Episode 48

November 28, 2023


Can I Trust My English Bible? - Raju Kunjummen

Hosted by

Erik Rasmussen
Can I Trust My English Bible? - Raju Kunjummen
The Concerning Him Podcast
Can I Trust My English Bible? - Raju Kunjummen

Nov 28 2023 | 01:11:49


Show Notes

Raju Kunjummen, VP of Academic Affairs at Emmaus, comes on the podcast to discuss Bible translation, studying Greek and Hebrew, and whether Christians can trust their English Bibles.

Concerning Him - https://concerninghim.com/
Concerning Him Podcast - https://concerninghim.com/podcast/

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:03] Speaker A: Hello and welcome back to another episode of the Concerning Him podcast, brought to you by Emmaus Bible College. My name is Eric Rasmussen, and in this episode we have Vice President of Academic Affairs here at Emmaus Bible College, Raju kunjaman, on the podcast, and we discuss all sorts of great things, the can we trust our English Bible translations, what is the benefit to studying Greek and Hebrew? And a whole conversation around that. He is incredibly smart, he knows the languages really well, and I think he gives a lot of good advice and wisdom to what we might call the average Christian on should we study these things, or can we trust our Bibles without having studied these original languages? So stick around, check out that great conversation that we have going on here. And then, if you'd like more information about Emmaus Bible College, please visit Emmaus.edu. If you'd like to listen to more episodes of The Concerning Hymn podcast or to read articles or to listen to sermons, visit concerninghim.com. And now our conversation with Raju. And we are joined by Raju kunjaman, dean raju kunjaman, vice president of academics. Is that the official title? [00:01:23] Speaker B: Academic affairs. [00:01:24] Speaker A: Academic affairs. [00:01:25] Speaker C: Okay. [00:01:25] Speaker A: And you've had that role now for a year and a half or so? [00:01:29] Speaker B: No, this is my third year. [00:01:30] Speaker A: Third year in the role. Okay, well, I'm excited to have you on. We haven't had you yet on the podcast. [00:01:37] Speaker B: That is correct. [00:01:38] Speaker A: And yeah, I want to get into today something. There's many things that we could talk to you about, but something that I think a lot of people that I've had conversations with would be really interested in hearing your thoughts on, which is what is the role of studying the biblical languages for the average Christian? Can we trust our English Bibles? But before we get there, I think it would be great if you took a few minutes and just talk to us about your journey. You've been at Emmaus now since 2016. [00:02:15] Speaker B: 2016. So I'm in my 7th year, so finishing my 7th year this year. So I was involved, as you know, in formal teaching in a seminary for 20 years before that. [00:02:32] Speaker A: And the seminary was there was Moody. [00:02:35] Speaker B: Theological Seminary in Michigan. [00:02:37] Speaker C: Okay. [00:02:38] Speaker A: Which is connected to Moody Bible Institute. [00:02:39] Speaker B: It is part of the Moody Bible Institute. Began as an independent seminary michigan Theological Seminary, and in 2010 became part of Moody Bible Institute. [00:02:49] Speaker A: But higher Bible education wasn't always your plan, is that correct? If you go way back, correct. [00:02:55] Speaker B: I did not start out wanting to be in ministry or Bible teaching as my prime occupation. I wanted to be a scientist. [00:03:06] Speaker C: Okay, right. [00:03:07] Speaker A: And what kind of scientist? [00:03:08] Speaker B: So I was interested in chemistry. And in my late teens, when we moved to the US. I wanted to finish my degree in chemistry at the University of Minnesota. And at that time, the requirement for a bachelor's degree in chemistry was also two years of German, so I figured and I was already two years into my undergraduate study and I didn't think I want to spend two years of learning German, although I had to study German later for other reasons. So I switched to biochemistry, which I then loved. So I did my received my degree from the University of Minnesota in biochemistry, was a doctoral candidate there after that in biochemistry when I switched to go study the Bible full time. [00:03:59] Speaker A: And why the switch? [00:04:01] Speaker B: That was part of trying to answer some questions internally that were pestering me. I grew up really by gospel believing, Bible reading setting from my great grandparents on one side, grandfather on the other side. They were nominally Christian Bartett become come to the gospel in their lifetime. And so we are very Bible only gospel oriented home. And I had received the Lord as a young boy, nine years old and had stayed in the faith. I had gone to boarding school where really there was no church or Sunday school or a youth group. I just had the Bible had grown in my faith and I was sharing the gospel with people, had participated in open air preaching and things like that even as a teenager before while I was still in college. But at some point I had to face the question I'm telling everybody that the Bible is the greatest thing is God's word and the gospel is the greatest thing there is. And if this is not true, there is not much of a meaning to life. So all of these things and then I realized that I was still driven by merely earthly ambitions. I wanted to become somebody great and if so, it was really trying to reconcile what I professed to be true with what I was actively committed to doing. And at some point I realized that nothing, no achievement actually makes sense if these things are not true. So it was sort of a personal experimental journey in search both of biblical understanding because on the one hand I was frustrated by the kinds of Bible teaching that used to happen a lot. I didn't know how people in preaching, teaching the Bible ended up considering where they started from. I couldn't have the conclusion related to the starting point. But on the other hand I found there was actually others who practiced a good method where the whole message came from the text of the Bible, expository preaching and then reading even magazines of people that I was in sympathy with. They would say on this point, the scholars think that this is what it means. And I figured if there are such things as scholars who authoritatively knew what the text meant, it should be possible to get to that point. Okay, so I was one of those strange creatures who went to seminary wanting to learn the biblical languages rather than. [00:06:59] Speaker A: Being forced to being forced to for. [00:07:01] Speaker B: The majority of my classmates. It's sort of a pain. They had to endure it. I was there for that reason. So, in fact, I even had other languages requested them to be taught and recruited students, like for AKADIAN or Babylonian to be taught as a related language of Hebrew. [00:07:19] Speaker C: Okay. [00:07:19] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:07:20] Speaker A: And what was your area of study in seminary then, specifically? [00:07:25] Speaker C: Yes. [00:07:25] Speaker B: So, in fact, when I switched, I came to a point that if I was going to devote my life to a study and teaching of a subject rather than biochemistry, doing that in a laboratory, I would study and teach the Bible. So when I did my Master of Theology, which is a four year graduate degree, was Old Testament. [00:07:43] Speaker C: Okay. [00:07:44] Speaker B: But I also did advanced Greek at that time because the reason for focusing on the Old Testament was to understand the New Testament. [00:07:52] Speaker A: Well, that makes sense. Your time at Moody Seminary, did you kind of teach everything, or did you have a specific area that you focused on in your education there? [00:08:04] Speaker B: My title was Associate Professor of Biblical Languages and Old Testament. [00:08:09] Speaker C: Okay. [00:08:09] Speaker B: So I was actually, for several years, teaching first and second year Greek as well as Hebrew. So that left very little additional room for anything else. But I did teach theology, church, and final things. [00:08:23] Speaker C: Okay. [00:08:24] Speaker B: Also in the final years, I was teaching the Hermeneutics of course endeavor, the Bible, which I think is really sort of my core passion, which is really how to get to the meaning of the text correctly. [00:08:36] Speaker A: And I would say since you've arrived at Emmaus, that has become evident in that we've added at least one additional class in Hermeneutics. Is that true practice? [00:08:47] Speaker B: There was actually a combined course on Bible study methods and Christian life, but we separated the Bible study methods into separate courses introduction to Biblical Interpretation. [00:08:59] Speaker C: Okay. [00:08:59] Speaker A: And Introduction to Biblical Interpretation IBI, as the students call it. You've taught that a number of times, along with some other professors. [00:09:06] Speaker B: I have. I'm currently teaching it, actually. [00:09:08] Speaker C: Okay. [00:09:08] Speaker A: And some hermeneutics classes. And you've taught practice as well, is that correct? [00:09:12] Speaker C: Okay. [00:09:13] Speaker A: And I know I took Homiletics with you. [00:09:15] Speaker B: Yes. [00:09:15] Speaker A: You've taught that at least one time. [00:09:17] Speaker B: I've taught that several times, some of these, and actually I have taught the full breadth. I've taught both languages, theology courses, as well as interpretation and preaching. [00:09:30] Speaker C: Okay. [00:09:31] Speaker B: I think all of those kind of go together. So in a way, it has been sort of a defect that I have not wanted to be a specialist in a particular area. [00:09:42] Speaker A: Well, I believe it's been a big blessing to the school to have you here and your passion for the Bible and for interpretation. I want to get into this conversation now about the Biblical languages, and there's a lot of conversations, a lot of questions I think, that I want to ask you. But I think maybe the first one I'll start with is, I think of somebody who didn't go to a Bible college or seminary or maybe they went to a place like Emmaus, but they didn't primarily study the Bible. They got the Bible degree, but they were studying business or teacher education or something along those lines. And so they didn't study, they didn't wake up early every morning and study Greek and Hebrew. When they open up their ESV or their NASB or NIV or whatever translation they are reading, can they trust it? If they don't know the biblical languages, can they trust what they're reading to understand it and to interpret it? [00:10:46] Speaker B: To answer that in one word would be absolutely okay, yes. [00:10:50] Speaker A: And why can they trust it? [00:10:51] Speaker B: Because it is a translation of the Bible in the original, so we can say more things about it. So I in fact grew up not reading the English Bible. Okay, was that translation nevertheless, it was actually made. I went to the KJV after that to the English Bible, but this was a translation fact, was later than the KJV, and therefore had some of the benefits of subsequent learning already reflected in that particular translation, which was in my mother tongue. But I was able to understand the message of the Bible. I would say even you can get the message of the Bible even out of translations that you don't fully approve of. I can preach the gospel out of the official Catholic Bible. I don't particularly prefer the New World translation because of their own artificial changes, which is the Jehovah's Witness preferred. However, even a paraphrase, if it is made by people sincere in their commitment to the message of the Bible, although they are taking unwarranted freedoms in restating what it actually says, even those are adequate in conveying the essential basic message of the text. So that actually brings us to the point where it could make a difference. That is very often so. Most of the Bible readers or in the church, particularly in the kind of circles that I have been, where there's freedom and opening for men to speak publicly in the church, we then become all interpreters of the text. And I have found myself and others getting up and speaking and solving theological questions. Right. And we attempt to do that when we shouldn't. [00:13:08] Speaker C: Okay? [00:13:10] Speaker B: Meaning I look back and so what I would periodically say is, I started preaching before I should have, okay, I should read the Bible, understand the Bible, think about what it means for my life, apply it, participate in Bible studies, but that is not the same level. The level of competence needed to confidently teach what the text is saying requires some learning. So one of my profs when I was in seminary had this line you can no more teach what you don't know than you can come from where you ain't been. So there's a body of knowledge and information connected with the Bible and the Bible is a very complicated book. Right? What other book do you know that not only has God as the ultimate author in addition to the human author, but has been composed over a period of 1000 years for the Old Testament going from 1400 BC. To 400 BC or so, and a few decades of the New Testament of the first century for the New Testament by multiple authors, and all of it really being in a language other than our own first language. So the translations are attempting to bring the sense of it to where we are. And it's reliable. You can write theologies actually based on the English text. The question is the level of detail to which you want to press any given point. [00:14:49] Speaker C: Okay? [00:14:49] Speaker B: So very often in the church, if you start talking about the meaning of a particular word, then the point has to be recognized that, well, if you are leaning on the word in the translation you are reading, it is only valid to the extent that that reflects the nuances of the underlying word. So let's, for instance, talk about words. We use the same word in multiple ways. I, for example, use the word medium. Medium. What does medium mean? It all depends on whether you are in a restaurant, you're talking about TV or news, or you are an artist or you are a cell biologist. Medium really can mean a whole range of things, right? It's the core meaning is something in the middle. But we have developed the meaning of the word to particular and very specific context. So when I was doing biochemistry, medium meant what I was growing my bacteria in. That was the culture medium. If you're talking about media today, that's something else altogether. If you are into astrology mediums, something else altogether. Right? So the same word really has got a whole range of meanings. And likewise different words can mean the same. So intermediate, middling, all overlap in medium. That's a semantic field connected. So one of the basic things I teach students as necessary, if you really want to explore the meaning of a word in a given verse, you have to go look up the original. [00:16:32] Speaker C: Okay? [00:16:32] Speaker B: Because the New Testament was not written in English or Chinese or any other language. It was written in Greek and Greek of the first century Greek, that is known as the Koine dialect. So even if you go to later Greek, modern Greek, or even the Greek of Homer and of Plato plato, it's probably not too far. A classical Greek overlaps in Quina developed from that aristotle was actually the teacher of Alexander the Great, and Alexander the Great is the one who spread Greek in its common dialectal form to the parts of the Greek empire and then it persisted into the Roman Empire, which is why the New Testament is in Greek. But the word of interest, if I want to lean on a word is the origin. Same with the Old Testament. I'd like to joke that the most common, what shall I say, entertainment or activity of biblical studies is doing word studies, right? We all do word studies and by that we are doing sort of our own thing. Basically we look at a word and look at words ways in which we can use it and we bring that and bring it to mean in our particular verse and then go to town with it. So the importance of doing these things carefully is that the Bible is not like any other book and when we do Bible studies, it's not like reading a work of fiction and having a conversation about what that means. We actually quote the Bible, say things in the church and Bible studies and at home, other places apart from the Bible because we believe it is authoritative and God's word and therefore it's only authoritative and true to the extent that you are stating what God has actually said. So there's much in the world today casting doubts on the trustworthiness of Scripture. Same question as Satan asked Eve in the garden. Has God really said yeah? He has really said yeah. That's the answer. But our fault often is that we are saying our own things in the name of God and that one has to be very careful about. So here the safety then is to kind of if you want to go to the Minutiae, then it takes much more understanding and depth of knowledge, even a way to examine the meaning of the detail in the original. If you go with the major themes of what is present in the text, it's not a problem at all. So one of the things that all serious Bible readers, even if you really don't do word studies and stuff unless you really do it correctly, but we can all read two or three translations, right? And that's one of the best corrective for being off kilter on the sense of any given passage. Read three or four translations and then you know where all they all kind of meet and that is a dependable part of the meaning of the text. So even this otherwise I would say so when the new American Standard and then NIV, particularly the first edition of the NIV, is what caused a lot of reaction in the fundamentalist circles about changing the text of the Bible, right? Commonly used, some preferred Christologically significant passages were translated differently or so people would say they have taken away my Lord and I don't know where they have laid him. It's quoting Mary's words in the garden, in the post resurrection scene. But the fact of the matter is that the Bible I read probably had put in parentheses the major passages which are present in the King James but are absent from the more recent translations. These are passages about which we have questioned about their being authentic because they are absent from the earliest manuscripts that we have. We have actually Cordices, that's book form of the Old Testament and in Greek and New Testament bound together. That goes back to the third century Ad. Fourth century, clearly. Actually from the fourth century and later we have Papyri going into the third century. So the fourth century and later Courtices, some of them, the good witnesses lack some of these passages would be the woman caught in adultery in John chapter eight, verse out of John, sorry, first John, chapter five, which is the Trinitarian verse, and then the long ending of Mark. These are the three that stand out for not being well attested in the early manuscripts. So the fact of the matter is that nothing in Christian theology changes because of those three passages. Trinity, the doctrine of the Trinity is still evident and provable and demonstrable from the rest of the Bible. Right. The forgiveness of sin and Christ's patience and mercy is still evident from the rest of the Gospels. The long end of Mark. It's got some passages which otherwise troublesome about handling serpents, not handling them necessarily, but not being affected. But it is actually demonstrated in the life of the Apostle Paul on his missionary journey. So there's nothing really taken away. So people were sometimes the motives of the translators were questioned when they were doing this, when these first came out, but I think their motives were simply to be faithful to the evidence about what we have confidence about the text. So going just to circle back. Right. I think the originals are important. There are very good insights to be gained from studying the original languages. And if I really want to be a serious Bible share, I want to answer questions that say college going young people would come and ask you. You need a level of preparation that is rooted in the confidence of the knowledge of the original text, at least to be able to access what scholars who are dealing with the original text are saying can explain otherwise. Most of us are really safer reading not just a verse here and there, isolated verses and going to town with our exposition of that, but to read larger sections and look at what is the idea in the passage, what's the overall lesson that comes out, how does it speak? So the most frequent error and defect in both individual Bible study and group studies is just reading isolated verses. [00:24:15] Speaker C: Okay. [00:24:16] Speaker B: Yeah. All sentences have their meaning, but all sentences have a context. And even the things that I'm saying is coming out in words put together in sentences. But it is part of whatever discussion we are having here. Right. So isolated sentences, although they might make some sense, they are best understood in the context of what else comes with it. [00:24:41] Speaker C: Okay. [00:24:43] Speaker A: It's funny, just a little story. I met a man who grew up in a very fundamental king james only household. And he was telling me when he was 18 or 19, he preached on part of Romans six, and he really emphasized this idea, shall we continue to sin so that grace may abound? And he said, God forbids it. And he put all this emphasis because it says God in King James, god forbid, right? And he said, as his eyes were open and he started reading other translations, he said, none of the rest of them say that. God forbids it. May it never be. I think might be. [00:25:20] Speaker B: The Greek is may it never be. May it never be. So it's a strong expression of denial of the proposition and what the King. [00:25:30] Speaker A: James translators were doing. Makes sense, right, this very exclamatory statement that is correct. [00:25:36] Speaker B: And in fact, if you compare translations, this is where four different current translation would express the same idea in slightly different ways because it's a strong denial and you can say it in more than one way. So you can express the same idea in a given language in more than one way. And that is sort of the underlying reasons for modern versions differing. You can state the same idea. I can say sometimes I go back and edit and change words. I'm expressing the same idea. And maybe I'm repeating a word and I don't want to repeat a word, right, but I want to say the meaning is still the same. So the nature of language is that there is a lot of lack of economy meaning. Words and constructions are not designed in a very tight way, that there's only one way to accomplish the goal of communication. So both in terms of grammar and in terms of words, there is lack of economy meaning there's a surplus of options available for us to accomplish the same end. And that often comes because you mentioned the KJV and eyes being opened, my eyes being opened to switch to what was the numerical standard pretty early, it's back in the 70s, came in a Bible study. So the invisible things of him, Romans chapter one, are clearly seen by the things that are made. And I took the things that are made to be people. And my friends in the same Bible study, they were not using the King James, they said just through the things that are made. Quite a difference, because by in English as a preposition is ambiguous, right? It can speak of agent, which was done by me. It can also mean instrument. It was done by using a device, by electricity, by power. So that's not the ultimate agent. So the Greek proposition here actually is involved is speaking of the means through which God's glory is seen. And so there it actually speaks of the natural world and not the world of people. I said I want a clearer translation, okay? Because some of it is change in language. So more so, I think even in our day we would use by more for I think we use it both ways but a little more use of through than maybe that was present at that time. So this was sort of oh, I wanted the clarity that the more recent translation provided. I don't know how many people listening to this would still be in some way viewing the KJV as specially divinely grand translation. It is not with enough basis. It is a translation after all and it was made by the scholars in the Church of England who at that time were still very Catholic, maybe in their sympathies. It's not an aspersion on them. And most of the issues with the New Testament and the New Testament edition that they used as a basis for their translation was a printed edition. So this so called Texas receptus or the received text was sort of a blurb by the publisher on the back of a printed edition which said, now we have the received text. [00:29:21] Speaker C: Okay, right. [00:29:22] Speaker B: It's not a single manuscript. So in fact the edition of the New Testament was prepared by the anti Reformation scholar Erasmus. He did the work in putting together because a publisher wanted to publish the Greek text because the printing press was available. Now, prior to that the invention of the printing press, all copies of the Bible were made by. So Erasmus was approached for producing edition and so he put one together based on manuscripts he had available locally within reach. In some places where he didn't have a Greek manuscript, he used the vogue and translated back into Greek. So in fact, Bruce Metzger is a good scholar of the text of the New Testament. So in fact, Erasmus created a few words in Greek that are not present any place because in translating it from Latin into Greek he was intelligent. He came up with words which are not present in any New Testament manuscripts. So later on he found more manuscripts and kept editing it and there were other editions of the same text and at one point a certain edition was picked by the translators of the KJB. And since then we have had a whole lot of more evidence of manuscript and even here we are really not talking about any real substantive differences but difference of a word here or there. The most common difference between manuscripts and the New Testament has to do with the plural you and we. [00:31:01] Speaker A: Okay, could you elaborate on that? [00:31:04] Speaker B: So the subject form, the denominative form of the plural we is hemes and the subject form of that is humase and other case forms different like him in human hemorrhage similar. So in the first century or even in later period, in the Byzantine period to the U and the Ata A began to sound alike. They would have both been like he, something like, okay, so if someone was reading and somebody was writing the plural we and you could easily be confused. [00:31:45] Speaker A: That makes sense. [00:31:47] Speaker B: And the shapes are also not terribly different. And so in copying, and even otherwise, sometimes even when we looked at the correct text, when we write, I know the difference between T-H-E-R-E there and T-H-E-I-R there, as well as anyone else. Sometimes when I am typing, I put in the wrong there. So in the era of hand copying, there were some of these confusions that happened. And so we looked at the there are some principled approaches to what is called textual criticism. So we go back and say, what is the oldest evidence? Because you give priority to older evidence rather than later ones. Right. What is the original reading, possible original reading that helps us best explain how the others arose. So there are some well considered principles of textual criticism. These were actually developed for studying, coming up with the original text of the classical text, not biblical studies at all. [00:32:54] Speaker C: Okay. [00:32:55] Speaker B: These were meant for Greek and Latin texts. So those principles were developed for getting back to what seems to be the original when you are dependent on hand copied versions of the text. So these can also be applied with, I think, reasonable confidence. There are some you're not very confident, but reasonable confidence to the biblical text. And so, for example, the committees that work on the additions of the New Testament, these are scholars who have studied textual criticism. And so then they vote on the likelihood of what is the most likely candidate of the readings for the original text. In the majority of cases, they have very little disagreement, and it's a very confident rating. Sometimes if they are 50 50 division, they put it there. But it doesn't really make any difference for any of the things we believe in. [00:33:47] Speaker A: That's what I was going to say. If just your average person sitting down the morning, opening up their Bible with a cup of coffee is putting their faith in some way in these scholars who have participated in textual criticism, should they be worried? What if they are wrong? [00:34:03] Speaker B: No, even if they are wrong. So he saved you. He saved us. Would the ultimate meaning of that sentence in terms of application, have any difference? Only if the you and we are different entities altogether right. With no overlap involved. So I'm just giving you the most likely case of that, the most significant ones in terms of differences, I already mentioned at the beginning, and they don't make much of a difference. So, yes, it makes a difference for serious or scholarly study of individual passages right. In a few places. What is the precise meaning of this sentence? Right. What does the Bible teach concerning life and Godliness and sin and salvation and about God? Absolutely no difference. No difference at all. [00:34:59] Speaker C: Okay. [00:35:00] Speaker A: And so I think this goes, if I understand what you're saying, if I'm rephrasing it well. Let me know if I'm not. It is beneficial for those who want to confidently teach and proclaim Scripture to have at least some understanding of the biblical languages. Maybe if I heard you correctly, there are certain areas in which expert enough understanding, in which you can confidently read and rely on those who would be considered experts. Is that correct? [00:35:30] Speaker B: Yes. So if I were to summarize the benefits of knowing the biblical languages, one so one of the first benefits is make you read the Bible slower. [00:35:42] Speaker C: Okay. [00:35:43] Speaker B: You're learning a new language. So reading the Greek New Testament is a whole lot more effort than reading the English. Same with the Hebrew text. So you pay more attention to words and details. It's a basic site, fringe benefit. A second is that once you have learned, say, a year or two of language and grammar, a whole new set of scholarly resources become available to you. So there are commentaries which deal with really the original text, including matters of textual criticism. So I think we spend too much time talking about textual criticism because I don't think it is really a big issue in terms of in this particular question about translations or even about our confidence in the Bible. I think people may bring those up. So from that point of view, it's useful to know. But I have no lack of confidence in the meaning of the and I have practiced textual criticism right. [00:36:40] Speaker C: Okay. [00:36:41] Speaker B: Both in classes and even really I've been mentioned in the introduction of a work on textual criticism of Genesis one through eleven. [00:36:51] Speaker C: Okay? [00:36:52] Speaker B: So I've taught it, and so I'm familiar with it, and I have no concern about the meaning of the text in terms of what the Bible teaches. But some of the benefits, then it opens up more resources to you, because if you have a curious mind, you want to know what this means, what's this passage actually saying, to push it to a little more level of detail and fine understanding. So it opens more things. It helps me understand why the translations sometimes differ. So I have illustrated in multiple ways now, particularly the Greek text comes to us in the early centuries. Even the New Testament manuscripts without word division, punctuation, you can still make sense of it. And we are now beneficiaries of a whole centuries of traditions of people who read the new Greek, who then did add the punctuation and word division. But there are still a few places where the early translations kind of were more literal. That is, they kept the word order of the original as much as possible, followed that sequence, and sometimes that leads to confusion. English, even within the family of Germanic languages, gave up a lot of forms of words and made the word order more rigid. We put the subject in the beginning object after the verb. So Paul saw Peter is different from Peter saw Paul in Greek you could put those in whatever order you want. You can say saw Peter, Paul, saw Paul, Peter, they could all mean the same because Peter, the form of Peter is marked for subject and the form of Paul is marked for object. Right? It's like I and me. So you saw me, me you saw, they both mean the same thing. [00:38:52] Speaker C: Okay? [00:38:53] Speaker B: Right. Because in English we only keep that difference for the in me, the personal pronouns I-U-V so he, she, rest of the words we don't have except the apostrophe s form. So Greek has much greater word order, freedom. So here is a good example. When I read the KJV, so second verse out of two corinthians it says God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. It preserves the order in the Greek, okay? God was in Christ reconciling the world, the world reconciling to Himself, but the world is object. So we would have read that as actually a Christological statement god was in Christ and God was reconciling the world to Himself. If you read the NIV, it would say God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ. [00:39:56] Speaker C: Okay? [00:39:58] Speaker B: There it is only one statement that God was doing the work of reconciling the world to Himself and he did that in Christ. If you read the KJV and New American Standard a certain way, you have two statements god was in Christ, God was reconciling the world to think. So then you go with that as a Christological statement. God was in Christ. And that is not wrong. But I don't need that verse for that dogma, that teaching because Colossians tells me in whom the fullness of God had dwelt in bodily form, or John 114 the word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. And the full of grace and truth is actually echo of Exodus where God appeared to Moses. So no problem about the deity of Christ that God was Christ is God in bodily form. The question is, is second Corinthians teaching that? Teaching that, yeah. And there I think the ESV and NIV translators have it more accurately. I think it is saying the work of reconciliation was being done in Christ by God. [00:41:13] Speaker C: Okay? [00:41:13] Speaker B: So there knowing the original language helps me see sorted out and how this is possible. There was another interesting example. I was actually in a funeral service and was in the Catholic Church because the brother's mother I think had passed away and she was Catholic and the funeral was in the Catholic Church. I'm sitting and listening and they are reading John chapter 14 and all of a sudden I hear something that I hadn't heard before in my Father's house of many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? Interesting, the version I know is that in my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you I go to prepare a place for you. Now, what is bringing about this difference is, one, the lack of punctuation in the original, and second, a word, a possibility. That the word that in Greek the word haughty, it's just a very short word. It can either mean because or it can mean simply I would have told you that I know that introduces an object clause, right? So the yes, no questions in Greek and in Hebrew then are punctuated. There's no question mark in the original text. So it could have been a question would I have told you or I would have told you would have appeared the same. [00:42:47] Speaker C: Okay? [00:42:48] Speaker B: In English, we change the word order by because even the wood is not a separate word in Greek, right? In fact, I and the wood are all part of the verb form most of the time, okay? So unless the I is stated separately, it can be but there's no separate word for wood. So the auxiliaries are not they don't exist as independent things in Greek. So it is very possible that if differently punctuated and understood, the Lord is saying in my Father's house of many mansions. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And I think some of the more recent versions have adopted that and I think that could be a reasonable reading. One could still argue about it, but at least we know what we are arguing about, right? So that's a benefit of knowing. So some of these things I've given in several examples also happens in Hebrew we are reading, having a Bible study and Psalm 37, and it's one of the early verses saying trust in the Lord and do good. And KJV has so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. [00:44:03] Speaker C: Okay? [00:44:03] Speaker B: This is KJV new King James trust in the Lord, do good, dwell in the land and feed on his faithfulness. So verily you shall be fed. Feed on his faithfulness. [00:44:18] Speaker C: Okay? [00:44:20] Speaker B: New American Standard 90 1995 or 97 update dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. So feed, cultivate, you shall be fed. The Net Bible trust in the Lord and do what is right. So they all are the same in the first three clauses. Settle in the land and maintain your integrity. New Revised Standard trust in the Lord and do good so you will live in the land and enjoy security. ESV. Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. And one more NIV. Trust in the old NIV and do good. Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. You say what's going on? Right? Verily thou shalt be fed to befriend faithfulness. Right? That's quite a stretch. So here, actually being able to look at the original text helps you out because we have just two words. One has to do with shepherding. [00:45:28] Speaker C: Okay. [00:45:28] Speaker B: And the second is the basic word for faith. [00:45:31] Speaker C: Okay. [00:45:33] Speaker B: The word for faith. Amuna in Hebrew and Pistis in Greek they both can mean faith or faithfulness. [00:45:41] Speaker C: Okay. [00:45:41] Speaker B: So that is it's within the range of meaning, can mean faith, trusting or being faithful, trustworthy. The other part is actually a little more complicated. It's like if you read the English, see the English word led, how would you read it? [00:46:03] Speaker A: Either lead or lead. [00:46:05] Speaker B: Either lead or lead. It's spelled the same way. Correct. So the context determines. Now, with lead and lead, there's hardly any situation where you might confuse them, which is men, one or the other. But in this particular, the word for shepherding can also be related. Same root for being a friend. Okay. And the word for shepherding can mean to shepherd, to cultivate, even not just sheep, beyond that. Or to lead to pasture or to feed on the pasture. Okay, so now your translator has got options, right? Is emuna faith or faithfulness? Or sometimes a Greek noun can be there, but it means like a propositional phrase, like an adverbial phrase that is faithfully in faith, even though in is not written, it's grammatically permissible. So the translators and this is a case where you have kind of two options with five variations within it combined to another options with three variations in it. I think it means to because the sentence begins with trust in the Lord and do good dwell in the land. So I think it is to either practice faith or to befriend faith. So faith is the focal point to continue to trust God in the midst of adversity. If I get that I got it right, but at least I understand because I'm able to study the underlying Hebrew, what the translators have done with it. So this is one of the benefits of deeper study because it's natural for those who are in a Bible study when you are dealing with the text saying, what is going on here? Why have translators kind of done this very strange thing? They're not really playing fast and loose with the text, that there is some ambiguity in the underlying text and they are trying to come up with their best resolution of it and they don't all agree on how best to do it. [00:48:19] Speaker C: Okay. [00:48:20] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:48:20] Speaker A: So if somebody is listening to you and they've listened to what are all the benefits of studying the biblical languages? And yet they're not a teenager. The time for Bible college or seminary has passed. They're in a career, they've got kids, they've got a family living busy lives. But they think this is fascinating. This seems that it would increase my understanding of the scripture and my personal Bible study. Maybe they're an elder. Maybe they do preach and teach. Is there a path to study? Is this too complicated where the time for Bible college and seminary has passed. And so your time to study this has passed. Is there an avenue to study this at a different stage of life? [00:49:05] Speaker B: Yeah, my answer would be yes. [00:49:10] Speaker C: Okay. [00:49:13] Speaker B: I think it takes two years of study. So by the two years, I mean, if there's a full time student, they're taking five courses and Greek is one of the courses and you're taking a course at that pace for two years okay. Which could also mean a very intensive study over six months. [00:49:33] Speaker C: Okay. [00:49:34] Speaker B: You could gain basic competence from which you can build and keep going. And if you start at that point in about five years, you have good potential for understanding what is going on with all of these things and to be able to look up good resources, grammars, good commentaries, other resources, do your own word searches and do word studies on your own. So there's good potential for but you should be serious. So sometimes people come they come into hermeneutics thinking, I'm going to find some magical principles to find hidden things in the text with which to impress my congregation. It's not going to happen because what happens, in fact, what happens in Introduction to Bible Interpretation is the students learn English grammar for half the class. Yes. Why? Because you have the English text in front of you. You must understand what it is saying. Right. So I think we play fast and loose with the text just too much. That is do you understand every sentence you are reading and do you understand it? What is the subject matter being discussed very often? We have a framework of basic theology, good, reliable things. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are sinners saved by grace. Right? Jesus, God loves us. There is eternity coming and we'll be with Christ forever. So we have this basic package of theology and then we just go to a sentence in the Bible, in the New Testament and then go to town just with a phrase, not worrying about what is Paul or Peter or John doing with that phrase in that particular sentence and what is that sentence doing? What is the overall concern of the passage? All of us have really read through the epistles, I would think many who are listening many times, what is the overall concern argument of Galatians? Is Paul proving anything? In Galatians? I would say yes. He gives actually three major lines of proof for a particular issue that the Gospel that he preached is true. So really what he's saying in there is all connected to a larger development of thought and similar things can be said about Colossians or other epistles. I mean, when you come to the very large books, what's the central idea of the Book of Isaiah? I think it is harder to get at, but even there, if you read the larger passages, you get a sense of the larger sections in context rather than isolated sentences. So our tendency often, unfortunately, is to just catch on to a given phrase and it says something to you and then we develop it. I think we should understand the text as written as much as possible, right? So the effort, even in the beginning of interpretation, is to understand English correctly. And unfortunately, our schools are not committed in the way they used to be to help young people learn their own language. We know how to drive, but we can't describe the internal combustion engine or the electric motor, for that matter. And interpretation is really describing what the car is doing. We are not drivers. We are drivers when we are writing something, and that is enough. You are expressing yourself fine, and normally we are able to understand it. But interpretation is the task of clarifying the meaning to those who don't catch everything that is there right away. And so grammar and language, understanding it properly is central. So even just being aware of this that, yeah, there is effort needed and thought that should be given to what is the author saying? What are his concerns? How does it connect to the rest of the New Testament? Epistles don't come to us in isolated verses. It's a whole epistle, right? And so everything has its context. And we are sufficiently made sensitive to the importance of context in interpreting verses, not to read them out of context, but we should give a lot more thought to the flow of thought and argument in a given passage than we know what is the underlying concern. So even when well known passages in Philippians chapter two, although he exists in the form of God, he did not consider equality with God something to cling to or grasp at, but emptied himself. So that is important. Christologically, very important, speaks about Christ's deity. He was in the form of God. It speaks about his true humanity. He became, it took upon in the form of a servant, which is equal to being a man. His obedience became obedient to death. All of these we catch. But that is actually an illustration. This great Christological passage in Philippians two is illustrating that we should have the same mind as was in Christ, that everyone should not should think of the other, not on his own things. So if I have understood the doctrine of Christ, now, that is important. It is part of our proof text for the person of Christ, right? And for his self emptying, leaving the form, being with God and becoming a man. But it's actually applicational in its being stated in Philippians two that we shouldn't be quarreling with each other, we should be having one mind, we should set aside our personal agendas for the good of others. And so that is the importance, in fact, of reading these things in context. Even the other Christological passage, which sort of stands on its own. In Colossians, chapter one, who is the image of the invisible God? Firstborn of all creation. There are some things in there that in fact we read through it. What does it mean? Firstborn of all creation. So it needs study, really? Firstborn of all creation. What does that mean firstborn from the dead? What does that mean? Right. Even that is actually there to support a later argument that if you are in Christ, you have come into the fullness of what you need in relation to God. Fullness or completeness is not going through something else. So even there, there is a larger argument in the text. So you can do there's a lot that still needs to be done by those who study and teach the Bible, even if we haven't gone near the biblical languages just in reading the English Bible. But sometimes knowing the original language gives you some delightful insights. Would you like an example? [00:56:53] Speaker A: Please. [00:56:55] Speaker B: Well, there's something that I like to tell beginning students of the language, and most of the time they are persuaded. So in James, chapter two, verse 26, it says the body without the spirit is dead. And so faith apart from works is dead. And all translations really go in this direction. But there's one very curious and interesting fact, and this is true in Hebrew and Greek are entirely different language families. One is Indoeuropean. The other is Semitic. Right. They are not sister languages unless you go to some farther distant past where you can't make much commonality between them. But they have this interesting feature that the word for spirit is identical to the word for breath and identical to. [00:57:50] Speaker A: The word for wind in both languages. [00:57:53] Speaker B: Both languages, yes. So Hebrew. Ruach is spirit. It can be wind, it can be breath. There are other words for breath, but this can mean breath. Greek word Panoma or pneumatic comes from that pinoma or pneumonia is related. So pnoma is spirit or breath or wind. It's an interesting overlap in terms of the semantic range of the word. So the question is, when James says the body apart from the pnoma is dead, is he meaning spirit or does he mean breath? I can give you other New Testament examples where the same word is used exactly for breath. [00:58:38] Speaker C: Okay, right. [00:58:39] Speaker B: So it's not disputed that Pnoma can mean breath. [00:58:45] Speaker A: And the body without breath would certainly be a dead body. [00:58:47] Speaker B: Would it be a dead body? Yes. So here in James, in James 226, should we read the body without breath is dead, or should we read the body without the spirit is dead? [00:59:03] Speaker A: I'm not sure. [00:59:06] Speaker B: I think here maybe the translations may have kind of overdone it in the sense that made it deeper than James means it too, because he's giving the analogy that faith without works is dead. How do you know that the body is alive? It's still breathing, man. It stopped breathing. It's dead. Similarly how do you know you have faith? Your works are the evidence of you're having faith. In fact the existing translation I think creates a theological problem because then works become the animating principle behind faith not merely the evidence of faith. For what it is worth. [00:59:46] Speaker A: That's fascinating. Yeah. Are there any translations that translate it that way? [00:59:51] Speaker B: The ones none that I have found so far. [00:59:53] Speaker C: Okay. [00:59:53] Speaker B: None that I have found. But they all take this to be body without spirit is dead but it is just as arguable and nobody will dispute what I have pointed out as the semantic range of the word. There's no argument that Pinoma and Ruach actually both can mean wind and spirit. One other example and this is also the word angel and this is also Hebrew and Greek. They come close together. [01:00:19] Speaker C: Okay. [01:00:20] Speaker B: Hebrew word malak means a messenger. It's also the word for angel. So it's the word actually for the messenger of the Lord. So in a way the angel of the Lord who seems to be a divine person, there's no inherent meaning in the word angel that he's a created being. He's a messenger of God, messenger of the Lord. Similar with Greek, our word angel is borrowed from Greek anglos anglos is angel or messenger. So John the Baptist in the Gospel of Luke sends angels to the Lord Jesus to find out if he's the Messiah, if he's the one to come, if he should wait for somebody else. He sent messengers not angels. So it's used in our text clearly Angelos used as messenger. So we have then the question. So the letters to seven churches. [01:01:12] Speaker A: Oh yeah. [01:01:14] Speaker B: So the angel to Church of Ephesus you see the messenger who's going to come and read the letter to the church or the one they are reading the church or see an angel. But that is interesting, right? [01:01:30] Speaker C: Yes. [01:01:31] Speaker B: Because that kind of simplifies our understanding of the text in some ways. So one other passage in regard to angel that I think about is out of the Pastorals one, Timothy 316 great indeed we confess is the mystery of Godliness. So he was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world. So I've given this sort of assignment to sort of think about what is the possibility here and here also the translations generally go he was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels. Generally we take it to be the enunciation. Perhaps he's seen by angels before and when he was here. What is the point of seen by angels? And if you look at the verse see where it is between the statement of his resurrection right manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit. I think it's resurrection seen by angels and proclaimed among the nations. So the last step after being seen by angels is being proclaimed among the nations. So is that a face in the Gospel proclamation, or is it something else? If so, who are the angels that he was seen by? It makes very good sense. It's to be considered clearly as an interpretive option to speaking about the fact that the early proclaimers of the Gospel were eyewitnesses to the resurrection seen by the Messengers, the ones who went about. So we were eyewitnesses of his majesty, as John would say, and Apostle Paul also saw the Lord appear to him on the road to Damascus. So one of the qualifications for being an apostle, so when they had replaced Judas, was that was a witness to the resurrection. So the early proclamation of the Gospel, this is why we don't find a lot of apologetic for proving that Jesus rose from the dead. They were eyewitnesses, they went around saying they had seen him rise from the dead. So they were proclaiming what they had seen and heard unknown. And so it could very well be that this verse should be understood as he was manifest in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by the Messengers, that those who proclaimed him as the Messiah and proclaimed among the nations. So there is definitely benefit even at this point. So I have at least a colleague who thinks most of the things to be solved in the text have already been solved. You can't discover anything really new. I think the possibility is a whole lot more in the Hebrew and the Old Testament than in the New. Most of the questions that need to be asked have already been asked and solutions have been found, but there are still some interesting things to be discovered. [01:04:48] Speaker A: What would be then, the path for somebody post Bible college and seminary age to studying the original languages? [01:04:58] Speaker B: There's something to which I would like to kind of in a form of solution, and I may be premature in saying it, but most of the difficulty is really freeing yourself up to be in a place where it is taught. Just before I decided to go to seminary, I actually started taking Greek at the university because classical Greek is what they had. There's some difference between classical and quina, but it was doable. So there may be places near you which are teaching institutions where you could actually learn. So that kind of puts some constraints on when the classes are available. I did that in evening school may not always be so these days there are much more opportunities for doing things, learning things online. I hope one of these days we'll be able to produce Emmaus's own Greek and Hebrew modules to be available online. But those are options. [01:06:03] Speaker C: Okay. [01:06:04] Speaker A: And then I guess, a final question. As we've kind of talked through all these things, you've referenced a lot of different translations and you've talked a couple of times about reading through different translations to try to grab the meaning of the text. Do you have thoughts and this could be a whole big discussion and it doesn't need to be, but on certain translations to stay away from in personal studies, certain translations. To more gravitate. To you've referenced the ESV, the original NIV and the NASB a few times, but if you want to talk about that for just a minute or two. [01:06:37] Speaker B: Yes, there are some. So I was actually for today's, this purpose, looking again at the message. The message? [01:06:51] Speaker A: Oh, yes, the message. [01:06:52] Speaker C: Yes. [01:06:54] Speaker B: I looked at it again when I was teaching in the seminary, I actually gave an assignment. I was teaching exegesis Greek text of Galatians and said, look at the message and see if it is faithful to the text. And they all came as I concluded, yes, was pretty faithful to the text. Today I was reading a portion again and I just thought, trying to put into contemporary idiom, it had kind of given up some things and maybe put in some things. So it depends on what passage you are reading. So that's probably the limit of what I would find. Tolerable for serious study, I would say if you want to recommend a Bible for somebody who's totally ignorant of the Bible, give them any paraphrase. [01:07:44] Speaker C: Okay. [01:07:45] Speaker B: As long as it is not by a cult of some kind, give them any paraphrase. If you become familiar with the content of what is in the Bible, because the original text, as well as some of the idioms in a literal translation are often hard, and you don't get very far if you are a teacher, if you're a serious student, if you've been around the Bible ten years, you choose a more careful translation. And within the translations, I don't know, frankly, if I have to teach and preach, I look at the original as much as I can. So then it doesn't really matter which one I have. I have a Christian standard that sits in my office, the NIV, the American Standard at home. I meant the NASB. Yeah, NASB and the ESV at home. The old NIV also, although was not some people do not like dynamic equivalents too much, but most more recent translations are moving in that direction. I think they were still trying to be faithful to the text. The NRS new RSV, I think is a careful translation, but it also has a commitment to use gender neutral language. And there you might find that it might go overboard in places. Okay, clearly the Bible uses the message is addressed to men and women. So if in our day translating is just as brothers or men could mislead our understanding that it's only meant for the male gender, then that's better to correct that in translation. But with regard to deity, with regard to God, I would not change the language at all in that regard. So the ESV was based on the NRSV. [01:09:50] Speaker C: Okay. [01:09:51] Speaker B: Some of the choices I think ESV are good. I think I still have my own preference if I use and that is more in the more literal direction and it's a little older translation than the more recent ones. [01:10:02] Speaker C: Okay. [01:10:02] Speaker B: Yeah. But I think if you read more than one translation and follow major thoughts, ideas, and if you want to really look at the minutiae, look at good scholarly commentaries, or look at if you can access what's the sense of the original, you are on safer ground. Okay, so most of our problem is, again, with inadequate foundation, trying to be just maybe I should say this sort of as a closing thing. Would you respect a Shakespeare scholar who studied Shakespeare entirely in Italian or Spanish? [01:10:54] Speaker A: Probably not. [01:10:56] Speaker B: So that would be the ultimate place. You can do a lot with Shakespeare in translation, but if you really want to make dogmatic assertions about what the text is saying, you better read English. [01:11:11] Speaker A: That makes sense. [01:11:12] Speaker B: Yeah. [01:11:14] Speaker A: Well, thank you very much. This has been a great conversation. I really appreciate having you on. And I'm sure we will have you on the podcast again. [01:11:21] Speaker B: I enjoy doing it. Thank you very much. [01:11:23] Speaker A: Thank you. Thank you for listening to concerning him an Emma's podcast. Ministries like Concerning Him are possible because of the generous contributions from our partners around the world. For more information, information about partnering with us, please visit emeas.edu partner.

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