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Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations VIII

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Question #1:


This has been a long week, and Im happy tomorrow is Friday. Thank you again for the great explanations. It really is very simple to understand that believers and saved, unbelievers are not, yet its amazing how muddied the waters are on this, and how easy it is to become confused and begin to question it or try to make exceptions. The email posting for this week demonstrates that confusion pretty well I think. Was that all a conversation between you and a single person?

I have several questions this week:

1. In your personal Hebrew reading:

a) Do you read out loud (whenever possible)? Do you ever sing/chant it (i.e. add melody when reading aloud)?

b) Can you read it without vowels? If so, how many years of study did that take?

c) Do you vocalize the Tetragrammaton when reading? I still feel weird about not saying Adonai in its place. I sometimes recite the Shema when I get out of bed in the morning (to try to get in the right frame of mind immediately that day), and I always say Adonai.

d) Do you give the sixth letter of the aleph-bet a "v" sound or a "w" sound? In Hebrew school I learned it as vav, but thats Modern Hebrew right? Should I start reading it as waw?

2. Recently Ive been looking into the silliness, fanaticism, and occasional ludicrousness that is KJV-Onlyism. One internet article that displayed all of the above, argued that members of the NIV translation committee were/are homosexuals so the NIV must therefore be inspired by Satan, which I find humorous because theres some compelling evidence that King James himself had some homosexual predilections. My question is about the variation in Mark 10:21. Why does the KJV (and NKJV) have the phrase "take up the cross," when none of the other English translations have it? I notice that the phrase does not appear in either of the parallel passages in Matthew and Luke in any of the English versions, KJV included.

3. This past weekend I got through the end of Matthew with my mom. She said that she is extremely surprised, having been the ultimate skeptic for so long, that shes now accepting what the Bible says. She had no objections about the possibility of the resurrection (I read Daniel 12:2 to show that the concept of resurrection is very clear in the Old Testament too). She also said that shes surprised that, contrary to what she had been told and had believed all her life, the New Testament isnt some independent thing that replaces and makes obsolete the Old Testament, but instead theyre perfectly integrated. I had been telling her that the Old Testament is incomplete without the New, and the New Testament doesnt make sense without the Old. Now, she asked me what she has to do be saved(!). I told her that Paul said "If you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9). I said that believing in Jesus, His work on the Cross, and His resurrection is all one needs to doand of course only God truly knows whats in the heart and mind. She didnt necessarily profess faith out loud right then and there, but I think she is genuinely accepting what the scriptures say and I think she wants to believe. Ive never done this before (i.e. brought someone to faith in Christ), and Im a little nervous. Is there anything else vital that I should be telling her? Ive read at Ichthys that youre against the whole "Sinners Prayer" thing, and Im totally with you in your stand against water baptism, is there some sort of prayer or something I can "officiate" to confirm that she has put her faith in Jesus? Should I just assume shes a believer now, and proceed accordingly? My only experience in this area is my own. After my friend and I that initial talk I told you about, she didnt press the issue. I got down on my knees one day a couple of months later (after finishing reading Matthew), and prayed to God for forgiveness and asked to be saved. I consider that the moment I was born again. I dont know how this might work for anyone else.

In our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live,

Response #1:

Long week here too, my friend! And a busy month ahead. But God is good and always grants refreshment.

Thanks for your very pithy summing up of the issue. Salvation is all about faith, and faith is all about what we decide to believe. It is somewhat amazing that human beings can cloud this issue so dramatically, but that is part of the choice: we have to be free to reject the Will of God, otherwise our free will exercised in faith would not really be a genuine choice of Him over the world.

On your other questions:

1a) I do read out loud at the very least listening to the Hebrew voice in my head (as opposed to the "silent reading" of English we were taught in school); I don't sing or chant (I don't know how to interpret the cantillation marks in any case).

1b) It's rare to see a Tanakh without nikud. I could read something well known easily enough without the vowel points (like a favorite Psalm), but there are plenty of places in the prophets in particular where the vocalization affects one's understanding of the text (specifically the parsing of verbs), and where that is not altogether clear without the vowels. The Masoretes did a wonderful job; there have only been a few places where I have had disagreements on how the text should be pointed and understood in this regard (and most of them have to do with issues that involve the Trinity and the deity of the Messiah, interestingly enough). Reading Modern Hebrew without vowels is much easier (I've only had a couple of semesters of that in my life, and am not current); that is because the syntax of MH is much simplified and the thought processes behind it are modern rather than ancient and also very much Western European ones (the grammar parallels English, French and German not so BH). Really smart people learn these sorts of things much easier than the rest of us; so time to do so is a matter of effort in application multiplied by intellectual aptitude.

1c) I was taught to say "Adonai" and that is what I say; there is no way to know what the original vocalization of YHVH was. Footnote #1 from BB 1:

Jehovah and Jahweh are the two most well-known English vocalizations of what is often called the "tetragrammaton", i.e. the four consonant name for the Lord explained in these verses. In Hebrew, yhvh, ( ) is traditionally vocalized as 'adonai. The divine name "Lord", explained in these verses as based on "I am/shall be", can potentially be derived from either the Hebrew verb "to be" or the verb "to become" (the two verbs being very close in the Hebrew). Likewise, the form is a unique form which appears to be a cross between an imperfect (indicating repeated action irrespective of time as in "I shall be/I am") and an infinitive absolute (summing up the meaning of a verb at one throw: i.e., the very essence of "being/becoming"). Thus it is clear enough from the Hebrew context and verbal forms that "the Name" is a declaration that the Lord is the very definition of being and existence without regard to time or phenomena. Q.E.D.

1d) I use the "V" as opposed to the "W" sound. What I have learned from studying ancient languages is that the important thing is to be consistent in one's own approach. Choose what seems best to you (from whatever reasoning) but then stick with it. This is important because language learning involves the mental "ear" much more than the eye. Your ear learns and retains and processes invisible features of language quicker and more accurately than your eye could ever do. Saying things out loud and being consistent in the pronunciation builds a font of information in your language subconscious that makes actually learning the parts of the language which are invisible possible.

2) KJV follows ms. A (Alexandrinus); or better put Erasmus and those who, based on his edition, produced the TR (textus receptus) on which the KJV was based follow it because at the time it was the best ms. available. Now we have many more and much better witnesses to the text of the NT. It's a mark of how well the NT is preserved that the differences even so are small and often not particularly critical to theological points as in this case where the sentiment is fine even though the words do not actually occur in the text. This is a case of a scribe wishing to assimilate this passage with Matthew 16:24; or possibly even more likely a case of a scribe writing these words in the margin as a cross reference, and then a later copiest inserting them into the text itself because he misinterpreted the occurrence of the words in the margin as an omission rather than a cross reference.

3) Wonderful news, my friend! This is a real answer to prayer! And I do understand your dilemma. Of course we all want some guarantee of salvation in the case of those whom we love or to whom we are witnessing. In fact, of course, salvation comes from God invisibly and is played out in the hearts of those who believe. Attempting to gain or artificially produce evidence of it is always counterproductive and always leads to abuse. No doubt this is one of the most appealing parts of water-baptism; but I hasten to add that even the Roman Catholic church water-baptizes to provide a tangible proof of conversion which they have come to see as a means of it as well (!). Praying for the person in question is fine if they ask for it. But in all this the best approach and the proper one is to be patient and leave the work of conversion to the Spirit and to the person hearing the message. If a person really has believed in Christ, then this will be very obvious in their behavior going forward; and if not, not regardless of how many rituals we guilt them into participating in. I also think it's true that the more "we" (i.e., the church visible) engage in these sorts of false additions, the more obstacles we add to being saved, since the person in question is likely to get a very wrong idea of grace and what it means to be a Christian going forward if he/she focuses on these false additions. And these additions are added, let's be honest, for us, not for the new believer. We want assurance (that's the best spin) and in many case we also want kudos (now we as a church or group can demonstrate what we are "doing for Christ" in a way that can be counted up). I know of nothing in the Bible that would give credence to any false additions to the gospel, nor do I know of anywhere in scripture where there is a set method of evangelism put forth besides the sharing of the truth of the Word of God then letting the hearer respond to the Spirit's ministry. For what it's worth, I think you are handling this exactly right, and it seems that the Lord is honoring your pure and honest efforts in His behalf.

Keep fighting the good fight of faith, my friend! I'm keeping you and your family in my prayers day by day.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

How are you doing my friend? If you have some time to spare may I ask you two things related to my biblical studies?

1) Have you ever heard of the ESV Greek-English Reverse Interlinear, edited by Dr. John Schwandt 2006? I downloaded the introduction to the text, it seemed pretty interesting, however, I wanted to ask your thoughts. I didn't know if you might know anything about this product, and/or its editor.

2) I would like to build a solid reference library for biblical studies, especially Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek word studies, and was wondering if you could tell me - what are the best Lexicon's, Word Books, etc., that are used by scholars today? For example when individuals like yourself do your personal Bible studies, or even when doing your scholarly work, what tools do you use?

Thank you, in advance, and, good to get to talk to you again my friend, truly. May Christ Jesus be with you and your family!

Response #2:

I'm familiar with the ESV (a very good version), but not this special edition of it. For my comments on interlinears in general please see the link.

On Hebrew, please see the link: "Some tools for studying Hebrew". On Greek, while I don't have page for this yet, there are so many things "nice to have" but not necessary in the early going, I would suggest waiting until you have a little Greek under your belt. The Liddell and Scott Greek English Lexicon, for example, comes in three sizes, all of which are great but they serve different purposes. On the best NT specific lexicon, Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, here is something I wrote recently to a friend:

I have a first edition of BAG; it is wonderful and has gone through many editions since 1957, but it's still the same basic book, that is, a nice English version of Bauer's lexicon. I bought mine ind Carlsbad CA before I went to Okinawa. On "the rock" it sat on my coffee table getting warped from the sun; I didn't give it any serious use until I started making progress with Greek at ChampaignUrbana. It resided close to my desk with all my other "nice to keep handy" reference books.

There are plenty of other great books, like Smyth's Greek Grammar, which I consider essential, but, again, they will really only become useful to you once you get to the point of having some facility in the language (as in my personal example above).

Happy to correspond with you more on this, of course. Also please see the Ichthys links pages:

Greek Language Resources

Hebrew Language Resources

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi Sir,

Blessings to you my brother. Thank you very much for the Ichthys links. I have attached for you the Introduction to ESV Greek-English Reverse Interlinear, edited by Dr. John Schwandt 2006. You can look at if you find time, or even want to, to see his rationale in making the text. Thanks again Dr. Luginbill, your a blessing!

In Christ Jesus, the Living Word!

Response #3:

I can see where a reverse interlinear might be easier to use, but I don't believe there is any fundamental difference between this and the older tools which go the other way except to divorce the English even more from the Greek than is the case in traditional interlinears. That is because putting Greek words under the text as secondary means that they will be consulted on even more of a "cafeteria style" basis than is the inevitable case in using a traditional interlinear. Reading the actual Greek forces a person to, well, "read the Greek". Having the Greek words presented in this way (all out of order), makes it seem as if something scholarly is taking place when it actually can't be. Greek is very much dependent upon the way in which words and phrases are put together; breaking that up destroys much of the essence of what is really there to be gleaned.

This sort of tool inevitably leads to the false impression that translation is merely a matter of equivalence of individual words. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. I'm not against this tool. I merely think it is largely useless (sort of like a hammer which has no peen but a nail-puller on both ends). Anyone who is really serious about being a pastor-teacher will, if possible, learn as much Greek as possible. Interlinears are not a route to this any more than crutches are a route to learning how to walk. So, bottom line, I advise against buying them because in my view they are a real waste of money. If a person wants to anyway, I certainly have absolutely nothing against that. My main concern is to help genuine believers who are genuinely interested in growing spiritually do so. I can't see any way that this sort of book would be helpful to that goal and I know it's not helpful for learning Greek (rather, it's an impediment to the extent one relies on it). So that's where I'm coming from. But when I was coming up, I certainly bought my share of books that turned out be largely useless and were just a waste of money in the end. It's not a spiritual defect. It's just a waste of money.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Thanks for the response, I appreciate it. Here's the thing Dr. Luginbill, I would love to learn Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek (actually, several other languages too), however, my current situation makes this desire quite difficult to achieve - (1) I don't have the money to pursue learning these languages at a university, what little money I have is almost entirely spent, each month, just on basic living expenses. (2) I have zero experience studying another language (as I may have mentioned to you before, I have zero technical training even in English). (3) I would need a teacher who would be able to help me "step by step" as I pursued learning foreign languages, a teacher who would take notice, if I was having difficulty learning a language the "traditional" way, and would work with me to find a solution to the problem, enabling me to make progress in spite of the difficulty. So, in short, it's not that I'm "lazying out" trying to avoid studying, I would love to learn languages, and other academic subjects, it just might need to be a little different than most others. Suffice it to say, I've spent the last 9 years trying to do the best I can, with whatever I can, because I do firmly believe that the Lord Jesus has called me to teach His Word. I have to trust that the Jesus knew these points of opposition, these deficiencies, would be in my life, yet I just can't believe that He looked into the future and said, "well, I hope ___ gets trained in theology, history, languages, etc., otherwise he'll never be able to teach my Word effectively or fulfill My call for him to teach." Don't get me wrong Dr. Luginbill, I greatly appreciate folks like yourself, who have dedicated many years of their lives to the technical study of the Scriptures, languages, history, philosophy, etc. Folks like you have been such a blessing in my life, and I've learned many things through your work. What's more, I think many folks are wrong to devalue the work of biblical scholars, linguists, historians, etc., because, the Lord Jesus has used individuals like yourself to translate the Bible for the many people's of the world who may never get to study the original text, and to defend the scholarly points of Christianity against the "nay sayer's". Even so, and I don't mean this in a disrespectful way at all, but, I feel that people must keep in mind that several of the disciples (with the exception of Paul) themselves were not Ph.D.'s in theology, languages, history, philosophy, most of them were not "scholars" (2nd Peter for example shows that Peter was not necessarily a Greek scholar) yet their lives impacted the world. Also, did not even Paul tell the Corinthian Christians, "Think about the circumstances of your call, brothers. Not many were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were born to a privileged position. But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, so that no one can boast in his presence" 1 Cor. 1:26-29. And, when speaking of his own rhetorical skill, Paul said, "And even if I am unskilled in speaking, yet I am certainly not so in knowledge" 2 Cor. 11:6. Again, please don't think that I'm condemning academic training, not at all, I'm simply contending that I don't believe that the only people God calls to teach Scripture, are those who are trained in all the scholarly aspects of study. In fact, as you know, some of history's great Christian scholars, unfortunately were also responsible for some serious theological errors. In closing, I just want to clarify, again, that I don't want you to feel that I'm devaluing scholarly training. If you disagree with my observation, that's OK, there's room for disagreement. I consider you a friend, and I believe that friends should be free to disagree with one another, if they so desire, yet I would hope they can still have a strong friendship. As always, thank you for all your help (both academically and spiritually), your a blessing my friend.

 Shalom my brother,

Response #4:

I appreciate you, my friend. And I do want to encourage you to pursue the ministry the Lord has for you. That is the way to earn the rewards the Lord wants you to have.

This is a different question, however. If you ask me, "are interlinears good", I have to say no, because they're not much use. However, if you ask me, "does the fact that I am not in a position to formally study biblical languages for many years as part of my preparation for ministry mean I can't be a pastor-teacher?" the answer to that question is also no: certainly you can be a pastor teacher without any Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic. I dare say that in the history of the Church very few pastor teachers have had much in terms of language preparation. Let me tell you that a year of Greek and Hebrew is not much, especially as it has traditionally been taught in seminaries (i.e., on a "glancing-blow" basis). That does not mean that we wish to make a virtue out of ignorance; it does mean that we accept the fact that there are all manner of ministers in the Body of Christ, and all are necessary to its growth and spiritual health. We do what we can with the time, skills, resources, talents and opportunities we have been given. I was never ordained. I haven't let that stop me from doing what my hand found to do for the Church of Christ. I never ended up having a brick and mortar church. But the Lord opened up this venue for me, and I have tried to make the most of it. Many people need face-to-face teaching and will never "get it" by reading or over the internet (even with videos or podcasts of the sort my friend Curt Omo does: Bible Academy). So there is no doubt an important role for you to play, even if you are not in a position to get the formal language instruction that in a perfect world you'd be wanting to get. And I think that will be more so the case once the Tribulation begins, since we know that only one third of true believers fall away but most of the other two thirds are not presently in any kind of spiritual shape to endure what's coming, absent an intensive crash course in the truth.

Finally, my opinion on interlinears is a profession and a personal one, not a spiritual one. There's nothing sinful or immoral or otherwise despicable about using an interlinear, or Strong's Concordance or any other of a number of tools out there. If you want to buy them, buy them. If you want to use them, use them. My main concern is to help believers, and especially pastor-teachers, avoid the pitfall of building doctrines or discovering "truths" from this sort of language study. I am confident that this is not a problem for you. The main advantage of such secondary tools will be in their ability to help you see what I (and others who comment on the languages) "are talking about".

Being an expert in the languages is no guarantee of theological accuracy or even of salvation. However, there are certain things which can't be discovered, analyzed, verified without this expertise.

Do be pleased to keep fighting the good fight of faith, my friend. I look forward to seeing the development of your ministry in due time. The time is short. We don't know how the Lord is planning to use any of us once the Tribulation begins, but we can be sure He'll make more use of us if we are spiritually prepared to be used through our personal growth, progress, and production.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi Sir,

Thanks for the response. I appreciate your comments. By the way, my response was not related to your comment on interlinear Bible's, rather, it came from the fact that I'm sort of discouraged because I feel like there is so many different things to learn, and that I'm running out of time, as I scramble, trying to get thoroughly trained in everything. I just wish that I had paid more attention to these types of issues when I was younger, and had more opportunities to pursue them than I do now. So, again, I appreciate your response, and continued help and kindness.


Response #5:

It's no problem at all.

There is "a lot to learn". But getting the correct system of theology down pat (as I try to present it at Ichthys, for example) is in my view "job #1", because that is necessary not only for personal spiritual growth (knowing and believing the truth), but also because that is the absolute prerequisite for helping others to grow: you can't teach what you don't know . . . and believe. The other critical thing, and an important complement to the above, is obtaining a thorough grounding in the English Bible (read it as often as you can and as much as you can).

Other things are important too, of course, for a prospective teacher in order to have a balanced view of things with appropriate depth. I emphasize the languages as critical because 1) they can't be picked up overnight (whereas a person motivated to do so could give himself a sound grounding in, e.g., church history in a fortnight just by readings in English); 2) reading the Bible in the original languages pays spiritual dividends beyond reading in English every time one does so, and 3) there is a limit to how much a person who doesn't know the original languages can do in terms of any development of theological points (which ultimately always come down to precisely what certain scriptures say in the Hebrew or Greek and that is often not as straightforward as something like an interlinear, or a commentary, or a set of translations may suggest). Without the languages, a person is pretty much dependent "other people's translations", without really having the ability to pronounce them right or wrong.

It's amazing what some people have been able to accomplish in a positive way even without knowing the original languages, however (e.g., the Scofield Reference Bible), so I wouldn't despair if you are unable for personal reasons to get around to this. The main thing is for us to ask ourselves what the Lord wants us to do in terms of ministry, and then to do that as best we can, as soon as we can, and as long as we can.

I am confident that you are doing what you can to make yourself useful to the Lord and to His Church, and I am keeping you in my prayers day by day for your effectiveness for Him and His Body.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

To Whom it may concern: In the book of "Joshua", the popular passages, "be of a good courage", found in chapter 1 verses 6,9, and 18. My question is during my studies, I couldn't find the Hebrew word or meaning for good, as pertaining to these verses. Can you tell me why and if you have the meaning pertaining to these verses? I noticed it also in other books Numbers 13:20, Deuteronomy 31:6,7 and 23 etc. Why just when mentioned "be of a good courage "? There's no Hebraic meaning? Thanks for any explanation or help.

Response #6:

Good to make your acquaintance. The word translated by the KJV versions as "be ... of a good courage" is the Hebrew verb 'ametz (אָמֵץ). This is just the way the translators decided to render this particular verb. Translation is as much of an art as it is a science there often are no "one for one" exact equivalents in corresponding languages (especially when we are talking about ancient vs. modern ones). I will note that NIV says "be strong and courageous", which is equally good for this combination of verbs in the imperative (command) mood.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #7:

Bob. Thanks for the speedy response and what you explained is true of the word "courageous/ courage", but I was speaking of the word "good", in particular. Sorry for the misunderstanding, if you go to your Strongs concordance and look under Joshua 1: 6,8,9 and 18 there's no numerical number to refer you to the parallel Strongs dictionary to give a definition for "good", pertaining to these verses and the other books and verses I mentioned in my first email. Hope this is explanable. Just would like to know why good used in other parts of the bible have a definition and other particular verses don't?

Response #7:

I do understand, actually. KJV translates 'ametz (אָמֵץ) AS "be-of-a-good-courage", a phrase in English for a single word in Hebrew. Today, there is no need to add "good" with the idea of "courage", but things were different in the early 17th century. Words change their meanings and shift their precise sense all the time (I have certainly seen it in my lifetime). For example, in KJV days, being "pathetic" might mean "having sympathy FOR someone else", but today we have specialized the word to mean "in need of sympathy from others". "Courage" is something even evil people can have, and that was appreciated in KJV days (though perhaps not today), so the need to put in "good" with "courage" was apparently felt necessary by the translator.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hi Bob,

Question 1: Just recently I was a bit dismayed when I realized that the Kindle book I have of the 1984 NIV has been pulled from the store and is no longer available. This got me skimming arguments for and against the new version again, and "gender-neutral language" kept coming up as a main issue.

People against the new language point out, among other things, that:

1) Changing 3rd person singular from "he/him" to "they/their" makes singular passages plural, and can change the impact the text has on us (reducing the "personal" aspect of it, making passages that are very clearly between God and individuals seem as if they are talking about God and groups).

2) Sometimes changing "man" can impact messianic passages, e.g., Psalm 8:4-5 in NIV 2011 reads as "what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor", which would make it impossible to notice that Paul quotes it in Hebrews 2 were it not for the fact that they mistranslate it there (Hebrews 2 is most certainly speaking of Jesus not humans in general).

3) By picking and choosing when "man" will be translated as "man" and when it will be translated as "human" or "they", translators take the power of interpretation out of the hands of the reader. In the Greek, of course, the masculine was used without issue just as it is in most languages today. Translating this directly isn't a form of obfuscation (like some "translationese" can be), but rather an accurate rendition of what the Greek actually says. In most cases determining whether scripture is talking of a man/men specifically or of a different group is a simple task for the reader based on context alone.

On the other hand, people in favor of the new language also have some arguments:

1) So much as problematic use of of gender-neutral language is avoided (regarding points 1 and 2 above, and also in passages like Genesis 1:26-27, e.g.), then rendering the author's "intent" into modern English so that people will easily understand is not a bad thing per se. (This is, of course, a rather empty argument because currently all gender-neutral versions do not avoid these problematic situations).

2) Certain collective pronouns, such as "brothers" or "brethren", are much less controversial generally, and could be translated equally well as "brothers and sisters" most places (with a few exceptions). Just because some situations require more thought and consideration doesn't mean ipso facto that all passages must stay as they have been.

3) It is true that languages change over time, and it is also true that Bible translations ought to be as readable as possible in the modern flavor of a language (pace what the KJV purists say). To the extent that it really is more typical to use different expressions instead of the masculine in certain situations, to that extent "keeping up with modern conventions" is a valid argument. Of course, this has the problems that 1) the masculine is still widely used in the same sense as it always has been (so it is not "extinct", as it were), 2) the importance of this factor in comparison to other hermeneutic principles is hotly debated, and 3) caving in to political pressure should be avoided in translation at all costs (i.e., the Bible says what it says regardless of what certain political groups want it to say).

Anyhow, I've had a hard time making sense of all the many things people say regarding this issue, and would be very interested in hearing your take on the matter.

Question 2: In your opinion, and from your reading of scripture, do you believe Solomon was saved at the point of his death? If yes, do you think he wrote Ecclesiastes before or after his period of backsliding?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Response #8:

It is disturbing to me as well and especially the way they did sort of an Orwellian "1984" job on the old 1984 NIV after they replaced it (it has disappeared entirely from cyberspace, so unless you have an old print copy, it has ceased to exist). They made many other changes as well, mostly for ill (and not just for the reasons you address here). I'm glad I have a print copy. See the link: "the 1984 NIV 'switcheroo'".  As to your questions:

1) See the link. In my view it's a question of where a little would have gone a long way, but a lot in fact has ruined the whole. Language does change over time but the changes to the NIV have nothing to do with that whatsoever in my view; rather, they are political. There's nothing I've found in the 1984 version which is out of sync with the way we talk today it's just out of sync with some people's political preferences. I have no problem with people having political preferences though I do point out constantly that politics and scripture never mix and this is a good example of the principle. You bring up some good, coolly rational arguments to demonstrate that these changes obscure the truth in many places for political reasons exactly the opposite of what good Bible translation should be all about.

2) I think there is an argument to be made for Ecclesiastes being one of the last things Solomon wrote (if not the last thing). I do think he is in heaven; I cannot discern from scripture whether or not he had a spiritual recovery toward the end (but I do think he was saved in any case, albeit after wasting a good start).

Hope you are planning a bit of R&R before it all begins, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hi Bob,

I was familiar with the the way they had pulled the old 1984 NIV, I was actually just commenting that they are still pulling it. This Bible was available on Kindle several weeks ago, but now it's not. It was the last real 1984 NIV Bible on the platform (except for this one, which has notes embedded in the text so isn't really "readable"), and now it seems that Biblica has forced its removal. Instead of just taking the old version off of Bible study sites and ceasing publishing, they are actually actively "book-burning", as it were, removing already-published editions from the Kindle Store.

On the translation issues, do you feel like it is ever a good idea to stray from literal translation? That is, disregarding all the political nonsense, should we even be translating adam, anthropos, adelphoi and so on as anything other than their typical meanings? I'm trying to take a step back and see if it is possible to frame discussion in the context of faithfulness to the text rather than imperfect rationalizations that is, "we are going to translate these words this way because that is what the Greek/Hebrew 'actually means'". Is this a defensible translation philosophy, or is it too simplistic?

In Jesus,

Response #9:

"Translation" is a notoriously sticky wicket. About the only thing I would be willing to say for certain is that there are good translations and bad ones. No translation is ever going to do complete justice to what's being translated because it's not the same language by definition. When translating something like the Bible, it's best to have some parameters in mind in order to at least nod to consistency, but that's really never achieved either. But if a translation starts out by adopting a convention that is prima facie misleading or incorrect, that's very problematic. The Latin proverb to the effect that all translators are traitors (to the original) is on the mark. However, translations of some things are necessary (like the Bible), so we do the best we can (or at least we should). There's a lot more about the philosophy of this sort of thing at the website:

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

Some Issues of Transmission, Translation, and Transliteration 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

How to use the Bible translations at Ichthys.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L. 

Question #10:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

How are you doing my friend, very well I trust? If you have some time to spare may I ask your thoughts on a matter related to Bible study? As I have mentioned to you before, in previous letters, I have many study books, tools, etc., and while I always try to use them in a responsible manner, still, I have never been trained in the proper rules for doing so. Suffice it to say, may I ask for some guidance in this matter? Do you think you could give me some pointers on how to correctly use tools such as concordances, lexicons, and word study books. I want to know the "official" principles that scholars like yourself use when doing word studies, topical studies, etc. As I have mentioned before, in some of my other letters, while I may not always agree with certain scholars, or while I may not put as much stock in scholarly expertise as some folks, even so, I am not going to be ignorant or prideful, refusing to learn from those who have been in the game longer than I have. I believe God gave us Apostle, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers; for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, so I for one am going to be humble and willing to learn from others. Suffice it to say, any thoughts and or suggestions you may have are appreciated, as in your continued friendship.

Blessing to you and yours, in King Jesus our Mighty God!

Response #10:

I'm hanging in hope you are at least doing the same. As to your question, I'd be happy to discuss these things with you any time. In general terms, what I can tell you is that all such tools are just that, tools. That is to say, they are not the key thing to getting "the work" done; they may merely sometimes help in getting it done. In fact, "tool" is perhaps a bit too strong of a word because it invests many of these books with greater authority than they deserve. A dictionary, for example, is of some use in learning a language. But ideally a person will learn said language and after that will only need to consult the dictionary once in a great while, if at all. This is what we aspire to in regard to the Bible too. Since the Hebrew and Greek of the Bible are ancient, it's a good deal harder to get to the point of having them be second nature the same way that we speak English, for example, but that ought to be the goal. Eventually, we will only need to consult "learned" dictionaries, grammars and commentaries once in a while and in my experience they will be helpful at that point only on the rare occasion. So the bottom line in all this is that these tools are only meant to help you get to the point of being able to read the Greek and the Hebrew of the Bible (Aramaic too but that is a much smaller issue in terms of amount of text and reasonably close to Hebrew) on your own with only a little help from, say, a lexicon. And when you do use the lexicon, in terms of Hebrew, for example, you will realize that it is just a collection of opinions, in the difficult cases, about what a word or word group might mean. Everyone agrees on the 90% these words you will learn in the early going. The 10% that are problematic have to be analyzed in the context. In terms of Greek on the other hand, we have a wealth of external evidence for the vocabulary from the secular Greek world (Hebrew is known to us almost exclusively from the Bible by way of contrast), but the difficulties in translation and analysis come more from the way Greek is constructed and also from the theology being discussed. So what's the best way to get up to speed on all this? Read more and more of the Bible; read more and more Greek; read more and more Hebrew. People who are overly focused on tools often never get to the point of seeing these things as actual, written languages: that is our goal, and to fully understand them.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Dear Dr. and brother,

I was reading your new study and ran across your reference to Isaiah 45:15 which I read in various versions.

The NLT version says: "

15 "Truly, O God of Israel, our Savior, you work in mysterious ways."

All the other translations say: You are a God who hides himself".

A completely different translation? What are your thoughts and opinion of the NLT?

Secondly, as I was looking at the word for "GOD" in the Strong's concordance for the Hebrew, this is what I found.

יהוה - This is used in the ISR translation for "The Almighty One".

The one who is: i.e. the absolute and unchangeable one, Ri; the existing, ever living, as self-consistent and unchangeable, Di; or the one ever coming into manifestation as the God of redemption.

Classical Hebrew

אל = Name for "GOD";

Meaning = "Strength", and "Strong Leader". It is used 250 times in the Tanakh.

I am not in any stretch of the imagination familiar with the Hebrew language. But the Hebrew Pictures, I would call them, fascinate me. Just wondering why the two different pictures for GOD? As always, please bear with me for my questions, and be kind to me on explaining the differences between them in basic terms so that I can understand them. Incidentally, maybe my curiosity comes from my Grandmother, who was Jewish, and came to this country many, many years ago. Thank you for your time and kindness always.

May He bless you abundantly.

The new study, I am just getting started, is as always excellent.

Response #11:

All versions have their strengths and weaknesses. NLT is more of what I would term an "interpretative translation". Naturally, all translation is to some degree interpretation (I can give you many links on that, but for starters see: "Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading IV"), but the NLT does take more than its fair share of liberties in its renderings. When it really does hit the nail on the head, the results are quite good; when it strikes a glancing blow, as it does here, the results can be confusing. The other translations are correct. NLT seems to assume that what Isaiah means by "God hiding Himself" is that He "acts in mysterious ways". In some senses that is true, but their rendering is farther from the mark of what is meant than a more literal rendering in this instance so that their interpretation is more confusing than a straightforward translation would be. The Lord gives mankind clear evidence of His existence and character through what He has made, but also offers "plausible deniability" so that everyone can make an unforced choice about whether to seek Him out and accept His Sacrifice for life eternal (most people would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven, and the fact that He is not visible to our eyes allows them to choose what they really want; see "God's Plan to Save You" in BB 4B).

On the names in the Bible for God, there are many, actually (see the link which leads to many others), although it is true that YHVH (the tetragrammaton) and 'Elohiym are the two most common. The essential difference is that YHVH is descriptive of the Lord's essence as the origin of being (it is derived from the verb "to be"; see the link: in BB 1 "The Tetragrammaton"), while 'Elohiym is the plural of 'El, meaning literally "mighty one" and used of pagan gods as well as of THE God. Note that the plural is both a plural of majesty (only our God is so great as to require a plural) and a literal plural (referring to the three persons of the Godhead).

Do feel free to write back about any of this, my friend!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi Bob,

On 1 Chronicles 2:34: This is an overlooked verse. Here an Egyptian slave is given the privilege of becoming a son-in-law of the Master.


Response #12:

A good illustration both of 1) that God does not play favorites "but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right" (Acts 10:35 NIV); and 2) of the importance of reading and reading the scriptures daily: there is a lifetime's worth of treasure to discover and new things on every page no matter how many times we've read them in the past.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

How are you doing my brother? I've been delayed in moving back to Alabama, so at the moment I'm still in Boston, MA, bags packed and waiting for a rental car issue to clear up. Suffice it to say I wanted to check-in with you to see how you're doing, and also, if you have time, to ask you a question regarding the Greek language. Sometime back we discussed the issue whether or not it was better to study Classical Greek instead of Koine Greek, to which you, if my memory is correct, you were in agreement with. I have heard various views, some in favor of studying the Koine dialect because that is what the New Testament authors wrote in, and Koine's vocabulary in more specific to their writings, as well as the writings of the Early Church Father's. Yet, others seem to feel that the Classical dialect better suits the study of both the New Testament, the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament), and the writings of the Early Church Father's. Suffice it to say, if you don't mind, may I ask you to elaborate a little on why you advocate studying Classical Greek over Koine Greek?

Love and blessings to you and yours, in King Jesus - The Living Word

Response #13:

Best wishes for a good move!

On koine vs. Classical, in my opinion there is no debate. The language is the same language (see the link). But if a person studies only what is deemed "koine", they'll never learn actual Greek. If they study actual Greek, "koine" will present no particular problems. This only seems like an issue to people who don't know Greek and most people who myopically focus on "koine" don't really know Greek.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #14:

What Bible does your studies originate from, KJV or ??? Thank you

Response #14:

Good to make your acquaintance.

I study scripture in the original Greek and Hebrew and read the Bible in the original languages every day. I also am a reader of the English Bible. KJV is one of those versions I have spent a lot of time on. Whenever I am investigating a passage, I will see what the original says. When I quote a passage, I will generally cite a major version which captures well what the original actually says. When I don't find that in any major version, I will re-translate the passage myself (there is a list of translations at the link).  If the passage doesn't have a version attribution (e.g., NKJV, NIV, etc.), it means the translation is mine (see the link: "Where do the translations of scripture that appear at Ichthys come from?").

I hope I have understood your question correctly. Please do feel free to write back for clarification.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #15:

Hi Bob,

Why does a portion of the Book of Numbers have inverted nuns surrounding it? Do you agree with the theory that this is because this portion is not included in its proper place?


Response #15:

This nun inversum also occurs a couple of times in the Psalms. The Masoretes, like ancient editors of Greek and Latin texts, made up their own rules as they went along. This device is one of a number of editorial oddities one finds in the MT (the most famous and ubiquitous of which is the kethibh-qere'). What the nuns mean is anyone's guess. It's not obvious to me that there is any textual problem here that would be assuming that the mark is mimicking Aristarchan sigla (and that doesn't seem to be applicable to Ps.107:21-26; 107:40). This is a quote. Perhaps that what it meant to the person who used this device. The sign is only preserved because of the highly conservative nature of Masoretic text-transmission.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hi Bob,

I am reviewing Hebrew from college, and I am using the excellent textbook A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew by C. L. Seow, and I learned something about instrumental prefixes

Maqtal form denotes place. Maqtel form denotes instrument.

Now I have a question for you: what do the prefixes tav and aleph mean when they're attached to nouns?


Response #16:

The point reported can be true. But there are all manner of exceptions in nouns and verbs when it comes to BH and oftentimes the exceptions outnumber the examples which follow the "rule" (that is true throughout BH which never had a formalized grammar developed by the people themselves at the time, unlike other classical and most modern languages).

As nominal prefixes, aleph and tav merely make a verbal root into a substantive. Sometimes aleph may be seen as euphonic (explaining the addition when it might not otherwise be necessary), but neither consonant seems to produce any particular pattern of meaning except to say that they are both on the "short list" of consonants which may be prefixed to a verbal root to turn it into a substantive.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hi Bob,

Because I hate writing emails containing bidirectional text, I'll be using the standard transliteration of Hebrew.

What is the root behind magg p (h)? Is it n-g-p or is it g-p-(h)? That is, is it a I-Nun root or a III-Hey root?

What is the root behind n?

Also, I learned that many III-Hey roots originally ended in either yud or waw.

Because I have a lot of free time during my master's program, I decided to take the time to think of a career for me and what skills I would like to cultivate.

After some deliberation, I've determined that programming would be the most enjoyable (and pays well).

Do you know any believers who are programmers? I enjoy systems programming and C++.


Response #17:

In my experience, there is not a right or wrong answer to this type of question. The most august lexicon of BH, Brown Driver Briggs (or BDB as it is affectionately called), often cannot decide on particular forms. I will also say that there is tendency for roots which are hollow, 3-he, or geminate to share a common or related meaning. This gets to the question of whether or not Semitic root were originally bi-literal rather than tri-literal. It's a good thing to keep in mind when learning BH vocabulary. Given the very small corpus we have, it would be a mistake in many cases to be dogmatic about this issue where even lexicographers are in disagreement. In my reconstruction of things, I imagine a native speaker would mentally process these alternate forms/roots similarly except in some cases of well-known divergences.

Best wishes for programming! I do get emails from believers who are into this from time to time (various languages). Any prospective teacher of the Bible at this point really should consider a good tent-making profession to pay the bills.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:

I have found that a reference book on Modern Hebrew that I own is surprisingly useful, and corroborates much of Gesenius.

I am studying the difference between q l pattern adjectives (like q n) versus q l pattern adjectives like k . According to what I can scrap together from 19th century reference books, q l pattern adjectives have an accusative sense to them, so it is possible to place a direct object after them. Here is an example:

"m l r a o m h" --"full of the spirit of wisdom"

Do you have any reference material that gives a comprehensive diagnostic of these vowel patterns?

I am also amazed by what Jesus Christ is doing for me in instructing me in Hebrew. I never could see the Biblical text with this level of penetrating depth. The grammar of Biblical Hebrew is truly rich and expressive.

I am amazed by how few true irregularities there are in BH. I'm not sure if the original language was like this or if this was a creation of the masoretes when they sought out to systemize it.

Ancient Greek has more irregularities, because as it descended from PIE to Proto-Hellenic to Homeric/Archaic to Attic Greek many changes were inconsistently applied. But even still, verbs like eimi are very clearly athematic and is clearly a run-down version of a formerly regular conjugation system.

Response #18:

Sorry for the delay. Posting day, you know (thanks for your input on this one).

Yes, there is a good deal in Modern Hebrew helpful for learning BH. I had a year of MH before I started BH (actually, a quarter followed by a semester in two different systems entirely, so a good smattering). MH is essentially BH dumbed-down in terms of accidence and built upon a system of modern, western European grammar. So MH is helpful for BH, but not so much the other way around.

In terms of characterizing BH, it has always seemed to me that it is much more irregular than Classical Greek (not to mention Latin which is regular to fault in the Classical period at least). The reasons for this have to do with the facts that 1) it covers a tremendously long period of time; 2) there was never a classical literature or period and no classical grammar we have the Bible; that is "the literature"; 3) language was not thought about philosophically or scientifically in that culture, as far as we can reconstruct things (a conclusion that jibes with many other aspects of Hebrew culture as well, being very earthy and practical and not artificially or hyper-organized). Add to that the fact that the OT, while seemingly large, is a very small corpus of language given its 1,000 plus year span, and we have a recipe for irregularity. It's a marvel that the language is as stable and regular as it is with all that going on. To me, this speaks to the strengths of Semitic languages and the way they inherently operate. The practical application here is that while many of these observations you are making and learning are fun and also useful to some extent, Hebrew is a language where the exceptions often outnumber any rule a person would wish to put down, with even those examples which follow the rule often not doing so in an absolutely regular way. For interpreters, this means that we have to be very wary of a Procrustean attitude when it comes to some form that "ought to mean" XYZ it might (and the rule may give guidance); but it might not. One last thing. Oftentimes the forms we are interpreting might be different if pointed differently. The vowel points are not inspired, are as much as almost two millennia later than the writings themselves and there are some obvious instances of the Masoretes playing fast and loose with the vowels (for theological reasons it seems to me). So we also have to worry about the example being a later understanding of something which may be incorrect. I have gotten much benefit out of Gesenius, and I don't know of any better grammar for illustrating the things you are asking about. This sort of thing which I find fascinating and also helpful (please don't get the wrong idea from the caveats above) has long since fallen out of favor with most scholars who engage in research on BH.

I'm also thrilled to see who the Lord is moving in you in all this. I'm very happy that you seem to have found your footing regarding what the Lord wants you to do with your life. I applaud our eagerness, and I greatly look forward to enjoying your future ministry.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hi Bob,

1) Did NT writers (Paul, Luke, etc.) have a form of Greek pronunciation roughly concordant with Classical Attic, or something quite different (as this page puts forth)? If they did have a different pronunciation, is it worth learning for the purpose of "reading the NT as the writers intended it / the people of the time would have read it" (i.e., is there anything important contained in the phonetics of the text)?

2) Have you heard of the book Vox Graeca by W. Sidney Allen? It seems to be what my Greek class's textbook (and professor) are going off of we ought to pronounce phi as an aspirated kappa, theta as an aspirated tau, etc. It's worth pointing out that the pronunciation site that you've recommended to me before follows Allen's pronunciation except it replaces the aspirates above with fricatives (/f/ for phi, /th/ for theta) for pedagogical practicality everything else looks to be the same (from my admittedly inexperienced perspective).

3) Do you agree with the so called "pitch accent", as taught on that same pronunciation site? We haven't gotten there in class yet, but I notice that my textbook says "now ancient Greek is usually pronounced with stress on the accented syllables [rather than with any tonal variation]." Is accentuation by stress or accentuation by tone "more right"?

4) My professor seems to have adopted the mindset, at least to an extent, that consistency in pronunciation is important, but the specifics are not worth sweating over (i.e., even if there is a "right way", you won't be doomed if you don't follow it exactly). Would you agree? Is there any great evil that comes about from objectively mispronouncing the language if you do it in a consistent way that makes sense to you?

If you would rather I not send Classics-related things your way to get a second opinion on them, I'd be happy to refrain. From a novice's perspective, it is sometimes difficult to know if what you get in the classroom is representative of the normal scholarly consensus (to the degree that such a thing exists).

Yours in Christ,

Response #19:

I see you've already started! We have another week before classes begin.

I'm happy to address Classics questions, especially seeing as how this is part of your preparation for ministry.

I agree with the point and I stress this to my students that the really important thing is for a language learner to be consistent with one system. That is because we learn mainly through the ear-gate, not the eye-gate (something easy to lose track of in studying no longer spoken languages). Since we have no audio or video or native speakers, we have to help ourselves out as much as possible, but if we are sending our language learning part of the brain mixed signals it will be very difficult for it to learn fast and effectively. So the biggest thing is to chose one system.

There are good arguments for some of these non-traditional renderings (contract vowels and subscripts pronounced as well as true aspirations, etc.) still being in vogue in the early fifth century in Attica. However, most of what remains of Greek came after that point. So while it may have a bearing on Aeschylus, it is more questionable if we are taking about Xenophon, and certainly only antiquarian if we are talking about Plutarch, Josephus and the Bible (LXX and NT). Also, there is no "holy grail" of what was correct at any period. This is a little like asking "what's the correct way to pronounce English?" I don't have a definitive answer to that. I do know that it is different in Northern Ireland than it is in Seattle. I also know that it depends on individuals and subgroups even in these areas. Linguists have produced phonetic atlases showing the differences in pronunciation in different parts of New England of course that was before many waves of immigration, from Portugal, notably, have no doubt altered the facts on the ground and it is changing every day. Things were no different in this regard in the ancient world (actually more diverse because of the many identifiable local dialects). What the traditional pronunciation offers is a workable system which has some good basis as regards most of what remains of ancient Greek; it also has the virtue of being the one used by the vast majority of those who know any ancient Greek today.

Even if we could achieve purity (however defined), it would not, in my opinion, have any particular benefit as opposed to any other system which is employed consistently. And it's not as if we can really have any confidence in doing so, even in any given period. There were more variations in Greek during the early 5th century than there are in English today, and our literary and epigraphic evidence for them is lacunose in the extreme (Vox Graeca by W. Sidney Allen is a great book but also a wonderful example of the limits to this sort of thing, in my view).

As to accents, the original pitch was lost as well as Greek progressed. It's also harder for us to know precisely what it entailed without hearing it. We have a good idea, but since we can't be perfect here, seeing accents as simply stress marks makes the whole process much simpler. I do explain the theory of their original force when I teach, and do try to make some distinction in my own pronunciation, but as long as the emphasis is on the right syllable, experience and observation suggest that the brain is getting enough info to learn the language well.

Best wishes with this, and enjoy it, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hi Bob,

"a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings' palaces."

"The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces."

Unfortunately this word is a hapax legomenon, so there isn't much in the way of alternative usage to determine meaning here. The Hebrew word in question ( m mt) seems to derive from the triliteral -m-m which in late Hebrew means "be dazed." So judging by the meaning of the root some kind of poisonous or noxious biological organism is being described.

However, I think that the KJV here is correct and the modern translations are wrong: a spider is being described, mostly because of contextual reasoning: lizards aren't really that known for getting into homes, but spiders are so good at getting into homes that every exterminator says that it's impossible to spider-proof a house, no matter how hermetically sealed or how often you fumigate it, because they always have a way of coming back in.


Response #20:

Have to disagree on this one. This word contains a combination of consonants which might be applicable to a number of roots. When it comes to such nouns, occasional working with roots may give a clue, but that can be misleading too. So while some lizards or related creatures are in fact poisonous, there may not be any such notion present in this root at all. Context is always a much better guide. Saying that spiders get into homes is not very notable. Remarking the same about lizards is more satisfying and absolutely true. On Okinawa, do what we might, we had anoles continually making their way into all the barracks and perching in the rafters, and in fact most Marines were glad of them since they ate mosquitoes. Further, the KJV is definitely wrong about the creature being the subject that makes no sense in the context. But the preferred alternative makes perfect sense by providing the needed contrast which would otherwise be absent. We exterminate spiders (we certainly don't catch them in our hands more than once); we like catching lizards. Finally, in addition to missing the sense of the proverb, I'm at a loss to explain the KJV's fixing on "spider"; both the LXX and Vulgate have "lizard" as well. Luther made the same mistake so perhaps this translator followed him. Sometimes the tradition is right.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi Bob,

After investigating Biblical Hebrew triliterals with this pattern, I've determined that this pattern of a given triliteral means one of the following:

(1) If the triliteral is intransitive, it is a substantive of the agent of the grundstamm of the triliteral.

E.g. t , with the derivation path of y--b w--b taw t

(2) If the triliteral is transitive, it is a substantive of the object of the grundstamm of the triliteral.

E.g. tr (h), with the derivation path of y-r-(h) w-r-(h) tawr (h) tr (h)

I couldn't find any corroboration of my hypothesis, although it seems to be very reasonable.

Response #21:

It's good to remember that BH was spoken over a two thousand year period, never had a formal grammar, hand a lot of foreign influences from many places, and exists today in a very small corpus, the Bible almost exclusively. So it's not surprising that theories like this would be impossible to prove. Also, language tends to be flexible and BH especially so. If one did a comprehensive study of all roots in BH it would become obvious early on that there are numerous, similar sounding and similarly spelled roots that mean the same or virtually the same thing. So I would posit that BH :: grammar as Chicago public schools :: spelling. Again, words mean what they mean and can change for reasons about which we have no clear idea especially looking back historically on a spotty sample. Usage is the key; that means context is king in trying to decipher difficult phrases and words in BH especially. Roots and word formation may give clues, but aren't determinative of meaning.

In our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Shalom my brother. If you have some time to spare may I ask your thoughts on a matter? I may not have mentioned this in the past, but, I have a special place in my heart for the Jewish people, to do my part to help them see that their Messiah has indeed come and that He calls to them. Suffice it to say, one of the things I want to do, as an aid in discussing scripture with them, is to memorize the entire Torah. I know that's a big task. I understand that English translations do not replace the original Hebrew, and as stated in past letters, I do hope to learn Hebrew in the future. However, in the meantime may I ask, as a scholar of the languages, which translation of the Torah do you think would be the overall best to memorize? One that our Jewish friends would also respect as a valid and accurate rendering? I know there are some differences of interpretation between Christians and traditional Jewish belief, however, I would think there is enough common ground when it comes to translations to not pose any serious issue, am I correct? Finally, no matter what version I use I will definitely be using study tools to help me get closer to the original Hebrew, and will then modify particular verses, phrases, or words to be closer to the original, and if it's OK, I'll probably write to you, along with our other brothers in the scholastic world, to help me along the way. Any thoughts and/or suggestions are much appreciated my brother, as is your continued kindness to me. May King Jesus repay you in full for all the time you have spent helping me thus far, you're a blessing sir.

Your brother in King Jesus, our Passover Lamb!!!

Response #22:

It's an interesting question. Honestly, if you are going to go to that much trouble, I think it would be worth memorizing it in Hebrew. After all, every translation is an interpretation, and no translation would be as beneficial for apologetic purposes as the actual text.

Memorizing large chunks of material is a very particular skill. We are very much a visual as opposed to an aural/oral culture, so, generally speaking, we are not trained in such things from an early age. Plato famously said that writing is the enemy of memory, and it is at least true that once we've got something written down we feel less inclined to remember it verbatim. I am notoriously poor at remembering things according to a precise text, so I'm not really the one to ask about this. I can tell you that if you have the type of mind for this sort of thing, it's not impossible. Many years ago we (U of L) hosted the national convention of the Classics honor society and had as our keynote speaker a retired state dept. fellow then in his 70's who'd spent the prior ten year memorizing Homer and he'd managed to commit to memory nearly all of the Iliad!

To be honest, my initial reaction is that you might be better off becoming well-versed with the entire Old Testament, learning Hebrew, and growing in your knowledge and understanding of the doctrines it contains. If the Lord leads you specifically to a ministry that entails evangelizing Jewish people, there is plenty else you would need to learn, and not just the Torah.

Finally, whatever ministry the Lord leads you to will be in line with your particular spiritual gifts. And that ministry, whatever it is, will only be as effective as your level of spiritual growth. So once again, spiritual growth it the key to everything.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:

"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for Gods holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving." (Ephesians 5:3-4)

Do you think Paul had this verse of Isaiah in mind?

"And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The impure will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it." (Isaiah 35:8)

Response #23:

It's a good cross-reference passage. One of the more valuable things about the Scofield and Barker Bibles are the lists of cross-references. This is an important service which is very much underrated. We all start making these lists in our heads (and hearts), but it's nice to have someone else help us with other parallels we might not otherwise have thought of.

Question #24:

Dear Bob

LOVE I grew up with the KJV version of the bible Is there now a better translation, that you can recommend for updated study, that can be purchased on-line via Kindle?

Bob, how are you doing?

Seize the day, with LOVE

Response #24:

I'm not a Kindle user and so I don't know what's available on that platform. I can tell you that when it comes to translations, on the one hand any one of the major ones (not cult produced) would be good to read if you like it; on the other hand none of them is anything like perfect. If you like the KJV, you might try the NKJV. In some places NKJV is quite different, but mostly it is a somewhat updated version of the original with modernized language. ESV is also quite good, and pretty traditional (not that much different from the RSV but better in spots). NASB is an interesting translation and somewhat more accurate than many of the others but also somewhat less readable than many of the others. I couldn't recommend NLT it's a bit like the red-headed girl who when good was very very good but when bad was awful (and it's more often bad than good). There are plenty of other versions out there as well. Before you spend money, my advice would be to try out a favorite book in your prospective translation (e.g., Psalms) and see what you think. Assuming that Kindle's have internet access, here is the site I use most when wanting to access different versions of the Bible in English: Blue Letter Bible

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25:

Very early, however, Christianity began interpreting Job 19:23-29 (verses concerning a "redeemer" whom Job hopes can save him from God) as a prophecy of Christ, although the major view among scholars is that Job's "redeemer" is either an angelic being or God himself. With Job viewed by Christians as a witness to the coming Christ, the predominant Jewish view became "Job the blasphemer", with some rabbis even saying that he was rightly punished by God because he had stood by while Pharaoh massacred the innocent Jewish infants.

So much for their devotion to the Tanakh. It's not enough to say that Christians are mistaken, because they're incapable of believing that Job wasn't, in fact, talking about the Messiah, so it became easier to throw Job under the bus.

Response #25:

Some of the few places where I would quibble about the MT have to do with passages on precisely this area of truth, namely, passages which have been artfully changed to avoid the otherwise all too obvious conclusion of scripture that Jesus is the Messiah particularly uncomfortable from the Jewish UB perspective (remembering that in every generation there is a remnant of Israel according to grace). See the link: "Qumran and the MT".

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #26:

Greetings, Dr. Luginbill,

I hope you are doing well my dear brother. If you have some time to spare may I ask your thoughts on a particular Bible translation? Over the years I have used and continue to use a variety of English translations of the Bible. One of the translations that I have used, and generally like on the whole, is the Complete Jewish Bible translated by David H. Stern. Over time I have read different scholars and/or seasoned Bible students' opinions on Dr. Stern's translation. Some have expressed very positive sentiments about Dr. Stern's translation, his approach, and scholarship. However, others have had the opposite kinds of opinions, accusing Dr. Stern's translation of twisting certain aspects of the Scriptures (whether intentionally or unintentionally) to suit an excessively Jewish bias in matters such as the topic of being under the Law, Jewish/Gentile relations, etc., in contrast to other translations. Now, not that I'm a scholar, but, I haven't noticed anything in the CJB that I could honestly say was error. I don't necessarily agree with every one of Dr. Stern's translational choices, but, overall it seems like a decent translation. Suffice it to say, I was wondering if you wouldn't mind to share your thoughts on the matter?

Response #26:

Always good to hear from you, my friend. I had someone ask me about this Bible in the past; I wasn't overly impressed. You can read my (very brief) response at the link (see Q/A #27):

Bible Translations

If you'd like more depth, it would be better to take a particular passage and let me analyze what I think about the method and the result. As we say in Classics, "even Homer nods" a quote from Horace meaning that even the greatest of the great have their weak moments. That is certainly true of translations. And even bad translations sometimes "nail it" (e.g., while I don't care for the NLT and couldn't recommend it, on a few occasions I have seen it best all the rest).

I usually advise Christians to find a good, solid translation and spend time with that to become familiar with it, but also not to restrict oneself to a single version.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

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