Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Announcement - "Peace to whom"?

Consider the Lyrics penned by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) from the Christmas classic "I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day"

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

The last line of each refrain is a quote from Luke 2:14, but why do none of the modern translations convey the sense of "good will to men"?

Why does the Authorized Version (i.e. KJV) differ from all  modern translations in rendering the praise of the Angelic Hosts after announcing Jesus' birth to the shepherds? It is the difference of but one letter in the Greek text, but has a profound difference in meaning.

The KJV reads:
     "Glory to God in the highest,
      And on earth peace,
     Good will toward men." (Luke 2:14)

The ESV reads:
     "Glory to God in the highest,
      and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"

The reason these two differ so significantly has to do with the Greek text behind the two translations. The Authorized Version (commissioned by King James the be the authorized Bible of the Church of England) was completed in 1611 (though it underwent revisions for the next 150 years, and the current KJV is based on the 1769 edition). It was based on the manuscripts (ancient copies) available at the time now known as the Byzantine text (also known as the Majority text and roughly equivalent to the Textus Receptus - "received text"). Since that time many more and much earlier biblical manuscripts have been uncovered resulting in greater access to the original writings (autographs). Modern translations are based on Greek New Testaments that collate all known manuscripts to determine the most likely original reading (known as critical texts).

So, what is different about the Greek text behind the KJV and the ESV in Luke 2:14? I'm glad you asked.
The NA27 text (Nestle-Aland 27th ed. - a standard critical text) reads:
      δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ
      καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη
      ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας.

The Byzantine text reads:
     Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ,
     καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη·
     ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκία.

Notice two differences.
  1. The Byzantine text has a semicolon after the second line (the half colon · ), whereas the NA27 has no punctuation between the second and third lines.
  2. The NA27 text has a sigma (ς) at the end of the last word, making it a genitive case instead of nominative (more about this later).
These two differences are not unrelated. The addition of the semicolon was a later scribal decision and was likely influenced by viewing the verse as three parallel lines.
     Glory in the highest       --- to God
     Peace                               --- on earth
     Good will                         --- among (in, to) men
However, it is better to view them as two parallel lines covering the heavenly and earthly ramifications of Jesus' birth.
     Glory  --- in the highest --- to God
     Peace --- on the earth   --- among men with whom he is pleased

But how do we get from "good will toward men" to "among men with whom he is pleased"? That's where the sigma comes in.

BDAG (the standard lexicon for biblical Greek) gives two defintions for εὐδοκία (eudokia)

  1. "state or condition of being kindly disposed, good will
  2. "state or condition of being favored, favor, good pleasure this would refer to the persons upon whom divine favor rests"
If εὐδοκία (eudokia) is in the nominative case, then it is the subject of a sentence with an implied verb ("shall be"?) and should be understood in the first sense above. This results in the reading "good will shall be toward men" as a result of Jesus' birth. However, if εὐδοκία (eudokia) is in the genitive case (i.e. has the sigma on the end), then it is describing the type of men among whom peace "shall be" and should be understood in the second sense. This results in the reading "toward men of favor".

For a good summary of the textual evidence for the genitive reading see footnote 44 of the NET translation. 

So, the angles are not announcing that Jesus' birth will produce peace on the earth and a good will towards men (from God? from one another?), but that Jesus' birth will bring peace on earth among only those who find favor with God.

As can clearly be seen by the 2000 years that have transpired since Jesus' claim to have accomplished what he came to accomplish, the earth is not in a state of peace and abounding in good will. Quite the contrary! Jesus admitted that he did not come to bring peace, but a sword that would tear families apart and pit brother against brother. The peace announced by the angels is not for the the earth as a whole, but is only promised to those who find favor with God. And this is done only by faith in his son.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hypography, Puffery & Hypocrisy (Part II): Warnings from 1 Corinthians 4:6-7

In my previous post, I pointed out the variance among the translations of the phrase

     ἵνα ἐν ἡμῖν μάθητε τὸ μὴ ὑπὲρ  γέγραπται (to mā hyper ha gegraptai).

A quite literal (or word-for-word) translation is as follows:

     “that in us you may learn the not-beyond-what-is-written”.

Since this is not very good English (by this I simply mean that it does not sound proper to a native English speaker), translators supply an extra word. But as seen in my last post, there is little agreement as to what word should be supplied.

I contend that all major translations have missed the mark here and have even obscured the original point. By supplying extra words such as "to go beyond" or "to exceed" or "the saying," the object of knowledge is changed. Does Paul want the Corinthians to learn "to not go" or to learn "the saying" or something else altogether? To decide, let's take a closer look at the text.

The article (τό) makes the following prepositional phrase (“beyond what is written”) with the negative adverb (“not”) into a substantive (noun-like). That is, the article shows that the object of learning is “that thing which is not beyond what is written”. What is it that is not beyond the Scripture ("what is written")? Right! That which is bounded by Scriptures -- the Scripture itself and things in accord with the Scritpures!

A more full (interpretive) translation reads:

     "that you might learn by us that which is within the bounds of Scripture"

So, contrary to the ESV (and NIV, RSV, NET, ASV, NAS) Paul is not forbidding the Corinthians from going beyond the Scripture ("what is written"), but is exhorting them to learn things that are Scriptural. He is not telling the Corinthians to avoid other arenas of knowledge (i.e. science, math, philosophy, humanities, psychology, etc. that are "beyond" the Scripture), but to make sure they do learn what is in the bounds of what is written (that which is not beyond).

In 1 Corinthians 4:6 Paul begins to draw to a close his lengthy first point to the Corinthian Church. He has been drawing a distinction between human folly under the guise of rhetoric and godly wisdom expressed in the simplicity of the Gospel message. The former leads to one being "puffed up in favor of one against another" (1 Cor 4:6b) but the latter leads to unity and humility in the recognition that we are all "servants of Christ" (1 Cor. 4:1).

In verse 7 Paul rhetorically asks the Corinthians what makes them unique or special that they should be puffed up with conceit. Surely all that they have they received. But they are acting as though they were to be praised for their wisdom and rhetorical prowess. They were benefactors of Paul's missionary efforts but acting as though they were somehow better than Paul, their "father in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor. 4:15). How often are we guilty of the same attitude -- of wanting praise for our own insight into the Scriptures or our own theories about life rather than acknowledging that the Gospel is a profoundly simple gift? How often is the church unity destroyed by things that have no Scriptural relevance?

Paul does not forbid us from going beyond what is written (hypography) as modern English translation intimate, but exhorts us to learn that which is Scriptural so that we we do not become conceited in our own thinking (puffery) and deny that we are merely unworthy recipients of God's grace (hypocrisy). 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hypography, Puffery & Hypocrisy: Warnings from 1 Corinthians 4:6-7

Wikipedia (the ever faithful friend of the lazy researcher) defines a hypograph as shown below.

Hypograph (mathematics)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In mathematics, the hypograph of a function f : Rn → R is the set of points lying on or below its graph:
\mbox{hyp} f = \{ (x, \mu) \, : \, x \in \mathbb{R}^n,\, \mu \in \mathbb{R},\, \mu \le f(x) \} \subseteq \mathbb{R}^{n}
and the strict hypograph of the function is:
\mbox{hyp}_S f = \{ (x, \mu) \, : \, x \in \mathbb{R}^n,\, \mu \in \mathbb{R},\,  \mu <  f(x) \} \subseteq \mathbb{R}^{n}.
The set is empty if f \equiv -\infty .
Similarly, the set of points on or above the function's graph is its epigraph.

It's all Math to me! But I am thrilled to see a familiar little Greek letter mu (μ) (I've 
never seen a Greek letter mooo, however).

Let me draw a connection here to 1 Corinthians 4:6 in which Paul begins to draw 

to a close his lengthy first point to the Corinthian Church. He had been drawing a 
distinction between human folly under the guise of rhetoric and godly wisdom 
expressed in the simplicity of the Gospel message.

"I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, 

that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may 
be puffed up in favor of one against another." (ESV)

In the Greek text, “to go” is absent.

It reads τὸ μὴ ὑπὲρ ἃ γέγραπται (to mā hyper ha gegraptai)

Here the astute reader may notice my connection to the hypograph (hyper + grapho 

= beyond the writing). Translators have had a hard time bringing this phrase into 
English as can be seen by a quick perusal of various translations.

Screen Clipping taken of Logos 4 Bible Comparison Tool. The NET, NAS, HCSB, ASV, KJV, and NIV are compared to the ESV.
The strike-through-text is replaced in those versions with the blue-text. 

Notice the different words added in: "exceed", "go", "the saying", "think of men above". Next week 
I will discuss how this phrase should be translated and show that all the major translations mask 
Paul's point here and can lead to some seriously off-the-mark conclusions.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Greek FAIL!!!

Another example of flagrant Greek abuse. Courtesy of FAILBlog
The airbrushed lettering gives this shirt a special effect, as if to say, "I'm not all GEEK. I'm a graffiti artist (er... tagger) too." I think it's supposed to be a play on "alpha male" or "alpha dog" in which case he is claiming to be the top, most dominant geek. Despite the oxymoronic nature of such a claim, the title is all yours buddy. Definitely more GEEK than GREEK here. Verdict... NotGreekToMe!

Do you have other examples of the misuse of Greek in everyday life? Send them to me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Clean Conscience in Christ and Comments on Colwell's Corollary

1 Corinthians 4:4
"For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me." (ESV)

A clean conscience is not sufficient evidence of one who has been made righteous. Paul recognized that even though he was consciously aware of no sin in his life, he was not therefore justified in claiming to be righteous. Having a clear conscience is good and necessary, but it is not sufficient to assure righteousness. Neither is it by the inquiry or testimony of others. We may be cleared by a jury of our peers, our spouse, our church, the whole world and even our own conscience, but this does not assure innocence. The only way Paul can claim, "I am free from accusation and guilt" is because he has been examined by the Lord. Unfortunately, some of the original emphasis is lost in the English translation (here comes the Greek lesson).

Note Colwell's Rule and Colwell's Corollary[1] in play here:

ὁ δὲ ἀνακρίνων με κύριος έστιν (but the one who judges me is Lord)

In the Greek text, the word order and lack of article before κύριος (Lord) shows that emphasis is being placed on the quality of κύριος. It is the examination by one who is Lord that can ultimately vindicate or condemn. No other authority can do either, not even our own consciences. What a relief to know that my hope rests in the LORD Jesus, and not my own fickle conscience. 

[1] Colwell's Rule states that "definite prediacte nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article." (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 257)
Colwell's Corollary states that when "an anarthourse pre-verbal predicate nomonative is normally qualitative, sometimes definite, and only rarely indefinite." (Wallace, 262)

The "Rule" simply tells us that since κύριος comes before the verb ("is") and that, if it is definite, it is likely to not have an article (which it doesn't). Okay.... So what? So, we are not required to translate is as indefinite ("a Lord"). Okay good, but keep reading!

The "Corollary" to the rule tells us κύριος is most likely qualitative, not definite or indefinite. That is, the emphasis is on the quality of being "Lord." An expanded translation would look like this: 

       "I am judged by one who has the quality of being Lord"

It is Jesus' status as Lord that makes His acquittal meaningful. Since there is no Lord other than Jesus, only He can declare our innocence or pronounce our guilt. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Iota Subscript by Robert Frost (and John the Baptist)

 Iota Subscript 
by Robert Frost

Seek not in me the big I capital,
Not yet the little dotted in me seek.
If I have in me any I at all,
'Tis the iota subscript of the Greek.
So small am I as an attention beggar.
The letter you will find me subscript to
Is neither alpha, eta, nor omega,
But upsilon which is the Greek for you.
Two critical points can be made. First, the Greek iota does not subscript under the upsilon, only under alpha (α), eta (η) or omega (ω) (the long vowels). Of course I'm sure Frost knew this; otherwise he would not have mentioned these three. Second, the Greek for "you" begins with upsilon and is written μείς. As you can see (hopefully the fonts render properly for you), the Greek letter upsilon (υ) looks similar to the English letter "u". This too I doubt was lost on Frost (as I'm sure the preceding rhyme is not lost on you).

Were I to write this witty poem , I would change but one thing (one iota of it if you will). The last line would read "You" rather than "you" to make the poem addressed to God. 

As John the Baptist said when questioned about Jesus' growing influence, "He must increase, but I must decrease."John 3:30 Or, He must capitalize and I must subscript.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sony's definitely not Greek to me!

It's all Japanese to me!
How a Japanese company has come to own the trademark for a Greek letter is beyond me. I'm pretty sure the Greek system of writing can in no way be traced back to the Japanese. I guess my Greek New Testament is now under penalty of using Sony's registered trademark without permision approximately 10 gazzilion times. Not to mention Homer, Plato, Aristotle, and on down the line. Who knew that when Jesus said he was the Alph and the Omega, he was being so multicultural!

εἶπέν μοι· γέγοναν. ἐγώ [εἰμι] τὸ ἄλφα καὶ τὸ ὦ, ἡ ἀρχὴ καὶ τὸ τέλος. ἐγὼ τῷ διψῶντι δώσω ἐκ τῆς πηγῆς τοῦ ὕδατος τῆς ζωῆς δωρεάν. (Revelation 21:6)

He said to me, "They have come to pass. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the one who is thirsty I will give freely from the the springs of the water of life." (my translation)

--Since we're looking at this verse, I can't help but add a few comments (sorry, it's the Greek instructor in me).

The adverb "freely" (δωρεάν) is separated from the verb it describes and is placed as the last word in the statement. This helps draw attention to it and emphasize that this is how the water of life is given ("without payment" as the ESV puts it). But what exactly is given freely? That is, what does the phrase "the spring of the water of life" mean? It seams pretty clear what the first word group "the spring of water" means. But what does it mean for this spring to be "of life"? A little study of the uses of the Genitive case in Greek would be instructive here. 

Shedding μικρόν φωτόν (a little light) on "walking in the light" in First John

The more I read 1st John, the less I believe I fully understand it. But as I press on anyway, I find little nuggets of insight. Here is one such nugget.

In trying to understand how these four conditional statements related together I came up with the following chart and the enlightening conclusion below. (I was enlightened by it at any rate, and hope you will be as well.)

1 John 1:6-9


Resulting Reality
In fellowship with God
Walk in darkness
Do not do the truth
Walk in light
Fellowship with one another
The blood of Jesus cleanses (from ἁμαρτία)
Have not sinned
Lie to self
Devoid of truth
Confess sin
God's faithfulness and righteousness lead to
Forgiveness (ἁμαρτία) and cleansing (ἀδικία)

Verse 6 is the only one of the four containing both a claim and an incompatible action. The claim to have fellowship and the act of walking in darkness demonstrate that both the claim and the action are out of sync with the truth. The one who meets this compound condition lies (his claim is false) and does not do the truth (his actions are not in keeping with the truth). Verse 6 is parallel to v 8. This is especially noticeable in the apodosis of the conditional statements. In v 8, the protasis seems to have changed, but the outcome is essentially the same (a liar who does not live out the truth). This parallelism helps define the problem in v 6. The claim to fellowship is contradicted by walking in darkness not because one is characterized by the presence of sin and the other is not, but because walking in darkness is itself the denial of sin. John is not claiming that everyone who sins is out of fellowship with God, but only those who refuse to admit their sin. Notice the protasis in v 7 has no claim. It is simply stated that walking in the light is a sufficient condition for fellowship (with one another, not with God) and for cleansing from sin. So, if walking in the light is antecedent to forgiveness, it can’t possibly mean walking free of sin as many commentators assume. Rather, walking in the light is the very act of confession, of bringing sin into the light where it might be exposed and forgiven and the sinner might be cleansed. Similarly, walking in darkness is the denial of sin. Both walking in darkness (while claiming to have fellowship with God) and claiming be in a state of not having sinned (perfect tense) lead to the same conclusion – this person is deceived and a deceiver whose life does not accord with the truth. But the person who confesses her sin benefits from God’s faithfulness and righteousness. She receives forgiveness and cleansing. The two actions of forgiveness and cleansing are related to the two characteristics of God. His righteousness (δίκαιος) and our unrighteousness (ἀδικία) are lexically related; they are antonyms. Similarly, Gods faithfulness (πιστός) is an antonym to our sin (ἁμαρτία). God’s nature is antithetical to human sinfulness, just as light is antithetical to darkness. And just as light drives out the darkness, so God’s nature as faithful and righteous drives out sin and unrighteousness wherever it shines.