Comments on NE podcast 001
Hi! This is NE series number 001C. That means it is the first in a series of daily Bible reading podcasts that will eventually? Lord willing, cover the whole New English Translation Bible. The C at the end of the number stands for Comments. I am assuming that you will have already listened to the NE-DBRP_001 podcast where I read the portions in the NET that we will discuss here, or that you have your digital or paper copy of the NET Bible open, so that you can read the verses and footnotes being discussed. All my podcasts are hosted at dailybiblereading.info.
Let’s pray first: Our Lord and our God, we pray that you would open our minds to understand more about who You are and how you have revealed yourself in this amazing book, the Bible. Amen.
Let’s open to Genesis 1. Before I give some of my comments, I want to just highlight a few of the NET’s footnotes that I think are particularly important. If you have time to look in the episode notes, you will find that I will often list and make annotations about some of the footnotes that I don’t have time to discuss in the podcasts.
NET Footnotes for special mention:
Gen. 1:14 footnote for signs: That footnote mentions that Hebrews word for ‘seasons’ is often used for religious celebrations in the OT. Some translations make that meaning of the word explicit. If that meaning is actually what the Lord and Moses had in mind (and I consider that very likely), then it points to an amazing thing: Even as early as day 4, God was planning for man to worship Him in religious celebrations.
2:8 See the note on the meaning of Eden.
2:17 you shall surely die.
2:18 There is a hugely important footnote on the meaning of ‘companion’. The translation of ‘companion’ for the position of the man’s wife seems to me much better than the traditional translation of ‘helpmeet/helper’. But I am not so sure that I like the other main word in that phrase: ‘corresponds to him’. I would like to suggest that some of you look at this, and let’s make a thread in the Digging Deeper Facebook group that has Genesis 2:18 in the text, so we can be searched for.
2:24 The last footnote is interesting on the translation of “unites with his wife, and they become a new family.” I prefer the NLT on this verse: “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”
NET Translation notes:
Gen. 1:5 ?[Evening came, marking the end of the first day, and then the morning of a new day dawned. //There was evening, and there was morning, marking the first day.]
[Similarly in verse 8, 13, 19, 23, and 31.]
2:5 Now [there was a time when] no shrub of the field had yet grown on the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground.
2:19 “The LORD God [had] formed out of the ground every living animal of the field and every bird of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.”
Gen. 2:24 [NLT This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.//NET That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family.]
Here are my comments for our reading in Genesis 1-2:
There is no way that I can plumb the depths of these two chapters for you. Instead, I will try to point out some of the deep things, and suggest that you do some digging. By digging, I mean firstly, meditation. Spend time prayerfully considering what God’s Word says, and check out your questions and hypotheses with good Bible study materials. I call there ‘shovels’ at our web site. Starting in Genesis 1, we’re swimming in deep water, and no matter how good a swimmer you are, it would be best for you to have a life jacket on. (I’m using the life jacket as a figure for reliable Bible study materials.) If you find that you are the only person that has come up with your new theory, then look closer. There is probably a good reason people don’t hold your opinion. Any time you proudly suppose that you are right and all the experts are wrong, you’ve lost your life jacket, your raft has disappeared, and you don’t know which direction to take to return to land.
Let’s take a brief look at how this amazing book begins. The text says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was without shape and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the watery deep, but the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water. God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light!”
If you are like me, you imagine a golden horizon with a sun shining brightly above it and reflecting the water of the ocean. But that just shows how tied we are to the world we inhabit. Look closer and you find that it really is impossible to imagine this scene! The sun has not yet been created, and there is no such thing as a horizon. There is no atmosphere. The horizon is created on the second day, and the sun as we know it appears on the 4th day.
footnote: While preparing these comments, I took our car to our mechanic. He’s a brother in Christ, and in his waiting room I noticed a card from the organization AnswersInGenesis.org. I noticed an interesting article that I thought some of you would like: Top 15 Illustration Problems in Genesis 1?11
Many understand that the first sentence (God created the heavens and the earth) is a summary sentence covering the first chapter, rather than that creation being part of the events of the first day. Actually I think we can include it in the first day, and I have a slightly different take on this than the NET footnote. (Note that I won’t talk about how long I think that ‘day’ is here. I will always try to avoid controversies in these podcasts.) But look closer. There is no sun and moon yet. The main markers of time, and perhaps even concept of ‘time’ for this world are not yet present. What we have here is God inventing ‘light’. Ponder for a moment: What are the things that must be in place before there can be something called ‘light’? I’m talking of more than ‘darkness’, but abstract things like truth, and the perception of reality (God saw that the light was good), and plans for how light will be produced, and what will be done in the light and in the darkness. Remember that God doesn’t need light. He has perfect vision in the dark. Everything we read about here is in preparation for life and humankind.
And then, appearing almost as a given in the story, there are two things predating light called earth and water. I am reminded of what a High School chemistry teacher (Max Hamilton) who taught one Sunday in my Jr. High Sunday School class that one reason he believed in God was because of water. That lesson was one of the few that were memorable to me. One of his reasons was that water turns out to be important that it expands when it freezes, and almost everything else contracts when frozen. And water can turn to vapor. Water is the stuff of life. As God is trying to give a general picture to us finite humans about how life will be created, I think it is cool that the account He provides for us starts with water.
If we try to understand this account more like we think Moses would have, remember that he would not have known about how planets and outer space works. His world was flat. So by the words, “God created the heavens,” Moses would have included much more than planets, asteroids, and stars in outer space. He would have thought more about the realms containing spiritual life that are outside our understanding and outside our world. The word ‘heavens’ is plural because the ancients posited layers of the spiritual world above our earth? with the dwelling place of God always in the top layer. The Bible also speaks of at least one layer below the world. And we will see later in Genesis, there are spirit beings that were already present before the six days of this world’s creation. There is organization in the spirit realms, which the New Testament calls principalities and powers, and these things predate our world.
For us in the modern world who think of our planet differently than Moses did, where are those spiritual realms and beings? We have no place to put them! Several years ago, I was helped by reading a book by Hugh Ross, who is an astrophysicist. Ross pointed out that we humans live in three dimensions, plus let’s add ‘time’ and call it a fourth dimension. In order for God to create our 4 dimensions, He has to exist in more than 4 dimensions. To help us understand, I? being in three dimensions, can easily create a two dimensional drawing of a man on a piece of paper. Were my two dimensional man able to think, he would have no capacity to grasp how his creator (me) could have the third dimension of depth. So we also cannot comprehend how God might have maybe seven dimensions. Even though I cannot really understand all this, to me it is helpful. The existence of other dimensions gives a place where I can mentally hang the existence of other spiritual beings? even rulers and hierarchies, that are outside of this world. And it helps explain how such beings could suddenly make appearances in our world in the stories of the Bible.
A second thing that astrophysicists have figured out is that the movements of the planets are like a large complicated clock. They can use computer models to tick backwards through time to the point that they can show where the stars were around the time Jesus would have been born. And when astrophysicists go backwards as far as they can go, guess what they have come up with?! All the heavenly lights came on at the same time.
Now let me speak just a bit about the amazing quality of this narrative attributed to Moses. Just from a secular literary point of view, this is amazing! Ancient literature outside of the Bible has nothing that can compare to this. In fact, starting with Genesis and throughout the Bible, we find beautiful and powerfully expressive literature written by 40 authors weaving an epic story with a cohesive message that has been deemed believable throughout the ages? right to the present. This is not the stuff of folk tales passed on verbally from Adam to Noah and on down to Moses. Folk tales always are rather simple-minded and improbable. We worked in Indonesia with the Orya people. One of their charming stories is about Yakla Zi Bak who climbed a tall coconut palm in the village of Orya and became the sun. Not long after, another boy from that village climbed a coconut palm and shot an arrow into one of the sun’s eyes. If he hadn’t put out one of the eyes, the heat from the sun would scorch the earth. After that, the boy just kept on going up and became the moon. The Bible is not a collection of folk tales, and it is? by the way, much better literature than the Al Koran of Islam. The Bible is supernaturally good literature. Moses didn’t get this creation narrative from his mind, from oral tradition, or from any books of ancient Egyptian wisdom. He must have received this as a direct revelation from God Himself. As I said above, this book tells us what God wants us to know about our beginnings.
Now let’s consider our reading in Job 1.
NET Footnotes to note:
Job first heading and sn (study note) #2. You can see the footnotes in the Youversion app, but I recommend also registering for an account at Lumina.bible.org. Take a look at Constable’s notes for the beginning of Job. I think that the idea that the author of Job might be Elihu is ingenious.
*Job 1:1 Uz Notice that Job is called a man in the ‘east’ in verse 3. East of what? The location is stated relative to Israel.
*Job 1:6 There is a footnote about ‘the sons of God’. These would include those spirit beings I just mentioned in my comments above.
Job 1:21 the name of the LORD. I will discuss this in the comments below.
Phil’s NET Translation notes:
Job. 1:20 Then Job got up and tore his robe [to show his sorrow]. He shaved his head, and then he threw himself down with his face to the ground.
21 [NLT96 “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die [and return to the earth]. //NET He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there.] ?
- Let’s discuss what we see in both Genesis and Job about who God is. In Genesis 1, God is referred to as ‘elohim’, the Hebrew word for God. The same word is used for both false and the one true Elohim. In Genesis 2:4, the writer (Moses) begins to refer to God as ‘Yahweh elohim’. Yahweh is of course the name that God revealed to Moses at the burning bush.
It is important that you the Old Testament reader know the convention for most Bibles and which is discussed in the preface to our Bibles. Yahweh is translated as ‘the LORD’, with LORD in capital letters. But in order for that to look nice, the typesetters use a smaller font for the ORD so that it doesn’t stick out too much on the page. Hebrew has another word for Lord which can be used of humans or of the Lord God, and that word is ‘adonai’.
So why do most of our best Bibles not print ‘Yahweh’? This is because the Jews built a hedge around the command to not take the name of Yahweh in vain by never pronouncing The Name. Instead they said the word ‘adonai’ just mentioned, which means Lord. This practice was so carefully adhered to that when the Hebrew alphabet started to be written with vowels around the year 600 AD, the scribes wrote YHWH with the vowel points for adonai (three vowels instead of two). This is why an eventual wrong pronunciation came about for those not understanding this that went from Yahowah to Jehovah in English. In actual fact, because the Jews never ever allowed themselves to pronounce God’s name, and because Hebrew vowels were not written, no one alive can really know the exact pronunciation that Moses heard at the burning bush.
There is something about this that only a Bible translator would notice. There are times in Hebrew poetry when the writer is speaking to God and uses God’s name. The writer might say, “Yahweh is merciful.” But if Yahweh is translated as ‘the LORD’, then that sentence would be translated as “The LORD is merciful.” What would have been taken as talking to Yahweh suddenly gets understood by English readers as talking impersonally about ‘the Lord’. Please just keep this in mind, because it will come up in our poetry readings.
My Comments on Job 1:
I have already explained why many scholars believe that? while the story of Job is set in the time of Abraham, it was most likely written in Israel, perhaps during David’s or Solomon’s reign.
- The author has taken pains to show that Job’s life was perfect. The number 7 in Scripture is the number of perfection. It is God’s number, and that number is often used symbolically. (Let’s see, who determined that our week would be 7 days long?) Job had 7,000 sheep and 7 sons. Three is another symbolic number, and that number comes up again and again also. Job’s three friends arrive to comfort him, they sit in stunned silence for seven days. If that was a few hours, we would conclude that this was the middle-eastern custom of the day, but 7 days is clearly hyperbole. The writer was perhaps working from a legend, but he was creating this exaggeratedly perfect picture in order to enhance the main question he wants us to ponder. And part of what he was implying is this: You think you’re so good! But you’re no where close to Job!
- Job had a regular practice of giving sacrifices for the sins of his children. The word used is to ‘sanctify’ them, or to restore their holiness. Only someone blessed with riches could do this so lavishly as Job. The tradition of giving sacrifices like those of Abel (Adam’s second son) before the flood, and that which is seen in Noah’s sacrifices after the flood continued to the time of Job and the patriarch Abraham. Early and so-called primitive cultures all over the world know about sacrifices. If mankind just evolved from monkeys, I don’t think this would be true. There is something hardwired into mankind that has led all cultures at one time or another to feel the need to make sacrifices to deities. If this book’s author lived after the birth of the nation of Israel (as I have posited), we will note that he never slips up and talks about sacrifices or other religious practices using Jewish terminology. He keeps the story true to the time period in which it set.
- So the author doesn’t mention the Ten Commandments. But what is the sin Job fears committing the most? It is to ‘curse God’ in one’s ‘heart’. (1:5, 22; 2:9-10) All the way through God’s Word, we find that God knows exactly what is in each person’s heart. Job believed that sin could not be hidden from God’s sight. Many cultures and religions have gods like the Greek god Zeus. Sure, he’s powerful, and able to throw lightning bolts. But he was not the creator, and he can be fooled. Only Judaism and Christianity believe in a sovereign creator God that knows our hearts and thoughts. As Heb. 4:13 we read, “no creature is hidden from God, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.”
footnote: Here is a translation of the Greek creation myth. This other article gives better background.
There is an interesting article by Peter Guirguis entitled 5 Ways the Christian God is Different Than Zeus, Thor, Shiva, and Other Dumb gods.
Now let’s consider our reading in Mark 1a:
So far this podcast has been about things that set the foundation for what we will be reading through the rest of the Bible. So I will continue to give some things that I hope will be useful for the rest of our journey.
You that are reading along in the NET text will note that I make some modifications based on my Bible translation experience. These modifications are always listed in the episode notes. I think a good Bible translation should follow the grammar of the target language. Things often go wrong when we force English to follow the Greek word order. Most of the time, the NET gives us grammatical English. Mark 1:1 in the NET says this: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” And I know you will say, “Well I didn’t hear anything ungrammatical!” The part that really is ungrammatical is ‘Jesus Christ’. In English we never call our president Trump President. We call him President Trump. We don’t say Jones Dr., the grammatical order is Dr. Jones. Titles always, ALWAYS come first, and Christ is a title. It means anointed one. And in Greek Kristus is simply a translation of the Hebrew word Mesias. In the Old Testament we will find that three kinds of important people were anointed: prophets, priests, and kings. Jesus is the perfect anointed one, or Mesias, or Kristus, because he is all three. So every time the NET says ‘Jesus Christ’, I will read the reverse. As I said, things go wrong when we break grammar rules in a translation. And I can hear listeners saying, “Well what could be wrong with calling our Savior Jesus Christ?” Well, what goes wrong in this case is that there really are people in the world that think ‘Christ’ was Jesus’ family name. I have heard pastors teach that sometimes the New Testament highlights Jesus’ title by putting it first, but in other times the order ‘Jesus Christ’ just became Jesus’ name. This is false. It’s just a tiny example of how not following normal target language grammar rules in a Bible translation can lead to wrong teaching. In today’s world, we need to work hard to remind everyone that Christ is a title that shows Jesus is the King of Salvation that God promised to send to us.
There’s something else in verse 1, and it is also a translation difficulty that points to something we need to know: If you ever read the preface to the KJV, you will find that the translators said that they made an effort to avoid ecclesiastical language? in other words, churchy language. We have such a word in the NET for Mark 1:1 that I just read, the word ‘gospel’. I’m telling you the ‘gospel’ truth that the word ‘gospel’ is definitely one of today’s churchy terms? and one that the average man on the street does not know the meaning of. Perhaps we might expand that. I think a lot of the churched people of today would have a hard time writing a good definition of ‘gospel’. I’m not going to fully define it for you now, because the NT is designed in such a way as to expand your understanding of the term as you keep reading. But I’ll tell you this: The word ‘gospel’ does not come from the Greek word ?????????? which was translated into old English as ‘godspel’? and which means ‘good tidings’. So let’s just call it the Good News. As you read the four Gospels in the NT and beyond them, you will grow in your understanding of why the Good News is good!
There is Bad News also that it is important to notice. It is the little word ‘sin’. Remember how even God noticed Job’s unusually determined efforts to be clear of sin. And now in Mark, the Good News starts out with symbolic language pointing to getting your life right (“Prepare the way for the Lord,” or we could say, “Prepare to meet the Lord”). And the direct preaching starting in chapter 1 is ‘repent’. This imperative verb ?????????? means to change your way of thinking. John’s message was, “[Repent/Change your way of thinking] and be baptized,” and Jesus’ first message was, “[Repent/Change your way of thinking] and believe the Good News.” Then we read that before people were baptized, they confessed their sins. Consider this: These days, pastors who read books on how to grow their congregation into a mega-church will be told to never mention sin or turning away from it. Any pastor or church leader who follows that advice is turning away from giving people the full message of the Good News. In order for the Good News to be good, we have to understand the Bad News. The bad news is that you and I are broken and that we have been infected with a fatal disease? the one we will hear about in Genesis 3. Now, many people have desired to see a revival of spiritual values in my country and all other countries. If you look at the revivals that have occurred in the USA and Europe in past centuries, guess what? They all start out with the supernatural and amazing thing that we read about in John’s ministry: People supernaturally came under conviction about their sinning, and they repented and confessed their sins.
Again, for the Good News to be good, we must understand the bad news.
I will close by quoting from the closing paragraph of Greg Koukl’s July Solid Ground newsletter:
From Greg Koukl’s July Solid Ground newsletter:
I will close with this word from former slave trader turned hymnist and pastor, John Newton, taken from his first public service at St. Mary Woolnoth, London, December 19, 1779. His text was “…speaking the truth in love?” from Eph. 4:15:
The Bible is the grand repository of the truths that will be the business and the pleasure of my life to set before you. It is the complete system of divine truth to which nothing can be added and from which nothing can be taken with impunity. Every attempt to disguise or soften any branch of this truth in order to accommodate it to the prevailing taste around us either to avoid the displeasure or court the favor of our fellow mortals must be an affront to the majesty of God and an act of treachery to men. My conscience bears me witness that I mean to speak the truth among you.
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