Mark 5:19 – Be a witness first to our family, friends, or people?

A continuation of a further look at Mark 5:19 on the man who was exercised of a legion of demons and had them cast into a heard of pigs (swine). Did Jesus tell the healed man to return and give witness of Jesus Christ to his family, friends, or to his own people?

Mark 5:19 says: “But Jesus would not let him. Instead, he told him, “Go back home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how kind he has been to you.” (Good News)

NLT, Amplified, Douay-Rheims:  uses “family
NIV, ESV/RSV/NRSV, N/KJV: uses “friends
CEB, CSB, NJB, NET: uses “your [own] people

Which is correct? One biblical commentary states: “Jesus refused the man permission to accompany him, but instructed him to return to the circle of family [Mark’s phrase τοὺς σούς may well include a circle wider than the man’s family, but there can be no doubt that the family was at the center of that circle.”  (William L. Lane, NICNT).

Another states: “To your people” (πρὸς τοὺς σούς), unique to the NT, has been taken narrowly by some to mean “your family” … But most take this to refer more broadly to “the people of your area” (R.A. Guelich, Word/ WBC).

In terms of biblical theology, either interpretation would not have any implications; but it would in terms of evangelism.  Do we go and bring our witness of Christ to our family first, or friends first, or our own ethnic people?  Obviously, we should evangelize everyone, but if I were this man healed of demon possession, I would want to tell my family first, then everyone else.

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Romans 13:1-7 — Should we resist ruthless regimes?

Still in today’s world, we have ruthless totalitarian/authoritarian dictatorships and regimes who are bent on killing innocent people and committing genocide (e.g., Assad of Syria, and Kim Jong-Il (through indirect starvation)).  There are also  governments that might not be as bad but are yet marginally ruthless. The bible has been used by some Christians, like Mennonites, to justify passive obedience, even in cases of ruthless dictatorships and regimes.  In Romans 13:1-7, Paul says this:

Romans 13: 1 Let every person  be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? (ESV)

In what case should Christians refuse to submit to such governing authorities?

Should we as Christians never, in any case, rebel against the governing authorities?

Or would we be within ethical boundaries to physically and even violently resist abusive governments?

Is the New Testament reliable?

Is the New and Old Testament reliable?  This is a question that some Christians is challenged with but are not sure how to respond because we don’t have the tools for a defense of the bible and theological apologetics.  To begin, here are some links to debates between Craig Evans (Acadia) and Bart Ehrman (UNC). They are just some of many New Testament scholars who can debate this issue critically.

Criag Evans vs Bart Ehrman  debate (Jan. 19, 2012) (Night 1; Night 2); (and an earlier debate from 2011) (here). (More may be added later).

The Bible and Social Justice

What does the bible have to say about social justice issues?  Many of us are not sure. We know it says something but it’s not very clear to many of us. Understanding social justice from a biblical perspective is important because it affects our theology, our practice of theology, and how we treat others in this world.  Some passages on social justice are found in: Amos 5:1-17; Exodus 20:22-23:33; wisdom literature; Luke-Acts; Hebrews & general epistles; and Revelation.  The Amos 5 passage has caught my attention lately.

I love these words from Amos 5:14-15

14 Seek good and not evil,
that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of heavenly forces,
will be with you just as you have said.
15 Hate evil, love good,
and establish justice at the city gate.
Perhaps the Lord God of heavenly forces
will be gracious to what is left of Joseph.

(Common English Bible)

McMaster Divinity College (Hamilton, Ontario) is having its 16th H.H. Bingham Colloquium in New Testament today.  Since I’m not too far away (an hour’s drive) I’m going on the freeway to McMaster University to listen to the presentations by biblical scholars who will be presenting from contemporary biblical/New Testament perspectives. The topic this year happens to be “The Bible and Social Justice.” I’ll be interested in listening how some of these biblical scholars  will be treating their above New Testament biblical texts at hand.  This biblical stuff just turns my crank.

Debate: Wallace vs Ehrman — “Can we trust the text of the New Testament?”

A great debate is coming up:

Daniel B. Wallace vs Bart D. Ehrman
Both biblical scholars–one conservative evangelical, the other, a former fundamentalist become liberal-atheist.

Topic:Can we trust the text of the New Testament?
Date: Oct. 1, 2011
Time: 7:00PM
Place: Dallas, TX
Sponsored by: Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (web: CSNTM)

Since it will be all the way in Dallas, TX, the Friends of CSNTM website says a DVD will be available for purchase. It might be worth ordering.

Were the tongues “distributed” or “divided” in Acts 2:3?

When I first read in Acts 2:3 about how the early Christians received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues (or glossolalia), I learned it from the KJV’s rendering of “cloven tongues”.  However, this is not necessarily an accurate picture of what may have happened in Acts 2:3.  Different translations differ in how they portray the appearance of the flame of Pentecost. This may also impact our theology of the charismata.

How is it rendered in the original Greek?  It uses διαμερίζω (“diamerizō”, divide, part, cloven). The word diamerizō may be defined in several ways: literally in distribution or in appearance, and also, figuratively in dissension.  We can rule out the third: dissension. This leaves us with either distribution or appearance.

Greek: καὶ ὤφθησαν αὐτοῖς διαμεριζόμεναι γλῶσσαι ὡσεὶ πυρὸς καὶ ἐκάθισεν ἐφ᾽ ἕνα ἕκαστον αὐτῶν,

The NRSV, ESV, CSB and KJV all seem to portray flames (or tongues of fire) being “divided” (in the sense of being split in half), and resting over their heads. (Notice first picture below on the left with the divided flames).  The NRSV/ESV/CSB renderings interpret diamerizō in such a way that it leads the readers to view the flame as the object of the matter.  As a result, the reader will focus on the physical appearance of the flame, rather than, the action of the flame.

ESV: And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.
CSB: And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them.

NRSV: Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.

When I read the New English Translation (NET), I noticed that the flame is not “divided” (in the sense of not being split in half), but rather, it is “distributed” and “spread out” amongst the people.   Notice NET’s rendering of “spreading out”  projects an action of distribution, rather than, a static image of physical appearance. The word diamerizō may be interpreted as being distributary or dispersionary, which is also in line with the Spirit’s nature of distributing gifts or charismata. This helps the reader to perceive tongues in a more active sense (like fire in a raging forest fire).

NET:  And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them.

The Revised English Bible (REB) use of the word “distributed” also portrays an image of tongues of flames being distributed in the  dispersionary sense.  This rendering of diamerizō is dynamic too.

REB: And there appeared to them flames like tongues of fire distributed among them and coming to rest on each one.

The NLT, however, completely avoids making any interpretation regarding the appearance or distribution of the flame, all though it tends to focus on its appearance rather than action. Perhaps its translators didn’t know how to properly render diamerizō.

NLT  :  Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.

The TNIV could be interpreted either way.

TNIV: They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

I tend to prefer the NET bible’s rendering because it allows for γλῶσσα (“glōssa”) to be interpreted as a language that is dynamic and is actively spread out or distributed to others, rather than a tongue of flame being a static object.   The REB is my second choice.

Exodus 22:8-9 “God” or “Judges”?

I think this will really bug some people as it bugs me.  It seems that Exodus 22:8-9 is clearly referring to judges but some translations like the NLT,  ESV, NRSV rendered elohim as “God“; but TNIV and CSB rendered elohim as “judges“.  Yes, technically, “God” is correct; but it seems clear to me that elohim (in the sense of a small “g” gods) which can be translated as judges, was what the writers/scribes intended.

Should we go with what we know as technically correct? Or should we go with what we know the writer/scribe/editor intended?

_________________________  Exodus 22:8-9 _________________________

NLT But if the thief is not caught, the neighbor must appear before God, who will determine if he stole the property. 9 “Suppose there is a dispute between two people who both claim to own a particular ox, donkey, sheep, article of clothing, or any lost property. Both parties must come before God, and the person whom God declares guilty must pay double compensation to the other.

ESV If the thief is not found, the owner of the house shall come near to God to show whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. 9 For every breach of trust, whether it is for an ox, for a donkey, for a sheep, for a cloak, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor.

TNIV But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, and they must determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property. 9 In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says, ‘This is mine,’ both parties are to bring their cases before the judges. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to the other.

CSB If the thief is not caught, the owner of the house must present himself to the judges to determine whether or not he has taken his neighbor’s property. 9 In any case of wrongdoing involving an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or anything else lost, and someone claims: That’s mine, the case between the two parties is to come before the judges. The one the judges condemn must repay double to his neighbor.

Luke 18:29 – Is TNIV gender-accurate?

Matthew 19:29

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother (NRSV)

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother (TNIV)

Mark 10:29

there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father (NRSV)

no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father (TNIV)

Luke 18:29

there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents (NRSV)

no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents (TNIV)

everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents  (NLT)

Were TNIV translators gender-accurate or too aggressive in their rendering of Luke 18:29?  This one is questionable.  The word ἀδελφοὺς can mean “brother” in the masculine plural but has been translated as “brothers or sisters” in other passages where adelphas (ἀδελφὰς, sisters: fem. pluaral) is absent.   I checked other translations and found no other translation went as far as TNIV did in Luke 18:29—not even the NRSV or NLT.  The NRSV and NLT rendered this as simply “brothers”.

The Matthew and Mark parallels rendered adelphos (ἀδελφοὺς) as “brothers” and adelphas (ἀδελφὰς) as “sisters”.  Did TNIV follow the pattern set in these parallel verses of Matthew 19:29 and Mark 10:29, in which “adelphos” and “adelphas” were rendered as “brothers or sisters”?   The Matt. 19:29 and Mark 10:29 parallels are definitely correct, but Luke 18:29 now becomes questionable when placed in a comparative context with these other parallel passages.

If TNIV is right on this one, then NRSV and NLT are wrong.  What gives me a feeling that TNIV may be right in this case is Luke’s use of guneis (γονεῖς) for parent instead of pater and mater (μητέρα ἢ πατέρα) for father and mother.  Luke may have intended to use guneis as a gender-inclusive term, so in following Luke’s use of inclusive terminology, Luke 18:29 may be more accurately translated as “brothers or sisters”.

Other places where TNIV went further in gender-inclusive language than the NRSV or the NLT are in Luke 14:12, Acts 15:1, 22:5.