Monday, October 29, 2012

Common English Bible: My New Favourite Translation

I am very tempted to acquire a printed copy of the Common English Bible to use in the classroom, because--based on my limited sampling--it is fresh, interesting, and seems often to go its own way. Take Acts 11:20, for instance: The CEB is the only translation ever (?) that says that in Antioch, the Christians from Cyprus and Cyrene broke new ground when they "began to proclaim the the good news about the Lord Jesus also to Jews who spoke Greek."

The NLT, by contrast, says they "began preaching to the Gentiles."

Behind these two opposing translations is a choice between the Greek words "Hellenist" and "Hellene." Most Greek manuscripts, including codex Vaticanus, opt for Hellenist. A few manuscripts offer the easier--and therefore less likely--"Hellene" or "Greek." In modern translations,  the NIV, NET, NAB and RSV choose "Greek," no doubt because it fits the context better (v. 19). The NLT equates Greek with Gentile.

The ESV, NRSV adopt "Hellenist", which is preferred by standard modern editions of the Greek New Testament. However, the ESV, at least, explains in a footnote that they take Hellenist to mean "Greek-speaking non-Jews." The problem is that in the two other instances where Luke uses the word, Hellenist clearly denotes Greek-speaking Jews, as the ESV note explains (see Acts 6:1; 9:29).

The CEB may be wrong here, but at least it is consistent--and thought-provoking!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Book of Undergraduate Blunders

To make marking essays more fun, I keep a book of undergraduate "blunders" in which I record student comments that make me smile. These entries from 2005-2007 are old enough to share without embarrassing my current students:
  • The carpeted disciples: “Throughout the land, footwear was removed before entering the house, especially when entering an Upper Room which was very nice and often carpeted, like the disciples were.”
  • Authorship issues: 
    • “Paul’s authorship to the Ephesians ultimately provides the only hope for a world, which stands under divine judgment of sin.” 
    • “Although there is evidence to support both theories, common view holds Paul as the main author of 1 Peter.” 
  • Deification: “Martin [Luther] claims that these verses helps us surpass the first commandment which is: ‘I am the Lord your God.’”
  • The divine plumber: “The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Godhead and works in many different faucets in our lives.”
  • Truth trumps redundancy:
    • “It may sound redundant to say that in order to be God, Jesus had to be God but this is true.” 
    • “Taking off clothes and putting on clothes is a daily routine for almost all of mankind.” 
I'll save the story about Jesus healing the leopard, and the "parable of the sewer" for another time, for "Although scholars have come to believe that the bible is a manuscript that has been read from top to bottom, forwards and backwards, several times; there is still continuously new information being found in the ancient pages that much of society reads."

For more along the same lines, check out this twitter feed: @BibleStdntsSay

Sunday, October 14, 2012

When God plays hide and seek

I was chatting with a friend from college a few weeks ago when we both started talking about one of the  most memorable sermons we have ever heard: Theology professor, Bob Seale, speaking from Isaiah 45:15--"Surely you are a God who hides himself"--and explaining in his own inimitable way that God hides himself because he wants to be found.

I think of that sermon every time I try to play hide and seek with my daughter, who takes "Ready or not, here I come" as the cue to shout out, "Here I am, Daddy, I'm over here! Come and find me!"

It took me a while to realize that she has it right: the best part is being found.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sabbatical Dreams

As pre-writing for a sabbatical proposal, I took out a  piece of paper and wrote down the question, "What do I want to do on sabbatical?"

Since I've been thinking for a long time about the project I would work on in the event of a sabbatical, my answers surprised me:

  • Get better at teaching languages. Read lots of Hebrew and extra-biblical Greek.
  • Go to [insert developing world country], and teach there.
  • Read primary sources and classic secondary sources for the sheer joy of learning.

This feels like rest, a real sabbatical, a break from the academic "publish and perish" rat race and the pressure of teaching seven classes a year, a chance to rediscover why I entered this vocation in the first place. I also expect it would do more to help my teaching than the major writing project I actually proposed.

Along the same lines, this description sounds very attractive:
"I have come a long way from where I was at the start of my sabbatical. The one activity I chose specifically to take me away from my work has become a central part of my work and of my life. As a professor, I am required to make reasoned and thoughtful professional plans, but going where my heart (rather than my head) led me has yielded unexpected, rejuvenating, and inspiring rewards."  - Dominick Scudera
(I should note that the fact that I submitted a sabbatical proposal is no guarantee that I will be awarded one. But I can keep dreaming.)