Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Faith to Faith

There is an interesting series of blog posts at the Bible Gateway called "Perspectives in Translation". Here is the assignment on translating Romans 1:17 and the summary of the responses.
If any Bible passage could be credited for igniting the Protestant Reformation, it’s Romans 1:17. Yet as Luther understood so well, this one verse could inspire a thousand scholarly monographs.
Michael Bird addresses four areas that need to be addressed in rendering a translation for this verse. These include translating dikaiosynē theou (righteousness of God) and ek piesteōs eis pistin (from faith to faith) as well as how to handle textual variants of Habakkuk 2:4. See the end of this post for his translation.

Robert Yarbrough gives five different issues that must be dealt with in translating this verse. He then asks the question which existing translation does the best job. He favors the WEB as the most accurate and defines the term accurate:
as “when the form and substance of the original is rendered as faithfully as possible into another language.”
Douglas J. Moo recommends readers check out his commentary for details on the issues regarding translating this verse. He suggests that "more literal renderings" may not be as easy for the average reader of Scriptures to understand. Translations should focus on communicating to this type of reader. He also questions the idea of "literal" renderings.
We know that there are, in fact, no “literal” equivalents: Perhaps never do the semantic ranges of our Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic words exactly match the semantic range of English words. And the same pertains to syntactical features. ... But laypeople, in particular, are badly misled by our language of “literal,” as if “literal” = accurate. It just ain’t so.
Denny Burk prefers the NIV 2011 translation. He disagrees with Moo regarding "literal renderings" and offers this definition:
[a] literal equivalent is not simply substituting form for form—a noun for a noun, a verb for a verb, a participle for a participle, etc.—though sometimes literal includes such substitutions. A literal equivalent is also one that translates a donor form with a receptor form that has a semantic range with as much overlap as possible with the donor form.
I enjoyed reading through each of the replies, however - in my opinion - they were a bit too short (at least for me) to adequately understand and assess the translation issues for this verse. It did prompt me to do some more reading and I recommend checking out Moo's commentary as well as NET Bible study notes for this verse.

In terms of translation goals, I think Moo is right in noting that translations need to be understood by the average reader of the Bible, however I really like Burk's assessment of literal renderings - they should leave as much interpretation out of the translation as possible and allow for the variant interpretations that the original language allowed for. This question is dealt with more directly by various scholars here. Ray Van Neste says it this way:
The goal of a translation is not to decide the interpretive issue in each case. Rather it is to accurately communicate the original with its ambiguity as much as possible.
Here are a sampling of renderings from several major translations:

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.”
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
NIV 2011
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "The one who is righteous will live by faith.
For in it is revealed God’s righteousness from faith to faith. As it is written, ‘But the righteous shall live by faith.
Michael Bird
For in the gospel the saving righteousness of God is revealed, by faith and for faithfulness, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Holiness of God V (Insane Guilt)

If chapter four of the Holiness of God was about how God's holiness unsettles people, then this chapter explored that theme through the lens of Martin Luther's life. A few weeks earlier and this chapter would have lined up well with Reformation Day.

I enjoyed Sproul's retelling of key moments in the life of Martin Luther exploring the events and personality that shaped the man who sparked the Protestant Reformation. If you are looking for a good intro to Luther this chapter is excellent. I am a church history buff and have added a new book - Here I Stand - to my ever growing Wish List too. 

The thing that struck me (maybe because I can relate to some degree) was Luther's obsession with his guilt resulting in his compulsions to go to confessions daily often for hours to be cleansed. He seemed to struggle mightily with trying to figure out how to be right before a Holy God. What brought him to a point where he could barely function...
Luther examined the Great Commandment, " `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, `Love your neighbor as yourself"' (Luke 10:27). Then he asked himself, "What is the Great Transgression?" Some answer this question by saying that the great sin is murder, adultery, blasphemy, or unbelief. Luther disagreed. He concluded that if the Great Commandment was to love God with all the heart, then the Great Transgression was to fail to love God with all the heart. He saw a balance between great obligations and great sins.
Sproul describes most people when they realize the great demands of a Holy God:
The test is too great, too demanding; it is not fair. God will have to judge us all on a curve.  ... Lesser minds went merrily along their way, enjoying the bliss of ignorance. They were satisfied to think that God  compromise his own excellence and let them into heaven.
Luther didn't see it that way. He realized that if God graded on a curve, He would have to compromise His own holiness. To count on God doing so is supreme arrogance and supreme foolishness as well. God does not lower His own standards to accommodate us. He remains altogether holy, altogether righteous, and altogether just.
This chapter brought home the fact that we really have a poor idea of what holiness is whereas Luther really understood this concept and it impacted his life mentally, physically, and spiritually. 

Sproul quotes from Bainton's Here I Stand  the following passage where Luther describes the insane guilt and how the truth set him free:
I greatly longed to understand Paul's Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, "the justice of God," because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant. Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that "the just shall live by faith." Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the "justice of God" had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate of heaven....

I have seen this or portions of this quotation before and wondered from which of Luther's works was it taken. I figured a quick Internet search would clear this up and I could then read the quote in context along with the rest of the work. While I found many hits that includes portions of this quotation it took awhile before I finally found the work of Luther from which this was taken. It appears in the Preface to The Complete Edition of Luther's Latin Works, which was published in 1545. However even this link is only an excerpt from the preface.

Since Romans 1:17 was such a crucial passage in Luther's understanding the gospel and coming to Jesus I wanted to let readers know of a series that was done recently where scholars explore how to translate that passage.

In my searches for the source of this quote I did find the 6 part lecture series on this book from Ligonier Ministries. Here is the link to the lecture for this chapter.

Click here for other thoughts.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Holiness of God IV (Unsettling Holiness)

Posting is late this week, just one of those that kept slipping away...

The Holiness of God has laid out the following major points so far:
    1. Understanding the concept of Holy is essential to understanding who God is.
    2. Understanding the Holiness of God is essential to understanding who we are. 
    3. Holy is defined as separated from common use for a special use in a pure way.
    4. Only God who is Holy can make someone or something holy.
    Point #2 is made clear in chapter 2:
    Isaiah explained it this way: "My eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty" (Isa. 6:5). He saw the holiness of God. For the first time in his life Isaiah really understood who God was. At the same instant, for the first time Isaiah really understood who Isaiah was.
    And again in this chapter's quote from John Calvin:
    Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.
    Using examples from Scripture, the Peter Principle, students who break the curve on a college test, golfing with Billy Graham, and Of Mice and Men, Sproul makes the main point that real Holiness unsettles people. 

    I came away from this chapter understanding that there are two different ways Holiness unsettles people. This first way is represented by the tax collector in the parable told in Luke 18:9-14. People that fall into this group realize that they are sinners and that they are ruined in the presence of the One who is Holy. The come to God in fear and tell Him, 'leave me for I am a sinner'. Sproul has described this first group using Isaiah (chapter 2),  horror movie watchers (chapter 3), and the disciples encounters with Jesus in Mark 4 and Luke 5 (chapter 4).

    The second way is represented by those who are like the Pharisee in the parable told in Luke 18:9-14. They are so filled with pride, so focused on the external behavior rather than the internal heart condition, and so enamored with the attention of men that they become hostile around One who is truly Holy. Sproul has described this group by looking in more detail at the Pharisees ("one who is separate") and the Sadducess ("righteous ones").

    Sproul points out that the Jews in Jesus' day revered the prophets but this was because they were safe dead heroes. But when Stephen reminded them that the Jews had killed them as well as the Righteous One they foretold they became enraged.
    People have an appreciation for moral excellence, as long as it is removed a safe distance from them. The Jews honored the prophets, from a distance. The world honors Christ, from a distance.

    This is a good warning for us. How are we reacting to the Holiness of God - like the tax collector or disciple who calls out for mercy and asks God to leave for I am sinner or like the Pharisee who is so blinded by his hypocritical holiness that he becomes hostile when faced with real Holiness and is fearful of being exposed as a hypocrite.

    Do we want to hold Jesus back so we can feel safe or do we want the real Jesus who is Holy and makes us quake at our sinfulness?
    So it was with Christ. The world could tolerate Jesus; they could love Him, but only at a distance. Christ is safe for us if securely bound by space and time.
    The irony is that only when we face the Holiness of Jesus and our own lack of holiness can we actually have eternal safety. Because only in accepting the holiness that is graciously given by the One who is truly Holy are we actually made holy and blameless and acceptable to God. It is only then that we can say - there is no condemnation in Christ.

    Click here for other thoughts.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Reformation Thoughts from around the Internet

    Halloween is over and the Colts look to be cruising to a win on MNF, so decided to see what others in the blog-o-sphere wrote regarding the Reformation.

    The iMonk has a good post on the Reformation and a lengthy quote from Martin Luther's Concerning Christian Liberty (1520).
    But you will ask:—“What is this word, and by what means is it to be used, since there are so many words of God?” I answer, the Apostle Paul (Rom. i.) explains what it is, namely, the Gospel of God, concerning His Son, incarnate, suffering, risen, and glorified through the Spirit, the sanctifier. To preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it, if it believes the preaching. For faith alone, and the efficacious use of the word of God, bring salvation.
    Chris Castaldo retells the story of Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521. He concludes with this quote from McGrath's Christianity's Dangerous Idea:
    At its heart, the emergence and growth of Protestantism concerned one of the most fundamental questions that can confront any religion: Who has the authority to define its faith? Institutions or individuals? Who has the right to interpret its foundational document, the Bible?
    While Tetzel's selling of indulgences were the primary problem dealt with in 1517 these posts capture the major issues of the Reformation - what is the Gospel and who has the authority to interpret Scripture? For more on the latter see this post.

    Update: Found another post on John Armstrong's blog. He examines Peter Kreeft’s book The God Who Loves You in light of the Reformation:
    His seventh big idea brought Dr. Kreeft back to the Protestant Reformation and made him think about its core message. On this day I find his insight powerful and unifying. His seventh “eureka” moment led him to write: “The gift of God’s love is ours for the taking.” He writes:

    I am a Roman Catholic. But the most liberating idea I have ever learned I heard first from Martin Luther. Pope John Paul II told the German Lutheran bishops that Luther was profoundly right about this idea. He said that Catholic teaching affirms it just as strongly and that there is no contradiction between Protestant and Catholic theology on this terribly important point, which was the central issue of the Protestant Reformation. I speak, of course, about “justification by faith” and its consequence, which Luther called “Christian liberty” or “the liberty of a Christian” in his little gem of fan essay by that name (The God Who Loves You, 23).
    The point, Kreeft reasons, is rather simple: heaven is free because God’s love is free! Salvation is a gift to be taken by faith and not by human performance in any sense.
    I have not read Kreeft's book (though I have examined some of his series on philosophy (Socrates meets...), but from these excerpts he certainly understood the important principle sola fide!