Site Index Back Up

As you can see by the menu, the Site Index to This Lamp is back up. I had to take it down while I was using alpha & beta versions of RapidWeaver 3.6, but now everything is out of beta and the SiteMap module from Loghound has been updated as well.


TNIV Truth: Thick Not Thin

As I've reported over at TNIV Truth, it was announced today that the new TNIV Reference Bible will NOT be a thinline. As an added bonus, we also found out today that the binding will be smyth-sewn. Good news all around.


Has Faith: John 3:16 in the NEB/REB--Good Translation or Not?

Most of the time translation committees are reluctant to alter the wording of the KJV's rendering of John 3:16. This is, after all, a near-univerally memorized verse in the Bible. Even many non-believers know John 3:16 and they usually know it in the King's English:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV)

Yet the NEB (1961/70) translators were bold enough to make a few minor changes and one significant change in John 3:16, only to have all but one of them removed in the more conservative REB of 1989.

"God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that everyone who has faith in him may not die but have eternal life." (John 3:16 NEB)

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that everyone who has faith in him may not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 REB)

Neither "God loved the world so much" (NEB) or "God so loved the world" (REB, also KJV) reflects the meaning of John's Greek here. A much better, but certainly less traditional reading is found in the HCSB: "For God loved the world in this way" or in the NET Bible: "For this is the way God loved the world:" (for a discussion of why these renderings are more accurate, see my review of the HCSB).

But that's not the focus of this post. Rather, I want to call attention to the NEB/REB's use of "has faith" instead of the traditional "believe."

When I first got a copy of the REB, hot off the presses in 1989, the peculiar rendering of has faith got my attention in my initial examination of this version of the Bible. I did not yet have a copy of the NEB, so I did not know that this particular phrase was handed down from its predecessor. I was in college at the time, and I had a couple of significant influences in my life--mentors, if you will. In discussing the REB with one of these individuals, I pointed out the interesting phrasing of John 3:16 to him. He told me he wasn't quite sure how accurate "has faith" was in John's gospel. He had just finished a seminar at Golden Gate Seminary on John, and one of the things pointed out in the class is that the specific word faith (πίστις/pistis) never occurs in the fourth gospel.

And that's technically true. The noun form of of the word never appears in John. But, of course, as referenced in John 3:16, the verb form (πιστεύω/pisteuo) does. In fact, πιστεύω/pisteuo occurs 98 times in John!

From the UBS Greek Dictionary, here are the two words, the noun first and then the verb (which appears in John 3:16):

πίστις, εως f faith, trust, belief; the Christian faith; conviction, good conscience (Ro 14:22,23); perhaps body of faith, doctrine (Jude 1:3,20); assurance, proof (Ac 17:31); promise (1Tm 5:12)

πιστεύω believe (in), have faith (in) (with God or Christ as object); believe, believe in; have confidence (in someone or something), entrust (something to another); ὅς μὲν π. φαγεῖν πάντα one man’s faith allows him to eat anything (Ro 14:2)

I understand why the NEB/REB translators rendered πιστεύω "has faith" instead of believe. In the Greek the relationship between the noun and verb are evident; they have the same root. But in English, there isn't a direct verb form of faith. We don't say, "I faithed in Jesus." So why not just use the traditional believe?

Well, the problem is with our English word. It has two different meanings. Believe can mean to accept something as true. But believe can also mean to hold an opinion. When John speaks of those who believe in Jesus in John 3:16, is he speaking of the same kind of belief when we say, "I believe it will rain tomorrow"? Of course not. Such belief has to be more than opinion. It also has to be more than mental assent. James foresees this as a problem when he writes,

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” (James 2:19 TNIV)

Believe may simply not be an adequate word for πιστεύω in English. It's awkward, but the Amplified Bible gets the meaning across fairly well with " that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish..." The parenthetical definition for believes in--"trusts in, clings to, relies on"--gets it right. But the Amplified Bible is not really suitable for any kind of use in a group setting (I don't really even recommend the Amplified Bible in general), so how can πιστεύω in John 3:16 best be rendered?

The NEB/REB may indeed have the best solution with has faith. What do you think? Is this good translation or do you think it's not allowed to use faith as a direct object in this verse since technically πίστις never occurs in John? Feel free to offer your opinion in the comments.

As an aside... Last Christmas, I went back to my home church for a worship service. I came across the same individual mentioned above who had been one of my mentors in college. He had just come from teaching a Bible study and was carrying two Bibles. He told me that he likes them both and gave up trying to choose one over the other. He carries them both to any study he leads or participates in. What were they? He was holding a TNIV Study Bible and a Cambridge text edition of the REB.

They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree...


Making the Case (Yet Again) for Wide Margin Bibles

In a recent comment, Larry brought to my attention that a NKJV Wide Margin Bible just sold on eBay for $318!

Although I've provided the link above, it won’t remain active after a few weeks, so I’ll include a screenshot below:

It boggles my mind really to think that someone would pay $318 for a wide margin NKJV--and a bonded leather one at that! But Larry summed it up quite well in his comments when he said this:

This must be proof positive that people are passionate about wide margin Bibles. More than $300 for a bonded leather cheapo Bible from Nelson? A NKJV?

And the fact that Nelson allowed this to go out of print while Crossway is publishing multiple note-taking Bibles may perhaps play some role in the NKJV's fall and the ESV's rise. (Certainly, there are other factors, but given the investment that publishers claim to make in new Bibles, why wouldn't they want to make their franchises available in every format that there is demand for?)

I think you put your finger on it a few months ago when you pointed out that while sales of wide margins may appear weak, they are sold to opinion makers -- and thus influence many more sales.

I've had representatives from three different Bible publishers tell me that wide margin Bibles just don't sell well. But it's that last statement made by Larry that I believe most Bible publishers just don't get. But Crossway gets it. They know that the teachers, preachers, and other serious Bible students want wide margin Bibles. And even if these particular buyers don't represent a large market, the fact is that this is the group that influences the purchases made by those sitting under their instruction. The fact that Crossway gets this is evidenced by the fact that they offer four different ESV Bibles with wide margins: The Deluxe Reference Bible, The Journaling Bible, The Single Column Reference Bible, and the Wide Margin Reference Bible.

But where are the decent wide-margin Bibles from the other 21st century translations (NLTse [2004], HCSB [2004], NET [2005], TNIV [2005])? Let's run through that list real quick.

New Living Translation
The original NLT1 (1996) had one of the best wide margin Bibles I've ever seen in terms of the Notemakers Bible. It had a healthy one and a half inches of space in the margins of a single-column text and two inches of lined space at the bottom for journaling. But since sells weren't that great, Tyndale has decided not to release an edition in the NLT second edition.

But why didn't the Notemakers Bible sell? The Living Bible and its inheritor, the New Living Translation have always been a bit of a populist Bible. While scholars put down the original Living Bible, Christians bought them in droves, and many testified that this was the first Bible they ever really understood. But these were probably not the kind of folks--for the most part--who would have been interested in a wide margin edition for their own notes.

The 1996 NLT wasn't that far removed from it's predecessor--especially in the public's eye--in spite now being called a translation rather than a paraphrase. Regardless, the top notch team of Evangelical scholars who produced the 1996 first edition reconvened to tighten up the translation, bringing it closer to the autographs and hopefully bring about the respect the NLT deserved. That resulted in the 2004 NLT second edition, which although quietly introduced was radically different than the first edition.

To gain even greater credibility, Tyndale has begun the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary Series, based solely on the NLTse. From the two volumes I have so far in the series, I can say that it's an excellent evangelical commentary series on the Bible. And I'm not sure it could have been based on the earlier NLT1 (let alone the Living Bible) without a great amount of work. But the NLTse is a different creature! And now that a commentary series is based on it, what would be a better match than an NLTse Bible with wide margins to study along with it and make notes? It seems to only make sense to me.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
There is only one wide margin HCSB Bible available: The HCSB Minister's Bible. So far it has received mixed reviews (see my review here). The main complaints stem from paper that is too thin and wide margins that really aren't that wide. Plus I've had more than one person email me who was not a minister saying they would like to use it simply to have a wide margin HCSB, but have been reluctant to do so because they feel funny carrying around something with that title on the spine. I'm really surprised there aren't more offerings here from Holman considering the HCSB is now the default translation in all of Lifeway's Sunday School curriculum. It would seem to me that a decent wide margin HCSB would be a perfect match.

NET Bible
I'm not totally surprised that the NET Bible has not seen a wide margin edition yet. Certainly with 60,000+ notes, one would wonder what could be added. Plus, the NET is still trying to gain the attention of the larger Evangelical world. Selling through more than merely mail order might help them out some. To me of all these Bible translations listed here that don't have wide-margin editions, the NET is the only one that gets a pass.

Today's New International Version
I would guess that the possibility of a TNIV Wide Margin Bible primarily suffers from the mixed track record of Zondervan's wide margin NIV and NASB Bibles. But if these editions have not sold quite as well as Zondervan would have liked there might be a reason why. Last year when I posted a Survey of Wide Margin Bibles by Version, I counted two other publishers of wide margins NIV's besides Zondervan and and three other NASB offerings. Could it be that the market for NIV and NASB wide margin Bibles is simply flooded? Consider also that most NASB aficionados have been using the classic single-column reference edition since the 1971 NASB. Foundation Press now offers a variety of high quality leather bindings in the classic reference edition, while Zondervan only offers hardback and bonded leather. There is a similar weakness for Zondervan's wide margin NIV: Cambridge offers a variety much higher quality bindings (scroll down to the bottom of the page for the previous link).

I'll come back to this, but one thing I believe that publishers like Cambridge and Crossway might get and Zondervan might not, is that people who buy a Bible for taking notes in want to use this Bible long term. Generally, there's going to be a preference for higher quality bindings. And if there's a choice, quality will trump cost--at least for these buyers.

The TNIV does have a wide margin represented in the "Squared" Bible. However, the TNIV Squared Bible breaks two cardinal rules of wide margin Bibles: (1) It is a thinline Bible, so the paper is not suitable for heavy annotations, and (2), as a two-column text, it does not allow any margin for the inner column. Ultimately, this Bible misses its intended market.

There is a TNIV Reference Bible coming out later this year, and many of the "gatekeepers" will use it as the best option of what's available, but I get emails and comments on this blog every week bemoaning the fact that it's not a wide-margin TNIV Bible. I would hope that eventually Zondervan will offer the TNIV Reference in a wide-margin offering.

Here's what most publishers are missing...
Most publishers don't get two things about wide margin Bibles:
  • Despite lower sales, wide margin Bibles are for gatekeepers, and gatekeepers influence the translation choice of others who will buy the more popular editions.
  • People who are in the market for a wide margin Bible want a quality Bible: genuine leather or better and a solid stitched binding. A wide-margin Bible is going to be considered by most to be a long term investment.

Finally, there's another little secret that Bible publishers don't realize, and I almost even hate to bring it up. But as evidenced by the sale of a $318 wide margin NKJV on eBay, people who want wide margin Bibles are willing to pay extra for them. It is well known that publishers make limited printings of some Bible editions. Why can't this be done for wide-margin Bibles, too? Heck, I imagine most of us would even be willing to order them straight from the publisher if there's some fear they wouldn't sell in stores. But most of us who would like to use a wide margin Bible would be willing to pay upwards of $100 knowing that it would be a long term investment, knowing that it should be a publication made with the utmost standards in binding and materials.

The wide margin survey that I posted last year remains one of the most popular pages on this blog. It gets hits everyday. There's a market out there. The products just need to match the demand.


Upcoming Sunday Morning Studies: Selected Minor Prophets

Next week our Quest Bible Study at Simpsonville Baptist Church begins a new quarter of Bible studies. Our class uses Lifeway's Explore the Bible curriculum which essentially goes through the entire Bible in eight year cycles. This quarter, which focuses on selected Minor Prophets of the Old Testament, will complete a cycle. A new cycle will begin in the Fall with studies in the Gospel of Matthew.

Below is our schedule for the summer:

June 3 Appropriate God's Mercy (Joel 1:1 - 3:21)
June 10 Accept God's Lordship (Obad 1-21)
June 17 Affirm God's Justice (Nah 1:1 - 3:19)
June 24 Await God's Timing (Hab 1:1 - 3:19)
July 1 Humility (Zeph 1:1 - 3:20)
July 8 Commitment (Hag 1:1 - 2:23)
July 15 Repentance (Zech 1:1 - 3:10)
July 22 Dependence (Zech 4:1 - 6:15)
July 29 Integrity (Zech 7:1 - 8:23)
August 5 Joy (Zech 9:1 - 14:21)
August 12 Love Wholeheartedly (Mal 1:1 - 4:6)
August 19 Live Honorably (Mal 2:1-16)
August 26 Worship Appropriately (Mal 2:17 - 4:6)

By the way, anyone else teaching this series may be interested to know that CBD is running an incredible deal on Thomas E. McKomiskey's three-volume series on the Minor Prophets. These books are harder to find separately, and the set lists for $150. CBD is selling them for $59.99. Here is the description for the series from the CBD page:

Although often overshadowed by the angst of their major counterparts, the Minor Prophets are a vital part of Scripture providing beauty, pathos, humility, and questioning. Based on the NRSV, this authoritative series features nine of the finest evangelical Old Testament scholars, insightful exposition, and meticulous exegesis of the Hebrew text. Each chapter is prefaced by an insightful introduction and provides meticulous exegesis of the Hebrew text. This commentary is a useful tool for both scholars and laypeople.

I've had volume one for a while. Yesterday, I began looking for the best price on vols. 2 & 3. However, this price at CBD is cheaper for the set than what I would pay for vols. 2 & 3 separately. I've got the set on order and I'll sell my duplicate copy of vol. 1 once the others arrive. Here is a list of contributors for this series:

Hosea: Thomas McComiskey
Joel: Raymond Dillard
Amos: Jeffrey Niehaus

Obadiah: Jeffrey Niehaus
Jonah: Joyce Baldwin
Micah: Bruce Waltke
Nahum: Tremper Longman III
Habakkuk: F. F. Bruce

Zephaniah: J. Alec Motyer
Haggai: J. Alec Motyer
Zechariah: Thomas McComiskey
Malachi: Douglas Stuart


Biblical Illustrator Plus: Summer 2007

The cover of this quarter's Biblical Illustrator Plus CD shows a terra-cotta model of a war chariot from Cyprus, dated from the 7th century B. C. The back of the CD contains this blurb:

It's just dirt. Some believe that. But what people do with that dirt makes a huge difference. In some large metropolitan cities, land is being sold, not by the acre, but by the square foot. Location does matter.

This issue of Biblical Illustrator Plus looks at dirt and location and what happened at those locations. It looks at the Land of Promise that God gave His people. It looks at events that occurred in specific locations and at people from specific regions. This issue looks at those who built buildings and empires on that dirt--some for worship, some for self-aggrandizement. And we look at how some of those empires rose and waned.

People feel a kinship to the dirt, to the land, to its peoples, and to its cultures and traditions. In the end, though, may we remember that what matters is what we do for God and how we honor Him.

As I've mentioned before, Biblical Illustrator contains background articles for a number of Lifeway's Sunday School curriculums. The class I teach at Simpsonville Baptist Church uses the Explore the Bible curriculum, and this quarter we will take our lessons from the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament. The articles below that are drawn from the Minor Prophets directly relate to the texts I'll be teaching.

Below are the new articles in the Summer 2007 issue of Biblical Illustrator:

Ken Cox The Promised Land: A Crucial Locale Deut 1-5
R. Raymond Lloyd Who Were the Amorites ? Book of Deuteronomy
Rick W. Byargeon The Cities of Refuge Deut 4-5
David L. Jenkins What Happened at Ebal and Gerizim? Deut 27-34
C. Alan Woodward Temple Personnel in the First Century Acts 2:41-47; 4:1-37
Timothy Trammel

Joppa: Its History and Significance

Acts 9-11
Stephen W. Carlson Do You Believe in Magic? Acts 13-14
David E. Lanier The Synagogue in the First Century Acts 13-15
Paul E. Kullman The Synagogue: Its Design and Construction Acts 13-15
LeBron Matthews Solomon in All His Splendor 1 Kings 3:1-28
John Traylor The Allure of Baal 1 Kings 19; 2 Kings 23
Alan Moseley Locusts! Joel 1-3
John Mark Terry The Early and Latter Rains Joel 1-3
John L. Harris The Day of the Lord Books of Joel and Obadiah; Zeph 1-2; Zech 14
Robert C. Dunston Nahum: Getting His Message Across Book of Nahum
Wayne VanHorn The World Situation According to the 7th Century Prophets Books of Nahum, Habakkuk & Zephaniah
David M. Wallace Idols in Production and Ritual Hab 1:1 - 3:19; Deut 4-5
Martha S. Bergen Zechariah and Haggai: Motivators and Builders Books of Haggai & Zechariah
Robert A. Street Zechariah's Visions and Oracles Zech 1-8
Jeff S. Anderson The Spritiual Climate at the End of the Old Testament Era Book of Malachi
Daniel P. Caldwell Horses in Ancient Warfare Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, Haggai & Zechariah
Eric A. Mitchell ARTIFacts: Giants in the Land: Southern Baptists and Biblical Archaeology  
D. Larry Craig Book Review: Kregel Dictionary of the Bible and Theology by Henry W. Holloman  

Now, as I've said many times, the best value of Biblical Illustrator lies in the CD: Biblical Illustrator Plus. In addition to the articles above, the CD contains over sixty articles from past issues. Additional articles in the Summer 2007 are listed below.

Bob Simmons Corinth: A Roman City 1 & 2 Corinthians
Robert Street Josiah: Rebuilder and Reformer 2 Kings 21:1 - 23:5
Charles W. Draper Law & Faith Book of Galatians
Bryan E. Beyer Evil: the Meaning Gen 3:1-6; Isa 5:20-21; Mal 2:16
Bryce Sandlin The Life Situation of Zechariah Zech 3:1-2, 6-8; 4:1-6, 8-10a
Vernon Elmore

The Life Situation of Obadiah

Obadiah 1-4, 8-10, 8-10, 13-17
Fred Wood Life Situation in Malachi Mal 1:6-9; 2:8-9, 13-16
James Travis Historical Setting of Nahum Nah 1:1-3a, 7-9, 12-15; 3:5-7
Harold Moseley Israel and the Nations Minor Prophets
Larry McGraw Tanning Acts 10:34-36, 39-48
Thomas D. Lea The Sanhedren in the First Century Acts 4:1-4, 7-12, 31; 5:17-21a, 29-33, 40-42
Bill Tolar Hellenist and Hebrew Christians Acts 4:32, 34-35; 6:1-5, 7a
Mark Rathal The Fear of the Lord Eph5:21; 2 Cor 5:11
R. Wayne Jones Ancient Persia Ezra 1:1
Harry B. Hunt From Cyrus II to Darius I Ezra 4-5
Sharon Roberts Prophetesses in Ancient Israel  
Kevin C. Peacock Pentecost and the Feast of Weeks Acts 2:1-47
L. Manning Garrett III What Is Wisdom? 1 Kings 3-4
Claude F. Mariottini Origins of the Monarchy in Israel 1 Chron 4:9-10; 1 Kings 3:5-15
Julie Nall Knowles Jezebel Unveiled 1 Kings 19-20
Marsha Ellis Smith Syria & Israel in 9th Century BC 2 Kings 5:2-6, 9-14

Ray Lloyd

Habakkuk: the Man and His Times Hab 1:1
Steve Lemke Mount Carmel 1 Kings 18:20; 2 Kings 5:15
A. O. Collins Josiah's Reform 2 Kings 22
Claude F. Mariottini Josiah and His Court 2 Kings 22:1 - 23:30
John D. Duncan Reconcilliation 2 Cor 5:11 - 6:2
Wayne Van Horn People Who Built the Temple Ezra 6:14-22
Donald W. Garner Zerubbabel's Temple Ezra 4:1-6; 5:2-3; 6:14
Bryce Sandlin A History of Darius Dan 6:1-28
George W. Knight First Century Antioch of Syria Acts 11:19-30; 12:24-25
Rick Johnson God's Jealousy Deut 5:1-9, 11-13, 16-21
David S. Dockery Sanctification 2 Thess 2:13
D. C. Martin Malachi: His Life and Times Book of Malachi
Julie Nall Knowles First-Century Cypress Acts 13:1-52
Waylon Bailey Ahab: King and Adversary 2 Kings 17:1-24
Elgia "Jay" Wells Lessons for Race Relations Acts 10:1-48; 8:26-40
Larry McGraw Barnabas and Paul's Missionary Journey Acts 13; 14
Linda Oaks Garrett Kosher or Not? Acts 9:32 - 11:18
C. Mack Roark Controversy and Response Acts 15:1-35
Harold R. Mosley Does It Pay to Be Good? Mal 3:13 - 4:6
Robert A. Street The Hind Hab 2-3
Billy E. Simmons Barnabas and Mark Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15:37-39; Col 4:10; 2 Tim 4:11
Patrick D. Ward Beersheba 1 Kings 19:3
Linda M. Bridges Barnabas: An Early Missionary Acts 14:12; 15:2
Robert O. Coleman Repentance in the Old Testament Mal 3:7
James Travis Of Dreams and Visions Joel 2:28; Dan 8:1
A. O. Collins Locusts Joel 1:4
Harry B. Hunt Jr. Attitudes Toward Divorce in Post-Exilic Judaism Mal 2:13-16; Matt 5:31
Glenn McCoy Reuben, Gad, and East-Manasseh Deut 29:8
Eugene Skelton Darius I Hystaspes Hag 1:1
Robert A. Weathers Sexual Purity in the New Testament Job 31:1-4; Ps 101:3-4; 2 Cor 10:4-5; 1 Thess 4:3, 5-7
James E. Carter The Chosen Acts 6:5
Kelvin Moore The Persian Empire Books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther
R. Raymond Lloyd The Heart in Old Testament Theology  
E. Lebron Matthews Treaties and Covenants Book of Deuteronomy
Wayne VanHorn The Levites Deut 9:1 - 11:22
James Newell The Fathers in Israel's History Book of Deuteronomy
David M. Wallace The Arabah Deut 1:1 - 3:29
Rick Byargeon Memory and History in Israel's Faith Deut 6:1-25; 7:1 - 8:20
Dorman Laird A Jealous God Deut 4:44 - 5:33
Stephen J. Andrews How the Giants Have Fallen Deut 1:1 - 4:43; 29:1 - 30:30
Claude Mariottini Mount Nebo Deut 31:1-8, 34
Francis X. Kimmitt From Kadesh Barnea to Jericho Books of Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy & Joshua
Stephen R. Miller Tithes & Offerings Mal 3:6-18

Biblical Illustrator magazine is available for $24.95 a year. Biblical Illustrator Plus CD runs $34.35. I recommend the latter. If you teach Sunday School in a Southern Baptist Church, you may simply want to ask your Minister of Education to order you a copy of the CD with the next curriculum order. And although BI is aimed primarily at teachers, in my opinion, anyone interested in biblical history and backgrounds will benefit from this quarterly publication.


New Teaching Assignment

Although I got my official welcome letter a month ago, somehow it seems more real now that my name is entered into eCampus:

I've been hired in an adjunct position at SBTS for the fall as "Instructor in New Testament Interpretation" with one teaching assignment: elementary Greek. This will be my first time teaching a masters level course, and I'm really looking forward to it.


This Just In: Ultimate Matrix HD DVD

My schedule currently has no time for this until at least later next week, but it arrived today:

  • The Matrix
  • The Matrix Reloaded
  • The Matrix Revolution

Written Introduction by the Wachowski brothers

Commentaries by:
  • Philosophers: Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber
  • Critics: Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson
  • Cast/Crew: Carrie-Anne Moss, Zach Staenberg and John Gaeta for The Matrix
  • Composer: Don David with Music-Only Track for The Matrix

Feature-Length Documentary: The Matrix Revisited

Behind The Matrix Documentary Gallery:
83 Total Featurettes with The MTV Movie Awards Reloaded and 3-D Evolutions Stills Gallery

The Music Revisited:
41-Track Audio Selection of Nearly 3 Hours of Music

Music Videos:
Marilyn Manson's "Rock Is Dead" and P.O.D.'s "Sleeping Awake"

Enter The Matrix:
The Game Documentary

Enter The Matrix:
View 23 Live-Action Scenes Shot for the Video Game That Plug into the Action of The Matrix Reloaded

The Animatrix:
9 Short Films from Pioneering Anime Directors Exploring the World of The Matrix, Plus 3 Director Commentaries and 8 Documentaries, Including Scrolls To Screen: The History And Culture Of Anime

The Roots Of The Matrix:
Historical, Philosophical and Technological Inspirations are Explored in Insightful Documentaries

The Burly Man Chronicles:
Probe the Society of Actors, Craftspeople and Filmmakers Who Shaped the Movie Trilogy and the Enter The Matrix Console Game, in a Feature-Length Documentary, Plus 21 Featurettes

The Zion Archive:
Production Assets Developed for the Matrix Universe, Including Concept Art, Storyboards, Drawings, Music Videos, Music Rave Reel, The Matrix Online

Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots

Widescreen 2.40:1 Color

Screen Resolution:

ENGLISH: Dolby Digital TrueHD [CC]
ENGLISH: Dolby Digital Plus
SPANISH: Dolby Digital Stereo
FRENCH: Dolby Digital 5.1

English, Spanish, French

Three movies + 35 hours of extras! I should be sick of the Matrix by the time I'm through! No one tell Josh that I used the honorarium from performing his wedding ceremony to purchase this.

Two more things.
1. Andrew's review of the Matrix trilogy.
2. Never forget this.


TNIV Truth: Thick or Thin?


Is the upcoming TNIV Reference Bible going to have a standard thickness or is it going to be a thinline?

No one seems to know, but over in my newest post at TNIV Truth, "TNIV Reference Bible: Thick or Thin?" you have an opportunity to make your opinion known.


Top Ten Bible Versions: The Honorable Mentions

Well, it took a year--maybe I have blogging ADD--but I finally covered all ten of the Bible versions that I suggested were my "Top Ten." Actually, it took quite a bit of time and effort to create some of these posts. The initial entry date for the last post on the MLB was originally 4/22, but it didn't get posted until 5/21!

In hindsight, I don't know if the "Top Ten" designation was all that accurate because these aren't the ten Bibles I use the most. But in addition to the first few which I actually do use a good bit, I also wanted to introduce a few other translations that have stood out to me over the past couple of decades since I began collecting them. There are a few other Bibles that were contenders for such a list. I thought that I could briefly mention them in this follow up post.

King James Version.
I would imagine that if most people put together a top ten list, the KJV would be on it. I almost included it, but it seemed too predictable. Plus, I'm in no position to necessarily write anything new on the KJV (not that my other posts were wholly original either). Nevertheless, the KJV does deserve recognition because no other English translation has held the place of prominence that it has in the history of translations. It is still used today as a primary Bible by millions of Christians, still ranks somewhere in the top three positions of sales in CBA rankings, and even for those who have moved onto something newer, it is still the translation that verses have been memorized in like no other version.

I predict this is the last generation in which the KJV will still receive so much attention, but I have no trouble saying I may be wrong. It's difficult to say that one can be reasonably culturally literate--especially when it comes to the standards of American literature--without a familiarity of the KJV. Nevertheless, I cannot in good judgment recommend the KJV as a primary translation for study or proclamation because its use of language is too far removed from current usage. I don't mean that it's entirely unintelligible--not at all. But a primary Bible should communicate clear and understandable English in keeping with the spirit of the Koiné Greek that the New Testament was written in. I also cannot recommend it as a primary Bible because of the manuscript tradition upon which it rests. There's simply too much that has been added to the text. It was certainly the most accurate Bible in its day, but this is no longer true. My exception to this, however, is that I do find the KJV acceptable for public use with audiences made up primarily of senior citizens since this was exclusively their Bible. And the KJV still seems to be appropriate for use in formal ceremonies including churches and weddings--although I have not recently used it for such.

There is some confusion on what is actually the true King James version. Most do not realize that the average KJV picked up at the local book store is not the 1611 edition, but rather a 1769 fifth edition. And the reality is that there are numerous variations of this out there. For those who want a true and unadulterated KJV, the recently released New Cambridge Paragraph Edition seems to be the one worth getting.

The NET Bible.
The NET Bible is one of about four translations (including the ESV, NRSV, and KJV) of which I received the most emails asking why it wasn't included in my top ten. The primary initial reason for the NET Bible's exclusion was simply that I had not spent enough time with it. I made the unfortunate decision to purchase a "2nd beta edition" only a few weeks before the final first edition came out (of which I recently obtained a copy).

Everyone I've heard speak about the NET Bible has high remarks about the 60K+ notes that come with the standard edition. And I can honestly say that these notes have become a regular resource for me when I study a passage. I don't hear as much high praise for the translation itself, though I don't hear anything particularly negative about it either. In general, though, I do recommend the NET Bible. I really like the editions I've seen made available--not just the standard edition, but also the reader's edition, and the Greek/English diglot which I'm very impressed with. The notes in the diglot are a slightly different set than what is in the standard edition. The "ministry first" copyright policy and the ability to download the NET Bible for free from the internet are very commendable on the part of its handlers.

I'd like to see the NET Bible get more attention, and I'd like to see more people introduced to it. I'm not sure it will get the widespread attention it deserves as long as it can only be obtained through In spite of the fact that my top ten series is over, I am going to continue to review translations, and the NET Bible will probably receive my attention next. But we have to spend some quality time together first.

The Cotton Patch Version.
I decided not to include a colloquial translation in my top ten, but if I had, the Cotton Patch Version of the New Testament would have held the category. Most colloquial translations are fun, but a bit gimmicky. The Cotton Patch Version rendered from the Greek by Clarence Jordan was anything but gimmicky. During the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's, Jordan recast the events of the New Testament in the Southern United States. Replacing Jew and Gentile with "white" and "negro," and status quo Judaism with Southern Baptists (of which he was one), Jordan clearly brought the radical message of the New Testament into current contexts. The Cotton Patch Version is certainly fun reading if you are familiar with Bible Belt southern locales, but more importantly, the message is gripping as well.

The New Revised Standard Version.
The NRSV is an honorable mention I've added since I first announced the series. Originally, I felt like the NASB represented both the Tyndale tradition and formal equivalent translations well enough, plus at the time my use of the NRSV had become quite rare. Then my little NASB vs. NRSV comparison that I wrote with Larry revived my interest in the NRSV, and I now even have a copy sitting on my desk.

A year ago, I would have thought that the NRSV had seen its last day in the Bible version spotlight--except for academic use, but it seems to have had a bit of a renaissance with new attention and even new editions being published. It is still the translation of choice for the larger biblical academic community, primarily in my opinion because it has the widest selection of deutero-canonical books available of any translation. In its early days the NRSV was also embraced by many in the evangelical community but such enthusiasm seems to have waned. I think than rather than fears of theological bias, evangelical readers simply have too many other versions to choose from since the release of the NRSV.

Yes, the NRSV may be a few shades to the left of evangelical translations, but I've spent enough time with it to state clearly that it is not a liberal Bible. Don't let sponsorship from the National Counsel of Churches drive you away. If that were the only factor in its origin, I'd be skeptical, too, but the fact that Bruce Metzger was the editorial head of the translation committee gives me enough confidence to recommend it--if for nothing else, a translation to be read in parallel with others.

Well, is the series done? Not quite yet. I'll come back later this week with a few concluding thoughts about the list and the current state of Bible translations in general.


The Modern Language Bible: New Berkeley Version (Top Ten Bible Versions #10)

The serpent,
wiliest of all the field animals the Lord God had made, said to the woman,
“So, God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?”

(Gen 3:1, MLB, emphasis added)

Of course, you've already read the title of this post. But pretend for a moment that you had not. What if I told you that in the mid-twentieth century, there was a concern to create a new Bible translation in contemporary language. This translation would not be in the Tyndale tradition, and upon its completion, it would be published by Zondervan Publishers. More than likely, you would guess I was talking about the New International Version. But you’d be wrong.

Quite a few years before the NIV, Zondervan published a new translation of a New Testament called The Berkeley Version. It would later expanded to the entire Bible, and eventually receive a name change: The Modern Language Bible: The New Berkeley Version in Modern English.

However, even beyond a common publisher, there’s still another connection that the MLB has with the NIV. If history had turned out a bit differently, there’s a strong chance that the MLB--and not the NIV--could have risen to become the English-speaking world’s top-selling translation. Who knows? Perhaps instead of the TNIV, we’d have had Today’s Modern Language Bible (the TMLB!) for critics to be upset over.

Background. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Some may be wondering how the MLB came to be. This translation began as audacious dream of Gerrit Verkuyl, a Presbyterian minister and staff member of the Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. I say that the dream was audacious for two reasons. First, for Verkuyl, English was not a primary language. Nevertheless, this Dutch-born immigrant to the United States desired to create a Bible translation in modern English. Second, the seeds of this dream had been planted in Verkuyl's spirit during his undergraduate studies at Park College in Missouri where a professor instilled in him a love for Greek, and Verkuyl began comparing the Greek New Testament with the King James Version and the Dutch Bible he was most familiar with. Verkuyl determined that his Dutch Bible was more faithful to the Greek than the KJV, and he longed for a modern and accurate version to be made available in his newly adopted tongue, English. Yet, Verkuyl's career got in the way of his idea for a new translation, and work did not actually begin on it until he reached retirement at the age of 65! But if Moses' most important mission didn't begin until he was eighty, Verkuyl was not about to let his age get in the way of his dream.

In 1936 Gerrit Verkuyl began working on his modern language New Testament. A year later he moved to Berkeley, California, and in 1939 he retired from the Board of Christian Education so that he could devote his full energies to his translation. Borrowing the name of his new home, Verkuyl published the first edition of The Berkeley Version of the New Testament in 1945. The publishing rights were eventually transferred to Zondervan where there was interest in creating a complementary Old Testament as well. Such a large project as an Old Testament translation was outside the bounds of Verykuyl's abilities, especially at his advanced age. But a team of nineteen Hebrew scholars was put together who worked under Verkuyl's supervision to create a new translation of the Old Testament using the same principles and guidelines that Verkuyl had followed in translating his New Testament. The entire Bible was finally published in 1959 as The Berkeley Version of the Bible in Modern English. Verkuyl's lifelong dream which began when he was in his twenties, and was not commenced until he was in his sixties, was not fully completed until he was 86 years old!

The staff of Old Testament translators for the 1959 edition reads like a who's who of mid-twentieth century evangelical OT scholarship:

Gleason Archer, Fuller Theological Seminary
John W. Bailey, Berkeley Baptist Divinity School
David E. Culley, Western Theological Seminary
Derward W. Deere, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary
Clyde T. Francisco, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Leonard Greenway, Pastor, Bethel Christian Reformed Church
Howard A. Hanke, Asbury College
S. Lewis Johnson, Dallas Theological Seminary
James B. Keefer, Missionary, United Presbyterian Church
William Sanford LaSor, Fuller Theological Seminary
Jacob M. Myers, Lutheran Theological Seminary
J. Barton Payne, Trinity Theological Seminary/Wheaton College
George L. Robinson, McCormick Theological Seminary
Samuel Schultz, Wheaton College
B. Hathaway Struthers, chaplain, U. S. Navy
Merrill F. Unger, Dallas Theological Seminary
Gerard Van Groningen, Reformed Theological College
Gerrit Verkuyl, Presbyterian Board of Education
Leon J. Wood, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and Bible Institute
Martin J. Wyngaarden, Calvin Theological Seminary

Of the 1959 edition, F. F. Bruce wrote, "The Berkeley Version is the most outstanding among recent translations of both Testaments sponsored by private groups." And although he continued his enthusiasm toward the translation, especially the Old Testament, Bruce went on to point out numerous errors and questionable renderings in in 1961 book, The History of the Bible in English. Although the MLB was generally well received, the criticisms by Bruce and others led to another revision by E. Schuyler English, Frank E. Gaebelein, and G. Henry Waterman. That edition--said to be a revision, not a re-translation in the preface--was published in 1969, after the Verkuyl's death. The 1969 edition also received a new name: The Modern Language Bible: The New Berkeley Version in Modern English. According to the book, House of Zondervan,

the old [name] had become the victim of current events. The university in the city for which the version was named--Berkeley, California--had become a center of student revolt and the Free Speech Movement in the mid to late sixties, and the name Berkeley was a byword for antiestablishment protests.

Of course, the MLB was an antiestablishment protest in a sense. It was a protest against the KJV as the primary Bible used by English speaking Christians of his day.
The NIV Connection. So what's the MLB's relationship to the NIV? Well recently, David Dewey (author of A User's Guide to Bible Translations) and I were discussing the MLB via email correspondence. Dewey reminded me that if history had turned out a little differently, there's a strong possibility that the NIV would have never been and it might have been the MLB that went on to become the English-speaking world's most popular Bible versions. David wrote:

Apparently, when the National Association of Evangelicals inquired into a translation suitable for evangelical and evangelistic purposes, various options were considered before a decision was made to go for an entirely new translation. The options included the NASB, an evangelical edition of the RSV (how ironic we now have the ESV!) and Verkuyl's work

From David Dewey's book, A User's Guide to Bible Translations, in regard to the NIV:

As early as 1953 two separate approaches to inquire if an evangelical edition of the RSV might be permitted were declined. (One was made by the Evangelical Theological Society, the other by Oaks Hills Christian Training School, Minnesota. See Thuesen: In Discordance with the Scriptures, page 134). Separately from this, in 1955, Christian businessman Howard Long asked the Christian Reformed Church, of which he was a member, to consider the need for a Bible suited to evangelistic work. In 1956 the Synod of the CRC appointed a committee to consider the possibility. Independently of this, the National Association of Evangelicals set up a similar inquiry in 1957. A joint committee of the two groups was formed in 1961.

In a two-hour meeting in 1966 with Luther Weigle, chairman of the RSV committee, the option of preparing an evangelical edition of the RSV was again refused, despite a Catholic edition appearing in the same year. Other translations, including the Berkeley Version and the as yet incomplete NASB were also deemed unsuitable for what was in mind. So work on the NIV began in 1967, undertaken by the New York Bible Society (subsequently renamed the International Bible Society and relocated to Colorado Springs).

But who knows? Consider that in his section on The Berkeley Version of 1959, F. F. Bruce wrote the following:

The general format of this version reminds one forcibly of the Revised Standard Version, and it might not be too wide of the mark to describe it as a more conservative counterpart to the RSV

But in reading the rest of Bruce's review, one might understand why the Berkeley Version was passed up in favor of a brand new translation that would become the NIV. In reality, as demonstrated by Bruce, the 1959 still had quite a few rough spots. And Bruce's treatment today is a bit frustrating because although his book was updated in both 1970 and 1978, in neither one does he update his review. The reality is that when one compares Bruce's criticisms of the New Berkeley Version to the 1969 revision reflected in the MLB, the vast majority of them were corrected! Obviously, the revisers took into consideration Bruce's critique clearing up almost 90% of his concerns (but oddly leaving a few glaring ones intact). In the 1978 edition of Bruce's book, he merely adds this disclaimer: "The Berkeley version was revised as The Modern Language Bible, and many of the above-mentioned "stylistic oddities" were happily replaced by acceptable renderings (1969)." In my opinion, a much better survey of the MLB is found in the now out-of-print So Many Versions? (1983 edition) by Sakae Kubo and Walter F. Specht. In fact, these authors devote an entire chapter consisting of nine pages to the MLB--the most complete treatment of this Bible version I've seen yet.

Character and Significance. Gerrit Verkuyl wrote of his Berkeley Version that

I aimed at a translation less interpretive than Moffatt’s, more cultured in language than Goodspeed’s, more American than Weymouth’s, and less like the King James Version than the RSV.

In large part, he succeeded at his goal. He saw a definite need for a Bible translation such as his in the era in which he lived. Admittedly if one were to pick up the MLB for the first time today, it might come across as totally unremarkable in terms of contemporary language. In fact, at this point, it might be a bit dated in places. But this was not so in Verkuyl's day when the vast majority of Christendom still used the King James Version. One cannot even truly grasp the significance of the MLB without realizing that it was primarily created to counter the KJV's dominance in the English-speaking Church. By contrast, we have so many "modern language" Bibles to choose from today, we easily forget that merely a generation ago this was not the case.

Perhaps the fact that English was not Verkuyl's original language allowed him to see the inherent problems with a four-century old translation more easily.

A little girl from a Christian home asked me, “Why do I have to suffer to come to Jesus?” (Matt. 19:14, AV). Upon my reply that Jesus loves children and makes those happy who come to Him, she quoted what she had learned in Sunday School, and what she understood Jesus had said, “Suffer, little children to come to me.” How utterly contrary to our Lord’s intention was this small child’s conclusion! Divine revelation is intended to reveal His thoughts, but to this child the words of the AV failed to convey our Lord’s gracious invitation and no amount of dignity or rhythm can make up for such a failure. That child is entitled to a language in which it thinks and lives, and this is a right all human beings deserve.

Some might wonder where the MLB stands on the scale of translation (literal/formal/median/dynamic/paraphrase). I've never seen this directly addressed in any analysis of the MLB. Nevertheless, in my evaluation, the MLB is still basically a formal equivalent translation, but perhaps not so much as the RSV of its day. I'd probably place it on the scale somewhere between the RSV and the NIV as it does not quite reach the freedom in rendering that the latter does. Nevertheless, Verkuyl does seem to talk of moving away from a strict world-for word method in order to reach the thoughts of God. In the preface to the original Berkeley New Testament, Verkuyl wrote

As thought and action belong together so do religion and life. the language, therefore, that must serve to bring us God's thoughts and ways toward us needs to be the language in which we think and live rather than that of our ancestors who expressed themselves differently.

Certainly this is true and a reality that translators should keep in mind today concerning common use translations.

Verkuyl's vision was to create a Bible that employed contemporary, but not colloquial language. As I mentioned above, many of these renderings today would seem unremarkable to those who are accustomed to modern translations. Nevertheless, the MLB had its own personality, sometimes simply for a rendering such as Gen 3:1 which I quoted at the beginning of this post. While the KJV used "subtil" [sic], and most other translations use "crafty," the MLB describes the serpent in the garden as wily: he was "the wiliest of all the field animals the LORD God had made." Such distinction in word choice gives the MLB a unique flavor of its own. Consider these examples to which I will give emphasis to the MLB's unique rendering:

In Matt 19:25, many translations render ἐκπλήσσω with the word amazed or slightly better astonished. But I've never thought that these words quite capture the meaning of the original. Yet, see how the MLB translates the verse:

When the disciples heard this, they were utterly dumbfounded, and said, "Who then can be saved?" (Matt 19:25)

Some will find the overt legal terminology questionable, but the MBL's rendering of παράκλητος certainly brings out that aspect:

Dear children, I write you these things so you may not sin, and if anyone does sin, we have a counsel for our defense in the Father's presence, Jesus Christ the Righteous One. (1 John 2:1)

While other translations were still translating ἱλασμός as propitiation or expiation, Verkuyl used something more simpler, perhaps even influencing later translations such as the NIV:

He is Himself an atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world. (1 John 2:2)

No "broken pieces" in Mark 8:8. Rather something that is immediately understandable:

So they ate and were satisfied; and they picked up the leftovers, seven baskets full. (Mark 8:8)

The camaraderie that was surely present between Jesus and the disciples is reflected in a verse like this:

Then Jesus said to them, "Boys, have you caught anything?" They answered Him, "No." (John 21:5)

But perhaps at times, the rendering is a bit too modern:

The disciple whom Jesus loved then said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" So Simon Peter, hearing "It is the Lord," wrapped his work jacket around him (for he was stripped) and flung himself into the sea. (John 21:7)

Another unique rendering that demonstrates Verkuyl's sensitivity to the original languages is found in his translation of μέγας in Matt 18:4. I'm not sure what lexicons Verkuyl consulted for his work, but obviously it was not the newest edition of the BDAG. Nevertheless, in my copy (which is the 2000 third edition), μέγας in Matt 4:18 is listed with the meaning "pertaining to be relatively superior in intensity, great." The problem is that this relative aspect is somewhat lost when most translations simply use the word, greatest. Note how the MLB renders the verse remaining true to the relative use of μέγας in this verse:

Whoever then humbles himself like this little child, he excels in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 18:4)

Although the MLB was in many ways a reaction against the dominance of the KJV, and although Verkuyl did not tie himself to Tyndale-tradition renderings, nevertheless, he was still sensitive to the fact that most of his readers would still be very well acquainted with the KJV. According to Kubo and Specht, Verkuyl based the original Berkeley NT on the 8th edition of Tichendorf's Greek text in consultation with the Nestle text of his day. Knowing that his translation would be read by those more familiar with the KJV, he often included Textus Receptus readings in brackets within the text. So with the Lord's Prayer in Matthew six, Verkuyl adds the phrase "For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen," but does so bracketed. He included such phrases in the actual text because he knew that these were readings that would be made in the church. The MLB was not merely meant to be read alongside the KJV, but to supplant it for as many people willing to do so. In explanation to the verse mentioned above, a footnote appears:

The words enclosed in brackets are not found in the majority of the most reliable ancient manuscripts. They have been added to the text here to make the prayer more appropriate for public worship. Certainly the last sentence is compatible with Scripture. Cf I Chron. 29:11. In Luke's account of the Lord's Prayer, Lk. 11:2-4, this sentence is omitted.

One very nice feature of the MLB is the abundance of footnotes to the text. Verkuyl believed that footnotes to the text could and should be used as frequently as necessary to help the reader bridge that gap between the languages and contexts of the original authors. Some footnotes are textual in nature such as the one quoted above. But many have to do with backgrounds/historical issues or even explanations of Greek or Hebrew words. A few tend to be more applicatory. On the same page as as the footnote quoted above, one finds these explanations:
  • For robe and tunic in Matt 5:40-- "A tunic reached to the knees; a robe was a long outside garment which reached almost to the ankles."
  • For Matt 5:43, cross-references are offered: "Lev. 19:18; Deut 23:3-6."
  • A note of application is given for Matt 5:45-- "We show that we are God's sons by living His principles."
  • For Matt 5:48, the word perfect is explained: "'Perfect' is from the Greek teleios meaning complete, mature."
  • For 6:12, an interpretive explanation: "Debts [the word Verkuyl uses here in his translation], or trespasses in the sense of falling short of God's requirements."
This one page in the MLN demonstrates the kind of notes offered. Such notes are plentiful throughout both testaments.

Another modern aspect of the MLB was the desire by Verkuyl and the OT translators to give strictly modern equivalents to weights, measures and even currency. Consider these verses from the MLB compared with the most recent of the contemporary translations, the TNIV:

Construct it after this fashion: The length of the ark 450 feet; its width 75 feet and its depth 45 feet.

This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high.*

*That is, about 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high or about 135 meters long, 22.5 meters wide and 13.5 meters high.

EXODUS 29:40
With the first lamb you shall offer an ample six pints of fine flour mixed with 3 pints of pressed olive oil; and a libation of 3 pints of wine.

With the first lamb offer a tenth of an ephah* of the finest flour mixed with a quarter of a hin** of oil from pressed olives, and a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering.

*That is, probably about 3 1/2 pounds or about 1 1/2 kilograms
**That is, probably about 1 quart or about 0.9 liter.

EXODUS 38:26

was about 12,000 pounds* around 65 cents per man for everyone registered from 20 years up, 603,550** men.

** No money had been coined; it had to be weighed. Actual values of gold and silver can be estimated only approximately. Classically, a talent of gold equaled $30,000 and a talent of silver $2,000; a shekel of gold $10 and a shekel of silver 65 cents. One standard of values remains--a day's wages and what can be bought for it; but monetary wages are not mentioned in our early Scripture.

one beka per person, that is, half a shekel,* according to the sanctuary shekel, from everyone who had crossed over to those counted, twenty years old or more, a total of 603,550 men.

*That is, about 1/5 ounce or about 5.7 grams.


To one he gave ten thousand dollars;* to another, four thousand; and to a third, two thousand--each according to his own ability; then he went away.

*In vss. 15-28 the direct translation from the Greek text reads "five talents [pente talanta]," "two talents" and "one talent," and in vs. 29 "ten talents." A silver talent wouldbe equivalent to about $2000 in mid-twentieth century U.S. currency, so that the figures given in this edition are approximately accurate.

To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.

*Greek five talents . . . two talents . . . one talent; also throughout this parable; a talent was worth about 20 years of a day laborer’s wage.

The desire to make measures and weights into modern equivalents is admirable. In recent translations, the NLT is probably best at this. Note that in Gen 6:16 quoted above, the original NIV had feet instead of cubits, but this was changed in the TNIV--further evidence of my contention that overall the TNIV is more literal than the NIV. Nevertheless, while an admirable goal for the MLB, surely the greatest challenge would have to do with currency. The TNIV demonstrates contemporary wrestling with this issue in the questionable use of "bags of gold" in Matt 25 (obviously this was done because the average reader confuses monetary talents with "special ability" talents). The MLB's use of "cents" in the OT somehow seems out of place. But the greater problem lies in rising inflation rates. Maybe inflation was not a great issue in the fifties and sixties, but such use today would quickly date a translation. At our current rate of language change, English translations of the Bible only seem to have about a 20 to 25 year life span in my estimation. But adding in current monetary values--especially oddly placed United States monetary values--would date a translation very quickly. Perhaps only the NET Bible with its promised five years for a fixed translation between editions could pull this off, but because of the other factors mentioned here, I would certainly not recommend it.

Like many translations of its day, the MLB uses more formal pronouns (thee, thy, thou) for addressing God in the Old Testament. In earlier editions this practice was continued in the New Testament as well referring to Christ, but only in certain contexts. In the 1969 revision, this practice was removed altogether from the NT, but retained in the OT. The MLB also used capital letters for pronouns referring to deity throughout both testaments. However, like the RSV, the MLB did not follow the KJV's practice of formatting words added for understanding in italics.

A rather odd feature of the original Berkeley Version was the non-use of quotation marks for any words spoken by God or Jesus. The rationale was that all of the Bible is God's Word and Jesus is the Word of God, so why use quotation marks? This practice was done away with in the NT for the 1969 revision, but retained in the OT which received less attention from the revisers. In spite of F. F. Bruce's enthusiasm for the MLB OT in the 1959 edition, I would suggest that in the final product of the 1969 edition, the NT is much more consistent and polished.

The MLB Old Testament is significant because it was one of the first English translations to take advantage of the newly discovered Dead Sea Scrolls. This version used the DSS to "fix" known problems in the Masoretic text. Nearly all modern translations do the same, today. But if I may be so bold as to disagree with "the Bruce," the MLB OT needed at least one more revisers' pass to make it thoroughly ready for widespread use. Part of the problem stemmed from a lack of editorial committees, a practice common in translations today. The OT scholars responsible for translating the OT were primarily left to themselves, having been given the instruction to follow the same "modern language" principles utilized by Verkuyl in his original NT. Then Verkuyl himself acted as a final editor for the OT, a very large task for one man, and one who was aging at that.

The most glaring inconsistency has to do with the use of the divine name, the Tetragrammaton. The MLB generally follows the principle used in most English translations by simply using the word LORD, spelled in all caps to represent God's name. However, like some modern translations, including the HCSB, there are some texts when reference is made to the name that the actual name itself would make more sense. But this name has been spelled differently over the centuries, and oddly enough, two different spellings show up in the MLB:


God said further to Moses, You tell the Israelites: Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob has sent me to you. This is My name forever and by this I am to be remembered through all generations. (Ex 3:15)

O Jehovah, our LORD, how glorious is Thy name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1/9)


the LORD, the God of hosts, YAHWEH His name. (Hos 12:5)

And then one text where the reader might expect to see the name spelled out, it is not:

Seek Him who makes the Pleiades and Orion, who turns blackness to morning and darkens day to night; Him who calls the waters of the sea and pours them out on the face of the earth--the LORD is His name. (Amos 5:8)

Well, this is sloppy for more than just the inconsistency regarding the divine name. There are other problems in these texts. In Psalm 8:1/9 above, if Jehovah is used, LORD should not be in all caps because the second occurrence is adonai, not YHWH. And Hos 12:5 above is not a typo on my part. The text would read better with a verb added: "YAHWEH is His name."

One doesn't really wonder why the 1959 edition was passed over as a suitable translation to be used in evangelical and evangelistic purposes. The translation, especially the OT, was still a bit rough. But these very errors mentioned immediately above were noted by F. F. Bruce, so it's surprising they weren't corrected in the 1969 revision because other issues certainly were changed. Nevertheless, the MLB retains a significant place in 20th century translations, but was eclipsed by later translations, especially the NIV.

What's Available and Concluding Thoughts.I picked up my first copy of the MLB sometime in the late eighties--a green paperback Zondervan edition with California grapes on the cover. Technically, this translation was past its prime by the time I came to the party, but for whatever reason I clicked with it. Many nights at church, since I wasn't teaching, I left my NASB at home and carried my MLB. In fact, in many ways, in those pre-computer days, it was one of my most used secondary Bibles.

When I first put together this list of top ten Bibles, I tried to make clear that although some of them really were translations I used a good bit, others were not--but were primarily "best of" a certain category of Bible. To me, the MLB--specifically the NT--stands as one of the best (and most consistent) single-translator Bible versions ever produced in the 20th century. These days, committees produce most of our English translations. But we should be careful to remember that individuals have been responsible for quite a few translations that are worthy of our attention. This includes Bible versions such as those produced by Tyndale, Moffatt, Goodspeed, Beck, Phillips, Taylor, certainly Verkuyl, and a host of others.

To be honest, I don't use the MLB all that much anymore. Frankly, I'd use it more if I had an electronic edition in Accordance, but I can't find electronic editions anywhere except one made for PDA's. That means it is available in an electronic edition, just not a practical one (for my purposes). However, to its credit, the MLB has not yet gone out of print in its 60 years of publication. In 1990, after a near-exclusive history with Zondervan, the rights were transferred to Hendirickson Publishers. When Hendrickson took over, they released a nice hardback edition which I promptly bought and gave away my green Zondervan paperback to a minister friend. Currently, that hardback edition is no longer in print, but Hendrickson does make available a copy of the MLB in paperback (ISBN 1565639316). If you consider yourself an enthusiast of Bible translations, your collection is nowhere near complete without the MLB.

Whether or not the MLB (or the earlier Berkeley Version) was ever published in leather, I have no idea. Every copy I've ever seen, even of the original editions were hardback. If someone knows differently, let us know in the comments.

The MLB is definitely past its prime. I don't see the MLB getting any attention on the copyright pages of Christian books anymore. But it certainly did for a while. It was widely used in evangelical publishing--usually as a secondary translation, but there were also a handful of books based primarily on it. Billy Graham even gave away copies of the NT at his crusades, I've been told as recently as the early nineties. Certainly more than a footnote in Bible history, the MLB at least was an important chapter as English-speaking Christians gradually began to move away from the KJV. If the MLB was a "conservative RSV," it was eventually replaced by others translations which were even more so, including the NASB and the NIV which ultimately eclipsed it. But it almost was the NIV. Would history have turned out differently if the equivalent of the 1969 edition had already been released when the search was on for a modern English translation to use for evangelistic purposes?

The MLB seems to be a translation that could have been much more. In truth, it needed one more revision that never came. Within less than ten years of its final edition, its publisher Zondervan began marketing the first edition of a new translation, the New International Version--which finally did unseat the KJV as the most used English translation. While the NIV really was a better translation overall, the MLB had a bit of personality that I'm not sure was present in the NIV. I mean, you don't see clever renderings like wiliest in Gen 3:15 in the NIV (although check out NIV Job 5:18). There may be a word of warning here, too. Even a good translation can fall into disuse if neglected in favor of another by a publisher simply because one will bring in more money. I would like to continue to encourage Zondervan to transition itself away from the NIV as a base translation to its successor the TNIV, something that has been slow to take place. I'd hate to see the TNIV sitting beside the MLB one day as another victim of the NIV's success.

Sources used:
F. F. Bruce, The History of the Bible in English
David Dewey, A User's Guide to Bible Translations
Sakae Kubo and Walter F. Specht, So Many Versions? 20th Century English Versions of the Bible (out of print, but used copies are still available)
James E. Ruark, The House of Zondervan
Gerrit Verkuyl, "The Berkeley Version of the New Testament" (this article was written before the final editions, so some references have been changed, but it provides a good introduction and insight into Verkuyl's vision and goals).

Up Next: The Honorable Mentions: The KJV, the NET Bible, the Cotton Patch Version...and one more that I've added since I made the original list...


Review: Writing of St. Paul, 2nd edition by Meeks & Fitzgerald

Below is a guest review from This Lamp reader and occasional contributor, Larry.

Writings of St. Paul, 2nd ed., Edited by Wayne Meeks and John Fitzgerald, (Norton 2007) (Amazon price $14.50).

[Note: because of the recent appearance of this work, I’ve decided to change my order of presentation of academic study Bible reviews. Previous reviews discussed the (Oxford) Jewish Study Bible and the New Oxford Annotated Study Bible, 3rd Augmented Edition. See my introductory remarks in my first review.]

There are many ways to read the Bible. One way is to attempt to understand the “original authorial intent” of the Bible – often called a historical-critical reading. A related, but distinct way is to attempt to chart the way that various readers have understood the Bible. Both of these methods have value, but in the complex portions of Scripture, we may never have a clear consensus of the meaning of Scripture, so the most we can hope for is to understand how different groups have read it. The Writings of St. Paul (2nd edition) (WSP) is an excellent introduction to reading the writings of Paul through the eyes of groups varying from his contemporaries to our contemporaries.

The Pauline Epistles form a genre unto themselves – aside from Jesus (who is the subject of the Christian Scriptures but not the direct author or any book in it), Paul is the leading character in the Greek writings of the Bible. Seven letters are clearly written by him, another six letters are attributed to him, there is an extensive New Testament apocryphal literature attributed to Paul, and a good portion of Acts is devoted to him. Paul may the single greatest contributor to Christian theology and the meaning of his works form the most virulent disputes in Christendom. The secondary literature on Paul – even in English – is so extensive that no single person can hope to read it all. But understanding the different ways in which Paul is interpreted is important, not only for the Christian faithful, but for anyone who wishes to understand this religious genius of Western culture.

Paul is difficult to read – his reasoning often appears inconsistent and his writing was to specific audiences who were familiar with Second Temple period Judaism or contemporary Hellenistic culture – under Roman political rule. Since most of us are not fluent in cultural references from this period, it is easy to misunderstand Paul.

Norton publishes a series of relatively inexpensive paperbacks featuring annotated texts and assorted essays with critical readings, called the Norton Critical Editions series. These are the “Criterion Editions” of the literary world – stuffed with notes and extra material. The selection of titles does not attempt to be a comprehensive survey of literature, but rather includes a variety of texts that are of interest in the undergraduate classroom. (Among the texts of interest to those in religious studies are St. Thomas Aquinas on Politics and Ethics, Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua, The Epic of Giglamesh, and Dante’s Inferno.)

The Writings of St. Paul, 2nd edition (WSP) is a revision of a 1972 classic by Wayne Meeks (which is still available from Amazon). This second edition is co-edited by Wayne Meeks (emeritus at Yale, former President of the SBL) and John Fitzgerald (University of Miami). The new edition is much larger than the older – it contains xxxv+710 pages (as opposed to xvii+454 pages in the older edition) and each page has more information – because it uses larger paper and a smaller font, each of the new pages is equal to about one and a half pages in the older edition. The second page is printed on thinner paper (which is perfectly suitable for taking notes – remember this is intended as a textbook), so this new edition is actually thinner than the old edition, and the new edition also has larger margins (a half-inch top and inside margins, three-quarters-inch bottom and outside margins).

The philosophy behind this work is to present the broadest possible set of views. Thus we hear from Paul’s opponents (e.g., the Jewish Christians often criticized by Paul, the Pagans) and those with radically different views of Paul (e.g., the Jews, the Gnostics). Thus this book has full representation of the opinions of heretics – and even for the faithful, this is useful; since it allows us to understand the nature of some of the disputes over Paul, both classical and modern.

The switch to the TNIV
The biggest surprise in this new edition is the textual basis – the first edition used the 1946 RSV translation (note that the first edition predated the appearance of the NIV and NRSV, although it postdated the appearance of the NEB and the NASB.) In the first edition, the editor writes (p. xi)

"The text is from the Revised Standard Version. It was chosen from the several excellent contemporary English versions now available because its relatively conservative mode of translation enables the reader to recognize certain distinctive features of Paul’s style."

The second edition uses the TNIV instead, a surprising choice since the TNIV is most closely associated with Evangelical circles. The editors write (p. xi)

“The text of the Pauline letters is from Today’s New International Version (TNIV). It was chosen from the several excellent modern versions now available ecause its relatively conservative mode of translation enables the reader to recognize certain distinctive features of Paul’s style, while still taking account of current discussions in biblical scholarship and aiming for both inclusiveness and accuracy in the representation of gender.”

Clearly issues of gender played a large role in the editors’ decision to use the TNIV. This inclusive approach forms a core desideratum of the authors, who are at pains to point out (p. 589) “whereas the first edition had no excerpts from female scholars, the second edition features contributions by seven women.” The second edition also features many more contributions by Jewish scholars and contemporary Roman Catholic scholars.

Overall, the TNIV works better than I expected as a textual basis. The Epistles are difficult reading, and the TNIV certainly reads more smoothly than the RSV and NRSV. Furthermore, Paul requires careful attention, but his writing is rarely characterized as elegant. Paul writes in a rough, sometimes crude, Koine style, and thus is robust enough to retain its character in a translation that sometimes uses paraphrase (in contrast to more formal passages in Scripture, such as the Psalms.)

The editors do not always agree with the text of the TNIV. In some cases, they use their footnotes to assert an alternative translation. (For example, they prefer the RSV’s rendering of Romans 9:5. This verse can be punctuated in several ways; the TNIV, RSV, and NRSV all punctuate this verse differently although each translation gives the other two alternatives in footnotes.)

One might wonder why the editors did not choose the NRSV. Although there is no explicit explanation, hints are given that the editors are often critical of the NRSV’s rendering. For example, the NRSV renders Acts 22:3 as

I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cicilia, but brought up in this city [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law.

while the NIV has

I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers.

The implications here are quite different – the NRSV seems to suggest that Paul only was “brought up” in Jerusalem when he entered Gamaliel’s yeshiva, while the NIV implies a much closer connection with the center of mainstream Jewish thought. The editors discuss the pros and cons of either translation, slightly favoring the NIV’s rendition (which remains largely similar in the TNIV.) (Interestingly, neither the NRSV nor the TNIV include a textual note discussing the alternative reading.) The editors include a variety of apocryphal legends, including one from Paul’s Jewish-Christian critics (paraphrased by Epiphanius, Bishop of Salmis,) that Paul was a convert who was spurned in marriage and thus became radically anti-Jewish – although the editors unambiguously reject this legend asserting that Paul was a “a Hebrew [born] of Hebrews.”

For me, an interesting effect of this edition was that more academic “framing” of the TNIV caused me to see the TNIV in a more neutral light. With more academic footnotes (that in some cases make textual emendations to the TNIV’s translation) the TNIV seemed less like a doctrinaire Evangelical translation and more like a neutral translation. Of course, this is a double-edged sword, and those who want a strictly Evangelical presentation of Paul may not care for the WSP. But for those who wish to understand in a more academic framework the ways in which Paul has been read – both by supporters and by critics –this more neutral framing is essential.

Parts 1&2: Paul’s Letters and Pauline School Letters
The work begins with an introduction that surveys sources and Paul’s biography, and then follows with Part 1, Paul’s letters sorted by likely date of composition: 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Romans, Philippians, and Philemon. These works are accompanied by lengthy introductions and generous annotations that often discuss Hellenistic or Jewish references or matters of language style. However, given the unusual ordering of the books and formatting that makes chapter and verse symbols similar, it can be hard to quickly look up a specific passage. Then follows Part 2, six letters traditionally attributed to Paul, with introductions explaining why Pauline authorship is controversial, again organized in terms of date of likely composition: 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, 1&2 Timothy, and Titus.

Part 3 Pseudo-Pauline Works
These pseudepigrapha are identified as clear forgeries. The Correspondence of Paul and the Corinthians appears in the Acts of Paul and is an “orthodox forgery” to combat heresy. The Laodicean Epistle is a cento of Pauline epigrams primarily drawn from Philippians. The Correspondence of Paul and Seneca builds on the similarity between to two great classical figures and lead to Jerome’s inclusion of “our Seneca” in his On Illustrious Men. (Seneca chides Paul for his rhetorical style, while Paul exhorts Seneca to be a “herald of Jesus Christ” to the imperial household.) Two apocalypses follow, based on the famous passage 2 Corinthians 1-4 when Paul ascends to the third heaven. The Apocalypse of Paul (excerpted) is, according to Syriac legend, the written record of this revelation (this was one of the inspirations for Dante’s Inferno.) The Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul is a Nag Hammadi codex which recounts Paul’s travels to the fourth through tenth century. Note that the Prayer of the Apostle Paul from the Nag Hammadi library is not included (since it is not attributed to Paul but a petition that invokes him as an authority.)

Part 4 Views of Paul in the Ancient Church
This section begins with excerpts from the sections of Acts dealing with Paul (in the TNIV translation) and analyses of the Lukan account by Irenaeus (2nd century Bishop of Lyons) and by separate pair of differing scholars: Daniel Schwartz (Hebrew University) and Jacob Jervell (University of Oslo). The analysis of Acts concludes with a very interesting (and engagingly written) discussion of the Bar Jesus episode (Acts 13) by Susan Garrett (Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary).

Next the text presents apocryphal accounts: Jerome’s discussion of Paul, Tertullian’s claim that Jacob foresaw Paul’s life, an account of the risen Christ predicting Paul from the apocryphal Epistle of the Apostles, a physical description of Paul from the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, a description from Clement of Alexandra which interprets Phil. 4:3 as a reference to Paul’s spouse and gives an account of it, a description of Paul’s daily schedule from Ambrosiaster, a story of the of baptized lion (I remember hearing this as a child) from the apocryphal Acts of Paul, another extract of Clement of Alexandria where he quotes an apocryphal account of Paul consulting pagan oracles, a lengthy extract of a panegyric from Chrysostom on Paul as the Paragon of Virtue, and an extract from the apocryphal Acts of Peter of Paul’s missionary journey to Spain.

Apocryphal accounts of a martyr’s death for Paul appear from an extract of Clement of Rome’s work in the Apostolic Fathers and from the apocryphal Acts of Paul.

Jewish-Christian opponents to Paul are represented in extracts of paraphrases of their comments from Abrosiaster and Epiphanius. Direct attacks appear from a long extract from the Preachings of Peter [depicting Paul as the “messenger of Satan”] and the pseudo-Clementine Recognitions of Clementine. J. Louis Martyn (Union Theological Seminary) analyzes Paul’s Galatian opponent, Martin Hengel (Tubingen) analyzes the Lettter of James as an anti-Pauline polemic, and David Flusser (Hebrew University) discussing Jewish-Christianity enmity in the Didache.

Pagan opponents to Paul are represented by extracts from Emperor Julian’s Against the Galileans, and an anonymous Hellene’s attack on Paul quoted by Macarius Magnes in Monogenes. But then follows a fascinating discussion of how the Gnostic Valentinus and his school interpreted Paul favorably – with an extract of Theodotus arguing that Paul was the Gnostic Paraclete, an extract from Elaine Pagel’s (Princeton University) Gnostic Paul, and a discussion from Irenaeus.

Marcion’s dualistic interpretation of Paul is represented by extracts from Irenaeus’s Treatise of Irenaeus of Lugdunum against the Heresies and Tertullian’s Against Marcion, followed by Marcion’s epigrammatic Antitheses as reconstructed by Adolf von Harnack and von Harnack’s analysis itself.

There then follows a discussion of Paul’s celibacy and asceticism with extracts from the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla and a detailed technical analysis by Dennis MacDonald (Claremont Graduate University) of the Pastoral Epistles with a discussion of the role of women and asceticism.

There is a brief extract from the apocryphal Acts of Phileas in which Phileas’s execution is described and in which he defends Paul.

We then have extracts from the Orthodox fathers interpreting Paul from Origen, Irenaeus, Victorinus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus, and Ambosiaster. Bernadette Brooten (Brandeis) analyzes the Patristic interpretations of Romans 1:26.

Part 4 concludes with an extract from David Rensberger’s Yale Ph.D. dissertation analyzing the use of Paul’s letters in Second Century Christianity.

Part 5: Law versus Grace and the Problem of Ethics
The role of grace versus law is explored in extracts by Origen, Abrosiaster, Pelagius, Augustine, Theodoret of Cyrus, Martin Luther (from his lectures on Galatians), and Karl Barth (from his own summary of his book Christ and Adam). While the outlines of this debate is likely to be familiar to most readers of Rick’s blog, it is still a pleasure to read the careful exegesis directly from the “horses’ mouths” of these profound interpreters.

Part 6: “The Second Founder of Christianity”
This section revolves around the 19th century German debate on Paul. The question was: did Paul cause Greek philosophical theology to replace that of Jesus? The original provocateur was F. C. Baur – the founder of the Tubingen school – and an extract from his Church History of the First Three Centuries is given. Baur argued that Paul had changed Jesus’s message from a Jewish one to a Greek one. Nietzsche, in an extracts from his Dawn of the Day and from his Antichrist, argues to the contrary Paul was a Judaizer – locking the universal message of Jesus into the straightjacket of “rabbinic” myth. George Bernard Shaw, in an extract from his Preface on the Prospects of Christianity (from his Androcles and the Lion) argues similarly, only with humor and without the dark metaphysics and racial trappings of anti-Paulism. Adolf von Harnack, in an extract from What is Christianity? partly agrees Baur that Paul removed the Jewish “husk” from Jesus’s message, but presents the transition as direct and linear rather than dialectical. Wilhelm Heitmuller in an extract (translated) from Zum Problem Paulus und Jesus argues convincingly that the Hellinization of Christianity had already taken place before Paul and that Paul was converted to a Hellenistic form of Christianity (with sacraments, cultus, and atonement doctrine). This work was quite influential, and particularly influenced Rudolf Bultmann.

Part 7: Pauline Christianity and Judaism
Paul’s writings established a tension between Christianity and Judaism that was perhaps only dissolved in light of a full understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust. These four articles by Jewish scholars present a range of responses to Paul, in works by David Daube (UC Berkeley), Burton Visotzky (Jewish Theological Seminary), Daniel Boyarin (UC Berkeley), Alan Segal (Columbia), and Paula Fredriksen (Boston University). I found these essays very interesting – they explore the Jewish foundations of Pauline’s writing; especially interesting to me was Segal contrast of Paul’s mysticism with Jewish mysticism of the period. Segal argues convincingly for him as a type of Jewish mystic.

Part 8: Reading Romans
It is not hard to see why the Letters to the Romans is influential – it is the closest in form to a theological treatise. This part considers two passage from Romans, one passage being 7:1-25 where the pain of self-contradiction and the human plight form an essential part of the road to conversion. The second passage is Romans 13:1-7 which has influenced Christian forms of government.

A school of thought popularized by E. P. Sanders, James Dunn, and N. T. Wright called “the new perspective on Paul” has attracted wide attention in the Evangelical community as a contrast to Calvinistic thought; the theory proposes that when Paul speaks of justification he is not criticizing Judaism’s legalism as much as arguing for the status of gentiles in the Church. While this line of thinking has certainly penetrated public consciousness, I am not fully convinced that it is a first-line issue for New Testament scholars. (My own opinion is that the advocates of the “new perspective” are rather sloppy in their handling of rabbinic sources and don’t have a clear understanding of Second Temple Judaism.) First, it seems to me that many of the ideas underlying the “new perspective” were already present in criticism; I question the novelty of their work.

Sanders, Dunn, and Wright are not present in this anthology; books by Sanders and Dunn are listed in the bibliography (Wright does not even merit mention in any of the essays.) But to some degree, ideas from the “new perspective” are present in this part and in the next part. (For someone interested in a detailed anthology of views on Romans, including the “new perspective,” I can recommend another anthology, The Romans Debate Revised Edition edited by Karl Donfried.)

The section dealing with Romans 7 has extracts from Theodoret of Cyrus, Krister Stendahl (Bishop of Stockholm and Harvard), Paul Meyer (Princeton), and Stanley Stower (Brown). The section dealing with Romans 13 has extracts from Origen, Schelkle (Tubingen), Wilfrid Parsons (Georgetown and Catholic University), Martin Luther; Jonathan Mayhe,; and Ernst Kasemann (who was arrested by Gestapo – and then held by the Soviet troops, later of Tubingen).

Part 9: Sampler of Modern Approaches to Paul and His Letters
This section is among the most interesting, giving a wide sample of highly diverse modern approaches to Paul, including a discussion by Rudolf Bultmann of his mythologizing and demythologizing theories (extracted from Kerygma and Myth); Nils Dahl contrasting Paul’s treatment of Jesus with the story of the Akedah, the binding of Isaac; Gerd Theissen’s (Heidelberg) The Strong and the Weak in Corinth, a pioneering sociological analysis; two feminist pieces: an extract from Elisabeth Fiorenza’s (Harvard) classic In Memory of Her and an extract from Jouette Bassler’s (SMU) The Widow’s Tale; a trio of articles continuing the mythologizing approach from Bultmann by Abraham Malherbe (Yale), Hans-Josef Klauck (Chicago), and Margaret Mitchell (Chicago), the archaeological approach of Peter Lampe (Heidelberg); and an essay by Dale Martin (Yale) arguing that Paul rejected marriage as the appropriate context for the expression of sexual desire – that in contrast Paul’s real goal was the extirpation of desire. The book concludes with a shortened version of Wayne Meeks’s The Christian Proteus.

Missing from the second edition
The contents of the first and second editions are available online, so one can quickly see which essays are new and which are old. It is worth noting that the besides the TNIV translation, most of the apocryphal works are taken from J. K. Elliott’s new (1993) translation The Apocryphal New Testament.

A number of works that appeared in the first edition are omitted in the second, these include pieces Karl Barth, Leo Baeck, Martin Buber, Adolf Deissmann, Soren Kierkegaard, Hans Schoeps, Albert Schweitzer, Hans von Sorden, Philipp Vielhauer, and Maurice Wiles. While it is understandable that some essays had to be removed to make room for new material, it is less forgivable that there are still references to the pieces in the first edition in the introductory section essays – much like an amputee feeling phantom pain from his missing limb.

Despite these minor quibbles, this work still remains an excellent academic introduction to Paul and the way various groups have read Paul. It surprised me with its choice of the TNIV as a textual base, but it implicitly suggests that the simpler renderings of the TNIV are more appropriate for the college classroom. The book is hardly a comprehensive survey (such a survey is probably impossible within the confines of a single volume) but it has the merit of allowing students to directly read extracts from classic works (rather than a pre-digested summary of them in a typical textbook presentation) and of showing how diverse reaction has been to Paul. There is enough in this book to anger any reader passionate about religion – regardless of her beliefs – but for the reader interested in the history of our understanding of Paul, the work is compelling – a page turner.

Feel free to react to Larry's review and interact with him in the comments section for this post.

TNIV Truth: TNIV Bookshelf

The TNIV is only two years old, but we're already starting to see a number of books being published using it as a default Bible translation. For more details and a list of currently known books, see my post at TNIV Truth.

| Completely Revamped

A few weeks have passed since Zondervan's promise to roll out a completely revamped website. Well, last night the new site went live, and I can tell you that it's a great improvement over the previous (and neglected) site. The new site is much easier to navigate and is more focused in its content.

Take some time to explore it. I know that the folks at Zondervan were working on the site well after business hours last night trying to work out the kinks. If you find an error or have a suggestion for improvement or simply want to offer your thoughts on the redesign, please use the feedback form on their site. Or you can email me and I'll pass it on.


Review: NLT Premium Slimline Reference (Large Print)

Longwinded Intoduction. I have a confession to make: I accessorize my Bibles. No, no, no...not with my clothes (although I know someone who does). But rather, I accessorize my Bibles toward my audience. I don't believe in a one-Bible-fits-all approach, especially when it comes to the public proclamation of Scriptures. Audience, presentation, and purpose are all factors I consider when choosing a translation to use. Further--and maybe this is just me--if I am going to use a Bible in a public setting, I want it to have a leather cover--or at least something that looks like leather. Generally, if I buy a Bible just to use as reference at home, I stick with a hardback. But I want my public Bibles to have a leather cover. Somehow that seems more official, more authoritative.

When it comes to natural flow of the English language, it's hard to beat the New Living Translation. In 2004, Tyndale quietly introduced a radical (in my assessment) revision of the NLT, known as the "second edition" (see my review of the NLT for more information). Almost three years had gone by, and I didn't have what I considered to be a decent "public use" copy of the NLT second edition (or NLTse).

Going back to the original NLT first edition (or NLT1) of 1996, I had a nice burgundy bonded leather TouchPoint Bible and later a bonded leather Notemaker's Bible, which as I've said before happens to be one of the nicest wide-margin Bibles I've ever seen. But there's been nothing equivalent to these for the NLTse. The Bible publishing world seems obsessed with thinline/slimline/ultrathin Bibles or study Bibles. It seems that it's getting harder and harder to find a simple text or reference edition of the Bible, in leather, that has not only a readable text size, but also one that's not slimmed down to 3/4 of an inch. And no publisher besides Crossway seems to recognize the value of a wide-margin edition, but unfortunately, they don't publish my translations of choice. So with the NLTse, the only edition I had besides my electronic copy in Accordance, was a blue hardback/pew Bible.

Now, about the actual Bible. I don't consider myself all that picky, but after three years of the NLTse's existence, I still couldn't find a decent copy for public use. However, just last month Tyndale released an edition that, while not perfectly matching my wants/needs, is certainly an attractive edition and will do for now. I've picked up the NLT Premium Slimline Reference (Large Print) in "TuTone" colors of black with a vertical burgundy stripe on the front cover. The binding is called "LeatherLike," and I'll come back to that shortly. You'll find an link to this Bible below, but I cannot find it on Tyndale's site as of this writing. I'll refer to the Bible simply as PSR from this point forward.

Slimline. My main compromise with this Bible is the Slimline factor. I don't care for thin Bibles because the pages tend to be too thin, and will not only wrinkle and wear too quickly, but also have a tendency for bleed through of the Bible's own text and any annotations that a user makes in the margins. The page for this Bible claims that it is 1.1" thick, but I would presume this to be in error; it seems thinner than that. I would have also preferred a single column of text, but the only single-column NLT I know of is the Life Application Study Bible, and that's not what I wanted in a public use Bible.

Text on the page. The box says that the PSR is "large print." Technically, the print size is 9.84 pt. according to a similar offering on Tyndale's site. The type is quite readable and very clear on the page. There is a certain amount of bleed through, but it's not as bad as some other popular Bibles out there. One nice thing about this edition is that even though it's large print, it doesn't say "Large Print" on the binding which is often code for "old person's Bible." Actually, I've preferred larger type in public use Bibles since I was 20 and long before I needed glasses. I've found that when I'm reading in front of an audience, in order to maintain eye contact, I'll need to regularly look away from the page and look at my audience. I found early on that if I used a Bible with small type, it was very easy to lose my place. Therefore, there's always benefit from a large type size (I'd prefer 10 pt. or larger) when teaching or preaching before a group. I suppose another compromise for me personally, is that this Bible contains red letter text for the words of Christ. I'd prefer Bibles not have red letters, but it's hard to find them without it in popular editions. At least the red isn't a glaring bright red; however, I'd have preferred the darker brick-like shade in the sample on the box than the actual pinkish dark red found on the page.

My main complaint about this Bible has to do with how close the inside column of text rests near the binding. It's way too close, and this may be an example of a something that seemed fine in the original proofs but doesn't work in the actual product. The inside margin should be at least 3 or 4 centimeters wider for readability's sake. I'm not exaggerating here when I say that to read from the inner columns of text in this Bible, whether aloud or to yourself, it will take holding it with one hand while the other hand presses the center open. I'm not sure what the continued strain on the binding will do to the spine over a long period of time. And considering the fact that this is not a saddle-stitched Bible, I wonder how well this edition will hold up.

What makes a reference edition a reference edition? To be honest, I'm always on the fence when it comes to cross-references. Extremely large numbers of cross-references don't impress me. I'm not opposed to a cross-reference system, but generally all I need in terms of references are those that point me to intertextual quotations and allusions and those that refer to parallel passages. Many cross-references tend to be thematic in nature and that's not so big of a selling point with me. Since this Bible is called a "Reference" BIble, I was expecting a full cross-reference system. However, that's not the case. Rather, in some verses, there is a † symbol (what is this symbol called?) and a corresponding reference is placed at the end of the paragraph. That's not a bad system in my opinion, but I imagine it would be limited by the space left available at the end of each paragraph. To see the kind of references that are in place in the PSR, I turned to the Gospel of Matthew. There was a † at the end of v. 17: "...and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah." This corresponded to a reference to Luke 3:23-38, which is Luke's somewhat different genealogy. Turning the page, I saw another † at the end of Matt 1:24 following, "And Joseph named him Jesus." This led to a reference to Luke 2:1-7, which is part of Luke's account of the birth of Christ.

Then, however, I happened to look up at v. 23:

Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means "God is with us."

There was an asterisk after Immanuel pointing to the textual notes at the bottom of the page which referred to Isa 7:14 the source of the quotation in Mtt. 1:23. Therefore, it looks like the parenthetical references distinguish themselves from the cross references in the textual notes as being more thematic in nature. Turning a couple of pages over, I noticed that in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, many of the notes cross reference to Luke's so-called "Sermon on the Plain" and other passages with parallel themes. In my opinion between these references and those in the textual notes, this is all someone like myself would really need. Others however may still wish for a more traditional columnar cross-reference system.

The PSR also includes a 52-page dictionary/concordance in the back with entries from abandon to zeal. So Aaron is not included, but Abraham is. In actuality, there aren't many individuals listed here. But an entry such as Abraham takes on more of the "dictionary" aspect to this section as it includes topical information with references to particular passages. A few other helps are included in the Bible such as "Great Chapters of the Bible," "Great Verses of the Bible to Memorize" (three pages' worth), a 365-Day Reading Plan (all Bibles should come with one or more reading plans) and eight full-color Bible maps. And although this isn't a wide-margin Bible, so one can't take notes in the text, I counted 18(!) blank pages between the reading plan and the maps which would be perfect for adding one's own notes.

Is it leather if it doesn't "Moo"? I said above that I prefer leather Bibles for public use. Well, technically, this isn't leather--it's something that Tyndale calls "LeatherLike" and I assume is very similar to the materials in Zondervan's "Italian DuoTone" and Crossway's "TruTone" Bibles. A good leather Bible gets softer over time with continued use. This is caused by the natural oils of your hands which soften a Bible's leather over time (and that's also why putting a Bible in a Bible cover or leaving it on a dashboard where it dries out in the heat is the worst thing you can do for a Bible). Well, this LeatherLook looks and feels like a Bible that's well worn in (first we have pre-faded jeans, and now...). It's soft to the touch and even has a slight leather smell (I wonder if that was artificially added at the factory?). I have no idea how these covers hold up over time, and what they'll look like in a couple of decades or more, but I have to say that they are so nice, I wouldn't mind it if I never bought actual leather again. The cover on this Bible is black with a wide vertical burgundy strip going down the front. It' looks very elegant and makes the Bible look like it cost much more than it did. Using these kinds of artificial materials accomplish a couple of things: (1) no cow has to die for your Bible [I'm not overly opposed to leather, but if you had Bossie right there in front of me and said "Leather or no leather..."] and (2) offers an elegant looking Bible at greatly reduced price. Who knows, if fine wines can move away from actual corks, maybe Bibles can move away from real leather.

n the final analysis, this is a very nice NLT which will be suitable for the time being as a public use Bible. I don't like to think of Bibles as consumable items, so I've taken to passing them on when if I decide I'm not going to use a particular edition anymore in the future. For those waiting for something even better, I do know that there is another project in the works at Tyndale which is probably more along the lines of what a person thinks of when considering a true "Reference Bible." At this point, I'm not allowed to say anymore about that Bible, but as I can I will let you know. In the meantime, if you need a nice NLT Bible for public use right now, the Premium Slimline Reference may be your best bet.


TNIV Truth: Habakkuk 1:12 Revisited: The TNIV Angle

As a follow up to last week's post on Hab 1:12, I have written a very short blog entry over on TNIV Truth comparing the TNIV rendering of the verse to the NIV (and the NIVi).

Hands On with the HCSB Minister's Bible

I've had my copy of the HCSB Minister's Bible (Holman Bible Publishers, ISBN 1586401696) since February, 2006. Although I don't use this Bible exclusively as a one-stop resource as perhaps it's intended, I have used it for teaching, for preaching, for a funeral, and as of last Saturday for a wedding. And since I've only written about this Bible anecdotally in the past, I thought I might offer a few more thoughts on it now that I've had and used it for a while.

The box cover pictured here describes The Minister's Bible as a single-column/wide margin Bible. I'll go through some of the other features listed on the box and offer a few comments:

Genuine Leather Cover. I'm not certain of the exact grade of genuine leather for this Bible, but it certainly feels like good quality to me. It's a muted black and is quite flexible allowing this Bible to balance nicely, Billy-Graham-style, in one hand. Considering the HCSB Minister's Bible (HMB from this point forward) has a lifetime guarantee, the publisher obviously considers this to be a quality product. I've no doubt that the leather will hold up to the test of time, but I'm not so sure about the actual pages. More on that below.

Large, Easy-to-Read Typeface. Technically the main text uses a 9.8 point typeface. This isn't exactly large print, but it's clear and legible and I can use this Bible in public without my reading glasses, which is always helpful. Also, there's strictly black letters in this Bible. None of that red-letter nonsense.

Two Ribbon Markers. Why doesn't every Bible include two markers? This is quite handy. One is black; the other is red.

Single-Column Format. Any regular reader of this blog knows that a single-column of text is my preferred format in a Bible. The layout here is clean and open and there's no indication of "rushing" the text as in some Bibles to make for fewer pages. There are no cross references to clutter the page and get in the way of note-taking. Textual notes are laid out at the bottom in a smaller typeface.

Extra Wide Margins for Taking Notes. In my opinion, this description is a bit misleading. I imagine the marketing folks simply meant that this Bible's margins are wider than other Bibles. But when I think of a wide margin Bible, I generally see that as a designation of at least an inch of space for note-taking. Therefore, an extra wide margin should be considerably wider--one and a half to two inches perhaps. The one inch margin in this Bible is adequate in most places. There's even much more room for annotations in poetic sections, but longer prose passages, especially in the NT epistles, will leave the person who likes to add notations wishing for more space.

Gilded Page Edges. I liked the shade of gold that was on this Bible when I first bought it. It was a less bright gold color, a bit muted perhaps. However, now after one year's use--and I don't even use it all that regularly--the gold has faded quite a bit. Of course if you want a new Bible that doesn't look new, I suppose this would be a good thing.

Ministerial Helps Section. Perhaps this is one of the HMB's strongest points. In the back of the Bible comes the "minister's manual" with quite a few resources, some of which are actually quite helpful. Here is a list of the features with an occasional comment from myself:
  • Pastoral Care: Where to Turn. This is a standard, "When you feel _________, turn to this Bible passage" supposedly for use when counseling those with problems. I suppose this kind of resource is helpful at some level, but really, I hope that most ministers can reference this kind of information off the top of their head.
  • "21 Essentials of Authentic Ministry" by James T. Draper. These are helpful reminders from a seasoned pastor and denominational leader. "Never make a decision when you are discouraged or depressed." "Always return your phone calls and answer your mail." "Always be prepared to preach." "Don't flirt with temptation." "Give credit to other people." "When you are wrong, admit it." As the title suggests, there are 21 of these admonitions with explanations. This is probably the kind of wisdom the average pastor should read once a year. I've known some who should read it once a month.
  • "Weddings: Guidelines for Premarital Counseling" by Jim Henry. A lot of the wedding/marriage information in the HMB comes from Jim Henry's The Pastor's Wedding Manual (ISBN 0805423133), including these guidelines. Although this information is produced elsewhere, it is still a valuable set of guidelines for what could actually be multiple sessions of premarital counseling with engaged couples.
  • Guidelines for Planning Wedding Ceremonies.
  • Couples Commitment Form
  • "The Kingdom Family Commitment" by Tom Elliff.
  • A Classical Wedding Ceremony
  • A Contemporary Wedding Ceremony
  • "Funerals: When the Death Bell Rings" by Jim Henry. This is handy little resource, primarily for the inexperienced minister on responsibilities and what to do from the beginning of a death notification to the funeral services. It is excerpted from A Minister's Treasury of Funeral and Memorial Messages(ISBN 0805425756) also by Henry.
  • Funeral Sermon: "The Teacher Called Death" by Jim Henry. This is the only funeral sermon in the HMB. I suppose it might be handy for extremely short notice.
  • "The Invitation or Altar Call" by Roger Willmore
  • Commitment Counseling. Topics covered: salvation, baptism, church membership, assurance of salvation, rededication to grow toward spiritual maturity, and commitment to vocational Christian Ministry.
  • "The Pastor's Concern for Children" by W. A. Criswell.
  • "Reaching Students with the Gospel" by Lynn H. Pryor.
  • How to Lean an Effective Parent-Child Dedication Service
  • How to Conduct a Worker Commitment Service
  • How to Dedicate a Building
  • The Christian Year and Church Calendar. I find this interesting because it includes the more traditional calendar dates such as those for the Lenten Season like Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday. Obviously, it's primary market for the HMB is Baptist and most Baptist churches do not celebrate the traditional church calendar days--although some do. Intermixed with these dates are specific Southern Baptist dates that are promoted yearly such as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, Racial Reconciliation Sunday, Citizenship and Religious Liberty Sunday, and World Hunger Sunday among others.
  • The Apostles and their History. In my opinion, this is really an odd choice to include with these other items. I really don't know how often in pastoral ministry, a minister will need quick access to a table of facts about the 12 apostles of the Gospels.
  • Principles of an Orderly Business Meeting. Unfortunately, this particular guide is only one page long whereas entire books have been written on the subject. I don't know how helpful it will be to have this brief treatment at one's fingertips.
The HMB also includes standard items in most Holman Bibles including a F.A.I.T.H. plan of salvation, HCSB Bullet Notes, a table of weights and measures, a concordance (the box for the HMB claims an 82 page concordance, but someone can't count. It begins with "Aaron" on p. 1735 and ends with "600,000" on p. 1806. By my count, that's 72 pages.) and eight pages of full-color maps.

So what are the strengths and weaknesses of the HCSB Minister's Bible? Well, copy on Holman's product page for the HMB describes it as "like having a fine 'preaching Bible' and practical 'minister's manual' in one." And that, of course, is the goal of it. Ministers manuals abound with specific manuals on weddings, funerals, and the like. But anytime I've had to officiate a formal occasion like a wedding or a funeral, I've usually taken my text and affixed to the center of a nice-looking, black leather Bible. I'm sure that lots of folks who don't know better assume that there's some chapter in the middle of the Bible that contains wedding vows. Obviously, this is not the case. The HMB would theoretically allow a person to use one Bible for teaching, preaching, and administering the great services of life. It's a great idea, but it falls short in some areas.

For teaching and preaching. As far as having a nice looking black leather Bible, with a single-column format with clear and readable text, the HMB can't be beat. However, my greatest complaint in this category is its thin pages. While not exactly a thinline Bible, the HMB has well over 1800 pages and yet is only 1.55" thick! To create a Bible with so much content and yet to keep it so thin, Holman had to use incredibly thin paper. In fact, this has to be some of the thinnest paper I've yet to see in a Bible (and I've seen lots of Bibles!). Bleed through is a problem not only with the text, but also with any notes written in the margins. Even ink from Pigma Micron pens which are generally perfect for writing in Bibles shows through the page. Even worse, the pages are so thin that they have a tendency to curl when written upon or even when laid open to a passage for long enough time. If the Bible is closed long enough this curling will eventually go away, but it can be very distracting while trying to stay focused on a particular passage. Further, it makes it very easy to accidently fold the corners of pages, and afterwards, even if they are straightened out, any passages where you've spent a good amount of time will have a slightly worn look to them. Thicker paper would have gone quite a way to making this an excellent note-taking Bible. As an aside, for HCSB aficionados, this is the ONLY wide-margin Bible available in this version as of this writing.

For funerals, weddings, and other services. In regard to funerals, a minister will be better served by obtaining one or two good funeral manuals. It's no secret that ministers don't always create funeral messages from scratch. Often there's very little advance notice for such an occasion. However, a skillful minister can take a generic funeral message and personalize it based on his knowledge of the deceased. And therefore, having access to a variety of these kinds of messages is helpful as a minister might officiate a number of services in any year's time based on a church's population. Therefore, the inclusion of simply one message (although it is a very good message) in the HMB is not going to be all that helpful in the long run.

I used the HMB when I officiated my friend Andrew's funeral last year. But I did not use the sermon included in the Bible. And because of the nature of the accommodations of the funeral home, I was able to take the text of my message in a binder, and the HMB made a very nice Bible with readable type for use in that kind of setting (although in hindsight, Andrew was traditional enough in some areas that he might've preferred the KJV). However, when it came to the graveside service, I found myself using the old trick of paperclipping my text into the middle of the Bible.

So perhaps here is where the HMB could be improved. Graveside services tend to be very short and basic. Why not include a handful of different graveside services in a resource like this? I believe that would be more helpful than one token sermon.

On the other hand, the two wedding services included in the HMB are very good selections. The classical service has the very traditional "I plight thee my troth" and "With this ring I thee wed, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow." But at the same time, the contemporary service has more up-to-date language: "I promise to honor you, to love you, and to cherish you until death do us part." Although it would still be beneficial to have a full wedding manual with a variety of services to choose from, the two included in the HMB would probably serve the majority of services in which the minister would be engaged (no pun intended).

On Saturday, I performed a wedding service for a former student of mine, and I used the HMB and the contemporary wedding service found in it. Overall, the experience was good, and the contemporary service served the needs of the day well. I didn't stick to the outline in the HMB 100%, but I did stay pretty close to it so as not to add any unnecessary bloopers to the wedding video. In that regard, the HMB was very helpful.

At the same time, after utilizing the HMB in actual use during a wedding, I would offer some suggestions for improvement, and in fact, I wonder how well this product was field tested. First, one of my biggest complaints of this Bible from the beginning is that all of these minister's helps are placed in the back. Think about that for a minute. This is an 1800+ page resource, and all of the primary resources are in the last 10% or so of it. What that means is that for public use, the minister will be turned to the very back of the Bible for the entire time. Not only would it look better to an audience to work from somewhere more in the middle, but there's also a practical issue regarding the way the Bible is weighted. If you've ever been in a wedding in any role, you know that standing in front of the church, having to remain perfectly still for possibly an hour or more can be grueling. Now think about the minister for a moment. When I teach or preach, I can move around and pace and stay reasonably active. However, in a wedding service like the one on Saturday, I had to remain perfectly still for well over 40 minutes with my Bible held out before me in my bent arms--no podium. You might think it's not big deal to hold a Bible out in front of yourself, but try it for 40 minutes, and be sure to keep your feet perfectly planted in one position since you've already been informed by the videographer that if you move your left foot off the tape on the floor, you won't be seen in the video. This can be extremely tiring. As we got further along in the service, the fact that I had my Bible opened to around p. 1690 and following gave me a real concern that in a moment of inattention, it could simply fall out of my hand because the weight was so lopsided.

The very simple solution here would be to simply move all the ministerial helps to a section between the Old and New Testaments. Obviously, that's not going to be the direct center of the Bible, but it would help balance the Bible a bit better when using it, especially in formal settings. This seems like a no-brainer after actually using the HMB as it was intended, and this is why I wonder how well it was field tested. I certainly can't imagine anyone suggesting that such placement might confuse some into thinking this material is actually scripture.

Another issue I had during the service was the placement of text on the page. This wasn't an issue when I sat at my desk the day before and read through everything out loud. However, holding the Bible in front of myself, reading from the text, while at the same time attempting to keep good eye contact became a challenge with the text that was at the bottom of the page. Part of the vows and the dedication of marriage itself was right at the bottom which created more of a strain as I tried to look all the way down to the bottom of the page and maintain frequent eye contact. A better solution might be to keep the bottom third to half blank with the service itself in the top portion of the page. This would allow for any post-it notes for reminders or penciled-in information. As it was, I had a tiny order of service for the entire wedding posted to the page facing the first part of the contemporary service. And I had frequent notes throughout in pencil. A spot at the bottom of the page to write some of this would certainly be helpful.

Final thoughts. Ultimately the HMB may suffer from trying to be too many things at once. It's not the greatest Bible for teaching and preaching for the person who wants to write notes because of the thinness of it's paper. And the ministerial helps ultimately seem more representative of a minister's manual than a final solution. These resources are not going to replace the need for one or more good pastoral manuals.

Nevertheless, the idea itself is a good one. Perhaps rather than trying to include all the information found in the HMB, the publishers could concentrate on specific services such as weddings, funerals and dedications. Yesterday, at our church we had a baby dedication. I noticed that our pastor read the charge to the parents and the church from a single sheet of paper. Now, there's certainly nothing wrong with that, and our service went fine. But I thought to myself that there's an almost exact same service and words included in the HMB. Maybe it's just me, but there seems to be something authoritative about holding a Bible--or at least a black leather book--when conducting formal services such as these. To me, this would be the ideal use of a Bible such as this. And it wouldn't hurt to have it in other translations as well. Note: Hendrickson publishes a number of Minister's Bibles in the KJV, NKJV, and NASB, but I don't believe they cover quite the same content. I've heard rumors that Holman might release the Minister's Bible in another translation, perhaps the NKJV. I ran a search on Zondervan's website and found a similar minister's Bible in Spanish, but not English!?

Another idea might be to have a 1000+ page minister's manual covered in black leather with multiple wedding and funeral sermons, dedication services, and other ministerial helps such as the ones found in the HMB. Such a resource might even have room for the New Testament and Psalms to be included as well.

I'll continue to use my HMB now and then, but it's not the primary Bible that I thought it would be when I got it 15 months ago. Nevertheless, it's a useful, although flawed resource. Now if I could just get something like this in the TNIV...


Habakkuk 1:12--You or We?

A couple of days ago I received this email from a reader of This Lamp:

I've seen you talk about both the NASB and the TNIV, both of which Ihave and I like both of them a lot. In my dialogues with Jewishpeople, they have asked me about Habakkuk 1:12 and I know that it istranslated differently depending on which translation you read from.I was wondering why certain translations use the Masoretic textversion and others don't.

This is a good question, and frankly, a difference in versions that I'd never noticed. To demonstrate the difference, consider the two translations mentioned above:


Are You not from everlasting,
O LORD, my God, my Holy One?
We will not die.
You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge;
And You, O Rock, have established them to correct.

[no note]

LORD, are you not from everlasting?
My God, my Holy One, you* will never die.
You, LORD, have appointed them to execute judgment;
you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish.

*An ancient Hebrew scribal tradition; Masoretic Text we.

The TNIV makes a break with the Masoretic Text ([MT] the Hebrew clearly says we as does the Septuagint [LXX]!). The question is, Who or what is this ancient scribal tradition? At the time I received this email, I was away from the library, and didn't have the resources to look at the issue in depth. Of course I always have Accordance with me, but I've purposefully chosen at this point not to purchase commentary modules, so I was strictly dependent upon whatever reference resources I could find. Regarding the issue in Hab 1:12, I found two mentions.

First, I found a reference to the you/we issue in Hab 1:12 in the Anchor Bible Dictionary, in the context of an article on "Euphemism and Dysphemism in the Bible" by Marvin H. Pope. Pope makes no reservation in regard to his feelings on the correct reading: "In Hab 1:12, the assurance to God “You will not die” was changed to the patently absurd “We will not die,” to avoid even the thought that God could die."

Another resource I had in Accordance was the NET Bible, which is quickly becoming a first stop resource in regard to textual issues. The note in the NET for this verse states,

The MT reads, “we will not die,” but an ancient scribal tradition has “you [i.e., God] will not die.” This is preferred as a more difficult reading that can explain the rise of the other variant. Later scribes who copied the manuscripts did not want to associate the idea of death with God in any way, so they softened the statement to refer to humanity.

Okay, so the reason behind the change begins to make sense. This becomes a similar issue to "curse" being changed to "bless" in Job 2:9 (the Hebrew of the MT says "bless" (barekh), but nearly all translations render the word "cursed" based on context and the assumption that the original reading was changed by scribes who didn't want to associate cursing with God in the scriptures).

But the question remained: Who is this ancient scribal source?

I consulted a handful of commentaries today, and the most succinct explanation comes from Ralph Smith in the Word Biblical Commentary:

lo’ namut "we shall not die" is one of eighteen passages in the OT called tiqqune soferim "corrections of the Scribes" by the Masoretes. The scribes were supposedly to have corrected the original reading. The original reading of this passage was probably lo’ tamut "you shall not die" referring to God. Even though there is no manuscript or version support for tamut it is probably the best reading.

A number of commentaries with discussions on this issue recommended these sources for further study:

  • J. Weingreen, Introduction to Critical Study of the Hebrew Bible, 25-29
  • E. Wurthwein, The Text of the Old Testament, 18-19
  • C. D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible, 358
  • E. R. Brotzman, Old Testament Textual Criticism, 117-118

There's another question here, though, isn't there? It's a canonical question. What exactly should be considered the final form? How significant is it that both the MT and the LXX agrees on the alteration to "we"? There are no manuscripts with "you" in the text for Hab 1:12. So, what forms the basis of the canon? Our English Old Testaments are primarily based on the MT, in spite of the fact that the NT writers quoted primarily from the LXX. Is the Canon based on the MT? Is it to be based on the LXX (the Orthodox Church takes this position). Is it the MT checked by the LXX and the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) and perhaps even other sources?

I believe it's the last option. And in defense of that, we should remember that modern New Testaments are based on what's called an eclectic text, that is a source that attempts to reproduce the oldest and best (i.e. original) readings, based on manuscript evidence and the methods of textual criticism, and in spite of the fact that no Greek manuscript will completely reproduce the exact same wording entirely. Nevertheless, our English Old Testaments tend to be based on the Masoretic Text, an AD 11th Century document (that's AD, not BC). I've said it before and I will say again: we need an eclectic Old Testament text to form the basis of our English translations.

Recent translations such as the NRSV, NLT, NET, HCSB, ESV, TNIV and others use the LXX and DSS to "correct" the MT in places. How long will it be before we see a true critical edition that incorporates these alternatives into the text?

For point of reference, here are how some other translations treat Hab 1:12:

“Are you not from everlasting,
O LORD my God, my Holy One?
We shall not die.
O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment,
and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.”
[no note] (ESV)

“Are You not from eternity, Yahweh my God?
My Holy One, You* will not die.
LORD, You appointed them to execute judgment;
my Rock, You destined them to punish us.”
*Alt Hb tradition reads we (HCSB)

“GOD, you’re from eternity, aren’t you?
Holy God, we aren’t going to die, are we?
GOD, you chose Babylonians for your judgment work?
Rock-Solid God, you gave them the job of discipline?”
[no note} (The Message)

“LORD, you have been active from ancient times;
my sovereign God, you are immortal.
LORD, you have made them your instrument of judgment.
Protector, you have appointed them as your instrument of punishment.”
[note already quoted] (NET)

“O LORD, are you not from everlasting?
My God, my Holy One, we will not die.
O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment;
O Rock, you have ordained them to punish.”
[no note] (NIV)

O LORD my God, my Holy One, you who are eternal—
surely you do not plan to wipe us out
O LORD, our Rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us,
to punish us for our many sins.
[no note, but is this an attempt to incorporate both traditions?] (NLTse)

Are you not from of old,
O LORD my God, my Holy One?
You* shall not die.
O LORD, you have marked them for judgment;
and you, O Rock, have established them for punishment.
[*You — Ancient Heb tradition: MT We] (NRSV)

Lord, are you not from ancient times my God and Holy One, who is immortal?*
Lord, you have appointed them to execute judgement;
my Rock, you have commissioned them to punish.
[prob. original rdg; altered in Heb. to we shall not die. (REB)


New Living Translation in Spanish (Nueva Traducción Viviente) Coming in 2009

Excerpted from the press release:

Tyndale Español, the Spanish publishing division of Tyndale House Publishers, announces the launch of a new Spanish translation of the Bible—the Nueva Traducción Viviente (NTV). This Spanish counterpart to the New Living Translation (NLT) is being developed by Tyndale Español in partnership with the Luis Palau Association and the Spanish publishing house Editorial Unilit. The Spanish language is considered to be the third most spoken language in the world, and the intent is for the NTV to have the same ministry impact in the Spanish-speaking world that the NLT has in the English-speaking world.

The Nueva Traducción Viviente (NTV) is an entirely new translation of the Bible with roots in the original Hebrew and Greek texts and the style and dynamic approach of the NLT. Phase One of the NTV project was the creation of a Spanish translation from the English NLT and the original Hebrew and Greek texts. The translation went through a rigorous theological, grammatical, and stylistic review under the supervision of Jaime Mirón, Bible Project Director, from the Luis Palau Association in Portland, Oregon. In Phase Two, now in process, the NTV is undergoing an additional theological, linguistic, and stylistic review with emphasis on the original Hebrew and Greek texts. The NTV development is being overseen by Andres Schwartz, Publishing Director of Tyndale Español, and Dan Elliott, Editorial Director of Tyndale House Publishers. Tyndale Español is also working with Melvin Rivera, president of Intermaná, on various projects supporting the release of the NTV. Intermaná is a consulting organization headquartered in Pembroke Pines, Florida, providing global services to reach the Latin world.

See also Tyndale Español.


TNIV Truth: New Preview

Zondervan gave me permission to post some screenshots of their soon-to-be completely revamped Check it out and get more information at my newest post on TNIV Truth.


Review: ESV Single Column Reference Bible

This post does not purport to be a review of the ESV. Rather, this blog entry will focus specifically on a particular edition of the ESV: the newly released ESV Single Column Reference Bible (SCR from this point forward).

The SCR is one of a number of new editions of the ESV from Crossway that incorporates a text with minor updating from the original 2001 edition. The first text to incorporate the updated text was the ESV Reverse Interlinear released late in 2006. An updated text including the Old Testament was released earlier this year. Disappointingly, the publishers (or perhaps the translation committee) have chosen not to release a list of changes between the two editions. Of course that doesn't stop one from hunting or the changes the old fashioned way, simply by comparing texts. Last year, I released a short list of changes in the New Testament I had discovered between the 2001 and 2006 editions. As a student of translations and translation history, this kind of issue interests me very much. In the upcoming days or weeks, look for a post with any additional changes in the ESV OT that I may find.

Frequent visitors to This Lamp know that I have a fondness for wide-margin Bibles. I have a NASB wide-margin Bible in which I still add notes and reflections even to this day. And it used to be helpful as a teaching Bible--having my notes so handy--until I became convicted that the NASB was no longer the best Bible from which to teach. Nevertheless, I recommend to my own students and to friends and church members who ask that they buy a wide-margin Bible so that they might truly interact with God's Word in a physical way, a literally tangible way.

Unfortunately, of all the major 21st century Bible versions (ESV, The Message, NET, NLTse, HCSB, TNIV), only the ESV offers a truly usable wide-margin Bible--and they actually offer more than one. In addition to the SCR discussed here, Crossway also offers an edition called "The Wide Margin Refefence Bible," as well as their Journaling Bibles and Deluxe Reference Bibles, all of which have a wider marging to some degree for note-taking. [Yes, Holman publishes an HCSB Ministers Bible with wide-margins, but the pages are so thin that they curl, and bleed-through is a problem, regardless of what kind of pens are used. The TNIV is available in a "squared" edition, but not only is it a thinline (not ideal for note-taking), but it is in two columns of text, and the wide margin only gives the note-taker access to the outer column of text; so this too is unusable for serious note-taking. For a brief time, Tyndale offered what was one of the best wide-margin Bible formats I've ever seen in its Notemakers Bible, but this is not only out of print, but was only available in the NLT1. There are no wide-margin offerings at all in the NLTse--not even poor ones.]

Nevertheless, Crossway really seems to get wide-margin Bibles unlike any other publisher I've seen. I've heard from three different Bible publishers that wide-margin Bibles simply do not sell well. That may be, but it's your teachers, preachers, and serious students of the Bible who will most likely use and benefit from a wide-margin Bible. And these are the folks that often influence what Bibles--especially Bible translations--that other believers use. And while it may be anecdotal evidence, my survey of wide-margin Bibles that I posted last year remains my #1 referenced webpage on This Lamp, receiving google hits everyday. Look for this survey to be updated in the near-future.

Crossway not only seems to understand the above particular value of a wide-margin Bible (as evidenced by their varied editions of wide-margin Bibles), they also understand how a note-taker can use available space to the best advantage when taking notes. This is certainly made clear in the Single-Column Reference Bible.

Click on the above image to access Crossway's PDF sample of the ESV Single Column Reference Bible.

First, although made obvious by the title, this Bible has a single-column, which in my opinion is the best format for not only reading, but also note-taking. Serious note-takers love to see white space because we don't merely see an area without text, we see potential space for our notes. And with a single-column, we get bonus space in poetic and narrative passages (especially those with dialogue). According to the cardboard sleeve that came with the Bible, the SCR comes with 1 1/4" (the website says 1 1/8" but I don't have a ruler handy to know which is correct) of space in the outer margins for notes. While this isn't the widest amount of space available across the spectrum of all wide-margins out there, it is indeed a reasonable amount, and more space than some (such as the HCSB Minister's Bible).

What may seem at first to be an odd choice in modern Bibles, the SCR forgoes paragraph format for an older style of verse-by-verse layout. I've even seen this aspect of the SCR criticized elsewhere, but I have to think that this choice was purposeful. Yes, in general, I'd say that paragraphed formatting is better so that one reads any particular verse in a greater context. Verses taken by themselves often have a potential to be exegetically misused. However, for anyone with the intelligence to pay attention to the paragraph marks included with the text, this shouldn't be a problem. And as I said, I believe that such a formatting decision must have been purposeful because anyone who has ever taken notes in a Bible such as the classic NASB single-column reference Bibles knows that a verse-by-verse format allows for even more room to write, and it allows the brief note or two (as space allows) to be nestled in the absolute closest proximity to the text.

The SCR includes cross references (thus it's designation as a reference Bible). In my opinion a Bible for note-taking doesn't necessarily have to have a cross-reference system, but in the SCR, the publishers did something with the cross references that I've suggested for years--they moved them to the inside of the text rather than placing them at the outer margins. In my NASB that I use to take notes, one distracting aspect is the gulf between the text and my notes created by the cross reference system placed outside the text. The ESV SCR eliminates this problem by moving the cross reference system entirely to the inside margin. Again, this is evidence that the creators of this edition seriously thought through the note-taking process. Further, on those pages where the cross references are sparse, the reader gains even more space for notes!

My nitpicks with this edition are extremely minor. The typesize (10 pt.) could be slightly larger in my opinion, although obviously that would mean enlarging the dimensions of the page size (6.5" x 9.25") a bit. Of course, maybe this is just me as I've had to resort to reading glasses in the last couple of years for which I blame too many books and too many hours at computer screens. Nevertheless with the typesize at 10 pt., this is certainly not a small print Bible, and does not receive the criticism I gave the ESV Journaling Bible a while back. Also, the thin lines in place primarily for aesthetic reasons on the top, bottom and inner margins might bother some who want to take notes even in these places, especially if that person has a tendency to draw lines from notes to certain words or phrases like I do.

The ESV Single Column Reference Bible also comes with the standard brief book introductions, concordance and full-color maps that one would expect. At almost 1800 pages, the text is not rushed, but thankfully at 1.7" thick, it's not a thinline either. In reality, this is a serious note-taker's Bible. For the ESV aficionado who wants to directly interact with the text, this is surely the Bible of choice.


Herod's Tomb Discovered at Herodium

Image above from the Accordance Bible Lands PhotoGuide 2.0. The Fortress at Herodium was built atop a hill and surrounded with huge quantities of earth, creating an artificial cone-shaped mountain.

Most of you who are interested in these kinds of things have probably already seen this. But in case you missed it, here's the nutshell from

King Herod's tomb discovered, Israeli university says
Hebrew University announces discovery of Roman king's tomb at Herodium near Jerusalem
Published: 05.08.07, 00:50 / Israel News

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced on Monday the discovery of the grave and tomb of Herod the Great, the Roman empire's "King of the Jews" in ancient Judea.

The University said in a brief statement the discovery was made at Herodium, where Herod's hilltop fortress palace once stood some 7 miles from Jerusalem.

The university said it would give further details at a news conference on Tuesday.

The Roman Senate appointed Herod "King of the Jews" in approximately 40 BCE. He was also well-known for the magnificent structures built at his behest. In addition to the Herodium fortress, he was responsible for the building of Masada and the expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

He also created new cities such as Caesaria and Herodion. According to the ancient Jewish historian Falavius Josephus, Herod died in 4 BCE.

Herod is mentioned in Christian tradition, as well as Jewish tradition: The Gospel of Matthew says heordered the "Massacre of the Innocents", the killing of all young male children in Jesus' birthplace of Bethlehem out of fear he would lose his throne to a new "King of the Jews", whose birth had been related to him by the Magi.

According to Matthew, Joseph and Mary fled with baby Jesus to Egypt to escape the slaughter.

Lilach Shoval contributed to this article.

Another image from the Bible Lands PhotoGuide:

The entrance to the mountain fortress at Herodium. The mountain fortress at Herodium was approached by an imposing series of steps leading up the northeast slope. These gave access to the gate seen here.


Accordance Updated to v. 7.2

Well beyond the Mac vs. Windows debate, the very best reason to adopt the Macintosh platform may simply be Accordance Bible software. Today, Oak Tree Software released v. 7.2 of Accordance. There's so much here, one might've expected the release to carry an 8.0 designation. Nevertheless, there's plenty here to explore. From the Accordance website:

Major New Features:
  • Import of User Bible texts.
  • Printing of highlighted text, both of regular highlighting in text and tool panes, and when using Compare Texts.
  • Horizontal option for display of the Resource palette.
  • Prior and Next buttons appear after using internal hypertext links in a tool pane in a Search window, with control-command left and right arrow key combinations which also work for the Tools window.

General New Features:
  • Larger and more colorful text access buttons at the bottom left of many windows.
  • Contextual menus: additional menu for More Options in Tools, and Favorites submenu added to contextual menus.
  • Up to 512 characters are allowed in Range definitions.
  • The CHAR item in the Construct allows multiple entries.
  • Pressing shift with command right and left arrow keys selects the intervening text.
  • Diagram window exports as an editable PICT image.
  • An option in User Notes preferences allows multiple edit windows.
  • SBL standard references for abbreviations is an option for display and export of text.
  • Command-click on a verse reference in a tool amplifies to all the references in the paragraph.

New Original Language Features/Updates
  • Optional modern Greek Polytonic keyboard for text entry.
  • Character palette supports modern Greek and Hebrew keyboards.
  • Export to Graeca II font is supported instead of SuperGreek.
  • Preferences page to reorder the grammatical tags.
  • Option to view tags as full words in Instant Details.
  • Format of tag display is clearer.
  • Export of Helena text converts the "apple" character into a correct rough breathing.

I'm very intrigued to explore the new option to import other Bible texts. What this means is that any freely available texts on the internet can now be imported for use into Accordance.

For more details on all the new features, see the announcement in the Accordance forums and David Lang's post on the Accordance Blog.


Review: Spider-Man 3

The picture above is taken from a teaser poster that's been around for a few months. But in the actual film, Spider-Man 3, the camera shot is wider to reveal our hero sitting on a steeple with a cross on top. If I can be so bold, Spider-Man 3 is the most Christian movie I've seen this year. No, I don't mean that there's a Billy-Graham-call-to-walk-the-aisle at the end. However, the movie includes a number of explicitly Christian themes such as forgiveness, loyalty, redemption, and responsibility for one's actions.

There was only one good scene in Superman III, well over two decades ago. In that movie, Superman affected by an artificially created Kryptonite turns bad and goes around performing misdeeds instead of good deeds. All of this culminates in the visualized psychological battle between Superman and Clark Kent as the hero wrestles to overcome the evil inside of him. In Spider-Man 3, Peter Parker's dark side emerges after he's affected by an alien presence that represents itself as a black costume. The suit affects Spider-Man's personality, and results in the brooding pose seen above under the shadow of a cross. A conversion of sorts takes places in which the "sinful" self is defeated. In fact, a metaphorical "baptism" scene immediately follows reminiscent of similar imagery effected by the rainstorm that follows the escape from prison in Shawshank Redemption. Meanwhile, this is countered by another character's visit to the same church. He comes seeking help, but with the wrong motives. This results in his "damnation" because his desires are evil.

I haven't read a Spider-Man comic book in almost two decades, but I remember them well. Spidey was the kind of hero that one could relate to. Although he was certainly heroic and had amazing abilities, in his private life, he had trouble getting dates, he got picked on, he was always struggling to make ends meet. I remember the issue where he had the flu but he still had to defeat the Lizard, nevertheless. And on the virtuous side of things, he sometimes made mistakes that had devastating consequences. This is certainly played out in not only the comics but also in the first movie, when through his own selfishness and perhaps indifference, his choice to not stop a criminal leads to his uncle's death. We find out in this movie that we didn't get the full picture about that event after all (whether that was planned from the beginning I have no idea, but I doubt it). In this movie, Peter has a choice to make: he can either hold his bitterness inside and seek revenge for his uncle, or he can choose to put feelings of vengeance aside and forgive his uncle's killer. The end result is quite moving.

And so is the message at the end of the film. The opening night for Spider-Man 3 set box office records, and I'm not surprised. I saw a 9:30 PM showing on Friday night at the Shelbyville movie theater and it was packed, mostly with audience members much younger than myself. There's a voiceover at the end for which I'd love to have the exact words to print here, but I haven't found them yet. But the words spoke of the responsibility that we have for our choices and the call for us to make the right choice when faced with a decision. I couldn't think of a better message to leave with the young audience with whom I shared the movie on Friday night.

If you've seen enough Sam Raimi movies, you begin to note his style. Raimi tells a story by focusing on a character's eyes. This is why Spider-Man never has an emotional scene with his mask fully on. Either he is out of costume as Peter Parker, or the mask is partially torn up or even removed. Raimi also has a quirky sense of humor evidenced in his films such as The Quick and the Dead and Army of Darkness. Raimi's quirkiness is quite over the top in Spider-Man 3, especially as Peter Parker undergoes the transformation to his darker self. Although the reality is serious, it is played out in lighter tones that causes quite a few laughs along the way. I mean, it's hard for the goody-two-shoes to be a bad guy, isn't it?

Raimi has already announced that there will be three more Spider-Man movies, although he has not yet declared if he will remain at the helm. It wouldn't surprise me if he departs along with the other principle actors in the cast. And although we'll continue to have Spider-Man movies, these three from Raimi and staring Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst will surely be the classic treatment. Unlike the Batman movies of the nineties, these three Spider-Man movies are interconnected and form a tight arching trilogy. The story is told through all three with elements introduced in the first movie not resolved until the third.

The negative reviews for this movie are predictable: it's too long and too preachy. I say, decide for yourself; I highly recommend this movie. Again, the movie is replete with Christian themes, and would serve as a great springboard for discussion along the lines I mentioned in the first paragraph. It's longer than the previous installments clocking in at two hours and twenty minutes. There's very little language and no sexual situations. However, it's rated PG-13 for its violent content so parents should think twice before taking small children to see it.


TNIV Truth: Logos Drops TNIV Disclaimer

I've reported over at TNIV Truth that Logos has dropped their totally unnecessary TNIV disclaimer. This was actually brought to my attention by our very own This Lamp frequenter, Larry. Be sure to check out the full post over there.

Other frequent This Lamp readers may remember my original post on this subject back in March when I asked Logos to remove the disclaimer altogether.


TNIV Truth: Two New Scholarly Endorsements

Ben Witherington III and Kenneth J. Collins have been added to the growing list of TNIV endorsers. See their comments in my post at TNIV Truth.


LID Status

From Kathy's blog today:

Rick received the phone call today from our Adoption Agency letting us know our Log In Date or LID. LID is when your dossier is officially logged into the China database for adoption. Our LID is April 10, 2007! Now, the long wait continues, but at least we know that we are officially accepted for adoption in China. The current wait time for a referral of a baby from Log In Date is approximately 17 months. That, of course, can change -- it can be shorter (hopefully) or longer.

Now it's all over but the waiting.

Oh...yeah...and actually raising little Ellie once we get her.