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This blog has moved!

Posted by Gary

That's right, folks. You've been waiting long enough. I finally decided to open shop on Wordpress.

I've actually had registered for a while, but I never bothered to move. You know, what with packing and all and pushing my way through cyberspace.

Merry Christmas!

Posted by Gary Labels: ,

Is an interesting reference site. Check it out here. They've got several translations to use, mainly of the more ancient word-for-word variety. At present, I am unsure how much of this is because of a conservative mindset on what makes a good translation, and how much is based on the fact that those things are public domain.

In addition to that, you'll find the Greek text of the LXX, older critical editions (again: public domain) such as the Wescott-Hort text, and even the brand-new SBL Greek New Testament! There's Greek and Hebrew interlinears, if you're into using Greek/Hebrew with training wheels. Strong's Concordance (again: public domain) is also accessible. There's also versions in Latin and other languages.

I find the question and answer section interesting. I might participate in that.

I'm also interested in the contest to get a free hardcover 1611 KJV -- 400th anniversary edition. The contest ends tonight at midnight, and this blog post is my entry. Yay!

To Stop Atrocities in Africa

Posted by Gary

The Lord's Resistance Army has terrorized three countries in Africa for 25 years now. They've raided whole villages at times. This involves killing or raping the adults while abducting the children. Boys become soldiers while girls become sex slaves, or if there's a shortage of boys, they become soldiers too. So far the number of abducted, not including those killed, is 66,000 children.

If you've seen LOST, then the flashbacks of Mr. Ecko's past are somewhat reminiscent of the LRA's atrocities. They seek only to devour whatever they can and cause suffering. Their very name comes from the claim that the Holy Spirit has inspired their actions.

In March, there was a bill in congress called the LRA Disarmament and Recovery Act. There was one senator who placed a hold on the bill, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. In response to this, many of my friends slept outside his office and many from around the country came to the "Holdout" as it was called. Although I couldn't be there in person I sent my encouragement and prayers. If you want an on-the-ground diary of the event, my friend Jessica wrote of her experiences over the course of a few days.

Eventually the hold was lifted and the bill went through. The President was tasked with coming up with a strategy for disarming the LRA and also helping Uganda to recover from this devastation. On May 24th, President Obama promised to come with a strategy by signing this bill into law.

Please sign the pledge to remind Obama of his promise to carry out this bill. We're shooting for ten thousand signatures and this link has been on my FB news feed pretty much non-stop for six weeks now.

Please sign the pledge and keep this issue in prayer. This is why government officials have the sword: to punish wrongdoing and promote welfare. The strategy includes economic, humanitarian, military, and diplomatic elements designed to stop the LRA, cut off their influence, and rehabilitate former and current child soldiers. We have a suggested blueprint for the strategy here.

Thank you for reading this. Please sign and pray. It's time for Obama to unveil his strategy. The due date was my birthday, September 20th, and he's yet to release his strategy. No doubt the oil spill and what-not threw him off, but it's still time to do this.

The Gender Language Debate in Biblical Translation: A Plea for Reasonableness

Posted by Gary

Recently, Zondervan released the text of the updated NIV on Biblegateway. If you don't keep up with the politics of Bible translation, then I'll fill you in on what you've missed the past ten or so years. The Committee on Bible Translation for the original NIV released a gender-inclusive version in the UK, but since it was copyrighted by name in the UK, the US release was renamed the TNIV. The TNIV updated scholarship and fixed some things that made the English simply better styled English. However, the idea of using gender-inclusive language in a Bible was something of a minefield.

For the most part, Evangelical churches were not very thrilled with it, though some mainline churches adopted it. Honestly, though, most mainline churches prefer the NRSV (as would I). In fact, some conservative pastors got together and marketed a Bible that was specifically anti-TNIV: the ESV. I received the ESV the same way John received the scroll in Revelation 10. It was good at first, but now that I really sit back and digest it, I'm none too thrilled. The ESV is essentially the same as the REB of the 1930s with just a few touch-ups here and there. It's really nothing extraordinary, in that respect.

So, now the Committee on Bible Translation for the NIV has released an updated NIV, which they call the NIV2011. The confusing part is that it's copyrighted to 2010 since they've released it electronically. They intend to release it in print next year, since next year is the 400th anniversary of the KJV. This new NIV retains very much from the TNIV, but they did something very interesting in determining how to approach gender issues in language.

You see, they actually did a statistical search of English usage from a very WIDE body of contemporary literature among English speakers all across the globe, including nonnative speakers. In doing so, they found that the singular use of "they" is rather common and acceptable, yet in some cases "man" and "mankind" can be used generically. So, the new NIV is a slight compromise by toning down on the "human beings" and "mortals" for what used to be translated as "man" and "mankind."

Forgive me for oversimplifying, but I'm going to pretend the only two types of people are those who support singular they and those who don't. To those of you who don't support it, let me ask you this: what concern might lead someone to want to clearly spell out "brothers and sisters" or to use "they" as a singular?

The reason is clarity. Specifically, they [plural] don't want to give the false impression that God only ever addresses men. Any biblical scholar worth his [this generic masculine was written unconsciously] salt knows that when Paul uses adelphoi he refers not just to brothers but to sisters also (most of the time, anyway). But not everyone is a biblical scholar. What about the first-time reader? First impressions are important, and if the first impression people get is that women are excluded from anything of substance, that's definitely gonna turn them off to the Gospel. Clarity reduces the number of possible interpretations you could give a passage, with the specific purpose of reducing someone's chances of an erroneous interpretation. To some people's ears, it can be just downright frustrating to hear someone in the Bible always speak as if the major movers and shakers of the world were predominately male.

One translation gaffe this clears up is the ESV's wording of Philippians 2.29: "So receive [Epaphroditus] in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men." (Thanks Sue for pointing this out.) There is no particular reason for them to use men here. My translation is: "So receive him in the Lord joyfully, and honor those like him." There's no reason logically to consider this male-only, and there is no word "men" here in Greek. The problem is that we can't just say "honor such as him" in English today. If we use "such," we have to supply some noun there. The NIV uses "people," but I still like my own translation better, to be honest. It gets across the comparative aspect better.

Now, I ask: what reason might there be to prefer the use of generic "he" constructions in English?

Well, the summary word for this side of the debate is concordance. If the entire Bible is rendered fairly consistently in gender constructions, then that helps experienced readers see the connection between different verses or passages of Scripture. Keeping the original form of the wording can allow a reader to see multiple interpretations for a passage. It's one thing to take Psalm 1 and say "blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked," as the new NIV does. However, since we Christians don't conventionally use "the one" with reference to Jesus, this closes the door on any Jesus-centered interpretation of the text. Even if the immediate context is referring to a man generically and not Jesus, it's a poor idea to close the door to Christological interpretations. We should be able to see Jesus on every page of the Bible, not just in the red letters.

The TNIV lost serious points on Psalm 8:4 by saying "What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" and then rendering Hebrews 2's quote of Psalm 8 quite differently. The updated NIV is only marginally better. The fact is, there's no way to read this and see how the Hebrews author came up with a Jesus-centered interpretation unless you look at the footnotes. Or if you read the ESV, then both Psalm 8:4 and Hebrews 2:6-8 make sense together. The ESV there has another issue, but that's unrelated to this.

What're the main differences between these two approaches?

One approach restricts options to avoid obvious misconceptions, but in the process loses some coherence. Not just coherence between how the NT uses the OT, but coherence with the tradition of English Bible translation and with how interpreters through the centuries have read things with a Jesus-centered interpretation. The masculinist approach seeks to remain faithful to how open the Bible is to several interpretations [technical term: polyvalence]. Nobody on either side (I hope) wants to make people think women don't matter. Nobody on either side (hopefully) wants to cut down your ability to read the OT with Christ's fulfillment in mind and/or see how the NT uses the OT.

Gender-neutral translations seem geared more toward beginner readers whereas the masculinist translations are more geared toward advanced readers, as found in this nice chart. The reason for this is simple: Bibles that are concerned more with clarity will of course drift toward avoiding masculinist language, lest they give the impression that the Bible means only men when it sometimes/often means both men and women. Likewise, translations on a higher reading level will expect you to struggle with not having everything spelled out for you.

So, what's the answer?

Uh, answer to what? Which should you choose? Choose whichever you feel comfortable with, but I would suggest keeping a few different translations with you of both types. Personally, I favor the NRSV, NET, ESV, and some form of the NIV -- not sure which yet. I've heard wonderful things about the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and as far as paraphrases go, God's Word is excellent.

What we need to do is increase general literacy and most especially Biblical literacy. If we did that well enough that people could be equally able to use translations of either gender approach, then the disadvantage of each side would cancel out while retaining the advantage. That is, you could read your KJV for concordance with the history of English tradition and Bible usage but also use your NRSV for understanding what is intended to address both genders.

Of course, it's not completely that simple. There are texts involving gender roles in which using gender-inclusive terms would be highly debatable. That causes problems. There's no easy answer to clearing that up for everybody. Unfortunately, people may just end up picking and choosing solely based off hearing 1 Timothy 2 rendered the way they'd want to hear it. People on both sides are guilty of that. So, unfortunately, my plea might go unheeded. Short of teaching everyone Greek and Hebrew, I don't know an answer other than just telling everyone to interpret it how I say it should be interpreted. :)

Quote of the Day

Posted by Gary

‎"People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily." - Zig Ziglar

HT: Jessica Walizer on Facebook

Philippians 1:1-2:11 read aloud

Posted by Gary

I don't really have much time to run a blog lately. Consider this a late notice that I'm on hiatus! Enjoy the video, though.

Salvation history as explained to robots: Genesis to the end of Matthew

Posted by Gary Labels:

Christ set aside his divine nature to live among us. He came and died for us when we had gone astray like sheep. There is no way to fully convey how overwhelming this is. But this parable is the closest analogy I can make.

There was once an engineer known as the General Operations Designer, or "GOD" for short. He made robots and lived in the North Pole. As a human, he is obviously far more advanced than robots. Whereas they can only do simple things, he could actually be in three places at once. He was at once the Programmer, the Designer, and the Broadcaster of instructions. So, GOD made several simple robots, and then worked on the blueprint of his masterpiece. He fine-tuned the programming and saw that it is good, and so he started production on the HU-MAN series of robots.

They worked well, and he saw that it was very good. These robots were made to run indefinitely – which is good, since he wanted them to spread out and maintain the entire earth. Sure, the batteries needed recharging, but the batteries would never need replacing. The programming allowed the robots to do everything they were supposed to, and the Designer occasionally broadcasted updates that would allow them to perform new tasks, or do old ones better.

But one day, something went wrong: one of the robots tripped over a chord it did not see, and got damaged. Somehow, it became infected with a virus, and the virus spread to other robots. They began to act disorderly and go against their original purpose. You see, the virus fooled the robots into thinking they were receiving updates when they actually weren't. Sometimes, these fake updates would make the robots shut down to "install" them, but there was nothing new to install. They stayed shut down, and would never restart.

Now, the Designer was very fond of HU-MANs and refused to destroy them all and start over. So, he continued sending updates with the new orders that he wanted them to carry out. But the robots just weren't working properly. They were receiving mixed signals and conflicting orders, because they couldn't tell which updates were real and which ones were not.

And so, the situation called for more drastic measures. Fortunately, the Designer noticed one particular model, designated N0AH, who seemed to be able to know which updates are real and which ones are not. N0AH properly carried out the Designer's orders. And so, the Designer decided to wipe out all the current models except for N0AH, seven of the ones N0AH worked with, and a handful of all the lesser robots.

Even N0AH eventually took false updates and he shut down. The continuing generations of robots kept getting worse. They spread out over the whole earth and they produced at a faster rate, just as the Designer had wanted. Unfortunately, the virus contaminated the robots so completely now that they could not even receive updates from the Designer at all. They also began to shut down more quickly than before N0AH's time.

Since near-complete destruction didn't work, and complete destruction is an option the Designer refused to entertain, he did his best to maintain the HU-MAN series despite their system failure. But deep down, he wanted to completely fix them. So, he created the perfect anti-virus software, the T0RAH. In theory, it would eradicate the virus. But since the robots had come to take updates from the virus rather than the true updates that the Designer was broadcasting, he decided to upload this software manually – something he hadn't done in a very long time. Besides, this was a beta version, so he had to start with only a small group. The Designer picked one factory line and found one model he liked right off the assembly: M08E8. He then manually uploaded the beta version of the T0RAH into M08E8.

The Designer thought that all would be well. The T0RAH was successfully downloaded by M08E8 and transmitted from him to others produced in the same factory. But there was still a problem: the software did not install properly because the coding was too complicated and was foreign to the coding of the original HU-MAN blueprint. It could detect the virus in the robots, but not eliminate it. That was the part that continually needed reinstallation. And then, of course, there were the other factories who didn't even get to try this beta version of the software yet. A few models from other factories came in contact with someone who broadcasted the T0RAH, but the effect was the same.

The Designer was not satisfied. He was furious with the virus, and with his creations for ignoring the updates he directly broadcasted. He continued manually appearing to a few robots and sending them instructions, but the others would not listen for very long. Eventually the virus would again wipe most of their memories away. Yet one thing the Designer said was that he would make a new version of the T0RAH with less complicated coding and would interact better with the original HU-MAN systems.

In order to fulfill that promise, GOD came up with a plan. He would create one HU-MAN who would be able to open the T0RAH files, install them, and update them. Since no robot could do this, GOD would have to take on their nature and become a robot himself. He would be subject to recharging, parts malfunctions, and even oil leakage. How demeaning!

Nonetheless, he made some very, very complicated plans to transform into a HU-MAN. GOD went to the same factory where he found N0AH and M08E8, and there he picked one model whose number was 1E8U8. He was exactly like all the other HU-MAN models in every way, parts coming from the same assembly line as the rest of them. The key difference is that GOD merged his consciousness with the programming of the CPU.

If everything went according to plan (which so far, it hadn't!), GOD would intercept the virus signal and analyze it while manually updating the T0RAH software. So GOD (the Programmer) took on robotic nature and became 1E8U8. And yet, GOD still maintained his consciousness apart from 1E8U8 and lived as both the Designer and the Broadcaster.

1E8U8 managed to update the T0RAH and broadcast it, but many other robots refused to receive the signal. And so, as GOD had anticipated, they shut him down. But unlike all the other robots, 1E8U8 managed to... managed to... reboot.

1E8U8 then became the Prototype for a new HU-MAN series which has the T0RAH properly installed. He passed on the modified T0RAH to twelve robots who sought to preserve and pass down the T0RAH for the rest of us.

God is our Refuge and Strength

Posted by Gary

I've decided that I'm going to eventually make the move to Wordpress.

Two things led me not to do this before:
1. I liked the ads program that was supposed to generate a little money (google owes me $2.50 for that, btw)
2. I wanted to import all of my blogspot posts. I'm no longer sure if I want to do that.

When/if I make the big leap, I'll make sure to let you guys know.

In the meantime, let's talk about Psalm 46. Here's the NIV text.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.

5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

8 Come and see the works of the LORD,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields with fire.

10 "Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

General thoughts on the structure of the Psalm
This happens to be my favorite psalm. I roughly divide the structure into two parts:
1-7: Communal declaration of faith: God is present to protect us, even if the world is falling around our ears.
8-11: Call to worship.

Several ideas really jump off the page in this psalm. Fire, waters, mountains, and warfare. I almost have to ask why tornadoes aren't mentioned -- I guess that element wasn't really an issue for the Israelites. But regardless of that, all of these things are elemental calamities, things too great for any one person or even a small village to stop. In fact, even mighty kings don't always win wars, so we have to remember that these items: fire, water, earthquakes, and war; are scary primal forces of destruction that we are ultimately helpless against.

But God is not helpless against them. You think those things are "desolations?" That's nothing compared to what God can actively cause. He is the Lord. He has mastery over all of these primal forces, and can even turn them against one another, breaking spears and burning shields.

On a theological level, we can take this psalm at face value as showing us God's mastery over the elemental forces, his ability to protect us, and also his worthiness for worship. An attempt to reconstruct the situation that prompted this psalm will confirm that face-value interpretation.

The Story behind the Psalm: my Interpretation
When your city is under siege, the most important thing you could do is call on God for protection. And so, we have this communal declaration of faith. Even when surrounded by a pagan army that seeks only to rape, pillage, and slaughter, we affirm that God will protect us. Although the elemental imagery of fire, earthquakes, and water can be read at face-value to show God's mastery over the elements, if we read this at the literary level, these images basically represent all hell breaking loose. Verses 6 and 9 make it clear that the major issue is warfare.

Imagine for a moment that you are a priest in Jerusalem. You're under siege from, say, Babylon. Whenever two armies clash in the physical realm, it is thought that the gods themselves also clash in the metaphysical realm on behalf of their armies. That is, unless you have displeased your gods. Because then you're SOL.

So you, as a priest, you worship before the Lord, offer sacrifices, and you prostrate yourself and pray. You join in affirming this creed declaring God's protection, roughly similar to 46:1-7. "Our God is our fortress. He will save when the going gets tough and our lives are in danger. Even though no actual river passes through Jerusalem, there is always the 'river' of God's faithfulness to his promise to our forefather, Abraham (Gen 12:2-3). God is within his holy city -- he won't let it fall to the siege. Nations come and go -- they act in confused, godless, disarray. But God makes His decree, and the land itself melts. Our God is our fortress."

And then, you hear the charge of the Babylonian army. You can't help but look out across the area surrounding Jerusalem. A charging army is a spectacle in and of itself, but something truly extraordinary is happening. For just a second, the land starts shaking and the waters foam. The shields of the charging army are suddenly set ablaze. Spears snap just below the head. Bowstrings suddenly snap. As the halted army looks at their equipment in horror and seeks to unstrap their now-flaming shields, the heavens open, and a voice echoes forth: "STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING! ACKNOWLEDGE THAT I AM GOD, AND THERE IS NO OTHER."

From the Babylonian perspective
How surprising it must be for an army to be suddenly stopped due to natural disaster and a widespread case of equipment failure -- not to mention spontaneous combustion!

Clearly, your gods have failed you. The voice of the gods that comes out of heaven says he is God. There's no one like him. There's only one god. He calls you to "be still" [i.e. "halt" or "stop"] and acknowledge that very fact -- that he alone is God. Even though you came to rape and pillage and destroy his people, God is calling you to stop and worship. While your gods failed you -- or, apparently, don't exist -- this God who stopped your charge and broke your equipment now calls you to join his people in worshiping him.

The Israelite Perspective: After the Event
Now you take this creed about God's protection on his people (the paraphrase I made up above) and you work it into a complete psalm. You change the wording of the hymn so that it reflects elemental language (fire, earth, water). You add verses 8-10 to the creed in memory of God's saving power when he answered your cry. Then you end with verse 11, which repeats verse 7. You decide to repeat that verse as if to end the psalm by saying "that's who our God is," much in the way of a child showing off how amazing his daddy is. (Of course, the Holy Spirit inspires this reworking of a basic hymn into a scriptural psalm, but I won't try to explain it because I can't imagine it).

In Summary
This psalm is a communal declaration of faith in God's deliverance. It is also (as I imagine it) a testimony to God's saving power. This psalm is a declaration of God's mastery over the primal forces of earth, water, and fire. It is also an indictment against the aimless and vain ways of nations not in submission to God (compare 46:6 with Psalm 2) -- which is to say, every nation.

And also, this psalm is a call to worship. It is even an evangelistic call to worship. Those who came pillage are called to pray alongside those who they sought to destroy. I'm not sure if we really give this enough thought, but God is evangelistic in the OT as well as the NT. He's constantly reminding his own people that he alone is God (e.g. Exodus 20:2). Yet he also concerns himself with revealing himself to all the nations.

In the New Testament we have the principle of "First to the Jew, then to the Gentile." It was no different in the Old Testament. First, you have to get a small segment of people to get things right, and only then can you get the whole world to get things right. That's why God focused on the Hebrews in particular. But really, there was nobody who could "get things right" and be an example. Fortunately, we have Christ to be our example. He got things right.

From now on, I hope you'll never use the phrase "Be still and know that I am God" as a meek little devotional mantra. It is actually quite forceful and awe-inspiring. Not just is it a call for God's people to worship him because of his deliverance, but it's also a call for unbelievers to start worshiping the Lord.

An amazing opportunity

Posted by Gary

So, it's been forever since I've written a note, right? Not one since about when I picked up carving. Let me fill you guys in on what's been going on.

I've learned how to comfortably carve wooden spoons that are not just functional but beautiful to look at. I deeply enjoy being able to craft something with my own hands. At some point, I'll make videos and/or a note as a how-to guide. But that's not what I'm going to talk about now.

I've been out of a job for ten months now. With three years' college experience, no degree, and no car, it's been very difficult to find work. Just a few days ago, Home Depot called in response to my application from several weeks ago. I apparently did well on the surprise phone interview, but they said they'd call in a week or two if they were interested in hiring me. So, I passed the first obstacle on my attempt to become a cashier.

Yeah, that's pretty cool. But even more interesting was what happened today. You see, I've been wanting to get involved in mission work/ministry for a while but due to certain factors it's not been an option. However, I know of an excellent ministry in the Philippines called Give a Goat. Their goal is to break the cycle of poverty in the Philippines by giving people goats. The goats provide milk, and they breed to make more goats after a year or two. In return, the people give one or two of the kids from the first litter to repay for the goats they were given in the first place. Then Give a Goat gives these repaid baby goats to other people who could use goats. It's a great ministry, so check it out.

The founder of Give a Goat is Salvador Cariaga. I know his son, Peter, from OC. Now, I've been talking with Salvador through facebook for a while about helping out, particularly because Salvador is in Fort Worth often. I got to have lunch with him today and I told him about my work with spoons. His face brightened because he came up with a few ideas as to how that could be helpful in the Philippines. You see, not just do they give goats, but Give a Goat and related ministries also do micro-lending to help poor people get on their feet and become self-sufficient. I have been using carving as sort of a way of micro-lending to myself, haha.

One problem Sal has encountered, though, is that many of his fellow Filipinos cut down trees. This is a waste. (I don't remember his exact reason, but deforestation is a problem in and of itself!) But with spoon carving, you can make a great spoon just by finding the right branch. You don't have to use the trunk. And if trees, as renewable sources of branches, become too valuable to cut down, then the deforestation will stop.

And then they could make spoons or forks or something which could be sold in other countries for a pretty decent price. Well... maybe. We first have to determine if there would be a market interested in buying wooden spoons. Considering all the positive comments I've gotten for my work so far, I'd say there is. The second issue would be figuring out what kinds of wood in the Philippines could be used for carving. You can't use really hard wood like cherry wood all the time because it would take very long to make even one spoon. But you also shouldn't use scented woods like pine, cedar, or redwood. Scented woods add an odd flavor to food, so that's a no-go. SO, whether this can work depends on the availability of carvable wood. Honestly, I'd suspect that there are at least a few types of trees there that would work fine.

Those are the drawbacks. The bonuses, however, make this very appealing. For one thing, this is a very simple craft. I picked this up and started doing well in about a month. I only had online help and about five minutes of guidance from a carpenter in person. Also, there are no power tools involved. You only need a few hand tools ($100 for the high-quality stuff sold in American stores). And what's more, the base materials (a tree branch) cost practically nothing. There will be plenty of wood shavings from the branches, so there is still wood to use for mulch, and there will also be some sawdust to use in gardening.

Now, I find this opportunity to go to the Philippines very appealing. Not just is there the opportunity to help people, teach, and encourage, but I'd get to learn about another culture and learn another language. And there's more to it than that. I could teach English -- good English. It's very helpful on a student's resume to be able to say you know fluent English. And I could also help teach Bible. Plus, Sal has connections to a Bible college or two down there where my OC credits could transfer and the tuition is very little. And yes, they can give a legitimate B.A.

Although I can't immediately commit to this, I am very excited about this opportunity. If this works out, I will end up being very enriched in learning a new culture/language, very educated from finally getting my degree, and very tan from being out in the sun a lot. Sounds great. In the process, I'll be able to help teach carpentry, English, and the Bible, plus help make disciples and serve as Jesus did. The cost of this opportunity would be separation from friends and family and at least $500 a month. But the gain from this would be beyond measure in my life and the lives of others.

Everyone, I ask you to pray about this with me, OK? May God open doors and grant discernment so that I would be shaped into an effective servant.

Explanation of my Translation Philosophy

Posted by Gary

Here I put forth my philosophy for how and how not to translate Philippians. I intend this book to be for a general audience, and I would like to make an explanation that is thorough but not over most people's heads. But because of its technical character, I think it would be better to put it as an appendix in the back since I don't want the technicalness of this section to give the readers a first impression that the whole commentary will be too technical to follow. It's a bit long, but hopefully the illustrations make it worthwhile.

Some people are very strong towards dynamic equivalence while others are very strong towards essentially literal translations. If you're a die-hard member of either camp, you'll find plenty of reason to complain about this translation since I try to maximize the benefits of both and minimize the disadvantages of both.

Put bluntly, it would be a mistake to render the book of Philippians (or any book) word-for-word (W4W) from Greek to English. Doing so often leads to stilted or awkward English. This begs the question: was Paul writing in a way that was stilted or awkward? If he was not, then that is not how he should be translated.

All translation concerns fall under the umbrella of accuracy. "Is the translation accurate?" Sadly, that statement is rather vague. What constitutes accuracy? Perhaps you'd say that accuracy is whatever translates W4W. Unfortunately, languages are too complex to really work that way. This is because of how meaning works in languages. Meaning exists not just at the level of individual words, but in how words fit together in sentences. The primary unit of meaning is the sentence and not the individual word.

For instance, take the word "tear." This actually could be any of four different words:
1A) the noun "tear," referring to the wet stuff that comes out of your eyes
1B) the verb "to tear (up)," meaning to produce tears (in the sense of 1A)
2A) the noun "tear," as a synonym for rip
2B) the verb "to tear (up)," which means to produce a tear (in the sense of 2A)

If you see the word "tear" in a sentence rather than by itself, then you will automatically be able to tell if it's a verb or a noun by looking at the other parts of speech. If nothing else in the sentence is a verb, then it's likely that this "tear" is a verb and not a noun -- but which verb? You'd have to see what's going on in the previous sentences to figure that out.

So, picture for a moment a connect-the-dots puzzle for kids. Notice how the lines just form a very simple outline and the different dots only connect to the ones right next to them. That's what it's like to take words individually. Language is more complex than that. Instead, it is more like a spider web where all the strands interconnect and reinforce each other. That is how it works: each individual contributes to the overall pattern, and the overall pattern limits and defines where each individual strand should be placed and which other strands it needs to intersect with.

So, since meaning primarily exists at the level of the overall thought, maybe you'd recommend that I instead take a thought-for-thought (T4T) approach like the NIV does. That still doesn't do perfect justice, though, since some meaning can be found not just at the level of the thought itself, but also in the specific word choice used to express the thought.

I'm going to pick on the NLT for a moment. Let's look at 1 Kings 18. Here we have an epic fire-breathing match between The Lord and Baal. In one corner is Elijah, who alone represents the Lord against 450 priests of Baal. When their fervent prayers do not elicit any response from Baal, Elijah taunts them in verse 27: “You’ll have to shout louder, for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” Clearly Elijah is making Baal out to be much less than a god. He seeks to embarrass the priests of Baal.

I want zero in specifically on the words "relieving himself." This is a euphemism in English. But would someone really use a euphemism in this situation? Euphemisms are polite, but insulting someone is not polite. So, wouldn't it generally make sense that you wouldn't use a euphemism when you're insulting someone? If Elijah is being impolite, then we need to use an impolite expression in order for it to carry the flavor across. While the NLT is bland here, a more flavorful translation would be "taking a dump."

[The reason translations do not do this is because of the concern for acceptability. Some people would be offended to hear "take a dump" in the Bible. Their reasoning is that Bible is holy, and therefore it certainly can't have anything unholy in it. However, that doesn't make sense. There are unholy things in the Bible, such as lies (e.g. Genesis 3:4-5), murder (Genesis 4:8), greed (Genesis 13:10-11), insubordination/intimidation (Genesis 16:5-6), incest (Genesis 19:30-34), rape (Genesis 34:3), and adultery (Genesis 39:6-7) -- and all that is in just ONE book. The Bible is not just a book of flowers and butterflies, folks. It reflects real life, and crude language is a part of real life just as much as any of the other things I just mentioned. To try and deny that is to diminish accuracy and give a false impression of dishonest politeness.]

W4W translations seek to be objective in translating with what they think is only a minimal amount of their own interpretation. This fails because all translation is interpretation. They have already stacked the deck by translating in a manner that results in unnatural and awkward English. This gives the impression that the language of the Bible is inherently awkward. The translators don't intend to give that impression, but it is an inevitable side effect.

This reminds me of a friend who wanted to be objective by not swaying her children to any particular religion, so she just didn't introduce them to any religions so that they would be completely objective and untouched by her influence. The problem with this logic is that this stacks the deck by giving an overwhelming exposure to the absolute absence of all religions. In both her case and in the case of W4W translators, it is utterly impossible to be objective.

By not exposing her child to the list of options, her inaction teaches her child that taking action in making a religious choice is not a pressing issue. If it was important, why didn't she mention it? In the same way, W4W translators try to leave the interpretive options up to you, but if you don't even know what the list of options looks like, how can you make a choice?! How would you even know that there's any need to choose?

On the other hand, T4T does not even try to claim complete objectivity in their translations. Yet they stack the deck by consistently emphasizing clarity and readability of the basic thought of a passage. They make the basic point more readable by eliminating or rewording the details that are relevant, yet not central to the main meaning.

Yet the T4T approach does not go far enough in breaking from objectivity. Both of these styles rigidly pick one consistent priority over the other. In areas where minor details like word order are nothing but a distraction from the main point, the W4W approach falls short. In areas where the nuances actually rather crucial, the T4T falls short.

The best approach, I argue, is just to be openly subjective and not set hard and fast rules. Focus on getting across the facets of meaning that you, the translator, consider the most important in any given sentence. The hard-and-fast rules of either W4W or T4T are necessary for translations made by teams, since semi-objective rules help reduce the bias of everybody's (different) subjective opinions. If not for hard-and-fast rules, translation committees would never reach enough consensus to make any decisions and the translation would never get made.

I don't want to come down too hard on other translations. My translation approach is best applied when only one to three people collaborate on the translation. Since I am doing this independently, the only things keeping my personal bias in check are the valuable feedback I received for revising the first draft and my constant comparison to other translations. So, my translation and commentary will have less regulation to keep my personal bias in check, but at least I'm honest about it. Since I'm just one guy working with no hard and fast rules, people from both camps will likely have mixed feelings about this work.

I keep four loose rules:
1. Try to translate the same Greek word as the same English word. Really try not to have more than two renderings for each Greek word. (For φρονέω I had to have three: "think," "have mindset," and "show concern.")
2. Try to bring out style and flavor when this can be done without significantly detracting from the basic meaning. Making the basic meaning somewhat more difficult is fine. The translation will be explained by a commentary, so it doesn't
3. The Bible isn't always clear/poetic/polite, so I don't have to always be clear. The NIV translates at the 8th-grade reading level. Since I am writing a commentary right along with it, I feel free to use longer sentences and a higher vocab (if that captures Paul).
4. Italics and bold (used sparingly) indicate emphasis, as God intended.

Additions to my blog roll

Posted by Gary Labels:

I'm adding a few blogs I've followed to the roll.

Vine and Fig by Jim Swindle. This guy is an excellent poet (didn't you know it?!). Jim and I follow each other off and on. Definitely check out his work, and buy his book!

I've followed T.C. Robinson's New Leaven for a while now, and it's about time to give him credit by making an official place for him in the blog roll. Hurray.

Today I discovered Romanos Gorny (HT to Jim Swindle), a linguist of the Eastern Orthodox Church. His blogs include Cost of Discipleship and Η Καινή Διαθήκη. The first one is a blog of theological reflection whereas the second one has recordings of some of the NT in Greek. I've personally recorded Philippians and Philemon, but my microphone is terrible. Also my pronunciation. I can't help it, though. I was taught the traditional seminary pronunciation, which apparently is a far cry from the authentic way to speak Greek. My pronunciation may be wrong, but I am at least fluently wrong. And it's unlikely that I'll change. After memorizing Philippians, it would be confusing for my muscle memory if I started pronouncing it differently. Anyway, if you're a student of biblical Greek, I suggest at that second one.

Coming Soon: Philippians Translation with Commentary v0.6

All Things Are Better in Koiné

Posted by Gary Labels:

The World of Spooncraft

Posted by Gary Labels:

Yes, I've picked up the amazing hobby of making wooden spoons. Here's my first eight:

The first one turned out usable, luckily.

Number two? Not so much. But it still works for stirring or scooping. I don't know what I was going for with the handle there.
An adorable baby spoon was my third project.

I tried to make another one, but I cut through the bowl. "Perfection is when there's nothing to take away, but disaster is a hole in your bowl." Ain't THAT the truth?

A sugar spoon for a young lady in Oklahoma City. I am most certainly not putting my thumb in the way to conspicuously cover up her engraved initials.
 A sugar spoon for my mom. I most definitely am not putting my thumb in the way to conspicuously make the previous spoon look less conspicuous.
Now things start looking *really* good. This one's a stirring spoon for a young lady in Portland, whom I miss oh so much. Since I didn't mess up the engraving that I didn't make on the spoon two spoons ago, this spoon has no engraving.
An attempt to replicate the one for Miceala. This one's quite good, too.
In comparison, you can see that Miceala's is more round, but the second one has prettier stripes. I can't control the stripe factor. The reason these turned out so well is because stirring spoons require only a shallow bowl. Making an eating spoon with a smooth bowl is something I don't have the tools for. All of these are made from basswood and treated with four coats of mineral oil so that they're food safe. I'm out of wood, but I've ordered more. I guess I'll spend the next two weeks doing more reading/writing!

Prisoners: future terrorists or future Christians?

Posted by Gary

See The Washington Times on this issue. It's good to hear someone push for conversion to Christianity now and then.

Remodeling the Philippians Translation

Posted by Gary

I managed to move things to MS Word finally, so I don't have to do my editing here. I've improved things a bit, and I've at least gotten a rough draft through chapter 4. I'm nearly finished with the first revision up to chapter three, also. Currently, I'm going through to check for

1. Awkwardness in wording. I want things to sound as normal as possible.
2. Concordance. I want for the same Greek word to (usually) be translated as the same English word. Sometimes I have no choice but to use two different translations based on context. That's OK, though. That's what footnotes are for.
3. Checking for phrases accidentally omitted. I've found three so far. How embarrassing!
4. Checking my wording vs. several other translations. The TNIV and NRSV have been extremely helpful for wording choices. God's Word, a paraphrase of higher quality than The Message, is helpful sometimes, too.
5. Lyrical quality. I had all along intended this to be a major feature of my translation.

By God's wondrous providence and the supply of the spirit of Jesus Christ, I am gaining both progress and joy in this endeavor.

Other news:
1. I've put down my work on Genesis 1-11. It's been at a stand-still for 2 months now. Second draft is almost complete. I do intend to finish that sometime this or next year, though.
2. I've applied for a job at three local Walmarts. Prayers, please!
3. Putting memorization on hold for a while. I still intend to finish Joel and perhaps also Matthew 1-4 this year.
4. I've started learning carpentry! So far I've carved two spoons, and I'm very proud. I do this to spite the article which says that men's trade jobs are vulnerable. And also to prove that I can work with my hands. And, yes, to show that I don't hate carpentry! :)

I have a tendency to start projects, bite off more than I can chew, and never finish them. Bah. These are attainable goals. Even if I have to push deadlines back a bit, the truth is I am young. I have time. With God, nothing is impossible!

Philippians 3:12-4:1 What Lies Ahead

Posted by Gary Labels: ,

Not that I've already gotten a handle on everything or that I've fully matured. I seek that I may take hold, since Christ took hold of me. Brothers, I don't consider myself to have taken hold of but one thing: forgetting what lies behind and reaching for what lies ahead. Fixated on the goal, I run toward the prize of God's heavenly calling in Christ Jesus. For those of us who are "mature," let us think this. And if you think something to the contrary, God will reveal that to you. Nevertheless: let us live by what we've attained.

Imitate me, brothers, and observe those who conduct themselves in accordance with the example we've set for you. For many conduct themselves in a way that -- I've told you several times about them, and now I say this in tears -- makes them enemies of the cross of Christ. Their final destination is destruction, their god is the belly, their glory is in their shame; they think of early things. Yet our citizenship is in Heaven, from whence we await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform our meager bodies in conformity with his glorious body, in accordance with the power by which he is able even to subject everything to himself. So then, my beloved and longed-for brothers, stand firm in the Lord in this way.

___ Translation Notes
1. "Gotten a handle... take hold." These verbs, along with the idea of maturity, refer to mastery. Paul is saying that he hasn't mastered everything there is in Christ, but he knows that Christ is his master. The one thing he has gotten a handle on is that he needs to let go of the past and reach for what's soon to come.
2. "Mature." I think this fits teleios better than "perfect" here. People don't often delude themselves into thinking they're absolutely perfect, but we sure have a habit of thinking we have the hang of things when we don't.
3. "the belly." This is better English than "their belly" or "their stomach." It's actually more literal, too. Since the belly is a body part, and therefore an inalienable possession, a possessive pronoun is not always necessary. I think it looks better without it.
4. "meager." Elsewhere in the letter, similar words are translated as "humble." I may change this word to "humble" for the sake of concordance, but meager is more idiomatic and still conveys the idea of lowliness, so I may keep it this way.
5. The inclusion of 4:1. This transition could start the beginning of the next section, or be tagged on here at the end of chapter 3. I follow the UBS text here in putting it with chapter 3.

Verses 12-16 give us the example of how to view our own identity: the past is left behind. Our identity, the center of our thoughts, is concentrated on "what lies ahead." The simplicity and commonality of this precludes any attempt at self-glorification or foolish pride. Throughout this letter, pride has been subverted. Instead of boasting (in ourselves), we boast in Christ and what he has accomplished for us. If we all take this mindset, then we will have unity in purpose and identity.

Now that Paul set an example in 12-16, in verse 17 Paul calls us to imitate that example. Suddenly, Paul switches his thoughts to some unnamed others who have fallen from the Way and have become enemies of the Cross. Indeed, he mourns for those lost and paints a depression picture of their condition and their fate. He clings close to the Philippians, warning them against the same fate because of how much he longs for them (1:8, 4:1).

Right now, I'm only making the bare bones of commentary and translation notes. The main point, for now, is to practice my translation skills. And also, I want feedback. If you have any comments about the way I've translated things, or about anything else I've said, let me know. As much as I love to read what I type, I'm doing this so I can interact with others.

Philippians 3:1-11 Loss and Gain

Posted by Gary Labels: ,

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. It is no trouble for me to write this to you; it is a safeguard for you.

Behold the dogs! Behold the evil-doers! Behold the mutilation!

For we are the circumcision, we who serve God by the Spirit and boast in Christ Jesus and who do not put confidence in flesh -- although I have confidence also in flesh. If anyone else has grounds for confidence in flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of Israel's lineage, of Benjamin's tribe -- A Hebrew among Hebrews, I was! -- by law, a Pharisee; by zeal, a persecutor of the church; by righteousness in the Law I was blameless.

But all this which was to my gain, I deemed it loss. Moreover, rather, I deem everything to be loss because of that which is worth more: the knowledge of Jesus Christ, my Lord, because of whom I lost everything and deem everything to be offal, so that I may gain Christ, so that I may be found in him. Not with my own righteousness from the Law, but the one which comes from Jesus Christ, the righteousness which comes from God in faith. Oh, to know him and the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, to be conformed to his death, that I may somehow attain to the resurrection from the dead!

___Translation Notes
1. "mutilation." This word looks a lot like the word for circumcision, and there is a word play here. It wouldn't surprise me if Gentiles often referring to circumcision ("cutting around") as mutilation ("cutting off") as an antisemitic slur.
2. "in flesh." I'm experimenting with "in flesh" as opposed to "in the flesh" here. It seems Paul is using these nouns as as qualitative instead of definite, so it seems appropriate to translate this way.
3. "by law... by zeal... by righteousness." I tried to capture the triple-repetition of found in Greek, which uses the same preposition. It's a little strange-sounding, I admit.
4. "offal." To be blunt, the word means sh*t. It's not just "dung." It's crap. Offal is what the body gives off. It is your impurities. It's worse than "rubbish." "Rubbish" is a left over aluminum can that you can leave in the trash can indoors until it's time to take out the trash. Offal is something you get rid of immediately.

___ Commentary
It almost feels as if 3:1 is a closing. Indeed, the last section felt like a closing. That's normally where you expect to find an explanation of the courier. The switch from 3:1 to 3:2 is quite striking. Some people believe that Philippians is two letters spliced together. While I can sympathize with that theory, there is a method to this madness. This section is intensely passionate, much like 1:15-30. Most other parts of the letter feel either soft and warm, or else the default voice a preacher has. 3:1-11, however, is a sudden burst of energy that slowly levels off by the beginning of chapter 4.

Continuing our chronicle of thematic development, Pride makes a serious appearance here. Indeed, our very identity is that we boast in Christ Jesus and not in flesh. He is our great treasure and our hope. We seek conformity with his example, his sufferings, and his resurrection. Note also the fiscal language of gain and loss. Christ is our gain, and our loss is everything else.

"The End of Men"

Posted by Gary Labels: ,

In the The Atlantic there is another article concerning the disadvantageous status of boys in education today. And it's not just at the level of grade school education: for every 2 boys earning a B.A. this year, it is expected there will be three girls earning the same. There's more there, too.

If there's one marital status demographic that has significantly fallen behind, it is the single male (regardless of educational level). To put it another way:

Honestly, I have to agree that the erosion of marriage (and prevalence of eros) is due to women now setting the terms. Why should a single woman marry? It's a downgrade to personal power unless he's at least as educated. You don't need him for financial stability. You don't need him for legal representation. You don't need him for physical protection. No; men now only represent the luxury of sexual gratification. Since it comes down to sex, the religious choose to abstain (or try) and the secular choose non-committal relationships.

Whereas for single men without a degree, we have no financial stability. Marriage is profitable for us regardless of a woman's educational status (which will likely be higher, except in the case of males with PhDs). There has been an erosion in family values replaced with an emphasis on individual liberation. Yet, we humans are not made for individual self-sufficiency. We are made for a relationship of interdependence. And if women have power over men economically, but men have no equivalent power over women, then there is no true interdependence. And thus marriage and the nuclear family, as the backbone unit of which society is formed, is now eroding.

But if the gender social dynamic indeed no longer contains interdependence and women are given extreme benefits for being single while males are not, then it would make sense why certain young Christian women would aim for celibacy (and non-Christian ones just avoid marriage). Christian young women seem to feel hesitant about the commitment of marriage, which they interpret as (possibly) a call to celibacy, when it is in fact a matter of our American cherished virtue of personal freedom from interdependence.

I do lay this quite strongly (though perhaps not solely) at the feet of radical feminism's emphasis on individual freedom from constraints set by the social level of existence. Note that I am not giving a broad brush of condemnation to egalitarianism, since those two -isms are overlapping but not synonymous.

New Layout

Posted by Gary

Yeah! I'm using an amazing scroll template. Any thoughts? Ever since my original beautiful template became unavailable, I've been in limbo over this.

Boys, Girls, Education, and How Feminists Fight Yesterday's Battles

Posted by Gary Labels: ,

There seems to be evidence that our educational approach in the West is structured in a way that is more advantageous to girls than to boys. An excellent study may be found here through the Independent Women's Forum.

At present, females are more likely to graduate from both high school and college. Males, on average, seem to make more money. The reason for this is that trade-crafts (I can make up words whenever I want!) such as construction are still male-dominated. They require less education and more brawn. It is little surprise that the gender distribution there is pretty far from the mean.

While this may give men an economic advantage in a booming economy, it sure doesn't help when all those jobs are hurting because of a bad economy. While being a professor or teacher may not earn the same amount as certain male-dominated jobs requiring less education, the fact that information-based jobs require education gives women insulation against being laid off.

My father worked for many years as an engineer who drafted sprinkler system blueprints for buildings. He got laid off pretty darned often, and we had to move. This had very unpleasant effects on my family.

Hat tip to John Hobbins. John provides an article from the NY Times on the issue, also. It's anecdotal based on the experience of three schools for gifted and talented children. Still, it helps to see how things look on the ground.

John strongly puts the blame on feminism for this. I feel bad for him sometimes. Not unlike myself, he is radically moderate in a world where people are either far right or far left. Though he acknowledges that feminism has done some good (as do I, though I don't grant it as freely as he does), he is also quick to point out its failures. He does so because like in any other extreme group, there are some feminists who fail to engage in self-critique.

Wag of the finger to Suzanne McCarthy. Men and women are simply geared differently. Biologically, this is rather obvious. Due to difference in muscle density, men are more suited to certain trade-crafts on average. Yet, this should not exclude women from trying to learn the craft -- I highly doubt there is any job that no woman in the world is capable of. The thing that comes closest, however, is being an announcer for a T.V. show (such as "LIVE from New York, it's Saturday Night!"). You just expect a baritone voice there.

Alright, but in all seriousness. We need to admit that differences exist between men and women that create what could be called tendencies. Males (or so I hear) have a greater tendency to be mathematically-oriented whereas females (or so I hear) tend to be language-oriented. Of course, exceptions exist. I know a female with a math degree, and I'll bet she can do math better than I can. She is quite good with languages, also. And you know what? She's not alone for taking the math-and-science path, or so the NY Times says. In fact, it may be completely incorrect to say that there is a tendency for women to be good at this and men at that. Perhaps, rather than literature itself, it is simply the way literacy is taught that females are more adept at.

As for a specific response to Sue: she feels that women are still disadvantaged because men make more money. In this situation, I would have to say that wisdom is worth far more than gold. I would far rather be an educated educator than a rich carpenter. Oh, and not just because education is a safer profession, but because it changes the world by changing people. And for one's own personal benefit, education is superior to money. After all, feminism didn't develop by women earning significant amounts of money; feminism gained momentum through influential writing, which is itself a product of good education. In other words, no education = no feminism. Yet between having an educated job with less pay and a less educated job with more pay, who really has the disadvantage?

In conclusion: look at the IWF's report and see how far behind boys are in education. This is too serious to ignore.

Philippians 2:19-30: Exemplary Service

Posted by Gary Labels: ,

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may find relief in learning your circumstances. For I have no one like him: he truly cares about your well-being. The rest of them all seek their own concerns, not the concerns of Christ. But you know his credentials, how he served with me as a child with his father for the sake of the Gospel.

So then, I hope to send him as soon as I know my immediate circumstances.

I am confident in the Lord that I, too, shall come soon.

However, I considered it more necessary to send to you Epaphroditus. He is a brother, coworker, and comrade to me; to you he is a messenger and the servant who tends to my needs. I sent him because he was longing for all of you, greatly distressed, because you heard that he had fallen ill. Indeed he had fall fatally ill, but God had mercy on him -- and not only him but me also, lest I have grief upon grief.

So then, I sent him all the more swiftly, so that by seeing him again you may rejoice and I may be relieved. So then, welcome him in the Lord with all joy and treat those like him with high esteem. For it was for the work of Christ that he came near to the point of death, risking his very life, so that he could compensate for what was lacking in your service to me.

___ Translation Notes
1. "find relief." This word in Greek only appears here in the NT. Its meaning is simple enough: to take heart. It means to become encouraged (as opposed to despair). I think "relief" is serviceable, and it's just better English than "that I may be of good cheer."
2. "cares about." In Greek this is the "future tense." The TNIV and NKJV both interpret it as a straightforward future. I think this is not good. The Message and NIV both get it right by translating it as a timeless fact that is a simply a part of Timothy's unchanging character.
3. "your circumstances... your well-being." The same expression in Greek, but this sounds better than using either English phrase twice.
4. "The rest of them all..." Literally just "they all," but I felt it would be good to expand it a bit. It just begs the question "who are 'the rest of them?'" without answering it. The Greek text doesn't answer it, either, so I think that's fair. The other reason I translate this way is so I can get rid of the conjunction "for." Had I just said "they all," that would almost demand a conjunction, I think.
5. "credentials." This is referring to the thing that makes Timothy legit and credible. His credentials are not a piece of paper, but his apparently well-known track record of faithful service.
6. I get the feeling Paul paused after talking about Timothy. Then he learned something about his immediate circumstances, so he knew he could come, too. And then he paused again and changed his mind, sending E-Rod instead.
7. Verses 25-26 are one sentence in Greek, but I had to split them up. Verse 25 is a reintroduction of Epaphroditus, and I think my translation looks awkward here. The Message puts it well: "You sent him to help me, I'm sending him to help you." (I'm paraphrasing The Message there.)
8. "Compensate." To make up for what was lacking. To fulfill what is lacking is to compensate, so I basically took the ESV and made it look like slightly better English. I can't say the ending looks good, but I have no idea how to say it better. As a side note, it's possible to see Paul as condescending here. Well, it's not my job to defend him and say he's not. If you read the rest of the letter carefully, it's clear that if he's being condescending here, it's only in the same sense a teacher expects students to realize they are just students and still need to learn from good examples.

___ Commentary
Paul's hope is in the Lord Jesus. Paul's confidence is in the Lord Jesus. His trust is undoubtedly in Timothy and Epaphroditus, who do a wonderful job as role models of Christlike living. Timothy served with the obedience of a child with his father. Note the word "serve" there. It's the same as the word for servant/slave used of Paul and TImothy in the opening (1:1) and of Jesus in the hymn (2:7). Epaphroditus served even "to the point of death," which parallels Jesus in 2:8.
Through both his words and his specific word choice, Paul links both Timothy and Epaphroditus to Jesus as examples of godly attitude.

Once again, death makes an appearance. This time, death is not viewed as a gain but as a loss. The difference is that death means absence from the land of the living, and Paul and others would miss Epaphroditus if he died. For Paul, to live is Christ. For Epaphroditus, to live is to put one's life on the line (2:30). Sacrifice is the point of life. That's not to say that we should adopt a masochistic view of things, but we must have priorities higher than our own comfort.

The joy that comes from being saved from something you feared would happen is one of the greatest joys there is. Being able to see a friend face-to-face that you heard was dying -- seeing him in perfect health -- is a relief that words can't express. Joy in this book is not always a grimace with pain looking forward. God has not abandoned our present circumstances.

As for v. 30, it's interesting that he's gone this far in the letter and still hasn't outright mentioned the Philippians' monetary contribution. Apparently there was something he needed more than the money. What was lacking? Was it that the Philippians didn't have the right attitude for the Gospel to match their financial contribution? Let's read on and find out.

Philippians 2:12-18: Solidarity, Shame, Sacrifice

Posted by Gary Labels: ,

So then, friends, just as you've always obeyed (not only in my presence but now much more in my absence), work out your salvation with fear and dread. For it is Deity who works in you both the motivation and the ability to do what pleases him. Do everything without grumbling or disputation, so that you may be blameless and guileless -- faultless children amid this twisted and warped generation, among whom you shine like the stars in orbit. Hold on dearly to the Word of Life, so that in the Day of Christ I may boast that I did not run in vain nor labor in vain. But if I am poured out as the sacrifice for your faithful worship service, then I rejoice, I rejoice with all of you. At the same time, you rejoice, rejoice with me.

___ Translation Comments
1. This is the first time agapetoi appears here. This word has been variously rendered "beloved," "dear friends," etc. Honestly, I have no strong argument one way or the other, but I am inclined to think of it as "friend."
2. "Fear and dread." This is the same pair of words used in Genesis 9:2 for the "fear and dread" that falls upon all the beasts who are now in submission to humanity. I'm thinking he's purposefully using those words to refer to Genesis 9:2.
3. "the motivation and the ability." Literally, "Deity is working in you both the to will and the to work." Since the infinitives are being used as nouns (the article substantizes), it's best to translate them as nouns.
4. "Deity." I'm going on a limb here. Paul's point is not identifying specifically that it is the entity known as God who is doing the work. His point is that the worker is divine, and therefore powerful. To be technical, I'm saying that theos is a qualitative noun here rather than definite. It's also emphatic because it's out in front.
5. "Do everything without..." this is tricky to translate. I chose, like most translations, to translate this literally. The problem with this is, it's bad English. Good English would instead say "do nothing with..." However, "do nothing" implies a passivity that this passage won't allow. It just said that God's working in us the ability and motivation [to work], so we can't just "do nothing." If I were to paraphrase Paul here: "Do everything -- and let none of it be done with..."
6. "blameless and guileless -- faultless children..." Guileless is an unusual word, but all three of them in Greek fit the pattern of -less or un-. The goal of this literary translation is to preserve both meaning and poetry. Note also that "blameless and guileless" is one statement, and "faultless children amid this..." is a second thought that expands on the first one. It's difficult to show on paper when someone is doing that, but I hope the punctuation does it well enough.
7. "twisted and warped." These words are a good modern update for "crooked and perverse."
8. "stars in orbit." This phrase could also mean "lights in the world." The double-entendre is purposeful.
9. "Hold on dearly to the Word of Life." Hold the Word of Life intensely close. The difference between this word and simply holding something is like the difference between wearing your wedding ring and simply keeping it in the attic somewhere. The preacher in me is tempted to translate this as "Hold on to the Word for dear life," but that's a bit of a stretch.
10. "As the sacrifice for your faithful worship service." I'm going out on a limb here. Rendering it this way makes it clear that Paul is poured out (as a drink offering) without me inserting the words "as a drink offering" for clarification. Faithfulness unto death seems to be a theme here, so "faithful" fits, and "worship service" works decently for leitourgia.
11. "I rejoice, I rejoice with all of you. At the same time, you rejoice, rejoice with me." The emphasis is on "you" in the second statement. I'm thinking the verbs in the second half are both commands to rejoice and rejoice with him. I couldn't render this verse without it looking redundant in English, and that's because it's redundant in Greek. Redundancy is not useless; Paul has his reasons.

____ Commentary
The main word connecting this passage to the previous one is the word "obey." Christ's death (loss) brought gain. Now regardless of whether Paul is present or absent (i.e. lives or dies), the Philippians must work out their own salvation "with fear and dread." Due to its use in Genesis 9:2, I am inclined to think that "fear and dread" refers to submission to authority -- specifically God's authority, since he is the One working in them.

So, they must do everything they can -- and none of that with grumbling or disputation. These were the problems in the Exodus. Grumbling about lack of meat. Disputing Moses' authority. These two problems break unity, and unity (which includes submission to authority) is the very thing Paul has been trying to encourage throughout this chapter.

If the Philippians continue their work without grumbling, then they will be pure and innocent. This is practically synonymous with the words in 1:10. Just like stars in orbit are tiny oases of light scattered in a desert of darkness, so too are we amid this totally fallen and depraved generation. The reason the generation in the Exodus was "twisted and warped" is because they were disobedient and did not hold on dearly to the Word of Life. It is conforming to the example of Christ that will allow us to shine. It is God who works in us both the motivation and the ability to shine.

Pride makes an appearance now. Paul wants them to prosper, so that he may be proud rather than ashamed in the Day of Christ. This pride, this boast, is a type of vindication or salvation for Paul. Throughout this letter, his thoughts hum with the question: "Am I a faithful servant?" His "boast" in the Day of Christ is this: when he sees Jesus face to face again, he wants Jesus to answer that question with an emphatic "yes, Saul. You have." And then, he will break down crying in sweet relief. Paul is motivated by an intense desire to serve, and nothing less will satisfy his godly motivation. Paul in Philippians is slowly redeeming the concept of boasting. Whereas we generally boast out of strife and selfish ambition, Paul shows us how to boast out of godly motivation instead. Of course, the boast is completely future-oriented and nobody may boast now. Only in the Day of Christ.

In verses 17 and 18, Paul switches seamlessly into the language of sacrifice. Sacrifice ties together the themes of death and worship. As Paul thought of the Day of Christ in verse 16, his mind inevitably drifted back to the topic of his own death as a martyr. If he dies a martyr's death, then he does so for the benefit of the Philippians. He envisions execution by the Romans as if it were a Temple service in which he is the lamb offered for the Philippians. Not that he takes away their sins, mind you, but he brings them benefit by setting an example for them.

At the same time, he wants them to rejoice in having an example from Paul. Yes, he even wants them to "rejoice" in his death, because death to him is gain (1:21). No doubt it was with a heavy heart that he told them to rejoice. The joy in Philippians is a mix of emotions, suffering today but worshiping with joy because of the vindication on the Day of Christ. Philippians is not a book for when everything is going right. It is a book for persevering when everything is going wrong. Everything will be made right.

Will I soon be an official biblioblogger?

Posted by Gary

I hope so. Since I've applied to join the official Biblioblog list, I suppose I should reintroduce myself. My name's Gary. I'm a 24-year-old American white guy with an intense love for studying Scripture and for memorization. Theologically and politically, I am moderate bordering on conservative. I cannot stand the far left nor the far right in politics or theology. I find pacifism and the gender debate to be issues of interest. I'm a soft complementarian, and I will occasionally post exegesis/reflection from that standpoint. Honestly, I don't feel motivated to try and persuade others to this view -- especially females. A lesson I've learned is that you can't argue with suffering, and so I don't want to waste my time. That said, I'm more than willing to interact with female bibliobloggers, although if the gender debate is the nexus of their interest, I will not feel inclined to interact much.

I don't care much for systematic theology and I haven't read many influential theologians. I don't have a degree, although I did attend a pastoral school for three years. I focused very heavily on studying Greek. I can match most master's students who went to that university (in fact, I've tutored some).

While I may not have a degree (yet), I do have several skills that I've polished over the past five years: exegesis, translation, memorization, comfort with Koine Greek, a basic working knowledge of biblical Hebrew, and a mind that analyzes the heck out of things while still maintaining an openness to the relational/artistic side of life.

I have experience that goes beyond my years. I can recite several chapters of the Bible from memory in Greek, as well as a few in Hebrew. I will not give a full listing, but I do know Philippians, Psalm 23, and the Sermon on the Mount by heart. My goal for this year is to memorize LXX Joel and Matthew 1-4. Next year I will learn LXX Jonah and Matthew 8-14. The next two years will hopefully entail the complete memorization of Matthew's Gospel.

If I continue an academic education, which I hope to do, I may either focus on NT textual criticism or Greek linguistics. As my above goal would imply, I intend to specialize in Matthew. I wonder what my favorite professor, Curt Niccum, would recommend.

As an example of my translation practice, I'd point you to my recent post on Philippians 2. You see, now that I've memorized the book, I'm going through and trying to make a literary translation. I may not know Hellenistic Greek beyond the LXX and NT, but I do know a thing or two about writing with style. Although, I haven't been getting comments on my Philippians series since the opening post, so I hope my readership (whoever that is) has been interested in reading it.

Side note: apparently there was a malfunction with my previous template. For some reason it picked today. So, I had to switch. This may be temporary -- we'll see what comes along later.

Philippians 2:1-11: The Mind of Christ

Posted by Gary Labels: ,

So, if you find any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from God's love, any mercy or compassion, then fulfill my joy that you would have common purpose: a common love, unity in spirit, unity in thought.

Let nothing be done for self-empowerment, nor for self-exaltation. Rather, in humility consider others better than yourselves. Do not look to your own interests, but to those of others.

Take this mindset to heart -- the mindset of Christ Jesus, who,

"Though He was divine in form,
He did not consider equality with God
A thing to be exploited.
Rather, He emptied himself;
A servant's form He assumed.
Taking human likeness,
He was perceived to have
A man's appearance.
He humbled Himself,
Became obedient
To the point of death
-- death on a cross.

Wherefore God highly exalted Him
And conferred upon Him the Name
which is above every name,
That at the name of Jesus
Every knee would bow
In heaven,
On earth,
And below the earth,
And every tongue confess
That Jesus Christ is Lord,
To the glory of God the Father."

____Translation Notes
1. "if you find..." It's difficult for me to choose whether to say "if there is," "if you have," or "if you find" any encouragement in Christ. The meaning is pretty much the same, but "if you find" (i.e. if you experience) is more personally grabbing. I believe that is how Paul would say it in English.
2. "Encouragement in Christ." Is this encouragement from Jesus supernaturally, or from other Christians because of Christ? Both the Greek and the English are open to either possibility.
3. "Any comfort from God's love." This is interpretive. "Comfort of love" could also mean "loving comfort" [from God or from other Christians], or it could mean compassion for another person (due to either God's love or being loved by the community or due to one's love for the community). This phrase is open to many understandings, and I don't think there's any avoiding the need to make an interpretive choice when translating it.
4. In verse 2, I made a parallel that made it more lyrical than it is in Greek. I would not dare say I "improved" Paul. I think the "common...common...unity...unity" works well. Note that Paul first puts forth the idea of "common purpose," and then the other three parts of this are expansions on that idea.
5. I likewise stylized the "self-empowerment" and "self-exaltation" in verse 3. The self-empowerment idea is more literally "strife," but the two are often one and the same thing, are they not? I think poetic license allows for this, although this could be misunderstood to mean that you should never try to better yourself. However, I would not be responsible for that misunderstanding. I think the context makes it clear it's talking about rivalry (especially paired with self-exaltation).
6. Note that italics indicates minor emphasis and bold is major emphasis.
7. For verse 5: "Let this mindset be in you, which is also in Christ Jesus" just is strange English. As far as I know, it may also be strange Greek. If it is strange Greek, then a translation that focuses on accuracy only would do well to translate it that way. However, this is a literary translation, and so I'm giving myself enough poetic liberty with regards to making the text flow better than it does in other translations.
8. Verses 6-11 constitute a hymn, though it's hard to say if it's composed by Paul or someone else. One thing that will jump out at you is that I start it with "though He was divine in form" rather than "was in very nature God (NIV)." I don't know if the Greek word should be translated as form or nature, but form sounds more natural. I may change my mind there. The Greek does allow for "divine form" rather than "God's form." I would argue this is what it means. HOWEVER, don't think I am anti-trinitarian. The rest of the sentence makes it clear he had God's power, so he is God.
9. Note also that I capitalize pronouns related to Jesus because it's a hymn and that's something we do in our hymns. I also used two archaic words, because our hymns are always old-sounding in English. "Wherefore" means "consequently" or "as a result," and "to confer" means to grant, such as a king bestowing a gift upon someone (I tried "bestow" already but it didn't feel right).
10. "A thing to be exploited." This could also be interpreted as "robbery" (KJV, NKJV) or "a thing to be grasped" (NIV, Message, etc.). By "grasp," it would mean "a thing to be physically touched." I do not think "grasp" works here, especially since I always understood "grasp" to mean "understand" here, but the Greek does not allow that. I do not think "robbery" fits the context, and "grasp" is misunderstood, even if it might be technically correct. My reading follows wording of the NRSV and the sense of the TNIV.

This passage starts off with an appeal for humility and cooperation based on the workings of the Holy Spirit among the Philippians. The ultimate example of this humility is Christ himself. It is Christ's self-surrender that led to his exaltation, and it is this trait that Paul wants the Philippians to emulate.

Note how the word "joy" functions in this section. He's using it to refer to his hope that the Philippians would be united. If they fulfill this hope, he will have joy. Why did he use the word "joy" instead? Joy is a theme of this book and it is given a very particular definition. I'm not going to explain further just yet -- you'll have to tune in next time!

The theme of death makes yet another appearance. Paul connected his own (potential) death with immeasurable gain back in chapter one, and now he connects Christ's sacrificial death with his immeasurable gain, also. Note also the phrase "to the point of death." It will appear again.

The meta-theme of unity/conformity/obedience makes an appearance here. Remember that it first manifested at the end of chapter one, in that we are only to measure our patriotism by how patriotic we are for the Gospel (rather than for racial/national patriotism). Now we are to conform to Christ's obedience to God. This is our example. Note also the term "servant." Paul referred to himself and Timothy as "servants" in the opening rather than calling himself an apostle as usual.

Although no words along the line of "gain" or "abundance" appear in the text of this passage, it is clear that by refusing self-empowerment and self-exaltation, Christ made gain by his obedience and death. So the theme is represented nonetheless.

Allow me to Reintroduce the Christ

Posted by Gary

I'm stealing this from Apolojedi on Theologica. The best rap I've ever heard. Seriously. I nearly cried.

Philippians 1:21-30: Fruitful Labor

Posted by Gary Labels: ,

Because, to me, life is Christ, and death is gain. If I am to continue physically living, this is fruitful labor to me. I do not know which I will choose, for I am torn between the two. On the one hand, I desire to depart and be with Christ (because that would be so much better!)...

But it is more necessary for me to remain here physically because of you. Since I am confident of this, I know that I will refrain and remain with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your boast in Christ may abound because of me, because of my presence again with you.

Measure your citizenship solely by living worthily of the Gospel of Christ. Do this regardless of whether I come and see you or just hear about you in my absence, so that you would stand in one spirit. Strive together with one mind in the faith of the Gospel (and don't be shaken by anything set forth by our opponents), which to them signifies destruction, but it actually is your salvation -- this is from God.

For you have been given this task on behalf of Christ: not only to believe in him, but also to suffer on his account, to have the same struggle which you saw in me before and hear of from me now.

_____Translation notes
- "Life is Christ, and death is gain." We tend to be slavish about parts of speech. Just because they're infinitives ("to live" and "to die") in Greek doesn't mean that makes good English. Greek loves infinitives and participles. English doesn't.

- "But it is more necessary." I am not sure if it's good to do a paragraph break here. I feel that Paul paused his thoughts between 23 and 24. He found the inner resolve to make up his mind (mostly) that he is going to choose to continue living. It seems that he did not completely write off the possibility of martyrdom, as evidenced later in the epistle, but his immediate choice is to continue. I want to try and bring out the implication that he paused, hence the ellipsis at the end of verse 23.

- "Refrain and remain." It's literally "remain and stay with," but it has alliteration. I tried to get across the basic point "I will choose to continue physically living [and thus refrain from the opposite choice] so that I can remain with you all" and I tried to make the poetry come through. I think this was a moderate success. Unfortunate that I couldn't work in the alliteration of "through my presence again with you" in Greek (διὰ τῆς ἐμῆς παρουσίας πάλιν πρὸς ὑμᾶς), which repeats eta, alpha, and especially sigma.

- "Measure your citizenship solely..." I have never in my life come across a Greek sentence starting with the word "only," except here. I don't have a wide range of texts under my belt (1/2 the NT and a tiny amount of the Septuagint, plus the Didache), but this seems to be rare. In English, it's almost unheard of. It seems to be emphatic enough to deserve italics. As for "measure your citizenship," the verb is related to the idea of loyalty, conduct, and citizenship. It is a rare verb with only one other occurence in the NT. Since I do not have an in-depth lexicon, I may be reading my Pacifist beliefs into this by emphasizing the citizenship thing. The meaning I give makes sense, but someone with a better lexicon might be able to shed light on this.

- "which you saw in me before and hear of from me now." Literally "which you saw in me and now hear in (=hear of through) me." The "in" with regard to "hear" doesn't work in English, so the double-use of "in" won't work. Since that poetic element is lost, I tried to restore balance by adding a "before" to correspond to the "now."

____Commentary: tracing themes
Life is connected with service in this passage, while death is profitable. To live is Christ. This means to live a life of service and the suffering that comes as part and parcel to that life of service. To die, however, is gain. Death rather than life would be the thing profitable for oneself. (Paul later develops "death" in another direction. Stay tuned.) And then, Paul immediately turns around and calls life fruitful (i.e. profitable/gainful) labor. Labor is hard work. It entails suffering, yet also has gain. This is why he is torn between the two. Both life and death can be persuasively argued to be profitable. Which kind of profit will he choose? He makes a choice by talking things out.

We see another example of confidence in this passage. Now Paul is confident about the proper task: that he is to remain here with the Philippians to serve them.

Boasting also appears again here. Paul wants them to have pride in Christ Jesus and attribute praise to Christ as thanksgiving for allowing Paul to return to them.

Citizenship makes its first appearance here. Since we are all fellow-citizens, we are to measure ourselves by one standard only. That standard is the one thing we all have in common: the Gospel. As to what other standards one might hold oneself to, that will be revealed later on.

Also, unity as a theme makes its first appearance here. Paul admonishes them to stand like soldiers drawn for battle. He wants for them to "advance" in faith, like front line soldiers whose morale suddenly spikes when the field commander visits and remains with them. With his continued presence, he hopes, they will be reminded of the common purpose that holds them together.

Note that "joy" is connected here with progress/advance and unity. Joy as a theme has appeared before but Paul has not elaborated on that theme yet. We're still in the dark as to what he's talking about, but the pieces are ever-so-slowly coming together to show us that it has to do with unity.

I'd appreciate comments on this. What of this translation feels awkward? Does it speak to you? Is it clear or unclear? What are your thoughts on the themes I'm trying to trace out? I hope this study is helpful to someone.

Deep Thoughts... by Gary Simmons

Posted by Gary Labels:

I never understood the phrase "the short end of the stick." I mean, it still hurts if you get hit by the other end of the stick, too. This is a phrase that I sometimes get but never understand.