Monday, June 19, 2006

My New Tanakh

As many of you know, I work this summer in the warehouse of the Nebraska Book Company. Because of this, I have been buying books for very cheap prices this summer, which, of course, is a mixed blessing--on one hand, I get cheap books; but on the other hand, I use that as an excuse to buy too many!

Today, though, I purchased a Tanakh, or a Hebrew Bible. The right side of every page is the Bible in Hebrew, and on the left side is the Bible in English. Of course, since Hebrew reads right to left, Genesis begins at the "end" of the Bible and the rest of the Bible works its way to the "beginning" with 2 Chronicles (the books in the Hebrew Bible are arranged differently from the books in our English Bibles).

This is perhaps the coolest book that I have ever received. I can't really read any of it yet (although I have figured out what YHWH looks like in Hebrew), but there is something awe-inspiring to be able to see the Scriptures in the language that they were written.

Still, as I have been reading a book on the history of biblical interpretation within the Church by one of my future Beeson professors (also purchased at NBC), I am beginning to wonder whether reading the Bible in the original languages is quite as important as I once thought. (Stay with me for a second here!) Gerald Bray (the author of my book) points out that New Testament writers frequently used the Septuagint or even variant texts to prove their points.

For example, examine the difference from Psalm 8:4-5 to Hebrews 2:5-9, where that verse is quoted to bolster the argument that Jesus is unique from any other. The first reads that God has made the son of man "a little lower than the heavenly beings" while the second reads that God has made the Son of Man "for a little while lower than the angels." The first could easily be you or me or anyone else on whom God has compassion; the second seems much more explicitly about Christ.

What gives the writer the authority here to use something other than the original text? I would say that this is clearly a prerogative extended only to those writing until the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So, what does that mean for an aspiring seminarian? I have two thoughts (neither of which are extremely well worked-out, so forgive me):

  1. The Scriptures translated into English, French, German, Arabic, Sanskrit, Ukrainian, Celtic, etc..., are still Scriptures. It seems to me that, because the New Testament writers did not feel absolutely compelled to use the original versions of what they were quoting, we can infer that the Church is free to use translations of the Scriptures for the instruction, training, reproof, etc.., of her members.
  2. That said, no one today is writing/reading/meditating/translating under the inspiration of the Scriptures as the NT writers were. So, while they might be able to have absolute authority when they use texts that don't read exactly the same as the autographs do, you and I do not. Therefore, we (especially the "we" who are going to be preaching and teaching) should do everything within our power to understand as much of what the originals say as we possibly can. So, if we have opportunities to study Hebrew and Greek, we should take those opportunities and throw ourselves into our studies.
  3. The reason for our need to get as close as we can to the original meaning is that we have no opportunity to sit down with the author and say, "What exactly did you mean by...?" The only way to get at the meaning is to try to understand the writing as well as possible. Obviously, this cannot be completely done when a translation of a passage either distorts the meaning or fails to bring the fullness of its meaning to light.

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A New Post

Well, I guess it's time for my annual resolution for renewed summer blogging. I'm honestly going to try to blog more for the rest of the summer. Honestly. (We'll see how it goes.)
Last weekend, I attended the wedding of Ben and Christy Keele. You can view photos of the wedding here. (A Facebook photo album is forthcoming, and, FYI, all the photos are courtesy Zach Nelson.)

I was a groomsman in the wedding, which was a wonderful experience. First, I was thrilled for Ben and Christy, as I have been friends with Ben since 7th grade and have known Christy pretty much since when Ben began to befriend her. They had a wonderful wedding, and I was very happy for them.

On another note, a wedding has a completely different perspective from the front. As I watched Christy walk down the aisle, the imagery of the Church's being the bride of Christ became much more vivid than it ever had been. As I watched her father give her away, I wondered whether it would be the Holy Spirit giving us away to Christ as the Father officiated over the wedding. The Holy Spirit certainly has been the one who has cared for us, nurtured us, and been the one who has enabled us to adorn ourselves with good works (Revelation 19:7-8)--why shouldn't he be involved in the wedding?

Earlier in the summer, the one issue that was closest to my heart and mind was the unity of the true Church of Christ. I need to return to thinking and praying about this because it is not quite so important as it was earlier, but here are a few thoughts:
  • It is interesting that, of all things that Christ might have prayed for on behalf of the believers for whom he was going to die, Christ prayed specifically for the unity of the Church ("that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you....that they may be one even as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."--John 17:22-23). Granted he also prayed that people might see his glory and that they might be with him, but Jesus prays twice for the unity of the Church.
  • I do not want to argue for unity at all costs, but it seems like this should be much more of a focus for the Church than it has been, specifically since the Reformation. During these past few months, I heard someone pose the question, "Is it possible that, even if the Reformers were correct in their theology, that they sinned in not loving the Church to death, withdrawing rather than seeking to restore those who were lost?" I know that those in power within the Catholic Church had their own faults, and I love the Reformers as much as the next guy, but this question really has been haunting my ways of thinking (i.e., theological correctness over unity) lately.
  • Is it possible that the reason there is such a focus in the New Testament on love for the brethren (rather than, say, on love for anyone and everyone) is that the apostles recognized the ever-present possibility that the Church could be split by a multitude of factors. Something to think about...

That's all for now. I will really try to keep more coming. Honestly. Hopefully. Maybe.

Labels: , ,