Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Asterisked *Lord... in one French tranlsation: DARBY

Yesterday we saw how one European translation of the New Testament makes (in at least one key instance, Mark 12:29) an effort to disambiguate the usages of Kyrios (Lord) in the New Testament. The way this Spanish translation achieved this was by capitalising the Spanish word for Lord, SEÑOR, **in the New Testament**. I also stressed that context has quite a lot to say for the way in which a word was intended and understood, taking the name "Isis" as one good example for context, and a fictional example of disambiguation via grammatical absence of the article of a mayor, who so associated himself with his title that he became "Mayor".

After discovering the La Biblia de las Américas translation, I was also intrigued by the French Darby attempt. What they have done here is recognise that some of the Greek of the New Testament is clearly (or unambiguously) referring to the divine Name of Yahweh, via the construction of the Greek translation Kyrios. The manifestation of this recognition is a very subtle-yet-noticeable asterisk: *Seigneur. When the French-speaking reader sees *Seigneur in the Darby translation, the point is that there is a connection to be made in the reader's mind with the Old Testament's l'Eternel. On that point, I think we can add that French is a particularly interesting translation language of the Bible as it so consistently distinguishes "l'Eternel" (albeit mainly arthrous) from "Seigneur" in the New Testament (thus far I have checked Bible du Semeur (BDS), Ostervald (OST), Martin (MAR), Darby (DRB), Annotée Neuchâtel (BAN), Segond 21 (SG21), Nouvelle Edition de Genève (NEG1979) and Louis Segond (LSG) - all are in 100% agreement on this distinction). Thus for reasons of context (e.g. a New Testament author explicitly quoting an Old Testament text), or for strong grammatical reasons (the Angel of Kyrios, aka the Angel of the Lord), the French Darby translation is able to asterisk 123 instances of "Seigneur", contained within 117 verses. You can see these here.

As with the LBLA, there is plenty to commend in this effort. A translation that seeks to be simple and "consistent" can save itself a lot of time and probably controversy by simply translating every single instance of Kyrios by "Lord" and hoping that if there is any context available, that the reader will pick up on this, perhaps helped along by the Holy Spirit. But I am sorry to say that this is nonsence. For example, how many Christians realise that nowhere in the Bible does the Hebrew, or the Greek translation of the Hebrew, say "my Yahweh", "our Yahweh" or "your Yahweh", or in their translations "my LORD", "our LORD" or "your LORD"? Because we don't SHOUT "LORD" because it is in capitals, and because Jesus is "our Lord", these issues are quickly confused in believers minds - or certainly were in my mind.

The problem is for the braver translations seeking to go down this harder path - that is to say leaving a clue as to New Testament reference to the divine Name - is that there are instances where it is less clear. Larry Hurtado has published an essay on the ambiguity in Acts that you can consult online about this, and it seems certain that this was quite quicly ambiguous (although I would be very hesitant to say it was amiguous for the writer of Acts) for the later manuscript copyists, who would sometimes add or remove articles in order to attempt to clarify what seemed uncertain to them. The sheer fact that they would seek to do this in the earliest centuries underlines two key points I think we should wake up to:

  1. Disambiguation is important
  2. The issue of article or no article IS significant.

It's not just me harping on about this!

So I would probably agree with most of the French Darby asterisks, but at the same time remain confused as to why other occurrences don't also merit the mental queue - I selected a few to illustrate this in red. Obviously, I was not surprised that my arguments around 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 were not represented here. So with no further ado, please do check the French Darby roundup for more information.


Monday, 15 August 2016

Who's who?

In this blog we are all about disambiguation! Especially in Christian theology where not all the biblical data is unambiguous, it is important that we do replicate clear distinctions in the texts when they are unambiguous - who wants to worship an ambiguous God or Lord?

I was intrigued to learn that a couple of European translations have recognised that not all usage of Kyrios (Lord) in the New Testament is the same. A lot of the differences behind what people meant in the first century when they said Lord would depend on context, and sometimes that context was even assisted by grammar.

I have a good friend whom I sometimes work with, and his wife's name is Isis. Of course, he regularly talks about her, and also discusses at times the latest events associated with the terrorist group. Unsurprisingly, there is never any overlap or confusion despite the usage of the same word!

Another example regarding the assistance of grammar (this time fictitious): In Dackensborough, the local Mayor was Mayor Terrance Tonner. To his closer friends, he was happy with just Terrance, but generally he was pretty attached to his title Mayor, and, just like his uncle before him, would identify himself so closely with that role - indeed it was life - that "Mayor" was pretty much the name he went by.

One blustery Tuesday morning the Yorkshire town townhall door was slammed open with worrying immediacy. The postman practically shouted: "I've got a really, really urgent letter for Mayor Terrance!" he yelled at the startled receptionist. Before she could reply, another door boomed open, and there he was, the main man himself. "I'm mayor here" (as if to say, only I get to slam doors around these parts). "H...H...Here's your letter, Mayor" he managed to stammer and scarpered.

Later that day, the young postman was not feeling good about his impression up in the Town Hall, and he called up the receptionist, whom he already knew from school days. "Linda, sorry to bother you, but did I leave a bad impression on Mayor?"

Mayor Terrance Tonner in this story became identified with his title Mayor in such a way as to dispose of the article almost completely. If he went to a neighbouring town, where he was not mayor, he might well still have thought of himself as Mayor, because that was now pretty much his name. I could push the parallels still further, but I just want to park that one there for now, in order to get back to the modern translations keen to preserve the disambiguation between what we might call a "local" Lord, e.g. an angel, a human master, our Lord Jesus, and the Greek translation of Yahweh, (predominantly) anarthrous Lord (a bit like Mayor).

The first translation I found to attempt to show something of this was La Biblia de las Américas (LBLA), which in Mark 12:29 has Jesus quoting the Greek LXX to say "EL SEÑOR" ([the] LORD, Yahweh). Note the use of the capitals. LBLA translators realised that they were in their full rights to fully capitalise SEÑOR because it was an exact quote of Deuteronomy 6:4, the famous Shema:

Escucha, oh Israel, el Señor es nuestro Dios, el Señor uno es.

(Please note I am not strongly praising the LBLA choices here, for there are no perfect solutions to the Yahweh problem. It should, however, be clear by now I am not in favour of heavy article adding to LORD given its deliberate exclusion by the Greek translators and its obvious total absence in the Hebrew. Here I like that there is a stylistic and helpful distinction for the New Testament Spanish reader, not that it is prefixed by "el")

A second translation attempting this New Testament distinction I will explore with you more extensively is the French Darby translation - that will be the subject of the next post.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Resurrection and poor apologetic reasoning (1)

Resurrection is a massive topic that has not been treated much on this blog - sorry, there's so much going on for me with the divine Name (Yahweh, Kurios, articles...), my preferred topic!

There's often interesting chat on this subject of the resurrection on the Unbelievable podcast, why not check out the discussion this week? There are some good references for further exploration on the debate of Christ's bodily resurrection. One major name however was missed out, whom I may cover at some point (thus far I have only read one small book of his that covers the virginal birth and the resurrection): Raymond Brown. Awesome.

This Unbelievable! podcast, then, bears the title Did Hume Demolish Miracles? In the debate are Michael Ruse and Gary Habermas.

I guess the only thing I want to say is I find it surprising when lay arguments are laid out that don't cut the mustard, while good arguments are left in the background. I also don't get why another key sceptic question never seems to be asked by the sceptics, one that often comes to my mind.

What I did appreciate in the debate is Habermas' insistance to look for the strongest evidence in Paul, and not in the gospels, along with their agreement that good Christianity is not about simply believing a set of propositions, but rather love in action founded on those beliefs. Obviously for Habermas, there is the undeniable foundation of the resurrected Christ, king of love (it was not debated, however, about the possibility of goodness and love in the world, with a non-bodily resurrected messiah). As Christians, love and goodness are at the centre of our understanding of our God. Christianity is the faith I was raised with and for me still makes the most (although definitely not perfect) sense of the world I perceive around me, providing the greatest insights and gives me the most purpose. When I enter into that space of worship and love of the infinite and loving God, it is hard to see an alternative hypothesis to explain the empty tomb stories, which an increasing number of sceptics are now coming to agree probably is true (that there was an empty tomb discovered - not that Jesus was in fact bodily raised by God, otherwise they wouldn't be sceptics!).

But moving away from the resurrection debate for a moment, what do we actually do when we just throw some weak evidence for something that is very reasonable on different grounds?

We discredit it.

I believe we need to be putting ourselves more into the shoes of sceptics (or at least more neutral inquiry) and stop just singing to the choir. Do we care that we might defend our beliefs lamely?

Let me please try to debunk two unsatisfying defenses of the Christian faith. Firstly, Justin Brierly talks here about an argument based on mathematical odds. He shows just how perfect the expanding rate of the universe is, to permit the development of a stable universe. Incredibly unlikely, right? Ridiculously unlikely. So, goes the argument, this is great evidence for the intentionality and design of a Creator. But the argument's frailty is in the way it is stated: "first time", says Brierly. Yet, as he himself goes on to say in the same video, there is absolutely no consensus in the scientific world, the same scientific world **he is appealing to**, about what "multiverse" might look like. One view is most certainly that this "big bang" (William Craig seems to accept the 13.8 bn year dating for this universe) was not necessarily the first. Brierly does later mention it as a possibility, but goes on to state that this requires "faith" in order to believe it. But so does ours! This language or line of defense is not consistent with:

"the fact that we are shows us that someone has loaded the dice, in fact perhaps there is no dice at all... the product of an intelligent mind".

Put bluntly, Brierly is not showing from the facts why one option is more likely than the other, and could justifiably understood as singing to the choir (sorry Justin). Further, from that wobbly basis, he has now jumped to another position that I am not convinced he himself believes: that we were individually and perfectly planned. To be sure, I'd have to listen again to the debate with James White and the open Theist (not all details are decided by God in advance, but he knows all the possibilities and intevenes).

Although Ruse did not discuss the dice argument presented by Brierly, his point that we can look silly just trying to play catch-up with science and forcing our biblical interpretation into yet another mould needs careful consideration. If ever science could demonstrate good evidence for some sort of cyclical universe, what do we do with all the pseudo Christian science? Not only does it hit the bin with a bang, but all those who were bolstered in their faith by poor argumentation may find their faith actually stabbed in the back or feel manipulated. I would really like to avoid young folk from feeling that.

Part 2 of this article about weak reasoning to defend otherwise strong faith will be on a second post, and probably more controversial! You know me...

Thanks for your interest.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

From [the] LORD - more cases for NT translators

As I work through the ancient translators of the psalms and their careful attention to the divine Name of YHWH, I stumble over different combinations that are worth checking out. Let me show you how I arrived at my current example.

In Psalm 37:23, we have a very a normal looking verse: The LORD grants success to the one whose behavior he finds commendable. The Greek translation is a little different:

παρὰ κυρίου τὰ διαβήματα ἀνθρώπου κατευθύνεται (by LORD a man’s goings are established). When I see the same translator translate the divine Name differently but in the same case (genitive here) a couple of verses earlier, I sit up and take note.

Psalm 37:20 states:
οἱ δὲ ἐχθροὶ τοῦ κυρίου (yet the LORD's enemies).

So the translator translates the divine Name in the genitive WITH the article in verse 20 and without in verse 23. In verse 23 we have this interesting combination with a prefix, παρὰ. I have already learned that some prefixes are significant with regard to ensuing articles.

But where it gets really interesting is doing the word search, that www.blueletterbible.org does so, so well. It informs us that παρὰ κυρίου occurs no less than 77 times in the Old Testament (I think all in reference to Yahweh), and 6 times in the Greek New Testament in reference to...? Before looking at that: what about παρὰ τοῦ κυρίου? 4 hits only in the LXX: Num 31:3 (Yahweh is the referent), Deut 23:15 (human master is the referent), 2 Ki 4:28 (human master is the referent), Job 1:12 (Yahweh is the referent).

In the NT παρὰ τοῦ κυρίου occurs twice: Acts 20:24 ("from the Lord Jesus") and James 1:7 ("that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord". There is only one other "Lord" mentioned in this chapter of James, the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1).

So what of those 6 NT παρὰ κυρίου references (no τοῦ) I hear you cry?!

1. Mat 21:42 A direct quote from the Old Testament, definitely the divine Name.
2. Mar 12:11 The parallel Markan passage to Mat 21:42
3. Luk 1:45 "a fulfilment of what was spoken to [Mary] from [the] LORD". It could be argued that that verse 43 (mother of my Lord) counters the certainty of my claim, but that won't work. MY Lord exists nowhere in the OT as a notion to convey MY YAHWEH. There is NO SUCH THING AS "MY YAHWEH"! The remainder of Kyrios occurrences in Luke 1 can also be argued grammatically and contextually to be divine-name referents.
4. Eph 6:8 (knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord/[the] LORD). This one is more open, but given the OT evidence, I would probably favour the divine name. The preceding verse is not much help to us, since although it also states "Lord" τῷ κυρίῳ, it is in the dative, which is most commonly with the article, even for Yahweh. Needs more work.
5. 2Ti 1:18 (may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord/[the] LORD on that Day!) This one seems easy: it's another double Lord-er, like the more famous "The Lord said to my Lord". However, like "the Lord said to my Lord" does not have one referent but TWO referents (Yahweh and Adoni for Psalm 110), so too does 2 Timothy 1 provide the clue to disambiguating the two Kyrios figures. The first has the article, the latter does not. I'd bet good money that it's ὁ κύριος [Jesus] εὑρεῖν ἔλεος παρὰ κυρίου [Yahweh]).
6. 2Pe 2:11 (angels do not pronounce a blasphemous judgement against the glorious ones before [the] LORD). The context of verse 11 is κύριος (no "") rescuing Lot in verse 9. Put bluntly: this is Yahweh.

Interesting, isn't it?!
Oh, that's just taken me away from Psalms again. It's going to take forever at this rate! 

Monday, 25 July 2016

2 Corinthians 3:16 and Luke 1:16 --> the LORD in the New Testament continued...

I have already mentioned the distinct possibility that the passage written by Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 is distinctly Yahweh-esque (please refer to that post here).

Noting how the context of this explanation of Paul is firmly and immediately rooted in the story of the Israelites and that Kyrios (LORD) lacks the article in 4 out of 5 occurrences, I proposed the following translation:

But whenever anyone turns to LORD, the veil is taken away. 17 Now LORD is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of LORD is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate LORD's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from LORD's Spirit.

I showed through comparison with some other passages that the lack of the article before the first LORD is very suggestive, as we have elsewhere in the undisputed Pauline corpus (e.g. 1 Thes 1:9) the same verb and same suffix with the article for Theos.

This is pretty standard practice for stacks of Old Testament declarations about Israel's God. "Yahweh, the God of Israel". Or "Yahweh, the God of us", and so on.

In Greek, of course, this goes: Kyrios (LORD), the God of Israel".

Today I stumbled over even more evidence in favour of my hypothesis that Kyrios is deliberately anarthrous, and therefore referring back to the God of Israel and not specifically to Jesus.

I tried running this search: πρὸς κύριον (to LORD). In the New Testament, this occurs once. However you will see below the exact hit there are also the indirect hits, for πρὸς τὸν κύριον (to the Lord).

A second piece of evidence in favour of capitalisation of LORD in this passage (or even applying Yahweh), is that a similar Greek word behaves the same way and with the same case (accusative): ἐπὶ κύριον. This also means "to LORD" or, at the very least "to the LORD". The context of the only hit (Luke 1:16) here makes it staggeringly plane that capitalisation would be a clearer rendering if the article is kept (which it isn't in the Greek):

He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.

In my view, this should probably read at the very least:
He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the LORD their God.

The challenge of course is being consistent in the more ambiguous instances.

Please note that in line with Larry Hurtado, I am not suggesting that there is an ultra-neat match of

However, as Hurtado recognises in God or Jesus? Textual Ambiguity and Textual Variants in Acts of the Apostles, there is correlation ("In the majority of their 70 (or so) uses in Acts, the arthrous-singular forms of κύριος are applied unambiguously to Jesus", p. 2, you can read it for yourself here). This ambiguity he traces in Acts is fascinating and I will at some point review it on this blog when I have finished processing it all.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

John's gospel: "the Lord"

A crazy-short post today as I'm mega busy. I did procrastinate just long enough to check all the mentions I could find of the English rendering "the Lord" in John's gospel.

Every single one that was specifically referring to Jesus was arthrous. This means that Kyrios, the Greek translation for our word "Lord", is systematically translated with the definite article in John's gospel when referring to Jesus.

This cursory glance is suggestive of different usages of "Kyrios" in the Bible, where Yahweh is often translated "Kyrios", but without the article.

Since these gospel citations are likely emmanating from a later stage of 1st century understanding, given common dating of John's gospel, it seems that this usage is Jesus' earth-ministry title accorded and remembered by his disciples. The name that he inherited as the Son of God (see Hebrews 1:4) is probably a quite different kettle of fish.

Friday, 1 July 2016

A new (very small additional) argument for a Triune Divinity from canonicity

...The second part that is overlooked is early Christianity. Did the early christians think that Jesus was Fully Divine, where that means that Jesus has all the Divine attributes? No they didn't. It's a matter of record that leading mainstream theologians taught that Jesus was not eternal, Jesus does not know as much as the Father, Jesus doesn't have the same kind of power, Jesus isn't good in the same way - his goodness depends on the goodness of God, whereas God has his goodness independently. Who am I talking about? Mainstream theologians in the 100s, and in the 200s and even into the 300s. When they came to a text like: "The Father is greater than I", they just said: yes, see: "greater". They didn't say greater with respect to his human nature but equally great with respect to his divine nature". And when he said he didn't know the day or the hour, they said "yes, only God is omniscient". Jesus isn't omniscient, he says he doesn't know something, you don't want to say he's a liar, right? You just don't find most early Christians saying that Jesus is fully divine. You see them saying things that go very clearly against that. Even after they're speculating about the pre-existent logos, the logos is divine, even after they're calling Jesus "our God", they'll turn right around and say the one True God is the Father, and only he is eternal, only he is perfect in knowledge and so on. And as we have just looked at, this claim that Jesus is fully divine is fully loaded with problematic speculations; it always was.

- Dale Tuggy, 2016, http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-145-tis-mystery-immortal-dies/ at ‘Tis Mystery all - 21st Century Reformation Theological Conference 30/04/2016

For me, originally a die-hard exegesis fan (and the die-hard is not dead yet), this argument is very significant. In my paper Trinitarian Interpretations, I argued that if we are right about the early church Fathers not believing that God was Triune, then we have a problem. One of the solutions I considered, which I have never heard argued, is that the inspired 1st century authors were so inspired that they were literally centuries ahead of their subsequent interpreters. Most people prefer to argue that the earlier (Ehrman would call them "proto-orthodox") theologians, were roughly right, but they were less refined or something like that.

I think there are quite a few theologians who believe the conciliar Christologies are basically on track and that this perspective simply takes a very long time to work out (and it is not finished yet, and its various interpretations today are multiple and mutually-incompatible). That might mean that non-triune things are said in the Scriptures, which, if all are to be considered true on a deep level, that you end up with something looking like a form of Trinitarianism. But God set the whole thing up for a huge debate from an obscure beginning in order for it to stand somehow (because it didn't come easily; paradoxically because it was not as blazingly obvious as evangelical apologists like to assume and argue today). That's an argument I'd be more open to: but I think I have another option still. These beliefs about the Triune God began around about the same time the canon was sealed, so to speak. It could be argued that the wrestling and debating going on with regard to canonicity are not independent of the christological wrestling. Had the canon been clearer earlier, then maybe the Triune God perspective would have emerged earlier too. The same church that decided these are the books, is the church that said, this is our Christ.

My position might be considered to drift. It isn't, or hasn't much. I still firmly believe given the lack of clarity and the supreme position of the Scriptures, the close proximity of the church Fathers in terms of chronological interpretive distance, that we have to allow for greater breadth and tolerance and welcome differing views of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. For me, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit remain central to church life, individual faith and the advancing Kingdom of God. And that has always been the case for me.

This is where the Biblical Unitarian communities, I think, also need to be careful. They can be so sceptical of a whiff of a "divine" Christ, that it could be harder for them (I speculate) to worship Jesus, even if they knew it was to the glory of God the Father, as explicitly stated in Philippians 2.

Let the debate roll on!