Tag Archives: New Testament

Of Yehovah and Jehovah’s Witnesses

A week or so ago I saw something on Twitter that made me shake my head. An apparently well meaning Hebrew enthusiast gleefully reported that, after searching through hundreds of manuscripts, he’d found thousands of places where the divine name (YHWH) was vocalized by scribes as “Yehovah” but (and here’s what tickled him) none vocalized as “Yahweh”.

I’m not really sure why this would be so exciting,  but I’ll hazard a guess — there’s probably some dislike for “Yahweh” as the pronunciation of the divine name and an urge to be “truly Hebraic” by proving he knows better — that the name is really Yehovah.

This is silly. It shows a misunderstanding of why the scribes did what they did and why we can tell. I decided to make a short video explaining that.

The discussion of Yehovah also made me think of Jehovah’s witnesses. I’ll be interviewed this weekend for the Deeper Waters podcast. We’ll be talking about how my work in Unseen Realm matters for talking to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. I thought I’d show you all something here that I will likely reference on that show.

Jehovah’s witnesses are fond of saying that John 1:1 doesn’t said “the Word [Jesus] was God” but “the Word was a god.” They base that on the absence of the definite article before the Greek word theos (“God”; “god”). Now, there are lengthy scholarly refutations of their approach, but here’s something simple. You could show this to the next JW who knocks on your door.

Question 1: are there any other instances in, say, just John 1, where theos lacks the definite article?
Question 2: If there are, does it make any sense to translated those occurrences “a god” instead of “God”?

Short answers: yes … and no way. Here’s a graphic to illustrate the point:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are all the instance of theos (in any form) in John 1. Most of them have the definite article (green rectangle). That means the rest lack the article. Now how would those verses (aside from John 1:1, which the JW wants to read “a god”) sound if we read “a god” instead of “God”? Here you go — have fun with your JW visitor!

John 1:6 –

There was a man sent from a god, whose name was John.

(So the God of the Bible didn’t send John — but some old, other god did!).

John 1:12-13 –

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of a god, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of a god.

Hmm.. . . I wonder which God was the father of people who believed in Jesus. Maybe they got to pick their favorite!

John 1:18 –

No one has ever seen a god; the only god, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

So, no one ever saw a god … not even Moses (Exod 33-34)? Abraham (Jehovah comes to Abram as a man – Gen 18)? But the particular god at the Father’s side (if that isn’t Jesus, which god is at Jehovah’s side?) has made him known. How? How did that other god make Jehovah known?

Naturally, JWs have their own Greek NT. They may have thought of this before — but how many JWs bring a Greek NT with them? At any rate, I usually go right to Exod 23:20-23 and other passages where the angel of YHWH is identified with YHWH and then go to Gen 48:15-16. They don’t see that coming. But it’s in their preferred Bible, the OT.

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Naked Bible Podcast Episode 195: Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?

There is much discussion online at this time of year as to the presumed pagan origins of Christmas. December 25, we are told, was a date stolen from pagan worship, specifically from the festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Sun” (Sol Invictus)? Should Christians have Christmas trees? Aren’t trees pagan objects of worship? How should Christians think about, and respond to, such questions? Do these questions have any relationship to the content of Scripture? Listen to find out.

Links and sources:

William Tighe, “Calculating Christmas: The Story Behind Dec 25” Touchstone Magazine (December, 2003)

Thomas J. Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year (The Liturgical Press, 1991)

Aaron Gleason, “How Christmas Baptizes Norse Mythology into Powerful Christian Archetypes,” The Federalist (December 15, 2017)

Origin of the names of the Days

Jewish month names from Babylon

 

 

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Matthew, The Didache, and Q

I decided to post something on this topic because someone recently sent me a post promoting (?) a particular view of “Q” and Matthean authorship that appeared at divinecouncil.org. That is not my website.

Briefly, the website was promoting the work of New Testament scholar Alan Garrow. Back in 2004 Garrow published a study (his Oxford dissertation) that argued that the writer of the Gospel of Matthew was dependent on Q for his gospel. For those who don’t know, Q is the abbreviation (from German quelle, “source”) for the presumed source of the gospels Matthew and Luke. The argument is made in part because Matthew and Luke share a lot of material that does not appear in the third synoptic gospel (Mark). John isn’t one of the synoptics because 90% of John is unique to John. Scholars explain this sharing by arguing that Matthew and Luke must have both used the same source — a source now missing. Hence the hypothetical source is called Q. The Didache is an ancient Christian document dated by many scholars to the first century. It is essentially a catechism and manual of ethics. Garrow’s work argues that the Didache is Q — the lost source of Matthew and Luke.

I’m not a New Testament specialist, so by definition I’m not an expert on the synoptic problem. Readers should know that Garrow’s work is regarded as important, but its reviewers remain unconvinced. The book is highly technical, but here are some journal reviews of it for those interested. The ones by Kelhoffer and Kloppenborg are (to my eye) the most helpful.

Kelhoffer review of Garrow

Kloppenborg review of Garrow

Jones review of Garrow

France review of Garrow

Draper review of Garrow

Lastly, not all scholars believe there was a Q. Mark Goodacre at Duke is perhaps the leading mainstream New Testament scholar skeptical of Q. You can read his thoughts on his website devoted to the topic: The Case Against Q.

 

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Audio from the ETS Session on New Testament Textual Criticism

The Evangelical Textual Criticism blog has a link to the audio files of the presentations in the ETS session devoted to NT Textual criticism. As the ETC blog notes:

The session was titled “Growing Up in the Ehrman Era: Retrospect and Prospect on Our Text-Critical Apologetic.” The first part of the session was given to several presentations drawn from chapters that will be in a book we are editing; the second part was a panel discussion featuring Dan Wallace, Timothy Paul Jones, Michael Kruger, Charles Hill, Peter Head, and Pete Williams.

The audio files are $4 each. Here are the session titles:

  1. Common Problems in Evangelical Defenses of the New Testament Text – Elijah Hixson and Peter Gurry
  2. Dating Myths: Why Later Manuscripts Can Be Better Manuscripts – Greg Lanier
  3. Math Myths: Why More Manuscripts Isn’t Necessarily Better – Jacob Peterson
  4. Panel Discussion – Dan Wallace, Timothy Paul Jones, Michael Kruger, Charles Hill, Peter Head, and Pete Williams

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Christmas a Pagan Celebration? What You Know May Not Be So

Hat tip to Stephen Huebscher for this one!

Here’s a link to an interesting short essay on this topic. The author argues (with some justification) that rather than Christians adapting a pagan holiday to their sacred calendar, pagans co-opted December 25 from Christians. Here’s a teaser paragraph:

It is true that the first evidence of Christians celebrating December 25th as the date of the Lord’s nativity comes from Rome some years after Aurelian, in A.D. 336, but there is evidence from both the Greek East and the Latin West that Christians attempted to figure out the date of Christ’s birth long before they began to celebrate it liturgically, even in the second and third centuries. The evidence indicates, in fact, that the attribution of the date of December 25th was a by-product of attempts to determine when to celebrate his death and resurrection.

I’m considering devoting an episode of the Naked Bible Podcast to this topic. I’m reading through the only two academic books on Christmas origins I know of. We’ll see if I get through the material in time.

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Naked Bible Podcast Episode 184: Hebrews 5:11-6:20

Our series on the book of Hebrews continues the writer’s emphasis on the faithful priesthood of Christ – this time as the basis for turning away from a theology of dead works and clinging to faith. The centrality of not turning from the true gospel of faith in the work of Christ and God’s acceptance of the ministry of his Son – of continuing in “believing loyalty” to the gospel – is the central focus of the controversial statements in Heb 6:4-6. Does this passage teach that believers can lose salvation or reject salvation? Is there a difference? What about eternal security? This episode focuses on these questions.

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New Book: The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity

This book looks like an excellent reference for anyone interested in the study of the biblical canon: The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: Texts and Analysis.

A brief discussion of the book by one of its authors can be found here. The book will ship in January 2018. That summary reads in part:

The main attraction of the book–the reason you’ll want your own copy–is because John and I have collected all the biblical canon lists from the first four centuries of Christianity, and we present them in the original languages and English translation (in parallel columns) with introductions and extensive notes. So, you’ve heard so much about the 39th Festal Letter of Athanasius, which listed for the first time in history the exact 27 books of the NT that we now accept, and you’d like to read the letter for yourself–our book has it, or the extant portions in Greek, anyway, with an English translation. Read the letter for yourself.

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Naked Bible Podcast Episode 182: Hebrews 4:1-13

Hebrews 4:1-13 continues an important theme introduced in Hebrews 3—holding fast to faith so as to enter into God’s rest (i.e., inherit the promise of eternal life). The writer strikes an analogy between the rest of God, earlier related to entrance (or not) into the Promised Land (Numbers 14), and God’s rest at the end of his creation work. God’s Sabbath rest is therefore identified with eternal life—a rest that is the result of God’s efforts, not ours. Since Christ is the one who provided eternal life through his work on the cross, Christ is our Sabbath.

The episode is now live.

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For Those Interested in New Testament Textual Criticism and the Byzantine-Majority Text

I recently received this announcement from my Danish friend, Ulrik Sandborg-Peterson, who developed the very useful Paradigms Master Pro Greek and Hebrew parsing practice tool. Ulrik has been instrumental in bringing resources for the study of the Byzantine-Majority text to the web:

Announcing byzantinetext.com

The Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform, along with various resources developed by Maurice A. Robinson, have a new home on the web at https://byzantinetext.com/.

  • The website contains freely downloadable resources and pointers to further information about the Byzantine Majority text.
  • Audio downloads of the entire Greek New Testament Byzantine text (1991 edition), spoken by Maurice A. Robinson.
  • A downloadable Reader’s edition, as prepared by Jeffrey Dodson in consultation with Maurice A. Robinson.
  • Select bibliographies of articles and books on the Byzantine Text.
  • Downloadable editions of the Byzantine and other Greek New Testament texts.
  • … and more.

For developers, the website is accompanied by an official GitHub repository for Dr. Robinson’s various resources, https://github.com/byztxt/.  The repository will be updated in close collaboration with Dr. Robinson as he makes updates available.  The repository includes Greek New Testament texts with morphological parsings and Strong’s numbers, documentation, and a library written in the Python programming language for reading these texts.

The team behind the website and GitHub repository comprises Ulrik Sandborg-Petersen and Daniel J. Mount, in close collaboration with Maurice A. Robinson.

 

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