Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jesus – Humble God

Christ Born of Mary

Matthew 1   (Humble mom)
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

[His mother humbled by the embarrassment of being an unwed mother.]

21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."
22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23
the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,"[d] which is translated, "God with us."

[Isaiah 7:14 is quoted here. I read something where a man claimed Jesus was not the messiah because his name was Jesus not Immanuel. Well I looked at the Hebrew text to understand what it was saying "Call his name" spoke of making something known or calling attention to it. "Immanuel" actually had two words Immanuel and El, meaning "God, God with us". So the virgin Mary giving birth was to be a sign to make known to us that Jesus was "God with us". Clearly God was humbled to take on the form of a man. John said it like this:

John 1 (Humble form)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

So John clearly proclaims Jesus is the eternal God of creation, becoming a man, for the purpose of dwelling with us. So Jesus was Immanuel "God with us". But there is more to His name as we have discussed before. The English name Jesus, or the Greek word Iesous is the same as the Hebrew name Yeshua or Yehoshua. Yeshua Contracts the tetra gram for God's name YHWH with the word for salvation, to make a name meaning the Lord's Salvation. YHWH is the transliteration of the 4 Hebrew letters, some pronounce it Yaweh. The English transliteration is JHVH which some pronounce Jehovah. But the Rabbis' considered God's name to be so Holy that they would not even say it, they would substitute the word Addoni meaning Lord. So YHWH is in the Hebrew text about 6,800 times but The King James Bible only translates that as Jehovah 7 times, most of the time it just says Lord

So Jesus, took on the humble form of a man to become, the Lord's salvation.]

Luke 2 (Humble guests in a humble location)

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold,[b] an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
       14 " Glory to God in the highest,
      And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"[c]
[Shepherds were not very well regarded in social settings, because they lived out in the fields with the flock. Sheep are not the smartest animals so they have to be protected from predators. They also graze differently than cattle in that they will stay in the same spot eating everything down to the bare earth if you let them so the shepherds have to move the sheep every day otherwise they destroy the vegetation by overgrazing. When Joseph invited his family to live in Egypt he warned them not to tell Pharaoh that they were shepherds, because Egyptians did not like shepherds. When Samuel came to the house of Jesse to anoint the next Kind of Israel, Jesse brought in all his sons except David in because he was the shepherd. So shepherds were the humblest of workers, not much to look at or smell, but they were invited by the angels of heaven to come see the Christ child.]

15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely[d] known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

[The shepherds didn't seem to mind that the savior was to be found in an animal crib. It also seems humble guests make great witnesses. They didn't care if people thought they were crazy, they told everyone they met what happened that night.]

Skip down to Luke 2 verse 22.

Jesus Presented in the Temple (Humble offering)

22 Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD"),[f]
24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."[g]

[In the Law a woman bearing a son was unclean to worship for 40 days. Then she was to bring a sacrifice to the temple according Leviticus 12.

Leviticus 12

6 'When the days of her purification are fulfilled, whether for a son or a daughter, she shall bring to the priest a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove as a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 7 Then he shall offer it before the LORD, and make atonement for her. And she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who has borne a male or a female.
8 'And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons—one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering.

[When Mary and Joseph went to the temple after 40 days they did not bring a lamb as a burnt offering and a dove or pigeon as a sin offering. They brought two birds. This was the humble offering of a poor family. Verse 8 says "if she is not able to bring a lamb", then her offering could be two birds, one for a burnt offering and one for a sin offering. This is also evidence that the Magi were never in the nativity scene, as the gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh, could easily have provided enough money for a lamb. So the wise men found them back at home, as Matthew 2 records, and it was after this that Joseph was warned by an angel in a dream to flee to Egypt, because Herod was going to kill all the young male children born in Bethlehem, two years old and under, to prevent any new King from growing up. Some believe the gifts of the Magi provided the money they needed to live in Egypt for a year or two, until Herod the Great was dead, and they could return home.]

I know it's hard to see such a familiar story in a new way, but I just wanted to illustrate the humility of our Lord, in the Christmas story. Jesus was:

  • Born to a humble mother
  • Taking on the humble form of a man
  • Born is the most humble location (an animal crib)
  • Visited by humble shepherds
  • Presented with a humble offering

So much of religion tries to make man look majestic with clothing, alters, shrines and temples, that would be good enough for God. But in Jesus, the Lord's salvation, we see God becoming humble enough to redeem sinful man.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bible Translation Principles

Let's talk about Bible translations. At the end of last week I had a question about the Bible version I had quoted For Revelation 22:13

13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. –NKJV

13I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. – KJV

Usually unless I specifically tell you I'm quoting from another version, I am using the New King James. But sometimes the Bible Gateway web site I use to cut and paste the verses into my lesson, defaults to the NIV or New International Version which I usually notice right away and change. But last week I didn't notice, so what I quoted in the lesson read like this:

13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. – NIV

So the two phrases "beginning and the end", "first and the last" were flipped. So I thought it would be a good idea to look at a few of the most common English language translations of the Bible, and understand how they are different, and why.


Old Testament

To translate the Bible you start with a manuscript or complete text, written in another language. For the Old Testament text or Hebrew Bible this is usually not too controversial. The Jewish scribes took great pride in preserving the Law and the Prophets. By the 6th century AD the scribes were succeeded by the Masoretes of which there were several groups. The group led by the family of ben Asher became the noted authorities on the Hebrew Bible and by the 12th century they published the only accepted version of the Hebrew Bible sometimes called the Masoretic text. There was another version used from the early 16th to the early 19th century called the ben Chayyium text, but most scholars have reverted to a ben Asher manuscript dated to around 1000 AD. What you have to remember is prior to 1450 AD all published texts were hand copied, so it's common in ancient writings to find single words, phrases or verses omitted and some spelling differences. In addition to the Hebrew Bible scholars also look at The Septuagint or Greek translation of the Old Testament, and the Vulgate or Latin translation of the Old Testament since these were used by the early Christian Churches.

New Testament

There is more manuscript support for the New Testament than for another other ancient literature. Over 5,000 Greek manuscripts, and 8,000 Latin manuscripts, have been found, all attest to the integrity of the New Testament. To think of all those hand copied scrolls and books and yet to find the relatively few differences between them all is amazing. There are basically 3 major published Greek texts used by Bible translators, they are in perfect agreement 85% of the time and the other 15% are usually single word or phrase omissions and spelling differences that are very easy to resolve. It is how you resolve these small differences where most of the intrigue can be found.

Received Text – or Textus Receptus this is the traditional text used by Greek-speaking churches and was first published in 1516. The received text was based on relatively few manuscripts, but the they were very representative manuscripts. So you can also think of the received text as the common text, very close to what most of the early churches might have used. The Received Text is the primary source for the King James and New King James Bibles. Some claim divine providence in preserving this text version.

Critical Text – Most modern English translations published since 1880 have relied on a small number of manuscripts discovered in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The primary manuscripts are known as Codex Vaticanus and Codex Siniaticus. Some prefer these because of the great age of the oldest known copies, but they sometimes differ from the common text, and from each other, usuallt by omission, so there are questions about the quality of these manuscripts. You will sometimes see this version called the Alexandrian Text or the NU-Text abbreviated from the name of it's two publishers.

Majority Text – The third and most contemporary school of thought on Greek manuscripts is that the best manuscript is found in a consensus of the majority existing Greek manuscripts. Since all the version agree 85% of the time this group lets the majority rule, in resolving the few differences. This is generally pretty easy since most of the differences are omissions, you can fill in the blanks using what you find in the most manuscripts. This is also referred to as the M-text.


After you know which text was used, you will want to know the translation methodology used by the version you use. Greek and Hebrew differ from English in grammar and word order, so word-for-word translation would not result in anything meaningful. All translators try to achieve equivalence in well formed English, using either Dynamic or Complete equivalence.

Complete Equivalence - attempts to preserve all the information in the bible text, while presenting it in good literary form. The King James and New King James translators sought complete equivalence.

Dynamic Equivalence – a more recent procedure in bible translation, tries to magnify the primary meaning of the scripture in the most readable form. This method will result in more paraphrasing and less literal translation, to achieve a translation with a clear meaning and an easy reading flow. Modern translations vary in the degree to which they paraphrase from the literal. The NIV uses a mild amount of paraphrasing, where The Message or The Living Bible are completely paraphrased Bible translations.

Other Agendas

Sometimes specific Bible translators have stated goals to change something that they didn't like about a prior translation. Usually if you read the introductory note in the front of your Bible these will be disclosed, but it's just something it would be good for you to be aware of.


Let's look at some of the common English Bible versions and see how they apply all these principles.

KJV – King James Version – auth. 1611 – revised 3 or 4 times

  • Received Text
  • Complete Equivalence
  • Archaic English corrected some catholic alterations in the Bishops Bible 1568

NKJV – New King James Version 1979-82 (2 revisions)

  • Received Text – differences in NU-text and M-Text footnoted for each verse
  • Complete Equivalence
  • Removes some of the most archaic English words from the KJV

NASB – New American Standard 1960-77 (8 revisions)

  • Critical Text – Alexandrian or NU-Text
  • Complete Equivalence except where readability was hindered (footnoted)
  • An update of ASV 1901, ERV 1881 both considered updates of KJV

NIV – New International Version 1973-84 (2 revisions)

  • Critical Text – Alexandrian or NU-Text (some early attempts at majority text)
  • Dynamic Equivalence – mild form usually only one or two words added for clarity
  • Not a revision of other versions though they maintained some of the traditions of earlier translations like translating the Hebrew YHWH as Lord

ESV – English Standard Version

  • Majority Text – NU and Received text considered
  • Complete Equivalence – with occasional modifications for clarity
  • An update of the RSV correcting some of the gender neutral pronouns


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Jesus – Coming Again

Revelation 22

Jesus Is Coming


 7"Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book."

[In our study last week we saw that the ascension of Christ was so that the Holy Spirit could be sent in his place, while Jesus continues his role as intercessor, and prepares a place for us. The passage in Acts 1 concludes with the apostles witnessing Jesus ascending then the two Angels appearing to give the promise of Christ' return.

10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."

Here in the last chapter of Revelation Jesus reminds us to be ready for his return. Now some people have read "Behold I am coming soon" and wondered why we have not yet seen the return of Jesus. The Greek word translated soon is "tachu" which can mean soon, but also means suddenly. So if you have trouble with "soon" taking 2,000 years you can either maintain the perspective that man waited 4,000 years for Jesus to come the first time, or just remember that when he does come it will be suddenly.

1 Thessalonians 5

1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.

So this waiting for Jesus' return is not to be a time of idleness for his followers. For we know his return will be sudden, unexpected, and without warning. So we should live anticipating the day of his return.]

Revelation 22

 8I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. 9But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!"

[John had a pretty natural response to the supernatural appearance of God's messenger, he bowed down to worship. But the angel reminds him, not to worship the messenger, worship God.]

 10Then he told me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. 11Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy."

[Here we see clearly that when the Lord returns he will find people the way they live. There is no time to get your life in order, at the last moment, before God sees you. He knows the way you live, right now. To those who were thinking they might have a little time to get ready, this prophecy serves as a warning. "the time is near" means that opportunity change is sooner rather than later.]

 12"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

[Here again we see again that the return can be any time, and that when he returns the outcome is set. The reward or punishment is already determined. Jesus also identifies himself as the eternal-God, the I am, self existent creator of all that there is.

2 Corinthians 5

9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Colossians 3

23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for[a] you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

These two passages are just a small sample, of the teaching regarding judgment and reward. Jesus and the apostles visited this subject often in their teaching. The idea for us is that what we do here on earth matters to God. Like an eternal job evaluation, your performance will be reviewed by the God who knows everything.]

Revelation 22

 14"Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.

[Last week we looked at Revelation 7 and the redeemed of all nations seem in heaven. These are also identified by being clothed in white robes.

Revelation 7

13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?"
14 And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Also notice here they have the right to the tree of life. Where have we seen the tree of life before? Back in the garden of Eden, in the midst of the garden, with the tree-of-the-knowledge-of-good-and-evil, also stood the tree-of-life.

Genesis 3

22 Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"— 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.

So mankind who lost access to the tree-of-life before they chose to sin, regains that access when they die to sin, and live to Christ Jesus. This fulfills the promise of eternal life for those who trust in Jesus.]

Revelation 22
15Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

[Here he identifies those outside the eternal city, who will not inherit eternal life. These are all lifestyle sins that consume people and keep them from God. Those who worship demonic spirits through witchcraft and occultism are outside. Those who worship sensual pleasure are outside. Violent killers are outside. Idol worshipers are outside. Habitual liars, those who live by falsehood and untruth are outside. He calls them dogs, not like your pets, but the wild dogs outside the city gates that consumed anything that died. God does not ignore a lifestyle of sin.]

 16"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you[a] this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."

 17The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

[The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, and calls men to repent. The Church is the witness to the world, inviting them to trust in Jesus. If the second coming makes anyone uneasy, here is the same invitation Jesus gave to the Samaritan woman at the well, you can receive the living water, from the risen Lord. Come to Jesus, who is coming again.]