Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Deborah, a Public Minister for Yahweh

 I am fascinated at the efforts some people will exert to show that the judge Deborah exercised no leadership work over any men.

In a recent article, the writer argued

It can be seen that Deborah's ministry was private, not public.  This is consistent with the teaching of the Old  and New Testament. Although the nature of the ministry of man and woman is different, their value and importance is the same.*

 This statement is the classic complementarian talking point. Men's and women's roles are equally valuable, just different. When the details are examined, women's ministry opportunities are no where near as valuable as those available to men. People who make those points seem to think they are making them from the Bible; but they are not. They are making them up out of whole cloth. I will set that track aside for now since the point of this article is to show that Deborah's ministry as judge was fully public and carried the full authority of a prophet of Yahweh.

Here are some of the usual points to show that Deborah performed her duties as judge in a non-public way.

  1. She did her judging under a palm tree.
  2. She was not an assassin like Ehud nor a warrior like Othniel.
  3. She sent messengers to men rather than addressing them directly (Judges 4:6).
  4. Her word was not her own but the word of the LORD (Judges 4:6, 14).

 On the motif of (1) sitting under a palm tree to judge, I don't see how that method makes for a private ministry. In later times, people would go to the elders in the gate of a city and ask for judgment. The kings of Israel assumed the old judge roles in their administrations and people would go to the palace for justice. If people went to Deborah for judgment and her decision was final, her word was respected by the people, both men and women.

On (2) the fact that Deborah was not personally violent, again, I don't get it. Do you have to go out and kill someone to be a leader? Deborah clearly thought war was men's work (Judges 4:6-7). Barak wanted Deborah with him on the battlefield. She warned him that the greatest credit for victory will go to a woman (Judges 4:9, the woman turned out to be Jael). (Incidentally, any glory enjoyed by any of the actors in this story was given by God, Judges 5:24-31).

 On (3) Deborah's use of messengers showing that she did not let her ministry slip into men's work, I propose we consider Elisha who sent a messenger to Naaman (2 Kings 5:10-11). I suppose what Elisha did for Naaman was women's work. Naaman seemed to think so.

On (4) her word being not her own but the LORD's, that is the role of any prophet. They are not
to speak any "word of Yahweh" presumtively.

All four of these points are non-arguments.

Furthermore, I reject the assumption that Christian leadership is something that is done overtly publically and non-up-front leadership is women's work. Great prophets of the Old Testament (including Deborah) did both public and private ministry.

Complementarians have a lot of trouble with Deborah and they tend to write a lot to shrink her work to their picture of women's work.

They THINK their views of women's roles come from the Bible; but that's not really where they get it. They get it from somewhere else and then go to the Bible to support their pictures. Many articles promoting Deborah as a non-public minister include the usual scriptures to show that she could not possible have been a leader over men (1 Timothy 2:11-12; 1 Corinthians 14:33-35), or they just say something like, "The New Testament says so." Many scholars have shown in writing that these verses do not function to keep women out of public ministry. They have argued from a high view of scripture. Look them up.

Deborah's ministry as judge was public. The Israelite judges were the forerunners of the eventual kingship of Israel. Deborah was performing a ministry that was eventually absorbed into the Israelite kingship.

It is quite embarassing that this article needs to be written. I am astonished that people can read the account of Deborah and conclude that she did not perform any of the ministries reserved for men. (I am only a little less astonished that people can study the New Testament and conclude that there is ministry reserved for men)!


 *   Daniel Yuen, MeWe post, 20210430.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Outsiders and the Community of Faith: Genesis 34

In Genesis 34, Jacob's daughter Dinah is raped by a man of prominence in a nearby town called Shechem. This story has a lot to say to modern Christians and the modern church as it ministers to outsiders (unchurched), to the truly repentant and to abuse victims.

Interestingly, the rapist in this story is named after his hometown, Shechem. It is possible that Dinah and Shechem had met (Genesis 34:18-20). By the time Dinah visited Shechem to hang out with her girlfriends, she may have been developing feelings for the man Shechem. Shechem's tender feelings for Dinah are abundantly clear as they are mentioned five times in this account.

Dinah's brothers are incensed over this affair and they deceptively invite the people of Shechem to join Jacob's family and religion by submitting to circumcision. In their deception, the brothers go into the town while the men there are recovering from the painful procedure. They kill all of the male Shechemites and pillage their town.

Jacob rebukes his sons for this action as it will only cause trouble for him and his household in relation to his Canaanite neighbors.

The law (which comes later, Exodus 22:16-17; Deuteronomy 22:28-29) prescribes the proper way to treat rapists in that particular social context. Rapists were expected to take their victims as their wives and they were not permitted to divorce them. This law protected of the honor of the family of the rape victim and the honor of the rape victim herself. There would have been more damage to her honor if she remained in her father's house unmarried.

What we see in Shechem is full and sincere intention to do the right thing (his love for Dinah is mentioned five times). He is prepared to pay the bride price to Jacob even if the price is set ridiculously high. This man did not come to Jacob and his sons with artificial statements of "If I have done anything that has caused offense, I repent." He acknowledged his error and was ready to take all possible actions to make it right.

Dinah's brothers' suggestion that the two peoples become one people with one religion is the right response on their part... if they were not being deceptive! For Christians circumcision correlates to baptism.

Colossians 2:11-14 (NRSV)
In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.

Christian baptism joins the believer into covenant relationship with God. In Jacob's family, that's what circumcision did. The people of Shechem were coming to God and, by covenant, God would have added the people of Shechem to the faith community (= Jacob's family).

But Jacob's sons did not treat the Shechemites as brothers. They double-crossed them.

This story invites readers to talk openly about rape and rape victims. How should the faith community minister to rape victims today? How should we minister to abusers when they offer half-baked repentance? How should we minister to abusers when they offer sincere repentance complete with acknowledgement of the pain they have cause and real invested action to try to repair the damage in any way they can?

How ought the faith community minister to outsiders who are very different from us but nevertheless seek sincere relationship with God? They are unchurched and they were not raised right like we were. Can we accept them into our church family?

As brothers Levi and Simeon were united against an outside enemy, their artificial unity led to strife between each other and their respective families (Genesis 49:5-7). Any unity we enjoy as we focus on the outside enemy eventually leads to internal disunity within our own ranks whether we be a nation, a church or a nuclear family. This thought will take a lot of attention to implement in Christian ministry.

Finally, notice that Jacob believed that his sons had placed fulfilment of God's promise in jeopardy (Genesis 28:13-15; c.f., Genesis 12:1-3)! Jacob fully believed that he needed to personally participate in the fulfilment of God's promised blessing and his sons needed to participate in the fullfilment of God's promise to Jacob's family. Failure to embrace God's promise results in failure to receive it. God's promise can be resisted. We must also participate in fulfilment of God's promise. Participation is exactly what we do when we submit to God's covenant terms as described in the New Testament.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Romans 9. Notes.

 I have a lot of notes on Romans 9. In this article, I will merely present my notes on the chapter. It will not be a proper article but a collection of notes. It will be like, instead of turning in the research paper, I turned in only my note cards. Nevertheless, I think my notes will be helpful for any readers who consider the chapter difficult.

Incidentally, the chapter is difficult; but that difficulty springs more from so much Reformist-style preaching about God rather than a reading would through Near-Eastern First Century eyes. Paul is struggling with something in this chapter but it is not over God's arbitrary—or conditional— election of individuals. Paul is struggling with the roles played by Israel and gentiles in God's election. Anyway, here we go:

Rom 9:1 — Rom 9:4 (NRSV)
God’s Election of Israel
Chapter 9
​1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises;

The title of this chapter, "Romans 9:1 (ESV)
God's Sovereign Choice," in ESV, is Calvinistic.

This point is very important! This chapter (and the next) builds on what is introduced in this paragraph: If the kingdom of Christ belonged to the Jews by inheritance, why did the Jews fail to inherit it? It is NOT because God predestined the Jews to be cast out. Quite the opposite! They were predestined to inherit it; but they failed—a choice they made on their own—with no push from God. God was pushing them to embrace the kingdom; but they rebelled against God's influence and rejected Christ (John 1: 11).

 Romans 9:5
5 to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

On whether this verse in translation should explicitly support the deity of Christ—I'm not convinced.

While Jesus is Israel's messiah, spiritually, Jesus is everybody's messiah.

Romans 9:6
6 It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, 

On the most obvious level, God's promise to Abraham's decedents (Genesis 12:3) was not received by all of Abraham's descendants. Some of them were excluded from the promise (Ishmael and Esau). The same thing is happening now (says Paul). Not all Jews are a part of that promise.

On another level, it turns out that inclusion in the covenant is not based upon descent from Abraham or keeping the law, but rather on faith in Christ. That's a big surprise to Jewish believers. It is the issue of chapters 9-11 and concluded in Romans 11:26-28.

Matthew 3:8-9

 For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, (NRSV)

So we have two Israels: Ethnic Israel (most of whom reject the Messiah) and believing Israel, which includes Gentiles!

Something interestingly subtle is happening here. The Jews called Abraham their father; but they behaved as if Moses was their father.

Why do Calvinists start reading in verse six?
Paul is asking if God's election of Israel was a screw-up on God's part. After all, most Jews don't even believe in their own Messiah.

Romans 9:7
7 and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.”

 Quoted from Genesis 21:12

 Rom 9:8 — Rom 9:9
8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. 9 For this is what the promise said, “About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.”

Quoted from Genesis 18:10

 Rom 9:10 — Rom 9:11
10 Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. 11 Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue,

Adam Clarke's note on "children":

For the children being not yet born - As the word children is not in the text, the word nations would be more proper; for it is of nations that the apostle speaks, as the following verses show, as well as the history to which he refers.

 Romans 9:12
12 not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.”

Quoted from Genesis 25:23 and refers to Jacob and Esau.

Note that this prophecy never applied to the two boys. During their lifetimes, Esau was greater than Jacob. He was significantly more wealthy by the time Jacob returned to Esau, Esau refused the gifts Jacob offered because Esau was clearly better off that was Jacob (Genesis 33:9).

 Why does Paul seem to indicate that actions had nothing to do with it when on the national scene, actions were the primary cause? The answer is that general national faith was the problem. (Really, few Jews were right with God in Old Testament times; and, reasonably, not all Edomites were "not right" with God). Above that, Israel is at this time, in the position of the older brother in relation to the gentiles. Why? Because of unbelief. Paul is against merited election. While obedience of faith is the criteria, obedience to the Law is not. Just get used to this: When Paul says, "Not of works," he means the non-heart works of the Law. Getting circumcised and eating a kosher diet is not the way to covenant relationship with God. Faith is the way.

Adam Clarke:
that God is the sovereign of his own ways, has a right to dispense his blessings as he chooses, and to give salvation to mankind, not in the ways of their devising, but in that way that is most suitable to his infinite wisdom and goodness.
Therefore,
He chose the Jewish people from all others, and revealed himself to them. Thus they were the elect, and all the nations of mankind reprobate.
When the fullness of the time came he revealed himself also to the Gentiles, who gladly received the Gospel: and the Jews rejecting it, were cast off. Thus the elect became reprobate, and the reprobate, elect.
He published to all mankind that the pardon of sin could and should be obtained Only by faith in his Son Jesus, and not by any obedience to any law. And the Jews, the descendants of Jacob, who rejected this way of salvation, became precisely like the Edomites, the descendants of Esau; they builded, but God pulled down; their mountains and heritage are Now laid waste for the dragons of the wilderness; and they properly may now be called the border of wickedness, a people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever: they have rejected the Lord that bought them, and so have brought upon themselves swift destruction.

N. T. Wright, "Commentary on Romans," NIBC:
Romans 9:11 (NIBC)
Of course, the phrase “not by works” occurs in many other contexts, not least in Romans, and as we have argued elsewhere its primary emphasis is on the “works of Torah” as the practices that mark out the Jew, the one who knows and (supposedly) does God’s will (cf. 2:17-24), from the surrounding pagan world. In the present passage, though the emphasis is on “works” as the doing of good rather than evil, the background in Paul’s mind is most likely the regular rabbinic exegesis according to which the patriarchs were already obeying the Torah, even before it was given to Moses. Paul’s point, as part of his answer to the question posed by unbelieving Israel, is that God’s stated purpose always involved a division within the family. The quotation from Gen 25:23 gives us, finally, the word that was spoken to Rebecca concerning her unborn twins, reversing the natural assumption concerning the rights of the firstborn.

 Romans 9:13
13 As it is written,
“I have loved Jacob,
but I have hated Esau.”

The Jews may think they have a "first born" privilege to it; but, as evidenced by Ishmael and Esau, there is no such thing as a first-born privilege.

The argument matches that of Galatians 4:21-31 in which Jerusalem correlates to Hagar and her son Ishmael, but the church is represented by Sarah and Isaac.

 Quoted from Malachi 1:2-3
Malachi means the nations, not the boys. (Malachi's's prophecies postdate Jacob and Esau by at least 900 years!)

Describing "hate" as "loved less" is off topic. By the time of Malachi's prophecies, Edom was a dry raisin of a nation. It was disappearing.

The correct understanding is that God chose to favor one nation more than another.

God prospers a nation and he withholds prosperity from another nation. A reading of the book of Obadiah shows that Edom earned God's displeasure.

 Romans 9:14
14 What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!

Crossef: parable of the landowner.
Matthew 20:1-16

 Romans 9:15
15 For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

Quoted from Exodus 33:19 in reference to God permitting Moses to see him from behind.

The point here and in Exodus is that Moses received God's mercy. Note that Moses refused God five times (Exodus 3:11, 13; 4:1, 10, 13).
Moses had doubts about God fulfilling his promises (Exodus 6:10-12, 28-30).

Moses is being compared to Pharaoh. What is the difference? Moses eventually obeyed.

 Romans 9:16
16 So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.

The Jews were accepting of God's limitation of his promise to only Isaac and Jacob. They believed God was just to extend freedom to some and not others. What comes as a surprise is that God is again (says Paul) imposing a limit to those who are chosen: to those who put their faith in Jesus Christ!

Some (many) Jews are left out because they reject Christ. That comes as a surprise to Jews, both believing and unbelieving.

Paul is building up to an even greater surprise: that Gentiles are recipients of this choice/election, even though they are not descendants of Abraham (vss 30-33)!

 This verse, by itself, seems to teach unconditional salvation (election?). Is Paul teaching unconditional salvation here? Such a conclusion is contradicted by Philippians 2:12-13.

We must keep context in mind.
Rom 9:31-32
31 But Israel, pursuing the law for righteousness, has not achieved the righteousness of the law. 32 Why is that? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were by works. ...
(HCSB)

The "human will or exertion" here refers to the Jewish claim to salvation by adherence to the law of Moses.
Romans 4:4-5
Does salvation depend on faith? Romans 4:16 says it does! But from where does it come? God, who shows mercy.

 The context is still about national vocational election—not particular salvation.
(ponder this thought)

 Romans 9:17
17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”

quoted from Exodus 9:16. The context is Exodus 9:13-17 (the hail plague) which shows that God was being extraordinarily patient with Pharaoh--waiting for Pharaoh to have a change of heart.

Exodus 10:7 - very important observation. Hardening is not equivalent to determinism.

 Pharaoh, in this quote, is being applied to Israel, who had many-many warnings; but their hearts got harder and harder.

 Romans 9:18
18 So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.

For further study:

Romans 1:24, 26, 28
Ephesians 4:19
1 Timothy  4:2
2 Thessalonians 2:11

Origen: Pharaoh’s heart was hardened in the following way: God did not want to punish him immediately and completely. Although Pharaoh’s wickedness was enormous, God in his patience did not withdraw the possibility of conversion from him. Instead he struck him lightly at first and then gradually increased the blows. But although God acted with patience, Pharaoh was hardened by that very thing and became even more angry with God and contemptuous of him.… Therefore it is not that God hardens whom he wills, but rather that whoever is not softened by his patience is thereby automatically hardened. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.

 Jonathan Williams
Facebook post
Calvinism Theology VS The Rest of Christianity group
2018 06 05

I would like to propose a question for discussion pertaining to the "hardening" part of Rom 9:18 which says, "So then he has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires."

Here is my question, if the Calvinist interpretation of Total Depravity is correct, i.e., because of a person's utter deadness in sin and complete inability to respond to the Gospel which requires that God regenerate him prior to faith, then why is it necessary for God to harden people?

Let me repeat it with fewer words: if the Calvinist interpretation of Total Depravity is correct, why is it necessary for God to harden?

Although all, of course, may respond, I especially look forward to the answers from my Calvinist brethren.

Thank you and may God help us grow in our understanding.


 I wish to point out something that may make a Calvinist uncomfortable. If this chapter teaches salvation predestination, then this verse teaches double-predestination—that God selects some to be saved and he deliberately selects others to be damned.
Same with vs 22

 on Romans 9:18
A hardened heart does not imply a person has been made impervious to outsides influences. See, for example, Exodus 10:1-7! In that case, the hearts of the officials were hardened; but they saw the foolishness of their chosen path and counseled Pharaoh to concede to Moses' demand.
Hardening has a cumulative effect--the more that opportunities to repent are rebuffed, the harder the heart grows; like thick callouses. ... like a conscience that is seared with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

Let us not become attached to the status quo!

 on Romans 9:18
See Romans 1:28

Paul is not quoting a specific scripture here; but clearly he means the many mentions of Pharaoh's heart hardening in the book of Exodus.

The first mention is in Exodus 4:21 and we should note that Jewish scholars read this passage as applying to Pharaoh's own self-hardening of his heart—using God's actions as a pretext.

Marcus Kalisch (1828-1885) wrote, "The phrase 'I will harden the heart of Pharaoh' means 'I know that I shall be the cause of Pharaoh's obstinacy; my commands and wonders will be an occasion, an inducement to an increasing obduration of his heart."
(Gleaned from the notes to the Revised English Version, revisedenglishversion.com)

God's repeated extending of invitations to return puts individuals in a position to accept (praise God) or refuse. Repeated refusals results in hardening.

As the hillbillies say, the same sun that hardens clay melts butter.

 Quick comparison regarding the notion that God's hardening is some divine external force imposed on an individule: What does "Lead us not into temptation" (Matthew 6:13) mean if not "Do not let us be led into temptation?"

 Romans 9:19
19 You will say to me then, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”

 Possibly verse 19 is about the Jewish effort to argue that it is possible to acquire salvation by keeping the law -- or by merely being Jewish. Of the several ways to understand verse 19, one is not to understand it as God's forcing people to be bad. That approach contradicts the "patient endurance" (vs 22) motif in the following verses.

It really seems to me the complaint is that, if God is able to take Israel's disobedience and make something good come out of it, then, "Why is Israel condemned for its disobedience?"

"For who can resist his will?” (NRSV)
is misleading. It implies God makes people do whatever they do--even if it is evil.

What is meant is, "Who has successfully withstood the purpose off God?"

better:
Who can resist whatever God wants to do? (God's Word)
who is able to go against his purpose? (Bible in Basic English)
for who resists his purpose? (Darby)
Who can fight his will? (NCV)

 Given the above note, this verse is best paraphrased as:

Why does God require faith in Christ if, by the Jews' unbelief, God is nevertheless glorified in their unbelief?

The hypothetical questioner is criticizing God for having such a criteria--not for having "no criteria!"

 Romans 9:20
20 But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, “Why have you made me like this?”

What is being compared here is a person who has faith in God and a person who ARGUES with God.

Note: the clay affects the kind of vessel he becomes by his choices (2 Timothy 2:20-21).

Jeremiah 18:1 f God will deal [enter into covenant?] with the Jews based upon their repentance.

The passage may also allude to one of the following:
Job 10:9; 38:14
Psalm 2:9
Isaiah 29:16 clay tries to refashion God
Isaiah 41:25
Isaiah 45:9 criticizing God's work
Isaiah 64:8


God did not chose to make me this way. I made that choice. The better question should have been, "Why did I harden my heart against God?"

See also Wis 15:7; Isa 44:9-20
Sir 33:13

 Romans 9:21
21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use?

Note how many lumps of clay there are (1) and how many vessels (2). This is what God is doing with the one people Israel.

 Some (Calvinists) think this passage says God elects some to eternal life while allowing others to remain damned to eternal hell. It is not unfair (they argue) because everybody deserves hell. Vs 22 refutes the Calvinist aversion to double-predestination. Check it out.

The natural reading of this passage (in both English and Greek) describes these honorable or dishonorable vessels as the end result of a long (life-long) process.

The problem is that some (particularly unbelieving Jews) are like a lump of clay that refuses to go into the shape conceived by the potter; so the potter works with the unruly clay until it is formed into a different kind of vessel.

 Romans 9:22
22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction;

 Holman, REB and NCV alter this verse to soften it--attempting to avoid the view that God predestined some people for Hell.

I think an accurate translation will stand on its own.

One point to observe is that God is patient (longsuffering). If God is outside of time, what is there to be patient about?

 "desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power" (NRSV) points to the inclination of a righteous God--who wants to step in and stop evil at its beginning; but he endures--working something redemptive out of people's bad choices. See REB, CEV, NASB, KJV

"endured" (NRSV) is well chosen here. God is negatively affected by people's evil.

"made" (NRSV) does not require that God made them that way. No. God's work of love and mercy causes the hardening in the hearts of obstinate people.

Wrath: Romans 1:18; 2:5, 8; 3:5
"In all these verses the wrath is God's reaction to sin and not a predestined phenomenon. Thus Paul is emphasizing God's righteous anger but is not saying that God created people purely for wrath.... In chapter 9 the 'vessels of mercy' are believing Jews and 'the vessels of wrath' are unbelieving Jews.... Moreover, in the same way that he 'prepared' [I object to this notion-ns] the vessels of wrath for destruction, he has prepared the saints beforehand for glory. Once again this is God's predetermined will in producing salvation in his elect (on this see Romans 8:29). Note that the first use of glory in this verse is God’s glory, and this second use refers to the glory the saints have in him. Once more this is our present glory (the already) as an anticipation of our final glory (the not yet), with the greater emphasis here on the glory we will have in eternity" (Osborne. IVPNT, 225).

 made for destruction
If Calvinists believe this chapter is about particular election (predestination) then they are really forced by this phrase to embrace double-predestination (God elects some people to hell).

 Romans 9:23
23 and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

 prepared beforehand (NRSV)

Exact same word as Ephesians 2:10 which applies to good works.

God is preparing us beforehand for eternal glory yet to come.

Moreover, in the same way that he “prepared” the vessels of wrath for destruction, he has prepared the saints beforehand for glory. Once again this is God’s predetermined will in producing salvation in his elect (on this see Romans 8:29). Note that the first use of glory in this verse is God’s glory, and this second use refers to the glory the saints have in him. Once more this is our present glory (the already) as an anticipation of our final glory (the not yet), with the greater emphasis here on the glory we will have in eternity. (Osborne, IVPNT)

  Romans 9:24
24 including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Not only is God just in excluding some Jews from his people, but also he is just in turning to the Gentiles. So people become his children not on the basis of their rights as a covenant people (birthright in vv. 3- 4, Romans 9:7- 8) but on the basis of the divine call (the flip side of Romans 3:21 - 4:25, where it is on the basis of faith). (Osborne, IVPNT)

Verses 24-33 (especially 30-31) summarize the chapter.
Noticing as much betrays the meaning of the chapter--and it is not any kind of limited calling.

Rom 9:25 — Rom 9:26
25 As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’. ”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they shall be called children of the living God.”

Hosea 1:10; 2:23
Osborne: For Hosea [this passage applied to] the northern kingdom, but for Paul it is the Gentiles.
----
Hosea expected the restoration of the northern kingdom; but Paul sees its fulfilment in the New Testament church.

"The very place" in Hosea was the land of Israel, but for Paul it refers to the Gentile mission (or, the mission with respect to the Gentiles.

 Rom 9:27 — Rom 9:28
27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; 28 for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.”

Isaiah 10:22-23

Paul's quote is much closer to the LXX; although he paraphrased a bit.

NETS:
And if the people of Israel become like the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved, for he is completing and cutting short a reckoning with righteousness, 23 because God will perform a shortened reckoning in the whole world.

It is a warning to Israel that they should repent in order to become part of the remnant who will be saved.

Paul might identify the small number of believing Jews as the remnant.

 Romans 9:29
29 And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us,
we would have fared like Sodom
and been made like Gomorrah.”

quoted from Isaiah 1:9

It reinforces the fact that, while there is now a place for Gentiles in the scheme of salvation, the Jews had best not let that fact dissuade them from their own salvation.

"Lord of hosts" is rare in the N.T. The only other place is in James 5:4.

 Rom 9:30 — Rom 9:31
30 What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; 31 but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law.

The question that dominates chapters Romans 9—Romans 11 is the justice of God in light of the contradiction between his promises to his covenant people and the fact that so few of them had been converted. In these chapters Paul answers the question from two perspectives, first from the sovereignty of God to choose whom he wishes (Romans 9:6- 29) and second from the responsibility of Israel to accept God’s gift of salvation by faith (Romans 9:30—Romans 10:21). (Osborne, IVPNT)

 vss 30-31 summarize Paul's lengthy argument. It shows that election boils down to individual choice. If an explanation of 9:1-29 contradicts 9:30-32, then the explanation is wrong.

 Romans 9:32
32 Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone,

The faith/works antithesis has been often emphasized (Romans 3:20, Romans 3:27- 28; Romans 4:2, Romans 4:6; Romans 9:11), and as elsewhere their pursuit of righteousness is not at fault but rather their trying to attain it by works.
It was not wrong to pursue the law, but to make it the locus of salvation in light of the Christ- event meant that they rejected God’s Messiah and the salvation he made possible. (Osborne, IVPNT)

 Romans 9:33
33 as it is written,
“See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Quotes Isaiah 28:16

In the N.T. the stone refers to Jesus.
Rom 10:11; 1 Pet 2:6
Rejecting Jesus was the mistake of ethnic Israel.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Review of the New American Standard Version 2020

 I have spent a little bit of time in the New American Standard Version 2020 (NASB2020). The update from the NASB1995 is moderate. The update is definitely more colorful to read and much less "wooden" than NASB1995. I want to focus on the Big Story improvements in the NASB2020.

The NASB2020 reportedly introduced gender inclusive language in passages where gender inclusiveness is implied even though the classical language (Hebrew/Greek) is overtly masculine.

For example, In 1 Corinthians 1:10, NASB1995 reads

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no  divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.

The NASB2020 presents the same verse as

Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Notice that NASB1995's "exhort" has been replaced with the word "urge." Replacing "exhort" is probably an improvement because it is a little easier to understand. Notice also the addition of "and sisters" (italics original, showing that it is not in the original language) in the NASB2020 reading. It is obvious that the verse applies equally to men and women; but the original language applies it to men. Bravo, NASB2020. Unfortunately, the update is not consistent in its view of what is obviously gender inclusive. Consider 2 Peter 1:21. The update reads exactly the same as the previous NASB.

NASB1995 and NASB2020

for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

For comparison, consider how the NRSV (that does an excellent job with the gendered translation).

because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (bold text mine)

So, why did the NASB2020 revisers decided against "men and women" in this verse? Is it because women were never prophets? Perhaps the assumption of the revisers is that the passage is talking only about writers of the Old Testament. That assumption is not necessarily correct; but if your study source is only NASB, you may miss the possibility of the alternative interpretation.

I will go through the verses in the update that I think are remarkable. I will discuss the gendered pronouns first and then I will have some things to say about accuracy.

Gendered Language

Romans 16:1

NASB1995

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea

NASB2020

I recommend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea

These two readings are pretty close. NASB1995's "commend" is replaced with "recommend." I think that revision choice obscures the meaning of the verse. Paul is not telling the church in Rome that this lady Phoebe is a really good Christian and, since she is moving to Rome, the church should welcome her as a fine, upstanding person. No. Phoebe had traveled to Rome for some reason of her own and she was the carrier of the letter. She was going to read the letter to the church or, if someone else read it, she was available to answer clarifying questions about what the letter said. Since she is a fine, upstanding Christian; and because she personally knows Paul and his preaching, she is quite capable of answering whatever questions the believers in Rome might have. "Recommend" suggests that Phoebe is moving to Rome. "Commend" is Paul's way of emphasizing her credentials as a learned disciple. She was not moving permanently to Rome. More likely, she was visiting Rome on business. She carried Paul's letter to the Roman church as a favor to Paul.

"Recommend" damages the reader's understanding of Paul's meaning. Why would the revisers make this change? Maybe because "recommend" is easier to understand than "commend." Unfortunately, the two words have sufficiently different meanings in the context as to obscure the meaning.

Both translations use the word "servant" in describing Phoebe's relationship to the  church in Cenchrea. The Greek word, "diakonon," is the same (except for case) as "diakonos" in 1 Timothy 3:8. They are both gendered masculine. When it is applied to a woman, it, with near certainty, applies to an official capacity rather than a role. Grant Osborne (IVP Commentary) has this to say about the word as it appears in Romans 16:1.

Moreover, this is the masculine noun (diakonos), and if it did indicate a general “serving,” one would have expected the feminine diakonia.

So, translating the word as "servant" further obscures the capacity of Phoebe in Rome.

Another bizarre revision in NASB2020 appears in Romans 16:7 regarding the apostle Junia.

NASB1995

Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

NASB2020

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsfolk and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding in the view of the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

This verse definitely needed attention in the update. Junia was definitely a woman. There are some Greek manuscripts who changed her sex to a man (Junias); but it is clear why there is a difference among the parchments about Junia's sex/gender. It would make little sense for a scribe to accidentally change Junias (a man) to Junia (a woman). One possible way the name may have accidentally been changed to a feminine version of the name is because nobody in that day named their sons "Junias" but "Junia" was a very popular name for girls. The more likely explanation is that "Junia" was changed to "Junias" because the scribe could not imagine a woman being an apostle!

NASB2020 correctly replaced NASB1995's "Junias" with "Junia;" but the revisers had the unknown scribe's problem of a female apostle. Thus, the revisers further "improved" the verse by taking away Junia's apostleship and instead reported that she is "outstanding in the view of the apostles." Indeed, the apostles in Jerusalem knew about Junia and respected her. Yeah. No. Junia was an apostle (an itinerant preacher) and she even spent time in prison for her preaching behavior. Both versions of NASB obscure this fact.

NASB2020 does not correct a gross flaw in NASB1995's version of 1 Timothy 3:1.

NASB1995 = NASB2020 (the same except for the italics)

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.

The word "man" does not belong in this verse. It should read as "someone" or "anyone." The word "he" also does not belong in this verse. There are no masculine pronouns in 1 Timothy 3:1-13. I realize that some may read the qualifications of the overseers and conclude that the candidates must be men ("husband of one wife"); but it should be up to the reader to draw this conclusion rather than for the translator to read that conclusion into the text and make their conclusion clear in the first verse. It is shameful, in my judgment, for a translation to lock a reader into a particular interpretation when the original text permits several interpretations.

A similar screw-up happens in 1 Timothy 3:8.

NASB1995

Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain

NASB2020

Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not insincere, not prone to drink much wine, not greedy for money

NASB2020 clearly improves upon NASB1995; but the word "man" does not belong in this verse! It is an example of bad translating.

The update did improve upon 2 Timothy 2:2 with respect to gender inclusiveness.

NASB1995

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

NASB2020

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also.

NASB2020 wisely replaced "faithful men" with "faithful people." This improvement was probably safe since everyone today is in full support of teaching women as well as men about the Bible.

General Accuracy

Both versions of the NASB are highly accurate but neither is entirely trustworthy as a sole source for Bible study. In the Hebrew Scriptures, for example, the update did not take into account recent research (the past half-century or so) in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some of examples of refrence to the Qumran parchments would definitely improve NASB2020's translation of (for example) 1 Samuel 10:27-11:1; 14:41 and Isaiah 40:6.

There are some other mistakes upon which I have stumbled, and there are certainly more than these two, I will mention in brief.

Romans 4:25, both versions

He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.

To be blunt, this translation is incomprehensible. What does it mean? Why not just say "for" instead of "because of?" In rational thought, we may possibly translate the first "eis" as "because of" and the second as "for." Christian Standard Bible in its footnotes translates the verse that way. Common English Bible is pretty good here, but it is far from word-for-word in its translation.

He was handed over because of our mistakes, and he was raised to meet the requirements of righteousness for us.

New Century Version:

Jesus was given to die for our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God.

NET Bible:

He was given over because of our transgressions and was raised for the sake of our justification.

There are other pretty good translations of that verse, including any that just translate "for" in both cases of the Greek word "eis."

First Peter 4:6 could be improved in both editions.

For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.

This verse is confusing even in Greek. It literally says that the gospel was preached "to the dead." Some translations try clear up this verse by helpfully supplying language that implies the people heard the gospel when they were alive but they are now physically dead (NIV). "Those who are dead" may be people who died after hearing the gospel. It may also mean they were spiritually dead and were not able to respond to the gospel (a popular Calvinist view: "Dead means dead"). Any translation that translates the Greek noun (the dead) to a verb (are dead) cannot be justified by the Greek. Reconstructing the church context of the saying in the verse would be helpful; but so far it seems to be unrecoverable. NRSV in this verse is more literal in this verse; but we are still not helped much by it. I just think a word-for-word translation like NASB should translate this verse word-for-word.

Conclusion

NASB2020 will be one of my study resources. It has not lost its reputation as an accurate translation; but it is not suitable as a sole resource for Bible study.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Be of the Same Mind

Philippians 2:1-2

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

What does this mean? Too often, someone quotes this verse, slams her Bible and considers the case closed: We cannot be "one" if we believe differently on even one doctrinal point.

The agreement is about attitude. We are to be of one mind about affection, sympathy, selflessness, sacrificial love (like Christ). While doctrinal agreement is nice, this passage is not remotely about doctrine.

Jouette Bassler, "Notes on Philippians," New Interpreter's Study Bible:

Paul returns to the issue of unity, but now he emphasizes being of one mind (Gr. to auto phrone-te; lit., “set one’s mind on the same thing”; see Phil 2:5; 3:15, 19; 4:2), acting out of humility (Phil 2:8; 3:21; 4:12), and holding the needs and interests of others in high regard (Phil 1:23-26; 2:20, 25).

Marcus Maxwell, "Ephesians to Colossians and Philemon," Daily Bible Commentary, Hendrickson, 50:

The term Paul uses does not mean specifically intellectual agreement. He is not trying to get the Philippians to sign up to some sort of doctrinal statement of faith which will stifle thought and debate. It is rather about outlook, or mindset—a sharing of aims and goals, a common purpose.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Aspiration to be Number One: Genesis 33

 Gen 33:8-9
Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor with my lord.” But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.”

Esau never aspired to be Number One. In fact, such aspiration is a character flaw. That was Jacob's problem.

Hosea 12:2-9

The LORD has an indictment against Judah,
and will punish Jacob according to his ways,
and repay him according to his deeds.
In the womb he tried to supplant his brother,
and in his manhood he strove with God.
He strove with the angel and prevailed,
he wept and sought his favor;
he met him at Bethel,
and there he spoke with him.
The LORD the God of hosts,
the LORD is his name!
But as for you, return to your God,
hold fast to love and justice,
and wait continually for your God.
A trader, in whose hands are false balances,
he loves to oppress.
Ephraim has said, “Ah, I am rich,
I have gained wealth for myself;
in all of my gain
no offense has been found in me
that would be sin.”
I am the LORD your God
from the land of Egypt;
I will make you live in tents again,
as in the days of the appointed festival.

Hymn: Have You Ever Felt This Way?

 A new hymn:

Have You Ever Felt This Way?

Have you ever felt your faith break, declining underfed,
Like a stranger when you suffer to eat the widow's bread?
Have you felt the breath of God fill your ministry with zeal?
Could you run with royal horses that gallop for Jezreel?
Now scorned by kindred, confined in Horeb's ground,
You meet your God in a tender gentle sound.
God calls on you to go when you really need to stay.
Have you ever felt this way?

Have you sensed the strength of God when we follow his commands?
Has he found a work for you? Was he working in your hands?
Do the satisfied resist in the name of harmony
When you try to cure the wound as they treat it carelessly?
They worship God from their own combativeness--
To fit a privileged few for God to bless.
No brother waits. No sister abides to meet and pray.
Have you ever felt this way?

Did you ride a borrowed colt up to Zion in the spring
While the people shout "Hosana" and celebrate the king?
Did your tears for Zion bitterly suffocate your breath
When her citizens delivered the lovely city's death?
Then deeply sharing with those you gave your heart--
Such fellowship! feeling so much love it hurt!
Your closest friends desert when you go to die that day.
Have you ever felt this way?

link to the music: https://musescore.com/user/22014/scores/6522821