King James Bible

One of the difficulties for believers to wrestle with is what to think about all the different Bible translations. Many people resolve the issue by choosing to adopt the King James Version as the Bible, or at least as their Bible. This answer is easy to grab, since from the American perspective it feels like the oldest Bible. It was the translation every older American grew up with. It was the version they used when the Mayflower landed. Some people incorrectly believe it was the language of Paul.

The King James was translated in 1611. It was a remarkable translation for its time, but it was not the only translation of its time. The fact that this one was accepted and used to a greater degree, was primarily based on it being the last of the Bibles authorized by the British crown.

The problem with the King James is that we have now had over 400 years of finding better manuscripts and of scholarly review. The first means that we have found small, very small, corrections we can make to the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts the Bible is translated from. The better opportunities for scholarly review means today’s translations are checked and rechecked in ways that were unimaginable back then.

Notice that I said the changes were very small. I have never seen a textual variation which changed the message in any significant way. I believe God has been protecting the transmission of His Word, allowing some basic human error back when the Bible was hand copied, but preventing the corruption of His message.

God’s Word is the message rather than a single translation. We tend to think of the Bible as whatever translation we happen to be reading. But it is also being read in Italian, Chinese, Spanish and many more. The fact that there is more than one English translation is no more troublesome than the fact that there are translations in so many languages. Since we believe God so loved the world, means the whole world, then it’s only logical His Gospel would be available to all of us.

But some people have a strong attachment to the KJV. So a couple of textual theories have been put forward to justify the idea that the KJV is the only valid English translation.

One of these is that the majority of Greek texts are roughly the equivalent of the KJV text. This is not exactly true. But even if it was it would not be a good way to choose the best text. In the course of history a certain text might be copied thousands of times. If it has an error in it, then there will be thousands of texts with that error in place. The age of the texts is a better criteria than numbers. The idea of a majority text in scholarly circles means something entirely different and this use is a misunderstanding of it, and it was not the text available to translate the KJV

Another of these theories is the idea of a received text. Some believe God was protecting His Word by giving one single correct Greek text which then was used to translate the KJV which is therefore the only correct English text. This also doesn’t really work out as a claim for the Greek or for the English. Notice that the King James we grew up with is not the one that is for sale on the shelves today, and that the 1611 version was totally different than either. Publishers update the language in small ways. Even today if you buy a KJV from different publishers it is likely to be updated in slightly different ways.

I tell you all of this to help you avoid getting stuck on the idea that the KJV is the only good English translation. It is a good translation, but at many points the language is archaic enough that people have a hard time understanding it. Instead of adopting a single translation as the perfect Bible, accept that God’s Word is the message behind the words. By accepting a reasonably translated modern version you will likely get more out of it than you will from a translation that is stuck in centuries old language you did not grow up with. Updated language is especially important in ministry to young people. Remember, they don’t teach Shakespeare in schools anymore, so today’s youth have no context for the ancient language.

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Great Blue Heron

Great Blue HeronWhen you look at this picture of a great blue heron, what draws your attention? Perhaps you see his eye, yellow iris matching the yellow of the bill tip staring back at you. Perhaps you notice the black and white stripes over his head, or the frumpled feathers leaving the impression he needs to comb his hair. No matter what it is you see first, you will soon be drawn to study his bill, thick, solid, long and sharp.

It is far more than his mouth. It is his self-defense, his bread and butter, and his personality. Everything about God’s design of the heron is important, but it is easy to believe the bird holds the most pride in its bill.

What is it that defines you? Is it a point of appearance, a capability, or maybe some aspect of your personality? Whatever it is, I can pretty much guess that it affects how you see the world. Like a heron, which is always looking over its bill, you allow how you see yourself to color everything else you see.

As a child I came across a group of kids speaking of who they were king over. When they asked me I said I was king over no one, a response which brought me some degree of pain. I discovered too late that what they really meant was who they thought they could beat in a fight. It was a way of describing their prowess based on how they saw themselves. If you watch you can see adults doing the same thing, although probably with a little more subtlety.

Since how we view ourselves is so important to how we view the world it would be wise to view ourselves correctly.

Proverbs 21:2 HCSB People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart.

Gas Prices

I have enjoyed the price of gasoline recently, and I am not alone. It has been a breath of fresh air and to pay about $25 to fill up.

Trying to discern why prices are so low, based on the news is difficult. It appears that the media doesn’t think the event is noteworthy, or if they have made a story of it, they have not dug into the why question.

An internet search came up with many possible answers. One source said supply was up because of better methods of producing oil. I suspect this is true in minor ways, but also expect it to be only a part of the story.

Another source indicated demand was down. Of course, this answer should be readily verifiable by a decrease in traffic. So far, I don’t see it. Of course, the impact of producing heating oil as opposed to gasoline is a possible factor, but I can’t figure the heating oil amounts being that much lower either.

A theory of my own is that the nations who sell large amounts of oil to us are afraid of losing their market. It is true we have increased our ability to produce, and some portions of US politics and economy want to become energy stable, if not outright independent. Not only this, but the US is currently in a political fight to build pipelines which will allow for greater and safer production.

Dropping oil prices are a way to making Americans less concerned about our life blood being supplied by other countries. Dropping oil prices make American companies less profitable when making oil locally. And dropping oil prices demotivates those fighting the political battles in favor of American oil.

I am guessing the lower prices are simply the result of us making the world oil supply be a competitive market.

 

Angelology

Angels are God’s messengers. That is the meaning of the Biblical Greek word used for angels, and the word from which the English word is derived.

Angels are created beings but they are made differently than humans. In regard to how they are different it is rather speculative to elaborate, but angels are mentioned in Scripture a number of ways, and from these we can learn some specific things about them.

Guardian angels are likely real in that Jesus speaks of putting angels in charge of watching over children.

Angels can have different physical appearances since some are described with six wings, with implication that this is different than other angels.

Angels can be used as God’s warriors in battle since Jesus states He could call 10,000 angels to His defense and since a battle in heaven is described in the origination of Satan and his minions.

Angels have a decision making ability and at least a degree of free will, since one third of the angels mounted this rebellion.

Angels can take on physical form since they took human women and interbred in the book of Genesis. These might well have only been fallen angels since Jesus mentioned angels do not have marital relations.

So how do we put these things together to give us a Christian understanding of angels? Begin with the very first thing mentioned. Angels are God’s messengers, sent to do the work of God. While God could accomplish His work in any number of ways, He chose to do some of it through angels.

But be careful, some of the conclusions people arrive at in regard to angels I would discourage. It is not wisdom to worship angels, or to seek their intervention on your behalf. We are to go directly to the Boss, not to His servants. We should not seek to know the names of specific angels or demons nor try to understand their hierarchy or realms of responsibility. Again we should relate directly to God through Jesus Christ. Remember they are God’s messengers, doing God’s work, so taking focus off of God to put it on angels will always be a misstep.

 

Great Egret

Great Egret

Last week I showed you a picture of a snowy egret. This picture is not of a snowy egret. This picture, taken a few steps away from a snow egret, is of a great egret. The differences are numerous. This bird has dark legs and dark feet, while the snowy egret features yellow feet and dark legs. This bird has a light yellow or orange bill, while the snowy egret has a dark bill.

But the main difference is that the great egret is significantly larger. In the lingo of bird names a great bird is bigger than others. A great egret is the biggest of the egrets. A great blue heron is bigger than a little blue heron.

This bird however didn’t appear any taller than the snowy egret walking nearby. A close look at the picture will tell you the main reason why. The snowy was all stretched out, full length, but this great egret had folded up its neck making it appear hunched up. Birds do this sometimes when they are resting, and at other times when they are cold. Either way, it will make an identification based on size a little more difficult, especially at a distance, when the parts blend together into one indistinguishable, bright white, mass.

Humans are prone to a desire for greatness, but of course with us it is not a measure of size, but of accomplishment. If you want to be great in the kingdom of God, look to Scripture to understand greatness.

Jesus called them over and said to them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45 (HCSB)

In other words, being great for God’s sake isn’t about making yourself bigger, but making yourself smaller. Maybe the egret is onto something after all.

The Powerful New Court

Recently the Supreme Court made a subtle and important non-decision on gay marriage.

The non-decision happened like this. Alabama had a law banning gay marriage. It was voted into place by the majority of Alabama voters, but was then challenged and overturned by a federal judge. This decision will be brought up before the Supreme Court later this year, but in the meantime Alabama asked the Supreme Court to issue a stay preventing the issuing of marriage licenses to same sex couples until after the court decides.

The non-decision was refusing to hear and act on the request for a stay. Many have interpreted it as an indication the majority of the court is ready to rubber stamp anything and everything in regards to gay marriage.

This is not to say there are no dissenting voices. Clarence Thomas spoke strongly against the decision, and for my purposes against the implications of the non-decision.

He said the court demonstrates an “increasingly cavalier attitude toward the states.” He explained the federal courts fail to show “appropriate respect” to the states. He also reminds them they owe respect “to the people of those states who approved those laws.” He further said their behavior was formed “on questionable constitutional grounds.” And that their actions were “without any regard for the people who approved those laws in popular referendums or elected the representatives who voted for them.”

In other words, the Supreme Court, and courts in general, are expanding their power. But what will it mean for us all in the long run? We no longer have a representative government, but a shadow of one, more accurately guided by the supreme and uncontested power of the courts.

 

 

Inspiration

Christians say that the Bible is inspired by God. It is a concept drawn directly from Scripture, but what exactly does it mean? It is one of the more subtle questions of theology, but also one of the most important.

There are a number of different viewpoints on exactly how inspiration plays out. I personally believe it means that God chose every word of the text of Scripture. He literally wrote the words of the Bible through the human authors.

But then again, that is why it is hard for us to figure out. There were human authors. Individuals who wrote things, probably not thinking they were particularly special at the time. These individuals have a multitude of ways in which their personalities and style comes through in the portions of Scripture they wrote.

But does that mean, God is out of the picture? I don’t think so. Assuming the variety of human voices in Scripture, excludes God, is equivalent to assuming God is very small. God who created each one of those human beings instilled into them their unique traits. Why would we believe God is big enough to create all those different persons, but not big enough to use and speak through each one uniquely?