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Question #1:

Regarding Hebrews 12:3, since both kamno and eklyo are translated "grow weary", I'm not sure which of the above in mind when you wrote:

Clearly, if we don't respond correctly, the place where we are "weary-and-faint" is our heart/mind.

I suppose some versions are correct in rendering the former verb as "give up", so that a literal translation would be "so that you don't give up, being wearied in your hearts". If I understand you correctly, it would seem that's what you meant too.

Response #1:

Here's my translation of the context:

(1) Since then we too [like the believers of Heb.11] have such a large audience of witnesses surrounding us [both men and angels], let us put off every hindrance – especially whatever sins habitually affect us – and run with endurance the race set before us, turning our gaze unto Jesus, the originator and completer of our faith, who, for the joy set before Him, endured the shame of the cross, treating it with despite, and took His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (3) Keep in mind all the terrible opposition He endured against Himself at the hands of sinful men, so as not to grow sick at heart and give up.
Hebrews 12:1-3

kamno means to "grow tired", while eklyo in the middle voice means to "weaken", so they are really are synonyms, the former focusing on the external pressure, the latter on the internal collapse from that pressure. So "grow weary" would be kamno in my rendition, while "become faint" would be eklyo (mid.), and "in your hearts" would be applicable to both since this is the place where the person who does not heed this good spiritual advice will "grow weary" in their faith and also "faint" spiritually – or as I translate it, so as not to "grow sick at heart and give up".

Here are some other major links which also deal with issues of translation and interpretation based upon text and language issues:

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations IX

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations VIII

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations VII

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations VI

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations V

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations IV

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations III

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations II

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations I

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading IV

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading III

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading II

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading I

Question #2:

As for Hebrews 12:3, does it mean then that Paul meant "in your hearts" as to be applicable to both "sick" and "give up", or is it the case he meant it for either of these verbs, but we don't know which one and it is impossible to find out on grammatical terms?

Response #2:

In Greek this is an apo koinou construction (lit., "from a common thing"), meaning that it actually goes with both (a not uncommon event in Greek for any sort of modifier which lies between a main verb and a circumstantial participle). In English we have to choose where to place the prepositional modifier "at heart" (since doubling the phrase would be much more misleading than only using it once and risking that the reader doesn't understand it goes with both verbs). KJV does a pretty good job of leaving the attribution ambiguous: "lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" (though I would prefer "hearts"). Clearly, if we don't respond correctly, the place where we are "weary-and-faint" is our heart/mind. The apo koinou phenomenon in Greek leaves things deliberately ambiguous grammatically, but semantically everyone (native speakers) understands that the phrase in question colors both parts equally. And it would sound very odd in Greek to repeat the phrase with parts, after all. The (hypothetical) area of fainting and of fatigue is the heart, so "in your hearts" applies to both. That is the correct interpretation, in my view. Remembering the example of our Lord encourages us not to become weary and not to faint spiritually – internal failures that come when we are not making the effort to keep the truth pulsing through our hearts and minds when the pressure is on. Good leadership encourages those who are flagging – in any situation; our Leader is the Lord Jesus Christ, and remembering His example should be sufficient to encourage us to get back into the race whenever we are feeling too down and weak to do so – because, after all, what we are enduring is absolutely nothing compared to what He endured for us:

Keep in mind all the terrible opposition He endured against Himself at the hands of sinful men, so as not to grow sick at heart and give up.
Hebrews 12:3

Question #3:

On Matthew 5:29-30, now that you included your explanation, I remembered your take on this verse and I understand that it's often misinterpreted. Could an approach be taken here whereby on the one hand we acknowledge that sin is very serious and needs to be dealt with with our full commitment - without of course the measures mentioned being taken literally - while at the same time understanding that with the measures being what they are - impossible for us to apply to the full degree in accordance with our sin - we all need grace?

"If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell."
Matthew 5:29-30 NKJV

Response #3:

I think that's the idea, alright. I'm just pretty certain that readers often don't get that point without explanation by a good teacher, however.

The main point to make about Matthew 5:29-30 is that in my experience an inordinate number of Christians want to take it literally . . . or worry that it is meant literally . . . or just worry about it period, get confused, upset, and miss any point that one was otherwise trying to make. It is part of the Word of God and I'm not saying not to use it. It's just that whenever I have used this passage I have always felt the need to include a rather lengthy explanation to the effect that what our Lord means is that sin is deadly serious and can't be "fixed", not even by drastic self-mutilation which no one would actually attempt (we hope), so that the purpose of this passage is to show how much we all need grace and to be saved by faith since there's no human way to be saved: not only won't trying to keep the Law bring salvation, but even mutilating oneself so as to avoid sinning isn't going to work. In other words, the meaning is close to being the opposite of what most people without any depth in scripture assume it to be. Here is something I've written about this before (in Matthew Questions in loc. at this passage at the link):

The key thing to me about our Lord's examples is that no one in the world would actually do this, namely, pluck out their eye if, for example, "it" lusted after a woman. In short order the entire world of men would be blind if that were common practice, whereas in the history of the world following our Lord's use of this example no one has yet done this (no one sane, in any case). So it does serve to show how impossible sinlessness is – apart from the Spirit; and it does, as you suppose very correctly, point the way all that much more emphatically to the need for help in order to be saved – and He is our only help, the only Name given under heaven whereby we must be saved.

I would add also what is explained at the link, namely that this is an emphatic way to make anyone who thinks about it realize that we have no hope apart from a Savior who will take away our sins – because even if we take the most dramatic measures we cannot be saved without God's merciful intervention at the cross.

Question #4:

Has the word "penitential" historically been associated with the Roman church or is it a rather neutral term to describe a group of Psalms?

Response #4:

I don't think I've ever used the word. I think it probably only has currency within the R.C. community. Inherent in it is the idea of "penance", something which that group is big on, but something we know is impossible: only the blood of Christ can wash away sin. Had He not died in the darkness, bearing our sin and paying the price, no sin could be forgiven, because anything we sinful persons would seek to do would be abominable to God, even if it were to impress ourselves and others – and how much more abominable such human works of "penance" when offering them by definition rejects the true sacrifice of Christ and suggests by doing so that ours are better!

Question #5:

Also, I read many varying explanations of 1 Corinthians 2:15. How should this verse be understood?

Response #5:

Translation and explanation of 1st Corinthians 2:15 from BB 5:

(15) But the spiritual man does appreciate them all (i.e., the "deeper things of the Spirit of God"), though he himself is not appreciated [in this regard] by anyone.

v. 15: In contrast to unbelievers, believers are able, with the Spirit's help, to receive, comprehend, believe and understand all divine truth, appropriating all of the "deeper things of the Spirit of God", that is, the truths of the Word of God which are made one's own when what is taught is accepted by faith. However, since this is accomplished through the Spirit's agency, the world is incapable of understanding how it is that believers receive the truth and make it their own through faith.

Question #6:

Also, I'm not exactly sure how to understand how the phrase "to/for God" fits into the translation in 2 Corinthians 10:4. Should it be "weapons powerful to God" or "in God's eyes"?

Response #6:

Hard to translate. I have said "for God" in the past. I take this as a dative of reference: they are "powerful in regard to God as the One who empowers them"; i.e., God is the One who makes them powerful. NKJV "[weapons] mighty in God" is not bad.

Question #7:

Question on 1st John 3:9:

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
1st John 3:9 NASB

a) What is "His seed"? Is it the Spirit? Is it the truth of the Word of God?

b) As to "he cannot sin", should it be understood as "cannot live a life of sin", "cannot keep on sinning"? I asked you about 1 John 3:6 in the past and I wonder how this expression should be understood here. John writes "he cannot sin" and since all believers sin, I would like to understand how to best interpret this statement.

And on 1st John 5:18 . . .

We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.
John 5:18 NASB

Who is the "He who was born of God"? Is it our Lord? If so, should we understand Him keeping us in the sense of us being in union with Him? How should we understand these words and how should we understand "the evil one does not touch him"?

Response #7:

On the passages, for the first two, please also see the links:

The Interpretation of 1st John

1st John chapters 1 and 2

Sin and 1st John

More on sin in 1st John

More on the interpretation of 1st John

In regard to 1st John 3:9, this is a very difficult double question. The second part of the verse has to do with being a believer, and that falls within the general interpretation advanced in the links and shared with you before, namely, as believers, since we have faith in Jesus Christ, continuation in a life of sin past a certain point is impossible – because that will lead either to the loss of our faith as we harden our hearts or to the loss of our lives through the sin unto death if we refuse to give up our bad witness; John puts the issue in the starkest terms here because of the dire consequences.

In terms of the seed, technically speaking, based on the parable of the Sower and other passages, the seed should be the Word of God. However, because it could only take root through the Spirit and is intimately and inextricably connected with the Spirit who indwells us, John sees the issue primarily from that point of view as is evident later in the chapter and in the book:

But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you.
1st John 2:27a NKJV

Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
1st John 3:24 NKJV

By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
1st John 4:13 NKJV

So I have expressed this in both ways in the past; I think it is difficult to disentangle the two here, and I'm not sure it should be attempted. If pressed, I suppose I would say that the seed is both "the Word of God as made alive by the Spirit" and "the Spirit who has quickened the Word of the gospel within us". However one wishes to express it, we wouldn't have the Word of the gospel in us through which have been saved by believing it without the Spirit, and the fact of the Spirit indwelling us is a consequence of believing that Word.

As to 1st John 5:18, here is my translation of the verse which, I hope, clears this issue up:

We know that everyone who is born [again] from God is not [continually] sinning, but the one who is born [again] from God guards himself [against apostasy], and [so] the evil one is not [able to] lay hold of him.
1st John 5:18

Question #8:

With regard to 1 John 5:18, I'm writing back as you responded with an interpretation that I didn't expect. I think my main question here would be why you translated "guards himself" rather than "guards him"? The verb is active rather than middle or passive and I didn't think it could be rendered this way - that's why rather than taking this to mean the believer guarding himself I assumed the Lord was meant here. I would really appreciate if you could even briefly explain why you took this verse in this way. I could also include it in the text also, but I would like to be clear about it first.

Response #8:

On John 5:18, Sinaiticus has the reflexive pronoun "himself" heauton, not auton ("him"). It seems that the word was amended in some late ms. families for theological reasons (by those who wrongly assumed that genetheis, "born", was referring to Christ not to the believer in Christ); Metzger and co. get this one wrong for the same reason (erroneously saying that this form [aorist passive] isn't used for believers, but in fact it is – in John's gospel). NKJV, I note, has "himself". So I prefer the translation I shared with you before where "the one who is born [again] from God" in both parts of the verse is the believer in Christ, "guarding Himself" through the Spirit and the truth so as not to be able to be destroyed by the evil on (only apostasy and the sin unto death can have that result):

We know that everyone who is born [again] from God is not [continually] sinning, but the one who is born [again] from God guards himself [against apostasy], and [so] the evil one is not [able to] lay hold of him.
1st John 5:18

Question #9:

As for the "cannot sin", I think I understand it now too. Faith and sin intermingle in all of us as long as we are here, but one cannot pursue both paths at the same time. To sin and return to the Lord with a genuine intention of staying with the Lord is one thing, but to attempt doing both is ultimately impossible, because these paths just don't run parallel. I suppose we could picture that as two diverging train tracks - sooner or later we will have to follow one, or sin unto death will come upon us. So the combination between faith and sin can occur and does occur, but it's only temporary and in absolute terms they have nothing to do with each other. In Polish I wrote "doesn't live in sin", because that translates the meaning better than "doesn't sin" to readers of whom nobody has any in-depth understanding of these issues, and I would rather avoid wrong conclusions being drawn here. Although John's writings are difficult at times, his very simple, absolute style of writing I find quite truly great, it pierces straight to the heart.

Response #9:

You're most welcome. Good comments! As to divergent tracks, there is only one road to Zion. But sometimes we strike out off the high road and get down into the overgrown gully on either side. Hacking our way back up the slope is time-consuming and difficult. After doing this enough, eventually we (should) learn that it's better just to stay on the road.

Question #10:

Final question on 1 John 5:18. In your translation you wrote that "the one who is born from God guards himself [against apostasy]". Why is it apostasy? I would have thought that it's sin that is meant here, as also the context would suggest?

Response #10:

On 1st John 5:18, on the fill in "apostasy", since John is portraying the believer as someone who does not sin, the alternative is not to be a believer at all. If John were portraying the believer as someone who sins sometimes and repents and sins and confesses, then "chronic pattern of sin" might be a better fill in. But because the Christian "job description" is perfection of walk, the alternative from which we guard ourselves through the Spirit is not having a part of the job description at all (i.e., being a believer), namely, falling away from the faith (i.e., ceasing to be a believer). That is the real danger of sin, after all, and explains why sinning is dangerous: because it attacks faith by hardening the heart and can be fatal to our faith if not kept in check.

Question #11:

I just encountered a minor linguistic problem when rendering Matthew 20:25 to Polish. Although Polish is a very rich language with grammar in some respects much more complex than other languages, in other areas it actually seems to be more difficult to render some ideas. Here I wanted to ask how we should understand katakyrieuo and katexousiazo. Do these words have negative connotations (to exploit through power, to tyrannise), or are they neutral? I looked at the Greek resources I've got and it seems that they seemed to be used in both senses.

Response #11:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.
Matthew 20:25 NKJV

The prefix kata- in Greek which is found on both verbs here ("lord it over" and "exercise authority" in NKJV above) in addition to being local (literally "down or downward" and intensive), often does have a negative connotation as well (cf. catastrophe). When it comes to the exercise of power, intensity is usually negative, and that is the meaning here. Even in English this is not too easy to bring out without overdoing it. Since this is talking about a normal situation we find everywhere in the world in nearly all secular systems of authority, "exercise tyrannical control" or similar is a bit too much. Our Lord's point of reference for His audience was the Roman empire which, in historical terms, was relatively fair in the majority of its dealings with subject peoples (much more so than the empire under the Republic), but also brooked no opposition, even when less than fair or markedly unfair.

Question #12:

[details omitted]

Response #12:

Good words, my friend. I'll be keeping you in prayer on all this. It occurs to me that in some respects it's easier to plow a field than it is to prepare a plow for a hoped for field. Once the field is there in front of you, the task may be difficult but it's work that's clear. As the Lord brings you into your own ministry more and more fully, I rather suspect that much of this won't be an issue any longer – because you won't have the time or energy to be concerned about it as you plow along.

Question #13:

That's true and that's why we bear fruit with perseverance (Luke 8:15). All the progress I've made has also been achieved in that way. I see your point about apostasy, but I thought that understanding the expression "guards himself from sin" could have exactly the same result in terms of the job description, as you refer to it:

We know that everyone who is born [again] from God is not [continually] sinning, but the one who is born [again] from God guards himself [from sin], and [so] the evil one is not [able] to lay hold of him.
John 5:18

So the believer doesn't live a life of sin, because he guards himself from sin and in that way the evil on doesn't lay hold of him - of which there is always a risk as a believer starts to dabble with sin. I may be wrong here, but it seemed to me as the most natural way to read this verse - John speaks of sin in verses 16 and 17 and then in this verse I thought he could have the following in mind - "we know that everyone born of God doesn't sin - because the one born of God guards himself against sin".

I'm sorry to be coming back to this, but I'm still not entirely sure why this interpretation couldn't work here and the apostasy interpretation, although I understand why it would apply here also, still seems to me as somewhat more distant, with sin looking like the more immediate point of reference. But as I said, I may be wrong here, this is just an impression I get from reading this verse.

Response #13:

As to 1st John 5:18, the discussion in the previous few verses had to do with the sin unto death whose opposite pole is apostasy. A life of sin ends badly for believers, in one or the other of these two (see the link) unless they change their attitude when the serious divine discipline starts (as the young man in Corinth did: compare 1Cor.5:1-5 with 2Cor.2:5-11). In this context, I don't see that John is speaking about the sort of thing that all believers have to deal with, daily failures and confession. He is speaking about the overall course of a believer's life (regardless of how one translates the verb hamartano). Since he is talking in absolutes (rather than the practicalities of the daily walk), it seemed to me that such was the way to flesh out the translation. Better might be [from the sin unto death and/or apostasy], but since in this chapter faith is the victory (1Jn.5:4), the loss of faith would be the defeat (apostasy), and that is the thing from which all genuine believers who persevere to the end guard ourselves. We aren't actually able to guard ourselves from sinning, after all (not entirely, that is for sure), but we can get through this life with faith intact if we are determined to do so, God helping us.

"But he who endures to the end shall be saved."
Matthew 24:13 NKJV

Question #14:

I've just been translating Philippians 3:8-9 into Polish from Greek - I do it more and more often as Polish translations, even if they do fall within what is acceptable, just don't seem to render the truth in the clearest way. A question appeared about ἵνα Χριστὸν κερδησω at the end of the verse: I know it's a subjunctive aorist, but how should we understand it from the perspective of time? "That I may gain Christ" in the sense that I haven't gained Him yet - meaning that the action is still future? This seems to be the correct reading here, but I wanted to make sure.

Response #14:

Here is my translation of the context of Philippians 3:8:

(7) But whatever I had gained [in my former godless life], compared to Christ I have come to consider these things as losses. (8) Indeed, I consider everything to be a loss compared to the surpassing importance of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord, for whose sake I have suffered the loss of everything, and consider [everything I have lost] as garbage, compared to gaining Christ, (9) and being found in Him – not having a personal righteousness [developed] through [following] the [Mosaic] law – but having that righteousness [that comes] through faith in Christ, that righteousness [that comes] from God based on faith.
Philippians 3:7-9

There are many places in scripture – and in Paul – where a combination of perspective issues results in potentially incorrect translations and faulty interpretations. Blessedly these are usually only committed by commentators and theologians. In this case, for example, I think almost any Christian reading this without worrying about exegesis would probably intuit the right meaning, namely, "as compared to having gained Christ" (even though a slavishly literal translation might well render it "in order to gain Christ" (cf. ESV).

It is true that Paul does not say it exactly that way and so it is also true that those of us who have devoted much time and effort to get to the bottom of every shred of meaning in the original language need to take such things into careful consideration. But it is also the case that it is possible for an overabundance of scholarship to stand simple meaning on its head. I have not bothered to check Meyer or any other commentators on this passage, but I would frankly be surprised if I were not able to find someone who gets this totally wrong and wants to find some doubt here in Paul's words. Now – obviously – we know that Paul was in no doubt about his salvation, and importantly this passage is meant to be an emotionally demonstrative expression of his joy in that salvation (a joy it's impossible to have if one is in doubt about it). So the only real question is "how" does it mean what we know it means.

This gets back to the question of perspective, and there are at least three such issues here: 1) Paul when writing is writing to people who will read it later and so he may express the present tense as being past from his perspective (aka the epistolary perspective); 2) Paul, whenever he writes about himself, often expresses things from the point of view of the "Paul as he was then" versus the man at the time of writing (aka the biographical perspective; cf. Rom.7:1ff.); and 3) Paul often also puts himself in the shoes, so to speak, of readers, to help them get the point, and expresses things from their point of view (aka the didactic perspective). All three may have flavored things here (more so #2 and #3 than #1): from #2: "from the standpoint of the unbeliever Paul that I may gain"; from #3: "from the standpoint of any unbeliever reading that you may gain". Meaning: "nothing is more important (to me or you or whomever) than gaining Christ".

The use of the purpose clause is off-putting to commentators no doubt, but it is good to remember that these sorts of clauses are not necessarily so simple as we may imagine; purpose and result always seem to have a little of each other in their grammatical DNA – which is why some grammarians lump them together as "final clauses" (and this is even more so the case in later Greek and anything influenced by Hebrew where the distinction is even less exact). In other words (applying that principle here), while "so that I may gain Christ" may seem to imply (grammatically) that Christ has not yet been gained, that is actually not a conclusion that can be drawn from fact that this is a purpose clause in Greek. Suggested compromise: use an English (Polish?) participial construction: "[compared] to gaining Christ".

Question #15:

Hello Professor,

I would appreciate some very brief comments on verses below. I want to finish the mariology response as soon as possible now. It got delayed as I have committed to the text on the battle with sin, but I'm back on it now and don't want to spend any more time in this swamp than is needed. I'm now dealing with the teaching on the assumption of Mary and it is again quite an incredible calibre of nonsense. These are some of the verses used to support the teaching. I know they have nothing to do with assumption, but I just thought I'd include a brief note for each in the document.

Psalm 45:10ff. Who is the bride here? Has the bride in this Psalm got both a literal as well as typological meaning? I will include Song 3:6, 4:8 and 6:9 verses only to show the absurd of their reasoning. Should we understand the Song as a poem about marital love and a type of Christ and His bride - the church?

Psalm 132 - Roman Catholic fathers see Mary in the Ark (!!!). I thought I'd maybe include a brief explanation of the symbolism of the ark - could you direct me to a study where you deal with that? I know you do explain it, but I couldn't remember where.

Revelation 12 - is it best to say that the woman is a symbol of Israel with its entire history?

Apologies, professor, to take up your time with such nonsense.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #15:

No need to apologize, my friend. It seems that what the use of these passages have in common is the false application of the allegory of the Church as the Bride of Christ to His earthly human mother instead.

Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."
Matthew 12:47-50 NIV

1) The Bride in Psalm 45:10ff. is the Messiah's – which we know now to be the Church.

2) The Song of Solomon is an allegory likewise about the Messiah and His Bride – the Church (link).

3) In Psalm 132, Israel, as often, is seen as a woman, the Messiah's Bride – the Church, since the Church or assembly – that is what ekklesia means, after all (cf. Acts 7:38 KJV: "the Church in the wilderness") – is built on Israel (see the link).

4) . . . and of course the same is true of the symbol of the woman in Revelation 12 as the twelve stars certainly indicate: since they are symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel who can their mother be but Israel? As you know, Israel and the Church are, in the end, one and the same, even if there is some differentiation now between Jews (most of whom are not believers) and believing gentiles (see the link).

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hello Professor,

Yes, that is one of the key errors. It seems they apply anything they can to Mary.

1) Do we know who was meant as the king and the queen in the immediate application of the Psalm? Keil and Delitzsch propose Jehoram and Athaliah, I'm not sure what you think of that. I though I would emphasise the Messianic application, but could mention who was the type of Messiah and His bride there too.

2) I suppose only allegorical meaning can be put forward for the Song of Songs? Or to you think that a particular couple here served as types?

3) I will briefly explain the symbolism of the ark based on what you wrote at the link: the Temple

4) That's a very good point and I will also include a couple more of your observations (I will refer your work, as always) from: The Woman and the Dragon

Another point is that in verse 17 it clearly says "the rest of her children" - very interesting what the Catholic exegetes defending the perpetual virginity (to which I will also devote one chapter) say about that. Still, I really look forward to finishing this piece.

Thank you for your help, Professor,

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #16:

I hope your good efforts will be able to help others on this.

1) It's typical of the secular viewpoint to be unable even to imagine that a portion of scripture might not be dealing with contemporary historical events. But how might any human king be described as "God" (Ps.45:6; cf. Heb.1:8)? Even if this were a wedding song for, say, Solomon, the antitype, the great King to come, is the One who is clearly in view. As a side note, classical authors wrote many wedding hymns on mythological subjects without scholars feeling it anything but silly to exercise themselves about the "real meaning" and demythologize those myths – but the Bible comes in for special attack as somehow not meaning what it clearly says.

2) The Song of Solomon would be a very difficult book to pin down on such things. I enjoy reading it but I don't pretend to have all the answers for it. It "works" for me in general terms as an allegory between Christ and His Church; other than that I wouldn't want to speculate much further. Solomon actually occurs in the song, so he can't be the Lover, it seems. Whether the two were an actual couple he modeled the song on is unknown, but the allegory is the spiritually significant part.

Best wishes for all your labors in the Word, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hello Professor,

I've been thinking how to translate the γὰρ into Polish at the end of Hebrews 11:16. Almost all English translations go with "for", but you put "in fact" - and I can see your point on this. If we read "God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them" - there is no logic in the statement. Then we should go with something like "in fact", not "for" - as others do.

On the other hand, I was wondering if we could link the final expression, "for He has prepared a city for them", to "But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one". Then we would have "For they desired a better one, that is a heavenly one (that's why God is not ashamed to be called their God) - for God prepared them a city.

What do you think of that? Is that a possibility? Could "God is not ashamed to be called their God be taken as a digression?

2. Similarly, I'm wondering whether to translate ὀρεγονται literally in a present tense or in the past?

3. As I'm preparing the studies and translating the scriptures more and more myself - mainly for Polish texts so far, as there are only two contemporary translations I can consult - I wanted to follow a consistent formatting system. What do you think of the following, Professor (I have browsed through your translations and I think this should be similar to what you do):

a) Should any word added to the translation to make it run smoother (e.g., omissions of "to be" in both Hebrew and Greek) be put into square brackets? Or should it be italicised (which is what the NASB does)? Is it acceptable not to do either on occasions (for example when the word added is only a copula or when a direct rendering of a word or phrase is not possible in any case)?

b) I take it that all explanatory comments I make should be put into normal parenthesis (round instead of square)?

c) Any words where there is a textual doubt Meyer puts into square brackets - but that would make it identical with the words added to flesh out the translation?

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #17:

On γαρ / gar et al., first, I understand the logic as follows: 1) good believers (past and present) desire the good things they should desire, namely, what is to come rather than what is now on this earth; 2) God is pleased with this attitude; 3) and therefore (γαρ / gar) He has indeed met their/our godly desire by preparing New Jerusalem for them/us.

Second, I translate the present tense of the verb you ask about as an English past, interpreting it as a historical present (a very common device in most languages when relating past events); however, the present tense is no doubt used by Paul here in part to make it clear that this godly attitude is continued by believers in his day and beyond (and not restricted to the historical examples he is citing in this chapter).

Third, while there are accepted ways of doing things in editing Greek texts and Greek papyri, even here there are contradictions (e.g., square brackets in a scholarly edition of a Greek text mean "spurious", where as in papyri they mean "editor is supplying what he/she thinks might have been present in a lacuna). Every academic journal in Classics has somewhat different standards for how footnotes should be formatted, bibliography too and other things as well. When it comes to the Bible, there is no unified procedure on which all agree. The KJV's use of italics for words supplied which are not technically in the original is fine – or was. However, today we use italics for other things as well (emphasis, titles, etc.); for that reason it was not really possible for me to follow the same convention (emphasis et al. being very needful to provide from time to time), and so I used square brackets for this purpose. Also, most modern versions do not use either convention for "supplied words" as KJV did, probably because it is impossible to be consistent with this sort of things. As you know well, translating frequently requires more words in the target language than in the original, but that doesn't mean that the extra words should be italicized. To be consistent on this, KJV should only have used italics where there was an ellipsis. As I explain in the usage notes/links (at the link), I try to use square brackets in a translation for words that I am adding to expand the translation to as to bring out the meaning; whereas I try to use curved ones as true parentheses (explaining or adding some note such as citations). I am sure that I have not been 100% consistent on this (sometimes the parenthetical remark is actually part of the original text), and there are always the odd cases. My suggestion would be to find something that works for you. That will depend in no small part on the way you translate (and that is an individual thing), and also the demands of the language into which you are translating.

Best wishes for your trip. I'll be praying for you, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hello Professor,

I have just finished what hopefully was the final reading of the "Battle with sin" resource. It all took much longer than expected, as I ended up translating a lot of verses from original languages in the Polish version of the document. And on this, I wanted to ask you a couple of questions.

Probably the most difficult verse for me to render is Philippians 2:3-8, verse 6 in particular. I understand it and I think I know exactly what Paul meant, but expressing his thought clearly is difficult. I settled for somewhat more interpretive translations, as I've been struggling to find a good way to render harpagmos (ἁρπαγμος). What do you think of these two translations below? It's the second one which I thought I would use in my Polish text, as I would hope it expresses the thrust of the verse precisely, even if less directly than I would wish, while still being quite clear. The second reading could also say "who, although He existed" instead of the participle.

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not look out for your own interests, but for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something He had no right to hold on to, 7 but emptied Himself by taking the form of a slave and being born in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, 8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:3-8

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not look out for your own interests, but for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, chose not to exercise His right to be equal to God, 7 but emptied Himself by taking the form of a slave and being born in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, 8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:3-8

Alternatively a parenthesis could also be included in a more literal rendering, explaining plunder as something we could consider "illegitimately seized and to be held on to rapaciously".

2. How should Psalm 40:13 be rendered?

NASB translates:

12 For evils beyond number have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see;
They are more numerous than the hairs of my head,
And my heart has failed me.

But one Polish translation came with an ingenious rendering, which basically says "iniquities that I cannot see have overtaken me".

3. In Hebrews 12:2, I have also spent a long time thinking of how to render teleiotes (τελειωτης) into Polish as there is no word "perfecter" or "completer". It's hard to explain Polish words available here, but nothing fits perfectly. What I went with is best translated into English as "the one who brings it to a state of being complete".

4. a) What is your take on the textual issue with hymas (ὑμας) in 2 Peter 3:10? It determines whether first or second person is used in the following verse also.

b) How exactly should we understand speudontas (σπευδοντας) in verse 12?

After these qualifications I will finally be able to forward this resource to you. Our friend came back with some very useful suggestions and helped to make the text better, but I don't think I will wait for a couple of others to write back - particularly as it could literally take months (it's been a month and a half already). When I've heard back, I may just send you an updated copy and I also have to accept that despite all the effort I put into these texts they will never be perfect - in fact, I see how when I look at what I wrote not that long ago that certain things could have been done slightly differently. What I can say is that I have really put my heart into the copy you will receive in any case. The text has been read, re-read many times and I think it's ready.

I'm out of the country now for a few weeks and with God's help making progress.

I'm praying that things are well with your health also.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #18:

Good to hear from you my friend, and thanks so much for the update! I have been praying that this visit goes well.

As to your questions:

1) On Philippians 2:3-8, I like the first translation much better (but I don't know of course the problems with rendering this one versus the other one into Polish).

2) On Psalm 40:13, I like NASB which you've quoted fine here. The alternative is indeed "ingenious", but I don't think it's right, first because of the word order and mood (one would expect imperfect if this were the equivalent of a final clause as the translation assumes), second because of the meaning: why would David not be able to "see" his sins/iniquities, or what would that even mean?

3) On Hebrews 12:2, you have produced a very nice solution.

4a) On the text of 2nd Peter 3:10, the correct reading is 1st person ("us") not second. Not that it makes much difference at all, but Peter is looking at things collectively for us all, including himself; and one can see how later editors would want to absolve Peter of belonging to the hypothetical camp of those who fail to do this. Sinaiticus has 1st person with an editorial change to 2nd person. Incidentally, at the time that these uncials were produced, there was almost none or actually no distinction in pronunciation between the eta with rough breathing and the upsilon with rough breathing. So this confusion (between 2nd person hym- forms and 1st person hem- forms) is the most common textual issue in the New Testament.

4b) speudo here means to be enthusiastically anticipating and eager for something (it does not mean to take action which "hastens" something).

(11) Since all these things are destined to disintegrate in this way, [consider] what sort of [Christians] we ought to be, [devoted to] holy and godly conduct, (12) as we wait with eager expectation and apprehension the advent of the Day of God. For on that day the heavens will burst into flame and dissolve, and the elements will catch fire and melt. (13) But we are awaiting new heavens and a new earth just as He promised – [a world] where righteousness dwells.
2nd Peter 3:11-13

Precise translation is difficult, time-consuming and seldom ever feels completely finished. I am always jiggering with the few that I have produced, and I believe Luther continued to tinker with his version until the end.

Looking forward to a good report soon – and safe travels thereafter.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hello Professor,

Thank you for your prayers. They are greatly appreciated. I will be praying for your issues to be resolved also.

As for Philippians 2:3-8, I think I may just have arrived at a rendering that I'm happier with than with the other two. I know I will eventually have to go with something and that it won't be perfect, but what do you think of this:

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not look out for your own interests, but for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, did not regard His right to equality with God as something to hold on to, 7 but emptied Himself by taking the form of a slave and being born in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, 8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:3-8

As for the Polish version, "did not use His right to be equal with God" sounds most clear and least confusing. There are other translations, where I could perhaps go with longer, explanatory phrases, but given that most Polish readers will have a very limited understanding of the Word of God, I decided to go with what will paint the clearest picture, even if somewhat simplified.

This has been my first attempt at translating passages for the text and it really took time, although I will hopefully be able to use the translations I prepared in the future. And it is also true that most don't feel finished for good and may need revisiting. Still, it's been a real joy to do that.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #19:

Well said, my friend. Thanks for your prayers (you know you are in mine as well). I hope you have a good report for me on all this soon.

Yes, harpagmos in Philippians 2:6 ("robbery" in KJV) is a very difficult word to translate, and it is difficult to process reading it in Greek as well – a fact I am sure was understood by Paul and certainly by the Holy Spirit who led him to it. "Graspable" is difficult because it depends on who is doing the grasping. But that is the beauty of the word choice. Both ideas are present in the text, rightly understood (but that is very difficult to put into a translation in any language): Christ did not need to grasp for deity since He has always been God – so that does not explain His willingness to become a human being to die for us. And no one could grasp His deity from Him – so that there was no necessity for Him to do what He did as if His status depended on it. What Jesus did He did out of love – love beyond understanding and only dimly appreciated by contemplating the depth of the sacrifice.

Safe travels!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Also Professor, on the translation of Philippians 2:6, I think a solution might be to give the more literal translation and simply include the other one in parenthesis as an explanation.

Response #20:

That's what I usually do in such instances. I'm sure I'm never going to produce a full translation of the Bible, so I'm less concerned with literary issues than I am with helping others understand what the text actually says AND means – and if that takes parentheses and footnotes, it's OK by me, even if it produces a somewhat "clunky" and unpublishable translation.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:

"I also shall make him My firstborn,
The highest of the kings of the earth."
Psalm 89:27 (NASB)

Could this verse interpreted as messianic? If so, it could be used in conjunction with Colossians 1:15 to emphasize that Jesus being firstborn refers to His status rather than Him being literally born first, something I have heard several times now from Jehovah Witnesses.

Response #21:

Absolutely! See the link.

Question #22:

Hi Bob,

"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being worthy of hatred and hating one another."
Titus 3:3

What does "worthy of hatred" mean? That all non-Christians should be hated?

Response #22:

The root styge from which this word is derived means something more like "foul" or "detestable" (cf. the river "Styx" from the same root). Titus is looking at the situation or position of the unbeliever – a "foul and detestable" situation that no believer would ever want to be in again. So I would apply this to their situation – "detestable" – and not to their person . . . because God wants all to be saved, even the most deplorable.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:

"but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked or let them be condemned when brought to trial."
Psalm 37:33 NIV

What about the righteous people who have been condemned when brought to trial, including Jesus Christ?

Response #23:

It says what it says and is true. The verb rasha' in the hiphil can mean condemn but the sense is "prove to be guilty". If anything, our Lord's trial proved Him to be completely innocent – as even Pilate attested when he publicly washed his hands saying "I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man" (Matt.27:24). Likewise, we are told not to worry if we are hauled before tribunals during the Tribulation because "I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist" (Lk.21:15 NKJV). So we may be condemned and put to death, but anyone listening will understand the complete injustice of it.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #24:

This whole passage doesn't make sense. Why was Abner being chased, and what was so significant about this event that it was deemed necessary by Israeli historians to write it down? What about it?

Asahel was as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle. He chased Abner, turning neither to the right nor to the left as he pursued him. Abner looked behind him and asked, “Is that you, Asahel?” “It is,” he answered. Then Abner said to him, “Turn aside to the right or to the left; take on one of the young men and strip him of his weapons.” But Asahel would not stop chasing him. Again Abner warned Asahel, “Stop chasing me! Why should I strike you down? How could I look your brother Joab in the face?” But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit; so Abner thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel’s stomach, and the spear came out through his back. He fell there and died on the spot. And every man stopped when he came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died.
2nd Samuel 2:18b-23 NIV

Response #24:

As a military historian, it makes sense to me. Pursuit after victory is always key to achieving full success. And the incident is extremely significant. Asahel was one of the thirty "mighty men" in the panoply of David's heroes (2Sam.23:24), and his death at Abner's hands is the reason why Joab later slew Abner unawares against David's wishes, an incident that nearly derailed the reunification of the nation.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25:

Can you explain this passage to me?

So David inquired of the Lord, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. 24 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.”
2nd Samuel 5:23-24

Response #25:

It certainly shows that David's victories – and by application all of our victories – had/have much more to do with what the Lord does than with what we do. Also, "hitting them in the flank" is a tried and true military tactic . . . demonstrating that our Lord has us make use of reasonable human measures even as we trust that He is the one who is making them succeed.

Question #26:

Was Paul alluding to Psalm 119:69 in this verse?

"But we have the mind of Christ." (I Corinthians 2:16)

Response #26:

On Psalm 119:169 cf./c. 1st Corinthians 2:16, the Hebrew doesn't even have a noun here; it says more literally, "enlighten me according to your word". So while there is clearly a connection in respect to divine truth in both verses, that is true of many comparable passages in both testaments. "Mind of Christ" is a unique construction whose purpose in citing and commenting on Isaiah 4:13 is to equate Christ's thinking with that of the Spirit as expressed in scripture: there is absolute unity in the Trinity and in all genuine truth, rightly understood: the Bible is the thinking of Jesus Christ, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, believed and followed to the glory of God the Father.

Question #27:

Hi Dr,

Were the cities in Samuel that were mentioned as conquered actually subdued during David's reign or is this a future millennium interpretation? It seems to me David conquered these cities because I see Philistia listed and I know they were an integral part of Israel's history during his reign. I just wanted some clarification since I am not familiar with these names.

I guess this would be a good time to buy a Bible Atlas, which I did and I will review further on my own.

Thank you like always In Christ our Lord

Response #27:

I take all the mentions of conquest as literal. There are many of these instances where a city or territory is said to be defeated or conquered but is later seen to be independent. This was very typical in the ancient world, not just in Israel's experience. After all, there were no technological means of keeping down a subject population in antiquity such as exist today. The only thing that could be done was to garrison a defeated town or territory with soldiers, and in the ancient world only major empires had the resources to keep standing armies of any size and continue this practice for years on end. So unless one was willing to completely destroy a city/territory by literally slaughtering all of its inhabitants (as the Israelites were commanded to do with the Canaanites and Amalekites; cf. also e.g.: 1Ki.11:16) it was certain that these entities would eventually revert to their own control (as in the case of Syria, for example, in Solomon's day).

Question #28:

"For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.”
(Luke 11:30)

Given that the “sign of Jonah” was his resurrection, do you think that Jesus was referring to his second advent, in so far as the resurrected Son of Man will be given as a sign to the Jews?

Response #28:

At the second advent, the sign of the cross will indeed appear in the sky and be visible throughout the world (Matt.24:30). But the sign of Jonah has to do by way of interpretation with the three days (inclusively) in the grave and the deliverance from death which Jonah received symbolically.

Question #29:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

First of all, thank you for all your prayers for me and my family. I am in constant prayer too because of my problem [details omitted] But my main question has to do with the Mark of Cain. It seems that I can't find any answers in the bible as to what exactly it is. I've heard several interpretations but no solid meaning on what it may be. What is the Mark of Cain, and would something like that exist today in Christendom?

God Bless,

Response #29:

On the mark of Cain, it was a unique sign to prevent Cain from being killed for his deed in a time when there was not as yet any government or proper procedure to deal with crime. There is nothing like that mark today and no need for it since civil government has been established by God to deal with murder and other heinous crimes (cf. Rom.13:4). Here are two links: "The Mark"; "Why the Mark?".

I'm keeping you in my prayers; I know that the Lord can give you victory in this.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

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