Tag Archives: Biblical Study & Translation

It Had to Happen: Heiser-isms About the Bible

A few days ago while I was traveling this popped up on my Twitter account:

10 Quotes That Challenge the Way You Study the Bible

It’s a post by Jake Mailhout of Lexham Press about my new book, The Bible Unfiltered: Approaching Scripture on Its Own Terms. While blogging about the post is a bit awkward for me, I hope it encourages you to buy a copy — or several — for yourself, friends, and family. Truth be told, the content of the book was written on company time, so I get no royalties. But I don’t do what I do to go to Tahiti. I want it to sell — a lot — because people who care about Scripture need such books. We can’t complain about lay people (and even pastors) not having a good grasp of biblical content if (a) scholars don’t write for them, and (b) people don’t buy the books and read them. This is a book with solid “Heiserian” content written for people who want more Bible but who are frightened by Christian Middle Earth. The same goes for its earlier companion, I Dare You Not to Bore Me with The Bible.

Both books, along with Supernatural would make excellent Christmas gifts — and help people graduate to The Unseen Realm.

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Win a Signed Copy of Mike’s New Book: The Bible Unfiltered

I received author copies of my newest book a few days ago. I have 6 to give away.

Here’s how to win a signed copy!

1.       Post a review of Unseen Realm on Amazon. If you’ve already posted one, you could edit it so as to qualify for the next step.

2.       Email a screenshot of the review with your physical mailing address to: calvinheiser@gmail.com.

The giveaway ends midnightOct 3 (Pacific time). Submissions received after midnight will not be considered.

On Friday, October 6, 7 pm Pacific, we’ll have a live drawing of the 6 winners on my Facebook / YouTube livestream. You have to follow me on Twitter (@msheiser) or on Facebook, or my personal YouTube Channel to get alerts for the livestream.

You do not have to be watching to win.

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Mike’s New Book, The Bible Unfiltered, Available for Pre-Order on Amazon

I just saw the link on Amazon appear for my next book. It’s entitled, The Bible Unfiltered: Approaching Scripture on Its Own Terms. It’s the second collection of my articles published in Bible Study Magazine, which means it’s a follow-up to the first collection, published as I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible.

You can now order The Bible Unfiltered on Amazon, but the book won’t ship until October 4.

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Not Good News: The New NAR “Passion Translation” of the Bible

This just popped into my In box. I apologize for being so behind the curve on this but, as I noted on my “About” page, I don’t follow the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) nor do I think its distinctive teachings are scriptural. But lots of movements have those sorts of problems . . . but not all movements produce their own translation of the Bible to prop up their teachings. The NAR has moved down that road.

As Holly Pivec writes:

Simmons has taken verses of Scripture that have nothing to do with NAR teachings or practices and reworded them so they appear to support those very teachings and practices , such as  “prophetic singing,” the “transference of an anointing,”  and the issuing of “apostolic decrees.” In other words, despite his claim to unveil the truth of the Bible “unfiltered by religious jargon,” he’s actually exploiting his audience’s ignorance of sound textual criticism to smuggle in a heterodox theology along with a good measure of NAR jargon. . . . But, for now, I want to point out that this translation is potentially one of the most disturbing developments in the NAR movement. Simmons is following in the footsteps of the major cults of Christianity who have released their own translations of the Bible, including the New World Translation used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Joseph Smith Translation used by some groups of Mormons.

Readers can read through her series on this translation here.

The entire NAR New Testament is supposed to be complete this year. Maybe it already is. The project passes itself off as a careful translation from the original languages, but when I read (on its FAQ) that they’re following “Aramaic manuscripts” of the New Testament in places, the radar in my head goes off. The idea is to bias readers to think they’ve discovered something new or not used to this point in producing an English translation. There are NO (as in zero) Aramaic manuscripts of the New Testament that predate the Greek material. Nor would it make sense to have the New Testament written in Aramaic in the first place, save for perhaps one of the gospels. Why? Half of it was written to Gentiles for starters, not Jews whose native language was Aramaic. But I digress — there are no Aramaic manuscripts of the New Testament that compete for primacy. The page must therefore be referring to Aramaic TRANSLATIONS of the New Testament (Syriac, for example, an Aramaic dialect), all of which are much later than the Greek New Testament material.

In addition, here’s the answer to the question of who is doing the translation and what credentials does the translator have:

Dr. Simmons is a former missionary, linguist, minister, and Bible teacher. As a missionary, he and his wife, Candice, pioneered church plants in Central America. As a linguist, Brian co-translated the Paya-Kuna New Testament for the Paya-Kuna people of Panama. He and his wife have birthed numerous ministries, including a dynamic church, Gateway Christian Fellowship, in West Haven, Connecticut. He is also a gifted teacher of the Bible who has authored several books and serves churches worldwide through his teaching ministry.

Brian began his biblical studies with The New Tribes Bible Institute and continued on to earn his doctorate with Wagner Leadership Institute, with a specialization on prayer. His doctoral thesis is now published, Prayer Partners with Jesus, available on Amazon.com.

Pardon me, but a dissertation on prayer has nothing to do with being able to work well in Hebrew and Greek. Neither does being a linguist or missionary. Using the word “linguist” will mesmerize many who inquire. Don’t be fooled. Many missionaries who do this sort of work translate the Bible from English into the new language. My guess is that’s what’s going on here for the most part, with periodic forays into a Hebrew or Greek lexicon (keyed to Strong’s numbers). What you want for translation work is a team, first of all. Pivec’s quotation above about single-translator translations being a hallmark of weird, peripheral movements is on target. Team (committee) translations are the way serious projects are done — and everyone at every stage has extensive knowledge of Hebrew and Greek so they can intelligently review the work of team members.

There are other red flags for me on the FAQ page, but you can read through it if you’re interested.

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Article on Rethinking Biblical Language Instruction by Naked Bible Podcast Guests Just Published

Last November I interviewed Dr. Carl Sanders and Dr. Thomas Hudgins about their controversial paper delivered at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. The paper argues that major shifts in thinking about how biblical languages are taught and what the goals of that instruction should be are long overdue. I was of course in agreement (I’m quoted in the conference paper).

The paper has now been published in an academic journal:

Carl Sanders, “Biblical language instruction by the book: Rethinking the status quaestionis,” Teaching Theology and Religion 20:3 (2017): 216-229

As with most journal articles, it is not publicly accessible online unless you subscribe to the journal, or have access to journal databases via an academic institution. Here’s the abstract:

Grammar-translation pedagogy is the standard for biblical language instruction. Second language acquisition scholars have argued that grammar-translation is ineffective and not empirically justified. Moreover, evidence suggests most seminary graduates do not use biblical languages effectively in ministry. Task-based instruction is an important alternative pedagogy which focuses on the tasks students will be using the language for and designs the curriculum around those tasks. A task-based approach de-emphasizes translation and memorization of forms. Instead, the emphasis from the beginning is on biblical interpretation and exposition. Available software based resources offer new possibilities for task-based teaching, as students can identify forms and vocabulary and have access to a library of resources. A task-based pedagogy using these tools enables students to quickly develop skills in biblical interpretation that are normally reserved for the third or fourth semester of study. Task-based pedagogy offers great promise for effective and efficient biblical language pedagogy.

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60 Second Scholar Books to be Re-published by Zondervan

Many of you have asked about the status of my self-published three-book 60-Second Scholar series. The books are no longer available for purchase on Amazon, and some folks have posted ridiculous prices for used copies. I had to “retire” the series on Amazon because I was in negotiation with several mainstream Christian publishers who expressed interest in picking them up for their own re-publication.

I can now announce that Zondervan has picked up the books for re-publication. The name should be familiar. Zondervan is owned by Harper Collins, and has been a major publishing house in the Christian world for decades. The 100 entries in each original 60-Second book will be trimmed to 80 entries and re-formatted a bit. Zondervan will release the series in May 2018.

This also means that the Logos versions of the series that went up on pre-pub just before negotiations began have been halted. Logos editions of the new series will be produced after the May 2018 launch.

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Naked Bible Podcast Episode: Translating Genesis 1-11

In this episode Dr. Heiser talks to the men behind a new translation project, John Hobbins and Samuel Bray. The first volume of their effort is entitled Genesis 1-11: A New Old Translation for Readers, Scholars, and Translators. Our discussion focuses on the translation enterprise – what translators need to think about as they do their work. The strength of this new project is its thorough documentation by the translators of what and how they were thinking during the process of producing their translation. Over 130 pages of notes about the Hebrew text and its translation issues accompany the translation.

The work comes highly recommended, and Naked Bible Podcast listeners can purchase the resource at a discount.

Pre-order HERE and use the code: GETNAKED to receive a discount.

The episode is now live.

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Faithlife Study Bible Published in Hard Copy with NIV

Many of you know about the digital version of the Faithlife Study Bible. I contributed a good bit of content to it. A trimmed (for space, naturally) version of that study Bible is now available from Zondervan, editorially tailored to the NIV, the translation used in that publication.

I’m thrilled to have played a part in the creation of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible. I’m happy to help Zondervan alert this audience to its existence. My reasons are, to be honest, personal. A study Bible was one of the two items I bought early in my own journey as a new Christian (the other was a Strong’s Concordance). Both were crucial in helping me understand God’s Word as I grew as a believer.

Nearly forty years have passed since I came to the Lord. Providence led me to become a biblical scholar and gave me the blessing of being a biblical studies professor in the classroom and online. I’ve learned that there’s a lot about the Bible that people should know. My own journey in Bible knowledge has convinced me there’s one fundamental insight that, if faithfully observed, will help tremendously. It’s the best piece of advice I can give you—and an orienting point for many of the notes in the NIV Faithlife Study Bible:

Let the Bible be what it is.

That bit of advice may sound odd. But let’s unpack it a bit.

When I recommend letting the Bible be what it is, I’m suggesting that the path to real biblical understanding requires that we don’t make the Bible conform to denominational preferences. Our task as Bible students is not to filter the Bible through our traditions. That’s doing Bible study in an echo chamber and engaging Scripture from a deeply flawed assumption about its context. None of the biblical writers were members of our denominations!

Our task as Bible students is not to turn the Bible into something it isn’t. Just let it be what it is. Let me illustrate with an example (one familiar to many readers here).

Genesis 10 is known to Bible scholars as the “Table of Nations.” The chapter is a biblical explanation of what happened in the centuries after Noah and his family disembarked the ark, having survived the flood. The Table of Nations describes how the descendants of Noah’s three sons—Shem, Ham, and Japheth—repopulated the earth, forming the nations known in the rest of the Old Testament story. In terms of the unfolding narrative of Genesis, the chapter is a precursor to the Tower of Babel story (Gen. 11:1-9), where the nations were divided and dispersed by God.

There’s an obvious problem with the Table of Nations—or, for those who simply let the Bible be what it is, an obvious disconnect between the world of the biblical writers and the world we know in modern times. The Table of Nations shows no knowledge whatsoever of the geography belonging to North America, South American, Australia, China, India, and Scandinavia. The same is true of the knowledge of earth’s geography in the New Testament (cp. Acts 2). The known world in biblical times was a fraction of what it actually is.

This is no surprise if we let the Bible be what it is, and let the biblical writers be who they were. The biblical “world” is composed of seventy nations that are situated in what we now call the ancient Near East (or modern Middle East) and which are found on the land masses that surround the Mediterranean Sea. There is no hint in the Scriptures of any land mass beyond this region.

Attempts to make the Bible be something that it isn’t with respect to the true size of the world produced very unfortunate results that ought to be a lesson to us. Once Europeans achieved the ability to cross the Atlantic and circumnavigate the world, people immediately questioned where these other countries and the people who populated them came from. Most Europeans, well familiar with the Bible, presumed these peoples must have come from Adam—but how did the descendants of Noah produce these peoples?

All sorts of strange proposals were offered in answer to these questions from the 16th century onward. Those efforts in turn produced theories of race, including that non-European (non-White) races came from sub-humans or humans separate from, and inferior to, Adam. The rest is, sadly, history. Europeans believed that embracing these explanations, which are inherently flawed and racist, was necessary to preserving biblical authority. Despite their absence in the Table of Nations, the Bible had to speak to the discovery of these new lands and peoples. Such interpretive gymnastics institutionalized racial ideas that the Bible never actually endorses.

The lesson here is that it really does matter whether we are serious about interpreting the Bible in context or not. We can get into serious interpretive trouble if we don’t. If we want to pay more than lip service to the idea of interpretation in context, we must let the Bible be what it is. As one of the academic editors of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible, I can say that our editorial team kept this fundamental principle of context in mind throughout our work. My hope is that Lord will use this tool—and this orienting point of interpretation—to make your Bible study all it can be.

Have a look at the NIV Faithlife Study Bible for yourself!


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