophet, He’s just not the greatest Prophet; He certainly is not the Anointed King of Israel; He certainly isn’t God.
Jesus Grows into God
Another popular denial insists that Jesus is a man who increased in authority and power until He was finally Deified, the same way the Caesars were deified: with the same false-validity as gods.
Or, how about the claim that this resonates with other “monotheistic” world religions; there is no resonance here; there is only discord, lies, and antichrist: for, no other “monotheistic” world religion confesses that Jesus is both Christ and God.
There are others.  Of course, it is no problem for a polytheistic religion to add another god.  These are all identified by John as liars and antichrists.

Modern Churches

In spite of John’s firm warning, some modern twenty-first century churches have come to embrace these liars and antichrists, making them principal teachers in our churches, schools, and universities.  Yet, all the deniers of the fact that Jesus is the Christ, equally and inseparably God with the Father, all these deniers are liars and antichrists.

Before Jesus speaks the words, we must get straight in our minds that Jesus is Himself, the Word.[xii]  Until that singular fact grips our souls, we look in vain for the right Bible.  The first lesson of the Holy Spirit, the Anointing, the Unction; that singular lesson upon which all else depends; that lesson, which when it masters us gives us all knowledge; must be learned first.

Jesus Christ is fully God with the Father from before the creation of the universe.

So, before we begin to doubt the Bibles we already have, or go looking for the perfect English language translation: perhaps, we should find out Who God is…  Father, Son, and Spirit… Trinity, One in Essence, Undivided, Equal, Infinite….  We must learn to trust God first, above all else.

[i] Perhaps, “You have a Holy Anointing,” would be smoother in English idiom, if somewhat less true to Greek idiom.  John writes of the Holy Spirit who is the sole giver of all knowledge.  Knowledge in the Bible is more relational; less an assembly of perfect lemmas; less argumentative.

[ii] Not everything; yet, they know all the essential fundamentals of the Faith.  This is not flattery: these things are known because the Spirit indwells them and the Church is blessed with lesser faithful teachers.  Most importantly, they know Father, Son, and Spirit in relationship: this is all knowledge.

[iii] Subjective use of the participle, the one contradicting, declining, denouncing, denying, disclaiming, disowning, refusing, renouncing.  John may have in mind an act of public voting that required voters to acknowledge Caesar as God; or a court legal action that required witnesses to swear.  In any case the hypothetical denier would be publicly and readily identifiable.

[iv] The second negative, in Greek idiom makes the negation emphatic: μὴ in the world of forms is the perfect conceptual denial; οὐκ in the physical word is the true outward act of denial.  This suggests that denial is something demonic that becomes exposed by physical speech or other actions.

[v] This play on have and have not, has and has not, is about the Holy Anointing, which is the Baptism of the Spirit (Matthew 28:19); which, everywhere, shows forth the Trinity: more specifically, here, the denial that Jesus is God, One in essence with the Father.

[vi] There is little manuscript support for the phrase, “the confessor of the Son also has the Father”: אBAC; אBAC are usually considered Alexandrian text, especially outside of the Gospels.  However, this support is from among stronger manuscripts.  The phrase has every evidence of being an added theological clarification: usually we would expect to see such additions in the Byzantine text, but not in the Alexandrian text.  This reverses our usual expectation.

[vii] third person imperative

[viii] It seems to us that John deals more with the prevention of a potential danger, that with the correction of a present fault; heretics are seeking to deceive: John does not say that these have had success: yet, John may be dealing gently and tenderly with a harsh reality.

[ix] John may be addressing the newly baptized.  The term used here is one of endearment, not necessarily that of age: John, their spiritual father, counts them as his spiritual children.

[x] It seems very clear to us that John is leaning heavily on Deuteronomy 6:4-5, which every Jew knew by heart, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

[xi] What shall we do with these are adversaries, our enemies.  We shall persist in telling the truth about God, loving them as Christ commanded us to love them.  We will not wage war against them, harm them physically, or deny them basic human kindnesses.  Proverbs 25:21-22; Romans 12:20

[xii] Hebrews 1:1-3

Friday, June 1, 2018

Cyril of Jerusalem, Lecture 20

Cyril of Jerusalem

Lecture 20

“Don’t you know, that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore, we were buried-together in Him by baptism into the death: that just as Christ was raised up from death by the glory of the Father, so also we could have walked in newness of life: for, if we, [the] planted-together, have been begotten[i] in the likeness of His death, moreover also we will be of the resurrection.  Knowing this, that our old man was crucified-together, that the body of sin would be made powerless, that we no longer be slaves in sin: for, the dead, has been justified from sin.  Yet, if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live-together in Him; seeing that Christ, awakening out of death, no longer dies; death no longer has mastery of Him: for, in that He died in[ii] [our] sin, He died once; yet, in that He lives, He lives in God.  So also you, count yourselves indeed to be dead in sin; yet, alive in God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  [Do] not, therefore, let sin have domination[iii] in your dying body[iv] into submission[v] in her[vi] desires; nor commend[vii] your members as weapons of unrighteousness in sin; but, commend yourselves in God as alive from death, and your members as weapons of righteousness in God:[viii] for, sin will not have mastery of you: for, you are not under law, but under grace. — Romans 6:3-14

Summary: Having laid a foundation in the denouncing of Satan, St. Cyril proceeds to discuss the mysteries of baptism itself; especially that we share in the likeness or similitude of Christ’s death; which he shows from Paul to be far more important than the remission of our sins or our adoption, or even our reception of the Holy Spirit.  We have put off the old man and put on a whole new man.  We were cut from a wild olive tree and grafted into Christ, the true olive tree.  We have died in this similitude and been resurrected from the dead.  Not just once, either; but, fully three times entering into death, and three times being resurrected in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.[ix]

Preview:  1.  “These daily introductions into the Mysteries … are profitable to us; and … to you, who have been renewed from an old state to a new.  Therefore, I … lay before you [yesterday’s] sequel … that you may learn of what those things … in the inner chamber, were symbolic.”  2.  “… as you entered, you put off your tunic; and this was an image of putting off the old man with his deeds.[x]  Having stripped yourselves … imitating Christ, who was stripped naked on the Cross, and by His nakedness put off from Himself the principalities and powers, and openly triumphed over them on the tree.[xi]  For since … [your enemies] made their lair in your members, you may no longer wear that old garment … the old man, which waxes corrupt in the lusts of deceit.[xii]  May the soul which has once put him off, never again put him on, but say with the Spouse of Christ in the Song of Songs, I have put off my garment, how shall I put it on?[xiii]  3.  “Then … you were anointed with exorcised oil, from the very hairs of your head to your feet, and were made partakers of the good olive-tree, Jesus Christ.  For you were cut off from the wild olive-tree, and grafted into the good one, and were made to share the fatness of the true olive-tree.[xiv]  The exorcised oil therefore was a symbol of the participation of the fatness of Christ….”  4.  “[Then] you were led to the holy pool of Divine Baptism, as Christ was carried from the Cross to the Sepulcher….  Each of you was asked, whether he believed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and you made that saving confession, and descended three times into the water, and ascended again … hinting … at the three days burial of Christ.”  “And at the self-same moment you were both dying and being born; and that Water of salvation was at once your grave and your mother.  … Solomon … said, in that case, There is a time to bear and a time to die;[xv] but … in the reverse order….”  5.  “O strange and inconceivable thing!  We did not … die, were not … buried, … crucified and raised again; … our imitation was … a figure, [but] our salvation … reality.  Christ was actually crucified, … buried, and … rose again … that we, sharing His sufferings by imitation, might gain salvation in reality.  O surpassing loving-kindness!  Christ received nails in His undefiled hands and feet, and suffered anguish; while on me without pain or toil by the fellowship of His suffering He freely bestows salvation.”  6.  “Let no one … suppose that Baptism is merely the grace of remission of sins, or … of adoption …  whereas we know full well, that as it purges our sins, and ministers to us the gift of the Holy Ghost, so also it is the counterpart of the sufferings of Christ.  … Paul … said, Or are you ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into His death?  We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into His death.”[xvi]  7.  “Whatsoever things Christ endured, for us and for our salvation He suffered them in reality and not in appearance, and that we also are made partakers of His sufferings, Paul cried … For if we have been planted together with the likeness of His death, we shall be also with the likeness of His resurrection.[xvii] “He said not, For if we have been planted together with His death, but, with the likeness of His death.  For in Christ’s case there was death in reality … but in your case there was only a likeness of death and sufferings, whereas of salvation there was not a likeness but a reality.  8.  “… keep [these things], I beseech you, in your remembrance; that I also, unworthy though I be, may say of you, Now I love you, because you always remember me, and hold fast the traditions, which I delivered unto you.[xviii]  And God, who has presented you as it were alive from the dead,[xix] is able to grant unto you to walk in newness of life:[xx] because His is the glory and the power, now and forever.  Amen.

[i] Born, born again, created: the new birth is clearly in view.

[ii] dative, His state at death, in our sin, not in His sin.

[iii] Third person imperative or emphatic, sin is the subject.  The Greek idiom does not require a second person imperative.  Do is supplied to make sense in English.

[iv] The force seems to fall just short of, “our dead corpse”: for we are to count ourselves as dead to sin.

[v] substantive infinitive

[vi] This is feminine, because it modifies a feminine noun, desires; so, what is the antecedent, if any?  Sin is the other feminine noun in the sentence: it is sin’s desires that are under discussion.

However, sin is said to reign in the body, which seems to contradict St. Cyril’s idea that the mind and will are the root of sin, the body being the innocent victim.

It is possible that St. Cyril’s concern is pastoral, insofar as he seeks to rouse the will to fight against the fleshly desires of the body: this is certainly necessary to sanctified Christian life; yet, these bodily desires, which seem to act involuntarily and independently of the rational mind or will, are only brought into subjection by decades of discipline: even then, they break out from time to time with surprising ferocity.  It is only through the power of the Spirit that we even hope to make any headway in this battle: it is a raging spiritual battle, which requires the participation of every Christian.  Nevertheless, St. Cyril’s pastoral concerns, if any, seem fully warranted; since Jerusalem was considered to be a licentious and wicked city in his day.  If the will is not aroused to engage in this battle; then, the soul’s war is hopelessly lost before it begins.  If the will is engage in this war; battles may be won or lost: but the Spirit brings the war to its victorious conclusion.

We perceive several possible errors of extremism here: the will has every affect (misnamed Pelagianism); the will has no affect (determinism); the will has power (category error); the body always acts independently of the will (excessive focus on involuntary muscles); the body never acts independently of the will (excessive focus on voluntary muscles).  Augustine’s illustrations concerning the penis are devastating to several of these excesses.

In modern times, John Romanides weighs in against Augustine; Georges Florovsky, and many others, value Augustine by appropriation.

[vii] Take a stand-beside, associate; in the political arena, to stand-beside in a photo-op, would be an implied endorsement of the person and any evil involved.

[viii] The opposing dangers here are: One.  To turn this into and justify physical war, or jihad, which this does not approve; Two.  To treat this lightly, as if no true spiritual battle were taking place.  This is clearly a call for commitment of the will; not a call to take up arms.

[ix] It is a vital matter of interest that St. Cyril gives no instruction about making the sign of the cross; left to right, right to left, or otherwise: he simply insists that we do it.  His descriptions of Baptism, on the other hand, are meticulously scrupulous in every least detail.  The Didache has such detailed instructions for Trine-Baptism; yet, these may be set aside as a superstition coming from an uncertain single witness.  Now, with St. Cyril’s voice also supporting the necessity of Trine-Baptism, there can be little doubt that the practice of Mono-Baptism is to be deplored and rejected in all its forms.  While we accept the persons Baptized by Mono-Baptism, we really wish the practice would stop: we cringe inwardly, in fear, every time we witness it.  Matthew 28:19

[x] Colossians 3:9

[xi] Colossians 2:15; 1 Peter 2:24

[xii] Ephesians 4:22

[xiii] Song of Songs 5:3

[xiv] Romans 11:17-24

[xv] Ecclesiastes 3:2

[xvi] Romans 6:3

[xvii] Romans 6:5

[xviii] 1 Corinthians 11:2; 15:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15

[xix] Romans 6:13

[xx] Romans 6:4