Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Then are ye bastards and not sons": The Bible, Translations and Profane Speech

One of my acquaintances from seminary days wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on The Ethics of Obscene Speech in Early Christianity and Its Environment. The cost of the published monograph is itself obscene, but my recollection from looking at a copy at SBL a couple years ago is that the book deals with instructions about profanity in the NT.

Also worthy of study is the way modern translations handle biblical profanity. Why, for example, do most modern translations tone down the language of Heb 12:8, which was meant to be shocking, by rendering νόθος as 'illegitimate' instead of 'bastard'? Is it merely because language has changed--"illegitimate" is today's equivalent to King James's "bastard"--or because NT translations have toned down the force of the original out of deference to modern sensibilities? I suspect the latter.

Here's how the KJV renders the whole verse: "But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons."

The RSV, NRSV, ESV, NET, NLT, NIV, NASB and even the NKJV all read "illegitimate."

Only the NAB and NJB get it "right":
  • NAB Hebrews 12:8 If you are without discipline, in which all have shared, you are not sons but bastards.
  • NJB Hebrews 12:8 If you were not getting this training, as all of you are, then you would be not sons but bastards.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Biggest Drift

I thought our 7 foot snow drifts would take the prize for biggest drift in town...

...until one of my students mentioned the 7 foot drift in their neighbour's driveway. (Ours, fortunately, were mostly to one side of our driveway.)

The back yard, with drifts above our back fence:

Regular programming will resume...

Update: 7 feet may be a slight exaggeration, but they were taller than me before the neighbour kids got to them. It's official: Our village constable confirmed ours as the biggest drift.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Yesterday I skimmed through the 200+ blog posts that accumulated in my Blog reader over the last week, and highlighted a few links for subsequent, more detailed perusal.

The highlight is this excellent interview with Richard B. Hays.

Peter Enns's review of G.K. Beale's book-length response to Enns's book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, makes interesting reading. No surprise, Enns doesn't like the book. Here's his conclusion:
"Beale laments that the doctrine of inerrancy is eroding. In my opinion, the reason for this is not the insidious influence of a new breed of evangelical scholars, but the very thinking displayed in this book. If Erosion represents the kind of work necessary to defend the model of inerrancy Beale fancies, the erosion he fears may quickly become a landslide."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom!

My mom was hospitalized a week ago today. Initial diagnosis was a brain tumor. After looking at the CT scan the dr. suggested a brain infection. We're still waiting for a definitive diagnosis. Mom is still in the hospital.

She turns 75 today.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Great Empire Builder Disaster

This is what the AmTrak website has to say about the train we were scheduled to depart on this afternoon:

Information Unavailable: Sorry, due to a service disruption, we are unable to provide estimated departure and arrival times. For additional assistance, please contact us at 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245)

When translated (and 'targumed' by an AmTrak representative) this means our train is not running until Jan 12 at the earliest. I am supposed to start teaching on the 11th, so the plan is to rent a car and drive to remote Montana where our car is parked. My father-in-law will come along and drive the car back to Portland; we will drive the rest of the way in our own car back to Caronport. Good thing my first classes are more-or-less prepared.

Friday, January 8, 2010

As a Driven Leaf

Update: I wrote this yesterday and scheduled it to be posted today when I expected to be on the train from Portland to Montana. We found out when we showed up at the train station yesterday afternoon that our train was canceled due to extreme winter weather conditions in North Dakota; trains are not running today either. Hopefully, service will resume on Saturday so that I can make it back in time to begin teaching on Monday.

On the Emperor Builder today, I may well finish Milton Steinberg's excellent novel, As a Driven Leaf. First published in 1939, the novel is about Rabbi Elisha ben Abuyah, a historical figure who, according to rabbinic sources, was excommunicated for heresy. The novel is a well-written, compelling story, but it is also fascinating on several additional levels:
  • Steinberg presents a sympathetic view of rabbinic Judaism, and an interesting Jewish perspective on early Christianity.
  • Steinberg's imaginative reconstruction of Jewish Palestine and Roman Antioch in the early 2nd century brings the period to life.
  • The book is also an engaging portrayal of what I presume was a typical understanding of the role of the Rabbis in Jewish life in 1930's era scholarship (i.e., the rabbis controlled everything; there was a council at Jamnia). That perspective is now very dated, but it is nice to have such a readable overview.
  • As Chaim Potok explains in the foreward, the book can be read as a parable about the conflict between Orthodox Judaism and the Western world. The protoganist's desire for certainty (thinly veiled allusions to Descartes) and struggles with doubt mirror the experiences of Christians reacting to their fundamentalist upbringing. Fortunately, apostasy is not the only option.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Best Portland Area Christian Used Book Store

I am happy to dub Windows Booksellers the new best Christian used book store in Portland. Although Windows has been operating in Portland since 2002, I only found out about them on this visit when I began to look for an alternative to the now-defunct Pilgrim Discount. I came away with cheap copies of several classics:

Brown, Raymond E. New Testament Essays. Garden City: Doubleday, 1965.
Caird, G. B. The Gospel of St Luke. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963.
Davies, W. D. The Sermon on the Mount. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966.
Hengel, Martin. Property and Riches in the Early Church: Aspects of a Social History of Early Christianity. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974.
Keck, Leander E. Mandate to Witness: Studies in the Book of Acts. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1964.
Minear, Paul S. To Heal And To Reveal: The Prophetic Vocation according to Luke. New York: Seabury Press, 1976.

But I am especially excited about the following two by the late C.F.D. Moule:
Moule, C. F. D. The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Colossians and to Philemon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962.
Moule, C. F. D. The Birth of the New Testament. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982.

The first I plan to read as I teach Greek Exegesis this semester, the second I recall being mentioned in several Moule obituaries.

Windows Booksellers also has a very large store in Eugene, OR.

Monday, January 4, 2010