Saturday, May 25, 2019

God's Name In Christian Manuscripts.

Only a Jehovah's Witness who is also grounded in Hebrew could come close to imagining my feelings when I received the above image of Rev. 8-9a in my email from a friend of mine who checks around the net for newly published manuscripts online.  It is from the Sloanne Collection in the Brittish Library and is Manuscript 237.  It is from the 16th century but shows evidence of coming from a much more ancient line as it has Gods name in it, which no Jew would've dared insert had it not already been in the copy they were working from.  This image also clarifies the Greek because it makes it clear that in that passage Yehovah is invoking both his name and its meaning, the one who "is, was, and will be, and come, the Almighty."  Perhaps somebody can send the link to Dr. Rolf Furuli, who I'm sure will like this post about Christian manuscripts which contain God's name, and have it written out as "Yehovah."

The manuscript is incomplete, however, what appears to b the rest of it has been located, though, that will have to wait for another time.  I don't have the credentials for ready access to many new discoveries and count on being in the good graces of some who do and they make their living as academics who have to publish.  So I can't always share unless I am a discoverer myself or share that honor with somebody who will let me, or have permission.  Recently, a number of manuscripts in several different styles of Hebrew writing were discovered and except for the one above where I didn't need it I've been given permission to share them with my friends. 
The manuscripts are from a number of collections and I can't identify them all.  But they include two of the Gospels, partials from John and Luke and complete copies of Jude and James  The partial Gospels are in the Vatican Library and the other two in other collections.  All are medieval to the 17th century, but oh what they have for us and what they imply!  All but John contain the Divine name.  I know there are some will argue against this, but that alone argues for two things, a Hebrew origin for most of the New Testament and that early Christians did use God's name, including when they wrote.  So:

The above image is the first page of Luke from the Vatican Library.  The manuscript only contains the first 35 verses of Luke's Gospel and in a way is one of the most telling.  That's because in those 35 verses it uses God's name, written out completely as Yehovah, 13 times.  That makes it the one which uses God's name the most freely.  This manuscript was found in a bin made up of pages which fell out of their manuscripts while being consulted.

And this one is from the book of James in Hebrew in Rashi script making it possibly the oldest manuscript of the lot.  God's name, written as Yehovah, is circled in red.

The questions is, what is Gods name doing there in those manuscripts and how did they get in there?  Most scholars would say that the "translators" put them there on theological grounds.  But that also leads to the question of how did they now to put the holems there given the trouble Jewish scribes went to hiding them?

Could it be that the scribes for these manuscripts were copying from much older manuscripts from much older lines of manuscripts?  Jewish scribes would not have dared to remove the name from the text as they copied.  Even the Shem Tov line of Matthew uses a shortened from of the name, a double yod, for the name in the places it occurred in the early manuscripts of that book.

We know that Matthew was originally written in Hebrew by the apostle.  And we have a line of manuscripts, the Shem Tov, which may descend from the original, though in places that line was "corrected" to conform with the Greek manuscripts.  The NT was translated into Aramaic at an early time, so it is likely the same happened to those books of Greek authorship into Hebrew as well since Christians in the Levant did speak Hebrew.  These manuscripts, just like the Shem Tov Matthew, may tell us that God's holy name was used by Christians in the early days and was written in the NT by the authors of the NT.

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

Friday, July 22, 2016

Cowell's Rule

Greetings again, my friends:

Today’s post was suggested by something which happened to me this past week.  Among others I do subscribe to a periodical letter which goes out by e-mail from a certain scholar who takes a similar view as mine that we really need to understand the Bible from a Hebraic point of view instead of a Western/Greek view.  He has written a book about the Gospel of John from a Hebraic view.  I noticed, though, that he apparently accepts the common translation used for its first book as authoritative.  So I wrote the author to point out the error to him.

His answer was to send me a PDF copy of the article from a scholarly journal from 1933 where Dr. Colwell outlined what has come to be known as Colwell’s Rule, a rule of Greek grammar often pointed to by people who are not current on matters of Greek Grammar to justify a misleading translation for John 1.1c.  The purpose of this post is to try and examine the issue and where the scholarship on the matter is right now as well as other evidence.

The Background

John 1:1 is a key scripture because it is often the very first verse cited by apologist for the Trinity doctrine as proof for the trinity.  Most translations since the beginning of vernacular translations in the Protestant Era translate it almost word for word like this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

It seems straightforward enough, doesn’t it?  And this is the standard translation used by the translators of the Bible for the most part to this day.  However, as the printing press made books so much cheaper and affordable to the masses they began to acquire New Testaments in the koine Greek they were passed down in along with Greek Grammar books, lexicons, and shortly after concordances.  As that happened some problems regarding how the translators handled various texts of the bible began to emerge.  Top of the list was John 1:1. Why?

Εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον, και θεος ην ο λογος.

In beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and god was the Word.

That is John 1:1 according to all the ancient Greek manuscripts I’ve been able to get pictures, facsimiles or whatever of, they all read the same.  I’ve also added a word for word translation without the benefit of English word order.  My capitalization, or lack thereof, is deliberate by reason of Greek grammar.  The first thing to note is that both the “Word” and the first occurrence of “God” are capitalized and the second occurrence of “god” is not.  There is a reason for that.

First of all, Koine Greek preserves some Hebraisms in the Greek such as an interesting device when referring to the God of the Bible in the case of a word which could be cause confusion of adding the definite article, the word the in English to the word.  So we often find sprinkled throughout the Old Testament the word god with the definite article added to it to make it clear that it is talking about the God, Jehovah of Israel.  In practice because the indefinite article would be awkward in the English we simply capitalize the word God because it serves as a proper noun, a name. 

The same construction occurs in the New Testament and the general practice in those instances is the same.  We see that in the first instance of the word God in John 1:1 and the Word on all instances, but it is lacking in the second occurrence of the word god.  If we followed general practice, we should spell the last occurrence of god with the g in lower case since it is referring to a generic god instead of the God.  The meaning of the Greek as written becomes clearer if we insert what the ancient Greek language didn’t have to indicate the indefinite or generic, the indefinite article, thus translating the final clause as “and the Word was a god.”  In order for the verse to read as most often translated the Greek definite article has to be with the second occurrence of the word god, it’s as simple as that.  Colwell’s rule is all about that problem.

Colwell’s Rule

In 1933 a Greek scholar named Ernest Cadmen Colwell published the article A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament in a journal of the time in which he outlined a rule which essentially puts the definite article into the text of John 1:1 as being understood even though it doesn’t appear there.  To quote the scholar DonaldHartley of Southeastern Bible College, who quotes Colwell himself, the rule basically says that “Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article.”  In other words, in copulative clauses the definite article can be understood in the case of predicate nouns which precede the verb.  That’s what we find in the case of John 1:1. For sixty years that rule stood as holy writ for justifying the common translation of the final clause of John 1:1 in a Trinitarian manner.

Colwell’s Rule Reexamined

In time a scholar named Phillip Harner put the rule to the test and reexamined Colwell’s methodology, which he found weak.  As a result, he published the article “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1,” which found the application of Colwell’s rule to John 1:1 flawed.  In its stead he proposed that the second god in the verse should be understood as qualitative, functioning more or less as an adjective.  That would mean the clause should be translated along the lines of “and the Word was godlike.”  However, translators generally avoid that one and instead either stand by the old, or as in several cases recently, translate it as “and the Word was Divine” capitalizing the word divine to once again make an association which isn’t in the Greek.

The point is that these guys would rather swallow razor blades than admit that the verse isn’t the Trinitarian mainstay it is used as.  For many years mainstream theologians have condemned the Jehovah’s Witnesses for translating the clause in their New World Translation as “and the Word was a god,” thus removing any support for the Trinity doctrine in the verse.  To admit in the slightest that translation is the correct one for the clause is a career killer so they keep on seeking to justify anything but that.  So right now the current scholarly stand is that the word there is qualitative, much like the similar construction in 1 John 4:8 “God is love.” 


In speaking of the “last days,” Daniel the prophet was told that “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Dan. 12:4, ESV) We believe this was a prophecy of what happened starting in the 1800s, when knowledge became so widely available, cheaply available along with an education.  Back then those in the high school grades were often expected to learn at least the basics to biblical Greek as well as Latin.  That increase in knowledge led to the wonderful standard of living we enjoy today made possible by advancing technology.

That very increase in knowledge made a very big problem for nominal religious leaders in Christendom because now the masses ad access to the bible in its original languages as well as various aids which could help anyone who wanted to understand what it’s message was better.  One of those problems was the discovery that the bible didn’t really teach in John 1:1 that Jesus is God almighty in the flesh.  In 1933 Dr. Colwell published what seemed to be the perfect answer to the problem, a way to insert the definite article into the text where it didn’t appear in the first place and solve the problem by making the text say what nominal Christians leaders say it says.

However, recent scholars have reexamined the rule and have tossed it aside altogether in respects to John 1:1 as a misuse of the rule.  Instead they propose in its place to assert the passage speaks qualitatively.  Okay, as long as we keep in mind that being divine, or godlike is not the same as being God himself in a triune relationship we have no trouble with seeing it that way.  But the bottom line is to realize that even with that nuance the verse does not say what it is often alleged to say.  John consciously separated the Word, Jesus, from God as a separate being with godlike qualities.

Until next time!

Monday, July 4, 2016

430 Years Where? : The Deads Sea Scrolls and Bible Chronology.

Above is a screenshot I took of a fragment which is part of the Dead Sea Scrolls collection and to reach it I used the identifier 4qedxcex12c.  This is taken from the Dead Sea Scrolls Project online and what we learn from the identifier is that it is from a group of fragments belonging to a particular scroll covering Exodus Chapter 12.  I went looking in the Dead Sea Scrolls to find out what they might show us about Exodus 12:40-41, which records the fulfillment of an earlier prophecy given to Abraham.  The problem is that there are two different variants of this passage and those variants are often cited among Bible Students in regards to the matter of Bible Chronology, and in a wider context regarding Bible veracity.  This is what I found.

Exodus 12:40 reads:

"The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years"

It seems straightforward enough, doesn't it?  However, we run into several problems with that passage, which is from the Masoretic Text (MT).  The first is that it appears to conflict with the prophecy itself which we find at Genesis 15: 12-16 and is as follows:

”And He said to Abram, Knowing you must know that your seed shall be an alien in a land not theirs; and they shall serve them. And they shall afflict them four hundred years; and I also will judge that nation whom they shall serve; and afterward they shall come out with great substance. And you shall come to your fathers in peace. You shall be buried in good old age. And in the fourth generation they shall come here again; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." 

The first is the difference in years mentioned, and the second is the number of generations.  a quick check of the genealogical record shows that four generations does not cover four hundred years.  It just does cover the time from when Jacob enters Egypt at the invitation of his son, Joseph and the reigning Pharoah until they leave.  So what is going on here?  what appears is the case is that there is a difference in reckoning matters god has set up to confuse things a bit.  Genesis apparently does two things.  The promise counts four hundred years from when the promise was made and the generations which actually resided in Eygpt.  In Exodus Moses, under inspiration, counts the time from when Abram entered the land of Canaan after leaving Haran when his father died.  Stephen invokes Genesis in his exposition in Acts 7:2-6 and Paul invoked Exodus in his exposition to the Galatians, 3:17.  However, even with that realization we are still left with a problem because the scriptures say the sons of Israel spent 430 years in Egypt or do they?

We really have two variations witnessed to in the manuscripts.  The first is found in the Masoretic Text and is as follows:

וּמוֹשַׁב֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָשְׁב֖וּ בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם שְׁלֹשִׁ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה וְאַרְבַּ֥ע מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָֽה׃ 
"The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt."

The second is witnessed to by the LXX, the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Bohairic Coptic:

Η δε κατοικησις των υιων Ισραελ ην κατωκησαν εν γη Αιγυπτω και εν γη Χανααν ετν τετρακοσια τριακοντα

And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in the land of Egypt and the land of Chanaan, was four hundred and thirty years.
(Brenton's English Septuagint)

So which is it?  Were they in Egypt the entire 430 years or not.  This is where the fragment above comes in as it is the oldest witness to the text of interest here and Bible Students generally prefer the older witness.  In the catalog of Dead Sea Scrolls, the fragment is listed as following the Masoretic text.  However, as we looked closer we saw reason to question that view.  Here is a close up of the portion of the fragment containing the passage of interest:

What we see here are verses 39 & 40.  Those who can read Hebrew have no problem seeing that verse 39 is completed while verse 40 appears to start on the next line at "land of Egypt..." and this is apparently the basis for the judgment on the part of the cataloger.  Obviously, something is missing here, the portion of the text from the beginning of verse forty to the word "land."  We have no way of knowing the quality of the photo the cataloger had to work with or if he was working with the manuscript itself.  This photo is from the newer enhanced digital photographs now available online for scholars and others with an interest in the Scrolls to consult and of better quality than the other two.  And that's where things get interesting.

Now look at what we circled in red.  That is where the line ends and is a clue to what is missing from the text.  We see a break in the material but right after that is the letter "נ" or "n."  That letter is easily missed even in this image if one isn't careful.  In earlier images, it probably is even harder to spot.  Here is the text again of verse forty with the missing portion in red:

וּמוֹשַׁב֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָשְׁב֖וּ בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם שְׁלֹשִׁ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה וְאַרְבַּ֥ע מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָֽה׃

And here is what is there with the "נ" and another word, the Hebrew "ארץ" in the text in red, which shouldn't be there if it follows the MT:

  ן ארץ בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם שְׁלֹשִׁ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה וְאַרְבַּ֥ע מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָֽה׃ 

However, it makes all the difference in the world.  That is because the only way the letter and word would be there at all in that spot would be if the text originally read "The time that the sons of Israel lived in the land of Canaan and the land of Egypt was four hundred ad thirty years."  Add to that the space of the missing text is more consistent with that that than the shorter Masoretic text.  So instead of following the Masoretic reading, as the catalog states, the fragment instead follows the alternate text preserved in the LXX.

We know from the Dead Sea Scrolls that there were a number of different versions of the OT text found in the caves of Qumran, all of them dating anywhere from the second-century bc to the first-century ad.  The Masoretic and the LXX represent the two most witnessed to with the Masoretic first followed by the Hebrew-LXX.  Since we don't know the methodology in making that determination we are not going to give the exact percentages here since there are parts of the OT where there is more agreement between the two than differences and the Pentateuch is one of those parts.

But the important point here for us is that the oldest witness to a key Hebrew passage in the Exodus clarifies a problem the Masoretic Text actually makes and resolves an apparent contradiction for us.  God apparently included the land of Canaan in the four hundred years of prophecy probably because it was under Egyptian domination for much of that history and not fully independent.  But it also gives us a starting point marked in the bible beginning when Abram left Canaan which is prophetically important since Paul invoked it in Galatians.

We are living in an exciting time, my brothers and sisters.  We now have the Dead Sea Scroll witness because God broke the small cartel of scholars who kept it under lock and key away from the rest of us.  Many other manuscripts have come to life.  and thanks to the efforts of such men as Dr. Daniel Wallace even more and even in some cases, older manuscripts of the NT in Greek are coming to light.  We have much more in the way of ancient material to work with than Brother Russell had and some of that increases the light thrown on the languages themselves.  And I am sure there will be much more to come in the time left as God makes preparation for the kingdom to come. 

Let's enjoy these times and make the most of them as we complete our course.