1 Cor. 1:21 in the NLT

One of the blogs that I enjoy the most is New Leaven by TC. He creates a welcoming atmosphere and there is always lots of chat.

I want to respond to a recent post of his on the NLT. He claims that the NLT has ” dropped the ball,” on this verse,

    Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.

I cannot agree with this, and I explain my reasons in a comment. Here is his post and my response,

    Here is the phrase in Greek. This is where you need to start.

    διὰ τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος
    dia tes morias tou kerygmatos

    1. It is well recognized that a genitive construction can be translated by an adjectival phrase in English. This is a normal equivalent. It is called the adjectival genitive.

    2. In many languages the possessive is not used where it would be in English. For example, in French one would never say [the equivalent of] “brush your teeth” but ” brush the teeth.” So adding a possessive pronoun is also usual when translating into English.

    I find the NLT to be accurate in its translation and well within the boundaries of the “literal.” I hope this helps. It is important to be fluent in many languages to understand and run with the variants presented in translation.

There may be other contextual or hermeneutic reasons for not choosing the translation which the NLT has prefered, but the NLT does use one possible translation of the Greek, which I claim is a literal, if not formal, equivalent.

The King James Bible is the answer to everything …

In breaking news, in this post Charles Wesley’s encrypted journal cracked after 250 years the shorthand of Charles Wesley was decoded by reference to the scripture verses which he had included in his journal. The full story is here.

Wesley’s shorthand, which omits vowels and abbreviates consonants, is a highly personalised adaptation of that invented by John Byrom, the 18th century poet, diarist and stenographer. Byrom, whose method was taught at Oxford University, published his New Universal Shorthand in 1740. Wesley’s is severely abbreviated, sometimes using a string of consonants without breaks. Whole sentences are elided and the spellings are often phonetic. The language generally is that of an 18th century gentleman and preacher. …

The breakthrough came when he discovered that Wesley had rendered part of the scriptures in shorthand and was able to compare the abbreviations against the King James Bible. “I was determined to unlock it. Charles was a great man, with insights that remain important for us today,” he said.

From the beginning

I am working on something that has turned out to be trickier that I had thought. What is the approximate meaning of Proverbs 8:22-23 on Wisdom. This is not unrelated to my recent post on Gen. 1:1.

The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way,
before his works of old.
I was set up from everlasting,
from the beginning, or ever the earth was. KJV, JPS

The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;
I was appointed from eternity,
from the beginning, before the world began. NIV

The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;
I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be. TNIV

“The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth. ESV

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth. RSV, NRSV

יְהוָה–קָנָנִי רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ:

קֶדֶם מִפְעָלָיו מֵאָז

מֵעוֹלָם נִסַּכְתִּי מֵרֹאשׁ


I have spent considerable time meditating on this text, on the way the English translations do or do not reflect the structure of the Hebrew. Fortunately I can offer the excellent translation of Azzan Yadin in Scripture as Logos page 163,

YHWH created me at the beginning of his course,
As the first of His works of old.
In the distant past was I fashioned,
At the beginning, at the origin of earth….

He comments on the passage from Proverbs 8:22-36,

Wisdom is a divine being that functions as an intermediary that comes to instruct humanity. … Verses 25-31 [23-29] describe Wisdom’s role as the primordial consort of Yahweh and witness to creation.

Yadin later takes up the Christos didaskalos tradition, Christ as teacher. What I particularly like about Yadin’s translation is the way he makes the repetition of “beginning” clear in the English and he keeps the literal sense of derek – “way” or “course.” However, there are intense theological differences in the different versions, especially if a Christological intepretation is in view. Any thoughts?

oh boy!

I have not noticed any commentary on this post but likely I have just been out of it. Mark Roberts examines the recent changes in the Presbyterian Exegesis exam. He has written three posts on the changes to the Presbyerian Exegesis exam. It starts here.

We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Blog to Bring You a Special Report: Presbyterian Exegesis Exam Changed

When I took the exegesis exam in the 1980s, it was a four-hour “open book” exam. Candidates were allowed to use any tools or helps they could bring, including dictionaries, grammars, concordances, commentaries, etc. At some point during the last twenty years, the exam was changed to a “take home” exam, in which candidates were given several days to finish it. I actually thought this was a positive change, since it did not place a premium on academic speed. Moreover, it provided candidates with a situation that was similar to that which they’d face as pastors, with a few days to work on a sermon.

Now, the exam itself and the way it will be graded have been changed in a couple of crucial ways. Here’s what I have learned from the PC(USA) website:

1. The demonstration of a working knowledge of Greek and/or Hebrew will no longer be a requirement in order to complete the examination successfully. When exams are graded, the readers will comment on the language facility which is demonstrated in the paper. Such comments will be offered as guidance for Committees on Preparation for Ministry in determining readiness for ministry.

2. The wording of the instructions for the Biblical Exegesis examination have been amended. Inquirers/candidates will be asked to offer “a faithful interpretation” of the assigned text, rather than “the principal meaning” of the text.

Read the series of posts here.

Matching Socks

I had a dream a few nights ago in which a young woman of my close acquaintance tilted her head to one side and looked at me quizzically and asked why I had to match all the socks. It came to me in my dream that I do not need to match socks. When I woke up I decided that I would continue to match socks just the way I always do, with partial success.

However, when it comes to codepoints and search strings you really have to match socks, or find away around it.

Here is the word stenochoreo (2 Cor. 8:4a) in three different sets of codepoints.

1. στενοχωρέω combining accents

2. στενοχωρέω precombined accents polytonic

3. στενοχωρέω precombined accents monotonic

The first is from e-sword and I took it from Scripture Zealots blogpost, the second is from zhubert, and the third is from the LSJ lexicon in the new Perseus Project at PhiloLogic.

I always say used to say that they just “look different.” But now I am over fifty and they all look the same. However, they all have different codepoints for the epsilon + accent. They will not work across platforms. They are mismatched socks but they do a good impersonation of being a match. I wish my socks were half this clever.

Now here is where I always say to my kids: do you want the long story or the short story? They always pick the short story. So, that’s what I’ll do for now. But if you like I can post the long story another day.

Here is my advice for searching. Always use the simplest choice possible. Do not mess with the accents if you can help it.

1. To access the LSJ lexicon at the original Perseus Project>classics>other tools & lexica>dictionary entry lookup. Choose Greek from the menu and follow the specific instructions from the keyboard display. For στενοχωρεω, you will type “stenocho^reo^”. The accents are used to create the long vowels. You do not have to indicate Greek accents. Now type stenocho^reo^ into the dialog box on this page and submit query. This should be the result. Its slow. I always try it a few times, back and forth. Match a few more socks, etc.

You can reconfigure these pages to look like Greek rather than Latin but I do not spend the time to do that.

2. To access the LSJ lexicon at Philologic>Reference Works>Search Liddell and Scott’s Greek English Lexicon Now here is the trick. DO NOT mess with the accents.

(From what I can see this lexicon uses a mix of accents – tonos – and not oxia, along with varia and circumflex. If anyone would care to explain to me what kind of system that is and if there is a keyboard which accommodates such a thing, I would be interested. I really don’t understand it.)

Go to the Greek inputter, or use your favourite Greek keyboard – I use the bundled with MS version, and type in the word stenochoreo with the Greek inputter. As I said, NO accents. στενοχωρεω. You can just type this in the box by choosing the English letter that looks most like the Greek letter. For στενοχωρεω I typed stenoxwrew.

Now put στενοχωρεω into the LSJ at Philologic and choose the “No accents or breathings” option. The page should look like this. Choose στενοχωρεω from the list and the results are here.

You will notice that the LSJ entry at the original Perseus Project has hyperlinks and the one at Philologic does not. I typically still use the original Perseus Project, in case I want to use the hyperlinks.

3. For searching Zhubert, you need full polytonic Greek. Now you have to mess with the accents. Go to the Greek inputter and type in the word using all the accents. You will need to click on the “Greek letters” tab and carefully select the letters with the correct accents. στενοχωρέω

Now cut and paste, or try to reproduce this, and paste it into the wordfinder on Zhubert. Click “find”. You should see a page with 6 results. None of them are for 2 Cor. 4:8. At this point technology breaks down. Zhubert has parsed the verb in 2 Cor. 4:8 as a middle voice verb but this is not a headword in the LSJ. It will not compute.

There are simply times when there is no way around not having a strong foundation in Greek grammar. I do not think that software searches can ever make up for studying a sizable amount of Greek. This should enable you to find most words in the LSJ, but not all.

Anyway, now you know why my kids always choose the short story. Its still long. Please ask me to explain whatever is not already clear as mud.

The Voice

Wayne mentioned The Voice New Testament in a comment on Dave’s post and I was interested in having a look at it. Here is a sample for those who don’t want to download the Gospel of John.

    Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God. 2 This celestial Voice remained ever present with the Creator; 3His speech shaped the entire cosmos. Immersed in the practice of creating, all things that exist were birthed in Him. 4His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light. 5 Light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazing through murky bottoms. It cannot, and will not, be quenched.

    6 A man named John, who was sent by God, was the first to clearly articulate the source of this unquenchable Light. 7This wanderer, John who ritually cleansed,* put in plain words the elusive mystery of the Divine Light that all might believe through him. Because John spoke with power, many believed in the Light. Others wondered whether he might be the Light, 8 but John was not the Light. He merely pointed to the Light; and in doing so, he invited the entire creation to hear the Voice.

    9 The true Light, who shines upon the heart of everyone, was coming into the cosmos. 10 He does not call out from a distant place but draws near. He enters our world, a world He made and speaks clearly, yet His creation did not recognize Him. 11 Though the Voice utters only truth, His own people, who have heard the Voice before, rebuff this inner calling and refuse to listen. 12 But those who hear and trust the beckoning of the Divine Voice and embrace Him, they shall be reborn as children of God, 13He bestows this birthright not by human power or initiative but by God’s will. Because we are born of this world, we can only be reborn to God by accepting His call.

    14 The Voice that had been an enigma in the heavens chose to become human and live surrounded by His creations. We have seen Him. Undeniable splendor enveloped Him—the one true Son of God—evidenced in the perfect balance of grace and truth. 15 John, the wanderer who testified of the Voice, introduced Him. “This is the one I’ve been telling you is coming. He is much greater than I because He existed long before me.” 16 Through this man we all receive gifts of grace beyond our imagination. He is the Voice of God. 17 You see, Moses gave us rules to live by, but Jesus the Liberating King offered the gifts of grace and truth which make life worth living. 18 God, unseen until now, is revealed in the Voice, God’s only Son, straight from the Father’s heart.

I am somewhat baffled by the large amount of added text in italics. Some of it seems to be very legitimate implied information and other parts are more obscure.

I am, however, quite delighted with the term “voice” used instead of “word.” Here are a couple of extracts of the Book of Formation, a Hebrew text from the first few centuries AD.

    Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: One is the Breath of the Living God, blessed and benedicted be the Name of the Life of worlds. Voice, Breath [Spirit] and Speech. This is the Holy Breath [Spirit] (Ruach HaKodesh). …

    Twenty-two foundation letters: They are engraved with voice, carved with breath, and placed in the mouth in five places:

Although this text mentions the “sefirot,” it is a pre-kabbalah text, and not kabbalistic.

Peter asks,

    What do you all thing of “the Voice” instead of “the Word”?

I think this opens a very interesting conversation on the primacy of the spoken over the printed word, for one thing, and perhaps many other contrasts.

An example of the dialogue in this version is also provided by Peter,

    Religious Leaders: Who are you?
    John the Immerser: 20I’m not the Liberator, if that is what you are asking.
    Religious Leaders: 21Your words sound familiar, like a prophet’s. Is that how we should address you? Are you the Prophet Elijah?
    John the Immerser: No, I am not Elijah.
    Religious Leaders: Are you the Prophet Moses told us would come?
    John the Immerser: No.

    They continued to press John, unsatisfied with the lack of information.

    Religious Leaders: 22Then tell us who you are and what you are about because everyone is asking us, especially the Pharisees, and we must prepare an answer.

Additional Translation Resources

I have been asked for some additional Greek resources. I wrote about some of them here, but I did not include any interlinear help. Here is an Online Greek Interlinear Bible. It is very attractive.

There are some problems with using an interlinear, as Mike pointed out.

Here is an interlinear for the Septuagint, and the translinear for the Hebrew Bible. Here are some additional links to lists of Bible translations.

Online Bible translations
English Bible Translations
Look Higher
Strong’s Concordance

I highly recommend Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible. And as you know I am continuing to pursue my interest in Pagnini and Erasmus (not on the internet) as the pivot texts of the Reformation and the foundation of the vernacular Bibles of Europe.

I think we need to hold interpretation lightly, as I am astounded at the different interpretations being produced on some topics. I would not normally use an interlinear myself, but I have changed my view slightly and now think that they do make a contribution for some people in ascertaining how much interpretation has been added to even the most literal translations.

Let me add that the Perseus Project has the Liddell Scott Jones lexicon so everyone has public access to the best.

Perseus Project
Perseus Project under Philologic

The Apostle Titus

Bill asked,

    How come no major translations are willing to call Titus & Epaphroditus “Apostles”? (2Cor.8:23 & Php.2:25)

This is an excellent question. To tell the truth I had never thought of this before.

    As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker in your service; as for our brothers, they are messengers (apostoloi) of the churches, the glory of Christ. NRSV

The KJV, ESV, NRSV, (T)NIV and NLT do not have “apostles” in this verse. The ESV, NRSV, and NLT do have a footnote, while the KJV and T(NIV) do not. In historic versions, Coverdale and Douay-Rheims have “apostles” and Tyndale, Geneva Bible and all most subsequent translations in English do not have “apostles.” Luther’s translation does not have “apostles.”

I cannot imagine why “apostles” is retained in Romans 16:7 and not in 1 Cor. 8:23 and Phil. 2:25.

Bill now wants to know,

    In short: is there a clergy-bias in our NT translation? And more importantly, when will it end?

IMO there is bias regarding the use of words like “those who rule” “bishop” “church” and so on, so yes there could well be bias here.

PS The Rotherham translation does have “apostle” for Titus and Epaphroditus. If you don’t read Greek, get a copy of this Bible. It is truly outstanding in its fidelity to Greek.

Where did verses come from

Iyov has been posting on the Geneva Bible. This is the first English Bible to divide the text into the present versification. However, Iyov then writes,

But even if the verse division was more of a hindrance than a help, a main achievement of the Geneva was translating from the original, for the first time in English, the major poetic books of the Bible. In those books, the verse division gained more than it lost. Not only did it lend greater clarity to poetic parallelism, but it gave impetus to the English biblical tradition of resonant obscurity.

I aknowledge that Iyov is expressing the majority opinion. However, my contention is that every Bible is a translation from the text that the translators are most familiar with in their own minds. In this case, it is still the Latin text that the translators of the Geneva Bible were most familiar with and depended on. The image shows the Robert Etienne 1551 text which was widely used by translators. (Click on the image to enlarge.) The Greek is flanked by the Vulgate and Erasmus Latin translation.

This is the book to which we are indebted for our custom of quoting the Bible by chapter and verse. It is the first division of the Bible into verses.

The reason for the development is probably an accident of the format. This book has three separate texts of the Bible: the Greek is set in the middle of each page, next to Erasmus’s Latin and the Vulgate Latin. It appears that the need to provide a basis for cross-references and comparison gave birth to the idea.

Printing three columns in such small format may very well have influenced the development of verse divisions. The tiny format of this book, which is in sextodecimo, may have suggested the idea of setting off each sentence as an indented paragraph. Indenting each sentence in small format—a style we see in some newspaper articles—is aesthetically compatible with narrow columns since it breaks up the rectangularity of the textblocks. This system of indentation may have suggested, as well, the enumeration. The numbers are much less forbidding at the beginning of indentations than they would be if they were set in relatively rapid succession throughout solid textblocks.

One earlier book that may have inspired the insertion of verse markings was the Psalterium Quincuplex, printed by Robert Estienne in 1509. The Psalms had traditional verse divisions, but in this version Estienne numbered them, no doubt in order to make cross-references between the five versions of the text easier. Santi Pagnini’s Bible translation of 1528 also had numerical markers throughout the text, but his divisions did not catch on. He divided the first chapter of Matthew, for example, into forty-nine units.

This is one of the first books that Estienne printed in Geneva after fleeing Paris in fear of censure from the Sorbonne. Geneva had become an intellectual haven for biblical philology under the inspiration of John Calvin. Estienne did become a Calvinist. In a controversial, eleventh-hour codicil to his will, he even bequeathed a tidy sum to support the efforts of the Geneva Academy, an important institution in the history of the Reformed Church.

I would like to study this matter further, so my remarks on this matter are somewhat speculative, as is often noted by my cobloggers.

PS: I am still checking for more detail on versification in the OT. More here where Etienne is cited as ” Stephanus.”

Update: The 1551 edition in the image was the NT only. Stephanus published the Latin Vulgate with versification in 1555 adding numbers to the “sof pasuk” divisions of the Masoretic tradition. The Geneva Bible was the first English Bible to reflect these divisions. See Iyov’s series on the Geneva Bible.