Prov. 20:1 – "strong drink"

I was reading Proverbs 20:1 from the TNIV the other day and found that it uses the word beer rather than strong drink.

  • Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. (TNIV)

It did sound a bit strange to me that beer would be used rather than strong drink so I checked what other translations were using.

NASB, ESV, NRSV, NKJV : Strong drink.
TNIV, NIV, HCSB, NCV, Message: Beer.
NLT: Alcohol.
GW: Liquor.

Strong drink (“shekar“) according to the BDB lexicon is an intoxicating drink, fermented or intoxicating liquor. Strong drink is still accurate, but I am not saying that I think beer is inaccurate either. I feel that there is a problem in using strong drink and beer. The problem with beer is that it sounds overly interpretive and paraphrastic. It also limits what kind of alcohol the writer of Proverbs is referring to. Maybe the wisdom writer did not intent to be so specific as to refer to beer. Also, the problem with strong drink is that it is too vague; that is, a strong drink can be anything. Wouldn’t a cup of expresso or a strong cup of coffee at Starbucks also be considered a strong drink too? God’s Word Translation uses liquor and the NLTse uses alcohol. I like either of these terms; but if I had to choose between alcohol or liquor , I might go with liquor. Since wine is already used in Prov. 20:1, liquor is differentiated from wine yet liquor still leaves some room open for the readers’ interpretation, and it isn’t overly-interpretative that it limits what kind of alcohol it might be referring to.

If one wants to push for an interpretative position of beer, the alcoholic content of beer is actually lower than that of hard liquors. This makes beer less fitting than say liquor or even rum. If one wants to be interpretative, would it not seem more appropriate to translate shekar as whiskey or rum rather than beer due to its higher alcoholic content. And just an aside, I learned about the alcoholic content of various alcoholic beverages. Beer ranges between 3-5% in alcoholic content, wine ranges between 10-15%, liquor is 15-55%, and whiskey or rum is 60%. I am not advocating that using the term wiskey or rum is better than beer but to refer to a specific alcoholic drink might render it less accurate. But then, I could be wrong. It could all come down to one’s preference in taste too. Personally, if it’s a strong drink, I prefer a strong cup of espresso. 😉


The KJV: very near and dear to my heart

When I was at a used book sale the other day, I saw an elderly lady looking for a bible and noticed that she picked up a King James Version. A part of me inside cringed. I thought to myself: “Why would anyone want to buy a KJV today when we have so many other better translations of the bible?” I didn’t say anything to her but a part of me wanted to steer her in the right direction. Then I remembered back to my younger days. The old KJV was very dear to my heart and the KJV still has a very special place in my heart. It was the bible I turned to read when I saw the light and “met Jesus”. The bible became the love of my life. I remember reading the bible day-in and day-out for 8 hours a day. I poured through the entire New Testament two times in a row in 2-3 months. I highlighted and underlined special passages that spoke truth to me. I still have that bible and will probably keep it forever, even though I don’t understand everything I read. So who was I to tell that little old lady buying a KJV to go for a modern translation? Well, I haven’t done any serious reading using the KJV for years now, but I know that behind the old, outdated, and archaic English of King James, there is still a mystical and mysterious air about it. What would drive a person who does not speak like the KJV to read the KJV study bible? Maybe they don’t even like to read it but feel driven toward it anyway. I don’t know; but for some people, learning the outdated English is an education process in itself. For some, it seems to speak the gospel most accurately. But anyway…for whatever reason they choose to read the King James Version, it still gets across the message of the gospel–that’s most important. For die-hard KJVers, there are other alternatives without the archaic language. It’s a modernized King James (still based on the old standard textus receptus) but without the “thee” and “thou”, e.g., 21st Century King James Version (on, Third Millennium Bible (On, Modern King James Version, and Updated King James Version. And of course, the New King James Version is still quite popular. The Third Millennium even comes with the apocrypha. It’s the standard pew and preaching bible in many evangelical and pentecostal congregations. Thomas Nelson offers the Open Bible, MacArthur Study Bible, Blackaby Study Bible, Life Plan Study Bible, and Thompson-Chain Reference Study Bible in the NKJV.

1 John 5:7-8 – King James Version error

The translators of the KJV may have incorporated many of Erasmus’ corrections but not all of it. One example is that the KJV contains Matt. 6:13 even though it is not in Erasmus’ Textus Receptus (a correction Jerome’s old Latin Vulgate). So why do we continue to keep it in the Lord’s Prayer? Tradition I guess. The KJV translators also incorporated some of Erasmus’ later errors too. The 3rd edition of his Greek-Latin New Testament added the clause of 1 John 5:7-8. The KJV translators must have used the 3rd edition rather than the 1st or 2nd editions because the KJV also contains the short clause of 1 John 5:7-8. This is one of the numerous errors that eventually got inserted into the KJV, which still remains in the NKJV too. This clause is an issue in the KJV-only movement but they claim that non-KJV bibles have erroneously removed this vital clause that supports the trinitarian theology of Father-Son-Holy Spirit. All modern translations using the newer critical Greek manuscripts, e.g., T/NIV, NASB, N/RSV, NLT, have removed the erroneous clause. The NKJV has stuck loyally with the outdated Textus Receptus.

KJV: For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. (also in NKJV)
TNIV: For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
NASB: For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
NRSV: There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree.

The NKJV footnote says: “NU-Text and M-Text omit the words from in heaven (verse 7) through on earth (verse 8). Only four or five very late manuscripts contain these words in Greek.” It is probable that St. Cyprian, a 3rd century Church father, added this clause in his sermon to elaborate on the Latin Vulgate. He quoted John 10:30 and added in this clause. It is also interesting that he did not quote this from the book of First Epistle of John but that he added it while quoting from the Gospel of John. It is most likely that St. Cyprian’s sermon, which contained this clause, eventually got included into the Latin Vulgate later on, which in turn, got translated back into some of the Greek manuscripts.

The TNIV footnote says: “Late manuscripts of the Vulgate testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 8 And there are three that testify on earth: the (not found in any Greek manuscript before the fourteenth century).” The early Church Fathers who debated the Arians concerning the trinity would have loved this clause but even they did not ever mention this in their writings. Clement of Alexandria, who debated about the trinity, did not include the clause of 1 John 5:7-8. Neither did Tertullian nor St. Jerome use it. The writings of St. Jerome (4th c.) did not contain this clause either.

If earlier manuscripts and Church Fathers knew nothing of this 1 John 5 clause, why should the KJV-only movement keep insisting that it should be in the bible? I wonder if the translation committee of a future updated NKJV will ever use the newer critical Greek manuscripts? People seem to keep buying these N/KJV bibles (according to CBA bible sales) even though they are not based on the oldest manuscripts. Maybe it’s all perception as to which is supposed to be the most accurate or truest version? (above picture: Erasmus)

A world that does not make sense

As I look at all the young faces at Virginia Tech murdered by the gunman named Cho Seung-Hui, I ask myself: “How could anyone do such a thing as to kill all these innocent people and then turn the gun on himself?” What could cause such a person like this to commit a murder of this magnitude, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Was it clinical delusions, mental imbalance, or sin and evil, or all of this?. I really don’t know and don’t know how to give an answer or reason for this sad and tragic event at Virginia Tech. I try to make sense of it but I cannot. This week is a week of mourning, especially at this time, we pray for the state of the VT students, their families, the state, and nation. Please remember to pray for the victims and their families. (For a Christian perspective, see Chuck Colson).

Lord, we don’t know the words the pray
but we ask that you help the victim’s family,

Be with them as they mourn for their loved ones—
their child, their friends, their father, their mother.
Let them know that You are there with them
in this time of extreme sadness, helplessness, and tragedy.

Zondervan’s challenge to erase its racist material

I first saw this link to Christianity Today’s article in MarkDRobert’s blog. Now, it’s my turn to respond to CT’s article: Speaking Up for Asian Americans. (Sorry if I sound like an old dog barking too loudly at night. If I lose some friends due to this post, that’s okay because what I have to say is something I believe is right). I am increasingly convinced that the entire Christian community does have a responsibility to be more sensitive, and more conscious of our hidden sin of racism (and this includes people of all races and ethnicities–myself included). The most deceptive sins always seem to be the subtle ones–the one’s that easily get passed undetected on our moral radars. Zondervan published a skit produced by The Skit Guys that poorly and in very bad taste, caricatured Asian Americans. Mark Oestreicher (apology), president of Youth Specialties, and The Skit Guys (apology) issued public apologies. The article on Christianity Today stated: “Oestreicher called the character in the skit a “horribly, inexcusably, and unquestionably racist” portrayal of Asian Americans, pointing to an underlying “systemic racism” within the organization for okaying the skit’s publication.”

I am sure the Asian American Christian community appreciated such an apology; however, some damage is already done and is difficult to reverse because a trust has been violated. However, I am sure that over time, there will be forgiveness and reconciliation for Youth Specialties and The Skit Guys. I am sure that they have produced learning material that has edified the church’s youth and I thank God for that. But I must also say that it reveal the embarassing and shamefulness of racism, which still exists today, and is giving people a bad taste in their mouths. Most Asian American Christians today, like myself, tend to be evangelical in their theological outlook, and are customers and even fans of some of Zondervan’s products. It is very possible that some Asian Americans will have lost trust in their products and their ability to monitor what gets published and what doesn’t. My point is that morality is an important issue for us Christians; it is a central issue for most of us, and racism is definitely a moral issue. It is not a side issue that can be easily swept away under the carpet, ignored, and forgotten. There needs to be forgiveness, reconciliation, and reparation. That is the Christian way–Christ’s way.

I must say that this depressing issue reveals a systemic racism that must be acknowledged and dealt in a serious and tangible way if Zondervan is to regain credibility in the eyes of Asian American Christians. I think a company like Zondervan should also hire some god-loving Asian-American Christians on their editorial staff in the hopes that things like this do not happen again. Thanks to an outside third-party, Rev. Soong-Chan Rah (blog), who called Zondervan on this. However, these prophetic calls should not only have to come from outside third-parties. They should also come from within the organization before it ever has a chance of germinating. Sorry if I have begun to sound like an opinionated prophet (prophets are usually lonely people because they go against the grain). I teach Sunday School and would have been totally embarrassed and probably quite unhappy if I had been using this teaching material. Thank God I wasn’t using it.

It never used to be in my conservative nature, but I am coming to see that, sometimes, it may be necessary to have certain systems in place to get rid of systemic racism (and also other negative -isms); it can act as a form of checks and balances (but like Congress, it doesn’t always work). I would also like to see an editorial board that is more sensitive to racial issues. I know this can be political, especially within evangelical circles; however, it doesn’t have to be. Anti-racism and other -isms are not necessarily a mainline Christian thing to support. Evangelical Christians should support other issues that evangelicals have not necessarily been associated with, e.g., environment, racisim, social justice, etc. The motivation behind such a system is for the purpose of dealing with the age-old problem of human sin. I don’t think this is an issue of whether one votes Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative. It’s a matter of doing the right thing. If godly Christians do not take an active role in eradicating sin and dealing with the consequences of human sin, then who will? We must take a stand on such issues. The evangelical sufferagettes did, Abraham Lincoln did, William Wilberforce did, John Wesley did, so why not us today? (Personally, I think Rick Warren is doing a good work. Christians like him are waking up to a more socially-conscious outlook and are seeing how their faith can play a positive role in our society and our world today).

I am a believer in church unity and naively believe that we can have unity in the universal church. For the sake of Christ, and unity in the church of Jesus Christ, let us be the church that God calls us to be, not only one that is multi-denominational, but also, multi-ethnic. If Christ has called the church to live in harmony and unity, it must be multi-ethnic and even multi-creedal. Unity in diversity is possible. If we live and abide by the golden rule: to treat others as we would want them to treat us, and live empowered by the Holy Spirit, we would have fewer problems and truer unity. I was late getting in on this topic but here is a link to an interesting discussion that had been going on concerning this topic on Camy’s Loft: Chinese Take-Out and Sushi for One.

We have depersonalized the person of Holy Spirit

How often do we hear “Holy Spirit” addressed by name? Very rarely…or almost never. Too often, we refer to the person of the Holy Spirit as an “it” or a “the”–which conjures up an image of an object, a mere thing like a dove, fire, wind, breath, etc. I have never been completely comfortable addressing the Holy Spirit as an “it” or with a definite article “the”. However, there are many occurences in the original Greek where “Holy Spirit” is referred to without the definite article “the”. For instance:

In Acts 4:31, the Greek does use the definite article “the”: ἐπλήσθησαν ἅπαντες τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος. (TNIV/NASB/NRSV: “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit”).
– however, in Acts 2:4, the Greek does not use the definite article “the”: ἐπλήσθησαν πάντες πνεύματος ἁγίου. TNIV/NASB/NRSV translate this as: “…filled with the Holy Spirit” but this might be more accurately translated as “…filled with Holy Spirit”. “Holy Spirit” is used in the same context as Acts 4:31 but note that “the” is added where it does not exist. Why is there inconsistency?

In Acts 10:47, the Greek does use the definite article “the”: τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον ἔλαβον (TNIV/NASB/NRSV: “…received the Holy Spirit”).
– however, in Acts 8:19, the Greek doesnot use the definite article “the”: λαμβάνῃ πνεῦμα ἅγιον. TNIV/NASB/NRSV translate this as: “received the Holy Spirit” but couldn’t this be better translated as “…received Holy Spirit”. The Spirit is also used in the same context as Acts 10:47 but “the” has also been added where it doesn’t exist. Why the duplicity?

There are numerous other occurrences where the definite article “the” is not used in the book of Acts: Acts 2:4; 4:8; 6:3, 5; 7:55; 8:15, 17, 19, 39; 9:17; 11:24; 13:9; and 19:2, however, there may be more. Why have all our English translations added the definite article “the” after “Holy Spirit” in places it does not exist? Why is the definite article “the” used and sometimes not used? I would like to know why.

Was Luke (the writer of the book of Acts) intending to refer to “Holy Spirit” in a more personal manner by not using “the” in the above verses? Possibly. It seems so arbitrary and ambiguous to me. Was it for the sake of uniformity or clarification? Perhaps. If “the” has been incorrectly added, this may have inadvertently contributed to our objectification and de-personalization of “Holy Spirit”. This is not surprising since we are made to refer to Him as a “the” or a mere “it”?

If the person of the Holy Spirit is a person just like Father God and Jesus, why do we not refer to “Holy Spirit” in a more personal manner? Scripture seems to allow for it. In most cases, to refer to the Holy Spirit using “the” may be scripturally correct. In other words, we could also be correct in addressing or referring to “Holy Spirit” in the same manner that we address “Heavenly Father, …” or “Dear Lord,…” Holy Spirit is called the Comforter, the Advocate, the Spirit of the Lord. If the person of Holy Spirit is a full member of the trinitarian Godhead, doesn’t the person of Holy Spirit deserve to be referred to in a more personal manner as we would like for ourselves?

There seems to be a subconscious depersonalization and marginalization of Holy Spirit in our translations. it is no wonder the Holy Spirit seems to be impersonal to many Christians. We have turned him into an object–a distant third member of the trinity–when we should recognize him in a more personal way. We have not learned to respect the person of Holy Spirit as we should and have relegated him to some mystical realm that is difficult to touch, like a wind or a breath.

See also: Holy Spirit is a name

TNIV vs. ESV: Who is winning so far?

I have tried not to get too involved with the battle of the bibles but here I am again with another post on it. I love my bibles so I can’t help it; it’s almost like a sport but with a religious twist to it. The TNIV bible sales are picking up and I think that it has the potential to become as popular as the NLT. Thus far, the TNIV is on its way to becoming more popular than the ESV. I went to a couple of bible bookstores in town and browsed their shelves. In the first bookstore, there were at least 20 copies on the shelf. In the second bookstore, there were at least the same number. This says a lot about how the sales of the TNIV are going. Just from my observation of the shelves of the local bible bookstores, I can safely predict that bible sales of the TNIV are going to increase steadily in the next few years. What about the ESV? Well, it’a dramatic difference with the ESV. One store had only 3 copies of the ESV. A second store in town also had about 3 copies. It was really pathetic to see only 3 copies of the ESV in each store. Even the HCSB, God’s Word, and the Message bibles had more copies than the ESV. If this doesn’t say something about the bible sales of the ESV, I don’t know what else it can mean. It has now been a few years since the ESV has arrived onto the bible scene but it has not made a big impact in bible sales–at least where I live. Last month, I spoke to the regional representative from the Canadian Bible Society (Canadian counterpart to American Bible Society) and asked him how the sales of the ESV were going in this region. He told me that it was not going very well at all, and it seems to be the same story in other areas of the country too-at least in this part of Canada. And I haven’t even mentioned the big box bookstores yet. They seem to carry more of the TNIV than the ESV.

Take a look at the uncanny similarities from Romans 8:2-5:

2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
4 in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

I don’t see how the ESV has differentiated itself enough from the RSV. What value has the ESV brought that makes it better than the RSV? There are some value-added improvements but they are not substantial enough for it to be considered a large enough improvement over the RSV. If the future 2nd edition of the ESV does not contain more improvements over the first edition, it will not have a chance against the TNIV. It is not differentiated enough from the RSV for people to feel justified to make a purchase. If the ESV translators had made more of an effort to improve or change the way it reads from the RSV, it might be a different story today. Sure there is not a huge difference between the TNIV and the NIV but at least the TNIV translators have made more changes in the area of gender-neutral language, plus some textual improvements over the NIV. These changes have given the TNIV more value over the NIV. In the end, when it all comes down. It is marketing that makes or breaks a bible (or even a book for that matter), but the quality also has a large part in its success too. In the world of business marketing, what differentiates one product from the other is in the value it provides for the reader. Perhaps, in the future, the publisher of the ESV should push for bigger improvements. So who is winning so far? You tell me.

The church’s unity in diversity

What a magnificent Easter! My wife and I have seen two excellent large-scale musical/drama productions this Easter: Face to Face and So High the Price at two large local churches. One was a large pentecostal church, and another was a large evangelical church. I couldn’t help but notice the two different styles and emphases. The pentecostal’s Face to Face tended to show more miraculous healing scenes and gospel narratives. The evangelical’s So High the Price showed only one healing scene but mostly scenes of non-healing gospel narratives. The pentecostal church had a very well-trained and professional feel in its music and drama, which is likely due to its emphasis in contemporary worship music and teaching style. Whereas, the evangelical church had a very good orchestra. Each church had its own strengths. After reflecting upon the various scenes from the two fine productions, I remember that each one had scenes that the other did not have. If I were to have seen only one production, I would have missed some valuable and important scenes and music that were not present in the other production. But when I put the two together, I got a fuller picture of Jesus’ story.

So what is my point in all of this? This is also how we can think of the universal church. All churches, all denominations, and all traditions have different areas in which they like to emphasize. Therefore, all of us have become accustomed to our own particular theology through the preaching and teaching we hear. This is a part of the invaluable religious/spiritual enculturation process. I used to be isolated within only one style of worship and theology, and therefore, heard one side of the Christian story. But now, after having voluntarily exposed myself to seeing and hearing the different views of the wider Christian church, I am able to be more welcoming to the different ways of viewing the bible and understanding theology. Each of our different views in the universal church are not necessarily opposed to one another. They are just different and can offer all of us a fuller picture of who Jesus is and how he works in all of our lives. There can be unity in diversity.

There are many well-meaning Christians who may be afraid of diversity for fear that too much diversity may bring about disunity or disharmony. This danger may be countered when we leave room for Christ Jesus to occupy the first priority in our lives. It is only through the power of Holy Spirit who can give each of us the courage, openness, and the liberty to deal with all our differences. God is bigger than all of our differences and it is only through the Spirit that we can be renewed with a larger capacity to receive, even a theology, that is bigger than our own. As fellow believers of one household of faith (oikoumene) from various traditions, let us be encouraged to listen to, and try to understand one another, even if the other’s viewpoint may seem opposed to our own understanding of theology. I am definitely not talking about collapsing our individual theologies into one, nor even a formation of an organic union of denominations; I am talking about a unity in the Spirit! I believe that spiritual unity is the will of God. I have found that through this openness, my capacity to think theologically and be welcoming of other theological points of views has increased. I do admit that I still have my personal biases but this cannot be avoided, due to the fleshly limitations that is common within each human being. I also admit that this is difficult because we still desire to aim for an orthodox theology. Open-mindedness should not mean that we forfeit our freedom to think critically. God has given each of us the right and the ability to think critically of our theology. Critical thinking is a requirement of “working out” a good sound theology. An openness to the critical ideas of one another can help us build a better overall understanding of the scriptures and of biblical theology. For the sake of one, catholic, and apostolic church, let us remain open to the Spirit’s work of building unity in the midst of, what may seem like, chaotic diversity.

…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (NET Bible, Eph.4:2-6).

Sorry if I lost your comments from this post. I had to delete the original post due to a Blogger problem, then re-post the entry.