Only Three Days Until the “Rapture”…

In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard, the end of the world begins this Saturday, May 21 at or about 6:00 PM. According to Harold Camping, the resident genius cum prophet at WeCanKnow.com, May 21 is exactly 7,000 years after “Noah’s flood,” and is therefore the day that Christ will return.

According to this news report about a bunch of religious nutbags getting together to wear tacky t-shirts and wail and gnash their teeth about the end of the world, only 200 million Christians will be saved. The other nearly-7-billion people in the world will perish, with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Well, not immediately. The day will begin with “a worldwide earthquake, such as man has never seen,” with death and destruction the order of the day. Then those lucky 200 million will be rescued. The rest will suffer and die until October 21, when a “fireball” will destroy the Earth entirely, putting an end to all that annoying wailing and gnashing of teeth.

So, if you’d like to know what our days will be like after Saturday, be sure to pick up a copy of the pretty-much-unreadable Left Behind series which, I’m told, paints a detailed picture of post-rapture living. (Seriously, I tried to read Left Behind several years ago, because I had several friends say to me, “O! You must read it!” and “O! It’s so detailed!” and “O! It’s so horrifying!” I tried. Really, I did. I made it almost 100 pages into it before I was on the brink of spilling state secrets to the Communists. It was that bad. The characters were 1-dimensional, and I just didn’t give a damn what happened to any of them.)

So, mark your calendars for this Saturday. If you’re still around on Sunday, you’ll know you weren’t one of those who were really “saved.”

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Let Them Build The Mosque

Unless you are living under a rock, you have heard the controversy surrounding the “ground zero mosque.” Essentially, a group of Muslims want to build an “Islamic community center,” that will house a mosque, two blocks away from the former World Trade Center. This has sparked a firestorm of protest from the right, claiming it is everything from insensitive to the next terrorist attack itself. This has annoyed me greatly.

One of the founding principles of this country was religious freedom. This means that you can support any religion you want, or no religion, and not be molested by the government. Increasingly, those on the right construe this as, “You can be any religion you want, as long as it’s Christian.” If you are a Buddhist, a Hindu or, (God forbid!) a Muslim, (I’m not sure if they consider atheists better or worse than Muslims), then your rights and desires are not relevant. This is a clear case of religious freedom: these people want to built a house or worship, on private property, using private funds. There is no compelling reason why they should not be allowed to do it. Unless you believe that all Muslims are terrorists.

And that’s exactly what most of the commentators on the right seem to think. Listen to the statements of Newt Gingrich, that moron Sarah Palin, or any of the talking heads on Fox News. They are all screaming about how “it just isn’t right” to build this Mosque “at ground zero” where so many lost their lives. Yes, 3,000 people did lose their lives at the WTC site, and yes, the attack was carried out by Muslim extremists, but that does not mean that all Muslims are terrorists.

Now, if you were to search my blog, you would probably find some inflammatory statements made by me about Muslims. Statements that might indicate that I considered all Muslims to be terrorists. I wish to publicly repudiate those statements right now. (Or “refudiate” them, as the learned Sarah Palin would say.) I’m not making excuses for my former statements, (well, maybe I am…) but I don’t think I was thinking about the situation rationally. I was caught up in a patriotic ferver, that I now see was incorrect. I’ll say it again: not all Muslims are terrorists.

In fact, a very small minority of them are terrorists, or support the actions of terrorists.

“But wait,” you say, “the Koran is ‘full of violence’ and commands by their ‘god’ to kill the unbelievers.” Indeed. May I then direct you to your bible to that part called the “old testament.” That’s the part that lots of Christians seem to forget about. There’s more violence in there than you can shake a stick at. Does that make us a violent religion? No. See what I’m getting at?

“But wait,” you say again, “those Muslims want to spred Islam all over the world! They want everyone to be a Muslim.” Indeed. Now, may I direct you to your bible, to Matthew 28: 19-20, which reads: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

What this all comes down to is a bunch of Christians who are scared of Islam and don’t like to see it spreading. Despite their claims of “But I have a Muslim friend!” or “I don’t care if they build another Mosque, just build it somewhere else!” or “I don’t have a problem with them building it, but building it there is just insensitive!” it all amounts to the same thing. They don’t like Muslims, and they want them to go away.

I think they should be allowed to build it. I think the protesters are wrong, but I support their right to protest and make their opinions known, as long as they remain non-violent. That is my main concern. I wonder how long it will take, after construction begins, before the site is vandalized (or worse) by those who oppose it. “But that wouldn’t be very Christian!” you say. Indeed, it would not.

My Translation of Luke 2:1-20

Last year before Christmas I translated the nativity story from Luke 2:1-20 from Greek into English because I thought I was up to it. My family and I read it together on Christmas Eve, which was kind of neat, but I never showed it to anyone else. I decided to publish it here in time for this Christmas, so here it is. This is not exactly what I did last year; as I was reading through it I noticed a few places where I wasn’t as correct or as fluid as I would have liked, so I revised it here and there. It’s much better now than it was, IMO.

You will notice that Luke 2:14 does not end with the familar, “… and on earth, peace, good will toward men,” that the KJV renders. To truly understand why, you’ll need to do some reading about textual criticism and different manuscript traditions. The short answer is that the KJV translators used the Textus Receptus, which had the word εὐδοκία (in the nominative, or subject, case) and most other translators used older, more reliable, manuscripts which have the word εὐδοκίας (in the genitive case). That may not make sense, but the addition of one letter makes an enormous difference in how it is translated.

I would also like to point out that in verse 16, the word ἀνεῦραν, the aorist form of the verb ἀνευρίσκω, means “to find by diligent search.” I could not think of a good way to really express this, yet still sound good to the ear. I wrote before about this word and how simply translating it as “found” seems to lose the nuance of the original. To find something could simply mean that one saw it or stumbled upon it. But to “find by diligent search” implies a certain amount of effort. In the end, I came down on the side of sonority, and joined most other translators in simply using “found.”

So, with that said, here it is. As before, I’ll show it twice. First, split into verses with the Greek and then the English. And finally, just the English, in nice paragraph form. If your browser is not showing you the proper Greek letters, you can download a PDF of the whole thing by clicking here.

Κατα Λουκαν 2:1 – 20 — Luke 2: 1 – 20

1Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην.
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus for all the world to be registered.
2αὕτη ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς Συρίας Κυρηνίου.
This first registration came about while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3καὶ ἐπορεύοντο πάντες ἀπογράφεσθαι, ἕκαστος εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ πόλιν.
And everyone went to be registered, each into his own city.
4Ἀνέβη δὲ καὶ Ἰωσὴφ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐκ πόλεως Ναζαρὲθ εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν εἰς πόλιν Δαυὶδ ἥτις καλεῖται Βηθλέεμ, διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐξ οἴκου καὶ πατριᾶς Δαυίδ,
And Joseph also went up from Galilee from the city of Nazareth into Judea into the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
5ἀπογράψασθαι σὺν Μαριὰμ τῇ ἐμνηστευμένῃ αὐτῷ, οὔσῃ ἐγκύῳ.
to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, and she being with child.
6ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐκεῖ ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν,
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth,
7καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον, καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν φάτνῃ, διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι.
And she gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8Καὶ ποιμένες ἦσαν ἐν τῇ χώρᾳ τῇ αὐτῇ ἀγραυλοῦντες καὶ φυλάσσοντες φυλακὰς τῆς νυκτὸς ἐπὶ τὴν ποίμνην αὐτῶν.
And there were shepherds in the same region, staying out in the field and keeping watch over their flock by night.
9καὶ ἄγγελος κυρίου ἐπέστη αὐτοῖς καὶ δόξα κυρίου περιέλαμψεν αὐτούς, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν.
And an angel of the Lord came to them suddenly and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terribly afraid.
10καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ ἄγγελος, Μὴ φοβεῖσθε, ἰδοὺ γὰρ εὐαγγελίζομαι ὑμῖν χαρὰν μεγάλην ἥτις ἔσται παντὶ τῷ λαῷ,
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy which is to be for all the people,
11ὅτι ἐτέχθη ὑμῖν σήμερον σωτὴρ ὅς ἐστιν Χριστὸς κύριος ἐν πόλει Δαυίδ.
For born to you this very day, in the city of David, is a savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12καὶ τοῦτο ὑμῖν τὸ σημεῖον, εὑρήσετε βρέφος ἐσπαργανωμένον καὶ κείμενον ἐν φάτνῃ.
And this is a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
13καὶ ἐξαίφνης ἐγένετο σὺν τῷ ἀγγέλῳ πλῆθος στρατιᾶς οὐρανίου αἰνούντων τὸν θεὸν καὶ λεγόντων,
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among men of his favor.”
15Καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἀπῆλθον ἀπ᾽ αὐτῶν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν οἱ ἄγγελοι, οἱ ποιμένες ἐλάλουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους, Διέλθωμεν δὴ ἕως Βηθλέεμ καὶ ἴδωμεν τὸ ῥῆμα τοῦτο τὸ γεγονὸς ὅ ὁ κὐριος ἐγνώρισεν ἡμῖν.
And it happened as the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds were saying to one another, “Now let us proceed unto Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to be, which the Lord has made known to us.”
16καὶ ἦλθαν σπεύσαντες καὶ ἀνεῦραν τήν τε Μαριὰμ καὶ τὸν Ἰωσὴφ καὶ τὀ φρέφος κείμενον ἐν τῇ φατνῃ,
And they went quickly and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby, lying in a manger,
17ἰδόντες δὲ ἐγνώρισαν περὶ τοῦ ῥήματος τοῦ λαληθέντος αὐτοῖς περὶ τοῦ παιδίου τούτου.
and after seeing this they made known to them the saying which was spoken to them concerning this child.
18καὶ πάντες οἱ ἀκούσαντες ἐθαύμασαν περὶ τῶν λαληθέντων ὑπὸ τῶν ποιμένων πρὸς αὐτοὐς·
And all who heard wondered at what was said to them by the shepherds;
19ἡ δὲ Μαριὰμ πάντα συνετήρει τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα συμβάλλουσα ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτῆς.
But Mary closely kept all these sayings, pondering upon them in her heart.
20καὶ ὑπέστρεψαν οἱ ποιμένες δοξάζοντες καὶ αἰνοῦντες τὸν θεὸν ἐπὶ πᾶσιν οἷς ἤκουσαν καὶ εἶδον χαθὼς ἐλαλήθη πρὸς αὐτούς.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, at is had been told to them.

Luke 2: 1 – 20

1And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus for all the world to be registered. 2This first registration came about while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And everyone went to be registered, each into his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee from the city of Nazareth into Judea into the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, and she being with child. 6And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth, 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8And there were shepherds in the same region, staying out in the field and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord came to them suddenly and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terribly afraid. 10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy which is to be for all the people, 11For born to you this very day, in the city of David, is a savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this is a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among men of his favor.” 15And it happened as the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds were saying to one another, “Now let us proceed unto Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to be, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16And they went quickly and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby, lying in a manger, 17and after seeing this they made known to them the saying which was spoken to them concerning this child. 18And all who heard wondered at what was said to them by the shepherds; 19But Mary closely kept all these sayings, pondering upon them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, at is had been told to them.

Biblical Greek Word Games

In my Sunday School class, we’re currently working through a book on the Gospel of John, by a man called Mark A. Matson. The book is pretty good, but in yesterday’s lesson he explained something in a way that fundamentally misses a very important point. It involves Biblical languages and playing word games.

The scripture in question is John 3:1 – 21, in which a Pharisee called Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night. Verses 2 and 3 are rendered by the ESV as

2. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

3. Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Now, ignoring the fact that Nicodemus didn’t ask a question yet, Jesus’ answer is interesting because it confuses Nicodemus. He responds to Jesus in verse 4

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Mark Matson has this to say about this exchange

The basis for the miscommunication lies in the double meaning of the phrase used for “born again.” The Greek adverb anothen, which modifies the verb “to be born,” has two possible meanings. It can mean “again,” as Nicodemus interprets it, or it can mean “from above.” The latter meaning is what Jesus suggests (contrary to bumper stickers that claim you cannot enter the kingdom of God “unless you are born again”) and serves as the basis for his subsequent discussion about being a man from heaven who tells of heavenly things (cf. 3:12 – 13). He is “from above,” and he brings the Spirit that allows others to be born “from above.”

That explanation sounds great and appeals to our desire to find deeper or hidden meanings in biblical passages. But there’s a huge problem with this explanation:

Jesus did not speak Greek.

As a Pharisee, Nicodemus most likely didn’t speak it either. As 1st Century Jews in that region, they would have been speaking Aramaic. Even though the books of the New Testament were written in Greek, the predominant language of the region was Aramaic. There are several instances in the Gospels where a direct quote from Jesus in Aramaic is written down, and then followed by a translation into Greek (or into English in English bibles). One example is in Mark 5, when Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter. Mark 5:41 records this

Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”

If Jesus were speaking Greek, there would have been no reason to provide a translation.

Basically what I’m getting at is that Matson is wrong in trying to argue that Nicodemus didn’t understand what Jesus was saying because of confusion on the meaning of a Greek word. I believe that Nicodemus didn’t understand because he was listening on a completely different plane than where Jesus was speaking. It’s just that simple. Jesus was speaking of things far beyond Nicodemus’ experience or intellect, and he was naturally left wondering what Jesus was saying. In my class, we also found it interesting that in other instances, mostly in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus goes out of his way to try to explain things in language that his listeners will understand. His parables are great examples of this, because he explained deep things using language and examples that the people listening could grasp. But in this case, he comes at Nicodemus from a much higher point. I can only guess that Jesus assumed, since Nicodemus was “a ruler of the Jews,” he would be able to comprehend the lesson.

I must say, however, that it’s very easy to fall into the trap that Matson has. During the first year or so that I was studying Greek, it happened to me all the time. The trick is to step back and remember that even though the text was originally written in Greek, that was a translation of what was spoken. In most cases, these dialogs were spoken as much as a hundred years before they were written down, preserved in an oral tradition.

I fully believe that learning Greek so that you can read the ancient texts is a worthwhile endeavor, and that’s why I have spent so much time pursuing it. But you have to remember that these books were not dictation from God, and try not to read too much into the way things were written.