Saturday, November 18, 2017

Hello, Again!

So, let's meet up, kind of...

We've already mentioned a few things about ourselves but we were asked for more.  So here we are.  We are a Christian of more than forty years of Christian living and study in God's word.  In addition to God's wonderful word we are students of both the languages of the Bible and the earliest languages it was translated into such as Gothic and Coptic because those early versions of God's Word can give us insight into how those early Christians understood the Greek and Hebrew in their day.  Such insight includes, for example, that John 1:1 was understood as "In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God and the Word was a god." (Both Sahidic and Bohairic Coptic, though, the latest scholars are trying to change that asserting the same "qualitative" argument for the indefinite article taken strait from Greek scholars) 

We are a natural polyglot and speak a number of modern languages as well as the biblical.  As such, we came to the conclusion years ago that the best way to understand the Bible is to learn what we can about the culture God picked to produce it, the Hebrew culture, in order to put ourselves into the shoes of those initially targeted by our heavenly father  as recipients of his word and the Gospel.  That effort has resulted in dividends as far as understanding the Bible.

For the part which was asked for, our fellowship is with the Bible Student Movement and we have no particular partiality to any one group in the movement.  We do, however, fellowship with two of the more conservative classes and have worked to help a number of the more liberal in their international work.  The reason we lean to the right is because most of the time we find that the founder of the movement (not to be confused with the Jehovah's Witnesses), Charles Taze Russell, wrote correctly about biblical issues most of time doing the best he could in an era where the understanding of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic was still pretty much in its infancy with little beyond the Bible itself in the way of texts to help in understanding it available to Western scholars.  Now, we have so much more to help us in our quest thanks to God!

What that means is that we reserve the right to disagree with what Russell wrote where we understand Greek and Hebrew better based on the plethora of material which has come to the fore, or where subsequent events demand an adjustment in our views as biblical prophecy plays out in God's way and not Russell's or ours.  Our quest is for truth and insight into the Word of God that we may complete our race successfully and take our place in the Bride of Christ.  This blog is a part of our ministry because we suffer from a very rare endocrine disorder which has pretty much isolated me to my house and you can find out more about it HERE.  It is not about us, it is about our desire that all will in some way be helped by what time and reflection has helped us to see.

We are preparing a book based on some of the material we've already posted and are translating another book, the third volume in Bro. Russell's Studies in the Scriptures into Spanish.  So our Father above has kept us filled and busy in his service.

So, there you have it, my readers, friends and Brethren.  Up to this point we have let the articles stand on their own.  Now you have the face behind the teaching.


Friday, May 12, 2017

"...In Fellowship With Him We Were Healed!"

"He was pierced for our defiance; he was crushed for our crookedness; he bore the punishment for our peace; and in fellowship, with him, we were healed."  
Isaiah 53:5
New Proposed Rendering

A pair of students of the Bible with an understanding of Hebrew were doing a study of the "suffering Messiah" passage in Isaiah (52:12-53:12) and had one of those "aha!" moments when they'd noticed something different about the text in Hebrew when compared with common translations and even a quotation of 53:5.  The thing is the Masoretic Text reads as presented above.  However, most English translations render the last clause as "and by his stripes, we were healed."  Added to that is that the LXX translates it that way and Peter, or whoever later translated it into Greek if Peter originally penned it in Hebrew, used the LXX as their source for the quotation of this verse.

(Isa 53:5)  וְהוּא֙ מְחֹלָ֣ל מִפְּשָׁעֵ֔נוּ מְדֻךָּ֖א מֵעֲוֹנֹתֵ֑ינוּ מוּסַ֤ר שְׁלֹומֵ֙נוּ֙ עָלָ֔יו וּבַחֲבֻרָתֹ֖ו נִרְפָּא־לָֽנוּ׃

The problem is a classical study in being careful when reading Hebrew to see what is there instead of what one expects to see.  That's because the two words with such radically different meanings are so close that in Hebrew with vowel points added the differ by one dot, that is all, just one dot.  That dot is called the Dagesh Forte and it tends to have the force of doubling the letter so that, for instance, if placed in a chet ( ח ) it will give us two of them ( חח ).  It also takes certain consonants with a soft sound and hardens it.  This is what we have here.  In the verse above the second bet ( ב ) doesn't have the dagesh forte so that the word is Chavurato H2270 which comes from the Hebrew word chavar that according to Holladay's A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic LexiconOf the Old Testament means a "comrade, companion," hence to fellowship with. (pg. 94)

However, sometime before the birth of our Lord and before the invention of vowel pointing somebody misread it as Chaburato H2250, meaning "to bruise, stripe, wound, blow.  (BDB as I couldn't find the word in the more up to date lexicon).  So it was translated as "wounds" or "stripes" in the LXX and early translations of the Bible in many languages based on the LXX used that so that when folks finally started going to the Hebrew text they never noticed the missing Dagesh and continued reading it as if it had it.  The error was further compounded by placing the word Chavurato in Hebrew lexicons as an example of a variance of the word  Chaburato.  How the error crept in is a matter of speculation, however, the most likely scenario is that the Egyptian translator of that portion of the Old Testament didn't have Hebrew as his first language and made an honest mistake.  But there is something else, another factor I will get into in a moment.

When the vowel pointing was invented the scribes preserved the standardized articulation of the words of the Tanakh as they knew it.  And other such pointed versions have the same articulation here.  So this was how they understood it should read.  And why not?  Plug that translation of the clause into the passage as a whole and it fits with thoughts such as him "justifying many" (Vs. 11), "see his seed" (vs. 10), and "he will divide the spoil with many" (vs. 12), and others.  So this translation of the verse states and essential truth of Christianity, that all have to enter into fellowship with our Lord or know him as their personal savior to have eternal salvation.

To stress the importance of this is that this is an example of why we need to pay attention to what is in the text instead of reading what we expect to see in it.  We have further confirmation of this understanding of the verse in the New Testament since Is. 53:5 was apparently the source for what Paul wrote to the Phillippians:

"be found in Him; not having my own righteousness of Law, but through the faith of Christ, having the righteousness of God on faith, to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, having been conformed to His death, if somehow I may attain to a resurrection out of the dead."
(Php 3:9-11)  

Lastly, I would like to point out something.  Whether by simple mistake or deliberately done (we do know from tradition that some passages were deliberate to confuse gentiles and hide some things by the translators), Providence overruled the matter and turned the alteration into a messianic prophecy which saw fulfillment.  So what we see here is a passage and it's variant in another language both having fulfillment, both of them!  How amazing is that?

Until next time!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

"He is Risen From the Dead!"

What a wonderful announcement to hear from the angels! (Matt. 28:7)  Jesus was awakened from the dead, the base meaning of the word εγεις in the Greek.  This one thing is what separates Christianity from all other faiths, the fact that Jesus lives.  The founders of all other religions but for a few recent cults are all dead and can do nobody any good.  This fact is so important that Paul spent the first thirty-four verses of 1Corinthians 15 on this vital difference and why it is so important.  So why don't we have a look at this passage of scripture and what Paul had to say when he outlined the Gospel itself, or the essential doctrine of Christianity:

15:1 But know this yourselves, O Brothers, that the Gospel I declared to you and in which you both received and stand,
15:2  and by which you were saved if you, yourselves, have held on to the word we declared to you, without which you have run in vain.*

Note here that Paul opens up by telling the Christians in Corinth that if they do not have faith in what follows their course is of no use to them, they have run the race in vain to that point.  That is how important what he now informs them is.

15:3 And which I entrusted to you first and which you received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  15:4 was buried, then raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

This is the first and foremost doctrine of the Christ according to the Apostle, this was the message he took to them and everybody else.  That is, that Jesus, the Christ died for our sins as predicted in the Old Testament and was also raised on the third day from among the dead, again, as predicted in the Old Testament.  This is the first thing and what makes Christianity so different from all other religions.  However, that is not all.  There are other religions which claim their founder either did not die or was raised from the dead.  So how do we know that Jesus was raised while none of the others were.  Well, there is no proof any of the others were raised.  Those faiths cannot put forward any witnesses to the events they claim.  Can Christians?  That is what comes next:

15:5 And that he was seen by Peter then the twelve.  15:6 Thereafter, he was seen by more than 500 brothers on one occasion, the majority of whom are still among us, though, some have died.  15:7 After that he appeared to James and all of the Apostles.  15:8 Then last of all, he appeared to me as if to one born before his time.

That is quite a list of witnesses there though few of the names have made it down to our time.  Note also that Sisters are not mentioned.  That is likely because in the Roman world and, sadly, even among the Jews of the time, a woman's words was not considered of enough worth to establish a matter.  Add them in and the number of eye witnesses to his having been raised only grows.  Many of those, certainly all of the Apostles, except John, died for their insistence that Jesus had risen from the dead.

So in the First Century, when such a matter could have been easily proven false, the presence of so many eye witnesses was something which couldn't just be written off.  So the powers that be chose to persecute and seek to eliminate them instead.  What they didn't succeed at was to eliminate the written testimony of some of those who saw him alive after being put to the death by crucifixion.  So we have that testimony from people who saw him with there own eyes to this day and those who deny the facts are reduced to brushing it off as the myths written by later men.

The rest of the passage is devoted to expounding on why Jesus had to be both killed and resurrected, which is a topic best left for another time.  Suffice to say, more than enough people saw the resurrected Jesus with their own eyes, in Paul's case possibly several years after the fact, and who left their personal testimony it to our day establishes it as a matter of fact.  So we can confidently shout from the rooftops:
He Is Risen!
Jesus Christ Lives!

We first thought to go through the whole passage but at 720 words would've run us afoul of quoting from most modern translations because of copyright laws with their 500 word limits..  So we decided to translate the passage ourselves and realized we would only treat that part of the passage which directly related to the point being made this Easter weekend.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I am the LORD: that is my name

"I am Jehovah; that is My name; and I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to engraved images."
Isaiah  42:8 LITV

Why the difference between the King James Version and the Literal Version by James Green, who, by the way, is a staunch Trinitarian who used the Received Text, the same one behind the Jing James for the New Testament, for his translation?  The reason is simple.  In this verse, we find a proper name there unique to God himself, which he declared to be his name to time indefinite (Ex. 15).  Do Mr. Green chose to translate that name as we have it in English and put it there instead of the substitute we mostly see used by most other translators based on a Jewish myth that God's name is too holy for use and the pronunciation has been lost to mankind because of that.

Before we go on we might as well remind out traders of a few things.  We think by now our readers have caught on that we are not Trinitarians because we do not believe the Bible supports or teaches that doctrine.  Instead, we believe that the doctrine misleadingly labeled Arianism after one of its most able defenders who became the center of a controversy in the early 4th century A.D. is what the Bible teaches.  We also believe that our God can do pretty much whatever he wants within his self-imposed limits.  So that means that he can take a created being and place him on a level just below him and authorize him to:

Php 2:9  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 
Php 2:10  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 
Php 2:11  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

This still stays within what God says about there being no other God equal to him (Is 49:9*).  Yes, I do believe that declaration by Paul and recognize that God has placed his son, Jesus, as the agent of everyone's salvation.  So that name is important to me.

So why should we concern ourselves with God's name if that of Jesus is the one given to us to bow to and acknowledge?  Well, Jesus taught us to pray "Hallowed be thy name." (Matt. 6:9).  So, while God gave him such an exalted position and name it was not to the point of totally displacing his own which is in conformity with both Is. 49:9 but 1 Cor. 15:24-27 where it is made clear that Jesus is not on God's level, but subjected to him for all he has so high a level of being and honor himself.  To do that as good children in God's household and coheirs with Jesus we have to know the name of our father and God.  So where do we get God's name from?

From the Hebrew text, the Bible was written in.  So let's start with the above verse in Isaiah from the Hebrew 42:8:

Isa 42:8  אני יהוה הוא שמי וכבודי לאחר לא אתן ותהלתי לפסילים

This is how it appears in any modern Hebrew text written without the vowel points.  The word in red is God's name and is spelled yod he vav he, or YHVH when transliterated.  Something important to know id that although Spoken Hebrew had vowels, in ancient times written Hebrew did not.  As time went by certain consonants were used to indicate certain vowels as in the case of the highlighted vav in the word following God's name.  Okay, so how do we know how to pronounce God's name?

Well, the only reason we are going down a little longer road for this is because of a Hebrew myth that the pronunciation of God's name is lost.  That has resulted in a lot of confusion, especially since some efforts were made by Rabbinically dominated Jews to hide the pronunciation and keep it hidden from all but the privileged few students of imminent Jewish sages. To give the Jews their due this was not as selfish as it sounds on the surface.  There was a good reason.

For what follows I need to credit a Jewish scholar named Nehemiah Gordon, though I have verified it through my own sources, such as  Nehemiah tells the story of what happened in his Open House video series on youtube and it's both simple and understandable.  Emperor Hadrian had the Jews revolt on him, the famous Bar Kochba revolt and put it down.  In the aftermath, he decided to destroy the Jewish faith altogether and forbade both the teaching of the Torah but the public use of God's name as well.  At the time it was still the custom of Jews to greet each other as Boaz greeted his workers in the book of Ruth (2:4) and that verse was the reason they did.  So Hadrian banned the use of the name.  Several Rabbis would be executed cruelly for their defiance by teaching the Law, but Akiva Ben Yoseph, simply called Rabbi Akiva and highly revered by the Jews today because he died for using God's name in public, or " Kiddush Hashem (the sanctification of G‑d’s name)." *

The way Nehemiah explains it, the surviving rabbis made it a rule to not use God's name "until the Messiah comes."  Of course, they were expecting the Messiah anytime and had no idea he'd already come in his priestly role and it would be a long time before his return.  They teach that the pronunciation was lost, but that isn't true.  The Rabbis had some competition in the form of the scribes, or copyists of the Tanak.  They were responsible for inventing the ingenious system of vowel points which allowed them to preserve the correct articulation of the Hebrew Old Testament without altering the text they had by inventing and adding new letters as vowels.  They came to be called the Masoretes and were likely part of the group today called Karaite Jews who reject Rabbinical laws in favor of the text of the Bible they recognize as sacred.

When they invented the vowel pointing system and began using it in their manuscripts the Rabbis forbade the full vowel pointing of God's name to hide it pronunciation.  So throughout most of the manuscripts a "clipped" version of the name:

Isa 48:2  אֲנִ֥י יְהוָ֖ה ה֣וּא שְׁמִ֑י וּכְבֹודִי֙ לְאַחֵ֣ר לֹֽא־אֶתֵּ֔ן וּתְהִלָּתִ֖י לַפְּסִילִֽים׃ 

As we see here the name now has three characters added.  Those are the vowel points for "e" and "a" plus a cantellation point.  So now it looks like the name is Yehvah.  To add further to the confusion the Rabbis added a tradition that the vowel points for Lord, or Adonai, were added to signal the reader to say Adonai its stead when reading the scroll in public.  The funny thing is that those aren't the vowel points for Adonai.

Although we personally figured out for ourself the correct pronunciation of God's name for myself using another pathway, that of seeing how it was used in compound names such as Joshua, Johnathan, Jehonadab and the like, Nehemiah stumbled onto it by another path because it seems the scribes messed up when they copied the text and considering the quality of the Aleppo Text supervised by Ben Asher we have a little trouble buying into them messing up.  So they hid the correct articulation of God's name in plain sight by writing it out in some fifty or do places in the Tanak and Nehemiah stumbled onto several of those places on 9/11/2001 while the Towers were falling in New York as he was comparing some texts.  Isaiah 42:9 isn't one of those verses so we are going to move on to another verse from our Leningrad Codex text:

Gen 3:14  וַיֹּאמֶר֩ יְהֹוָ֨ה אֱלֹהִ֥ים׀ אֶֽל־הַנָּחָשׁ֮ כִּ֣י עָשִׂ֣יתָ זֹּאת֒ אָר֤וּר אַתָּה֙ מִכָּל־הַבְּהֵמָ֔ה וּמִכֹּ֖ל חַיַּ֣ת הַשָּׂדֶ֑ה עַל־גְּחֹנְךָ֣ תֵלֵ֔ךְ וְעָפָ֥ר תֹּאכַ֖ל כָּל־יְמֵ֥י חַיֶּֽיךָ׃

Now we have it!  יְהֹוָ֨ה  Look at the dot above the ה, that is the vowel "holem" and the sound is "o" as in the word note.  So now we have the name of God written out as YeHoVaH, or Yehovah! You can see it in another ancient manuscript below in the Shema, or "Listen Israel" where it appears three times in the text.

It is from Deut. 6:4 and look how God's name is spelled there, and on down as well.  It is completely written out as Yehovah.  The translation of the verse is "Hear o Israel, Yehovah your God is one Yehovah!"  The next two lines also spell it out, "And you must love Yehovah, your God, with all of your heart."

So there we have it.  From the Bible itself from the two most ancient Masoretic Texts available since we also quoted from the Leningrad Text, which is also a Rabbinic product instead of Karaite and still kept the complete name of God preserved in a few places as well.  We won't get into where the alternative scholars promote of "Yaweh" or "Yaveh" comes from as it is beyond the intended scope of this post.

In English, the name has been Anglicised as Jehovah with one letter pronounced differently than the Hebrew by an accident of history.  In the older English, the letter "J" entered the English language with the consonantal value of the modern "Y," thus replacing the "I" in the older Iehovah.  However, over time the pronunciation of the letter "shifted," or changed, to what we now have.  We will not presume to instruct others as to whether to use the Hebraic as some insist or the Anglicised version of the name.

A final word.  We did state earlier that God has given his son the name "that is above every other name" so that "all knees will bend and confess" his name, Jesus, to their salvation.  I once walked with people who'd forgotten that in their obsession to give honor and glory to God's name and use it perhaps a tad too much to the detriment of our savior.  We are commanded to ask for his name to be holy, and that involves using it aright as well as we call on our Father, Jehovah, as well as our savior, Jesus, as God has commanded us to do.

*1 Lit. "there is no God beside me" or "equal to me" thus admitting that there are other Gods, false ones, but there is none equal to or above him.  Interestingly, we find only one translation in our e-sword which renders the thought accurately and that is Wycliffe's which ironically was translated from Latin:

(Wycliffe)  Bithenke ye on the formere world, for Y am God, and no God is ouer me, nether is lijk me.
(Latin)  recordamini prioris saeculi quoniam ego sum Deus et non est ultra Deus nec est similis mei

*2 See Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai at