Archive

Posts Tagged ‘hebrew’

God prefers perfection over deep pockets

I remember in the first few years of the new millennium, working at a Christian radio station, listening to the commercials and talk shows. One of the popular topics of discussion was a book called “The Prayer of Jabez.”

I’ve never read the book, partly because I have a Jovian backlog of books that I want to read. This includes books I own, along with books that I sometimes check out at the library but can’t get around to reading. However, the synopsis seems like this: In 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, Jabez asks God to bless him, and God chooses to do so. Just like that, God will bless us if we only ask. Today, it’s a message similar to what Joel Osteen preaches.

One of the most wonderful Christians I know is a man who prays regularly, attends church regularly, reads the Bible and knows a great deal of Hebrew and Greek. This friend a few years ago also filed for bankruptcy and lost his house to foreclosure.

My friend says: “God’s not as interested in giving us stuff as He is in perfecting us.”

The idea, I suspect, is that we’ll enter into heaven with less spiritual growing to do. And as for being wealthy, how easy is it for even a wealthy Christian to place their faith in their bank account?

Post comments here or email them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com. 

Advertisements

Revisiting the debate about Bible versions

July 16, 2010 6 comments

In my youth, I was a staunch King-James-Only believer. I read from the King James and called it King James Bible instead of King James Version. A college classmate who listed the late Dr. Jack Hyles as one of his heroes used to say that “version” implies that there are other acceptable translations.

And bless God, there were not.

Even today, I still use the King James Bible primarily. I have a Gideon New Testament of the New King James. Somewhere in storage, I have a copy of the New American Standard Bible (which I originally bought a few years ago as a reference point). My wife has a New King James Bible. Lately we’ve been talking about getting all three of our sons Bibles that are more readable since all complain the KJB is far too complicated.

Heck, I went to Pensacola Christian College, took Bible classes, have read the Bible through a few times and there are still passages of the KJB that I need a good Bible commentary and a concordance to get through.

At PCC, there were even teachers who endorsed the New King James, and I knew of students who read the NKJB. Some students even read heretical versions like the New International Version (or, as evangelist Dr. Al Lacy deliciously likes to call it, the New International Perversion or, “N-I-V-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E”).

Likewise, there was a condescending twit a few years ago who, quite smugly, told me that the New American Standard Bible was superior to the King James Bible. (Note to the arrogant who might read this: a little humility can greatly enhance your argument).

A few years ago, a solid brother in Christ said something about Bible versions that really surprised me: it’s far better for a newer version to get read than for a King James to collect dust on the shelf, unread. Another guy named Peter, a roommate at PCC, pointed out that one of my favorite Bible teachers, Dr. Chuck Swindoll, did not use a King James in his sermons. “Besides, I believe it’s possible a person can go out and serve the Lord and do so with a version that’s not the King James,” Peter told me.

The King-James-Only debate was something I continued to ponder in the Army as I studied Mandarin Chinese for eight months and then Russian for a year and started to learn more and more about languages and translating and how it’s not a very cut-and-dry process.

Let’s face it: English is a littered, mercurial language, a witch’s brew of strange grammar rules (not to mention endless exceptions to the rule) and borrowed words from countless languages. Those who believe we are speaking the same language now that was spoken in England in 1611 are living in a dream world. Some linguistic scholars say English reached its zenith during Elizabethan times, and we have to wonder if the English we speak today is a indeed a step down from that used by William Shakespeare.

In English, there are also many dialects and sub-dialects: British English, Scottish English, Irish English, Canadian English, American English (with further variations depending on the region where you live), Australian English, New Zealand English and the English spoken in Africa, along with the English spoken by the hearing impaired.

When I look back on my time in Baptist churches and think of the many sermons I’ve heard preached, there have been a few ministers whom I’ve wondered if they really understood what a passage said. Is it impossible that a preacher today using a nearly-400-year-old Bible will misinterpret and misapply? One friend, Darrell, told a story once of trying to find a church and encountering one where the pastor talked about God turning His back on Jesus when He was on the cross. “Just as God turned His back on His Son, so must we also turn our backs on wayward children,” the pastor said.

Really? I thought. Does this man grasp the passage and that God turned His back on Jesus because Jesus became the sin for mankind?

When Darrell posted this on a website I once frequented, I read it and felt like asking him to tell me the church so that if I were ever in his area, I’d know which church to avoid. And wherever the pastor went to Bible college, I’d rather avoid that also. It also made me wonder if this man really understood what the Bible taught and if he was a victim of reading what he really didn’t understand and making wild misinterpretations.

For those who are King James Only, my question is this: with the evolution of the English language, is it possible that sometime within the next 50 to 500 years (assuming the Lord tarries and the rapture hasn’t occurred yet) that the language will evolve to where the 1611 King James Bible will become unreadable and incomprehensible?

If your answer is no, please consider this: Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales was written in Middle English in the 14th century, around 250 years or so earlier than the King James Bible. If you read TCT in Middle English, it won’t make much sense. How about reading the Lord’s Prayer in Old English? Forget it. It’s practically another language.

One thing about the King James I find tickling is how it contains words that would practically get kids spanked for using them today. In 2 Kings 9:8 God commands the execution of King Ahab’s sons, specifically he who “…pisseth against the wall.” [Emphasis mine]

Pisseth?

Back in those days, “to piss” apparently was an acceptable verb to use for “to urinate”. These days, it is considered vulgar, especially used in slang to mean becoming angry. What the King James (possible translating a Hebrew euphemism) was saying is that God wanted all males executed. And since men “piss” while standing up and women have a difficult time doing so…

Over the years, I’ve encountered godly Christians who use the King James, New King James, NIV, NASB, New Living Translation, and so on. There is also a 21st Century King James Bible out there and an updated version of the NKJB. Believe it not, there apparently is even an American King James Version.

This is not to say we should be careless with translations. I prefer Bibles that come from the Masoretic Hebrew and from the Greek Textus Receptus. If a Bible is translated from something else, it’s not for me. We should take great care in selecting the Bible we want to use: while I still prefer the KJB but am no longer a King James-Only person, I do believe that excessive carelessness in translations is exactly what Satan desires now that he knows he cannot destroy God’s Word.

Maybe I’m right. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe in five years I’ll be a King-James-Only advocate again, or maybe in five years I’ll go nuts in my Christian liberties (I already wear a cross necklace).

Tell me what you think, Christian Reader.

Richard Zowie, a 1995 graduate of Pensacola Christian College and a Christian since 1981, remains a humble student of God. Post comments here or e-mail Richard at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Daniel 6: Lions, dens and Daniel, oh my!

February 11, 2010 1 comment

Yes, I must admit, that’s probably the most cheesiest, recycled title imaginable, borrowed from Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. (A special “thank you” goes out to the late Judy Garland, also affectionately known as Liza Minnelli’s Mom).

I read this passage last night, right before I went to bed around 10 p.m. to get ready for my 4:45 a.m. wake up to go to work at the gas station. As I read, I noticed some new things. Reading from my Zondervan King James Study Bible, I consulted with some of the footnotes. I know some Christians detest Bibles with extensive footnotes, but it really helps in learning the background of the passage. Otherwise, you’re almost helpless to understand the historical and cultural backgrounds of the ancient Biblical cultures. What you read will either go straight over our head or will become misunderstood and misapplied.

At the beginning of Daniel 6, King Darius the Persian has set up his new kingdom. He has 120 princes and three presidents to whom the princes are all accountable. Who’s the head president?

Daniel.

So, after being given the consolation of third-highest ruler in Babylon shortly before Belshazzar’s death, Daniel actually receives a promotion. Good help is so hard to find, and I’m sure that Darius was very familiar with Daniel and his wisdom. Perhaps Belshazzar, when asked if he had any final words before being executed, said, “Daniel…is a smart…guy…should’ve…listened to him sooner…put…him…in charge…(gurgle! gasp!)”

While Daniel was the head president and accountable to Darius, the decision to promote Daniel was obviously a very sore one for the other presidents and many of the princes. “Why should this filthy foreigner–a JEW!–be put in charge of us?” They no doubt reasoned among themselves. “Didn’t Nebuchadnezzar unceremoniously wrench these slaves out of their homeland? And now one of them’s ruling over us again?”

So, they try to find dirt on Daniel. They called on all their spies, private investigators, everybody, to see what Daniel did that was embarrassing enough to be relieved of his position in the kingdom. Mind you, this had nothing to do with the good of the kingdom. It was about power.

What did these gentlemen find? Absolutely nothing. Daniel was squeaky clean. No crazy secret sex life, no love children, no strange habits, no embarrassing personal problems.

Not unless you count his praying towards Jerusalem thrice daily.

So, these men approach Darius with the usual apple-polishing “O king, live forever” rhetoric and trick him into signing a law stating for the next 30 days all petitions must be directed to the king: anyone who asks a petition of God or man shall be thrown into a lion’s den.

Everyone agrees this is a great idea, Your Majesty!, the men tell the king. This is an outright lie, of course: Daniel knew nothing about it and certainly would not have given it his support. In those days, lying to the king was pretty much grounds to have your head permanently separated from your body.

When the men then make accusations against Daniel’s violating this law, the king realizes he’s been had, but it’s too late. the laws of the Medes-Persians were ironclad and could not be revoked.

As Daniel is put into the lions’ den, Darius in verse 16 tells the sage prophet that perhaps God will save him from this injustice.

Nice kitties!

The whole night, Darius doesn’t sleep, eat or have any entertainment. He is worried, thinking that a wonderful man and a great advisor may die because of a stupid law that he no doubt signed after the princes and presidents tickled his ears and tricked him. Morning can’t come quickly enough.

And when it does, Darius rushes to the den and calls down to Daniel asking if his God was able to save him.

It must’ve been a gargantuan relief to Darius to hear Daniel answer back in verses 21-22:

“…O king, live for ever.

“My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.”

Furthermore, when Daniel came out of the den, the king saw he had no marks of physical activity of any kind. This reminds me of how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were pulled from the fire a few chapters earlier and were found to have no burns or singes.

Darius, we read in verses 25-27, made a new law decreeing that Daniel’s God was to be revered and respected throughout the kingdom. His is a kingdom that is eternal with infinite power, and he delivered Daniel from the lions.

What about the men who tricked Darius into signing that bad law? Verse 24 tells us that they, their wives and children were thrown into the lions’ den. The lions were no doubt hungry and had a big breakfast.

This may seem like a bitter pill to swallow for modern readers: how could God let women and children be eaten by lions?

There are a few things to consider. First, a lot of distasteful activities occur in the Bible. This doesn’t mean that God condones it, it’s just reporting on things that happened in the ancient world. Their cultures, their perceptions on the world and their ideas of justice no doubt differ much from ours. I also understand that executing a man and his family was a Persian custom at the time, presumably to prevent the man’s wife or kids from plotting revenge down the road. This is right there with other gross practices, such as David collecting 200 foreskins of the Philistines (to prove to the circumcised King Saul that David [who was also circumcised] had killed 200 enemy soldiers).

Second, it’s entirely possible that these men’s wives and children were just as wicked and ungodly as they were. After all, they’d tried to murder an innocent man. Perhaps their wives and kids encouraged it. We don’t know for certain, except that Darius possibly wanted to give the others in his kingdom incentive to leave Daniel alone.

Richard Zowie is an active blogger. Post comments here or e-mail richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Acts 3: Peter heals a lame man, preaches, and, no surprise, gets into trouble

January 31, 2010 Leave a comment

About the reading: I read this passage of Scripture this afternoon after finishing work. It was very nice to stretch out on my bed, get off my feet and read and jot notes. Doing this daily Bible reading is like getting reacquainted with an old friend I haven’t seen in a very long time. Too long of a time. I’m hoping to discipline myself to read the Bible early in the morning during the quietest time in our house. It’s certainly a prayer request, since I’m much more of a night owl rather than an early bird.

Of all the New Testament saints, Peter is one I identify with the most: impulsive and energetic with a lot of regret thrown in. Well, you know how a Christian should handle regret: whenever Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.

That being said, Peter and John headed to the Temple, presumably to begin preaching. Before they arrived, they see a man born lame who was asking for donations. For a Galilean fisherman, Peter really responded eloquently in 3:6: “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”

 

“I don’t have any silver or gold, but I have something I think you’ll really, REALLY like!”

The lame man arose, and walked and was indeed very excited. He headed into the temple, jumped around and did a lot of shouting. He was, no doubt, the world’s first cheerleader. It must’ve absolutely shocked the people in the temple that this same man who’d just been down on the ground asking them for donations was now able to walk!

As the people continued to be astonished and as a reporter from the Jerusalem Post began interviewing witnesses while also asking the formerly-lame man to do a quick jump into the air for a picture, Peter used this time to preach a sermon. He asked the people why they’re so surprised and why they seem to think that he and John had anything to do with the healing when it was really the Lord God of Israel who did it.

Ever the man with effective icebreakers, Peter then reminded the people that in their ignorance towards the truth they crucified Jesus while allowing a murderer like Barrabas to go free. Peter, again, no doubt astonishing the crowd with his Galilean accent as he preached, gave them examples of many prophets who foretold of Jesus. He even quoted Moses in Deuteronomy.

Jesus gave the command for His disciples to preach the Gospel, and that’s exactly what Peter did. We’ll find out soon that some in the temple were no doubt less than happy with Peter’s preaching.

Richard Zowie has three other blogs on WordPress and has been a Christian since October 1981. He sees himself as having some catching up to do in terms of Bible reading. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.