Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Dove on the Street

The fad these days is Crazy Bands: little rubber bands made in different shapes that stretch around your wrist as a bracelet. The shape is indiscernible while the band is on your wrist, but becomes recognizable as the tension is removed and the rubber snaps back in shape.

While prayer walking through Hamtramck I came across a Crazy Band on the street shaped like a dove. It was a blessing, and I'm still wearing it and thinking about the dove in scripture.

In Genesis 8:8 Noah sent out a dove to check if the land was ready to be occupied because Doves do not touch anything dead. It came back bearing an olive branch: a messenger of peace, cleansing and redemption.

In Leviticus doves are required sacrifices, tools for covering sin, symbolic of innocence dying and foreshadowing the death of Christ.

In Song of Solomon the King refers to the Bride as a dove, using the description as a symbolic term of affection, paralleling Christ and the church.

In the prophets doves represent birds of mourning and moaning and stand as examples of grief and repentance.

In Matthew 10:16 Jesus commands His disciples to be as innocent as doves (in pairing with wise as serpents) before sending them out to minister.

In Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22 and John 1:32 the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove.

The dove has 9 major feathers on each wing. The Holy Spirit has 9 fruits and 9 gifts

The Fruit 

  1. Love
  2. Joy
  3. Peace
  4. Longsuffering
  5. Gentleness
  6. Goodness
  7. Faith
  8. Meekness
  9. Temperance

The Gifts
  1. The Word of Knowledge
  2. The Word of Wisdom
  3. The Gift of Prophecy
  4. The Gift of Faith
  5. The Gifts of Healings
  6. The Working of Miracles
  7. The Discerning of Spirits
  8. Different Kinds of Tongues
  9. The Interpretation of Tongues
 There is surely more to study and discover in the life of the dove and its symbolism for the spirit, but the bracelet reminded me of the Spirit's presence in the believer's life and God's good gift of a comforter and advocate for His children, the presence of Christ within and without. The word of God is everywhere. Do we have ears to hear and soft, believing hearts to understand?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Damaging the Cambridge ESV: 2 Days Inside a Dirty Backpack With Over Five Inches of Rain

Some of you are wincing right now. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. This time, He preserved. I took my Cambridge Wide Margin ESV on a two day backpacking adventure with a group of six inner city Detroit High School students, during which time my Goatskin Bible was pressed into a 60 pound pack and endured rain and dirt. The results were troubling, but I am blessed to still have the Bible in full working condition, with only superficial damage. Some of you may ask why on earth was I so foolhardy as to pack my most precious possession on such an expedition. Firstly, before I bought the Bible I made a commitment to the Lord not to obsess over it. Yes it was expensive, and yes it contains my unreproducible thoughts on God's word, but it's still just a book and I have other Bibles. Secondly, I wanted to have it with me for comfort. The trip was intense physically, spiritually and emotionally (a number of the students were emotionally disturbed and threatened physical harm). Lastly, I was working long days on 4-5 hours of sleep after days with long physical activity and my judgment was probably not the best.

Lets assess the damage (or lack thereof):

One of the reasons I bought the goatskin leather, smyth sewn Bible was its durability. I wanted something that would survive the tribulation (for others' sake or mine: no controversy intended). This Bible should last a lifetime, although I may have forfeited the manufacturer's warranty at this point. As you can see the art gilding was rather severely damaged on top and the pages are somewhat wrinkled and stiff in the top corner. A large amount of dirt crept into the gutter as well; I picked most of it out, but some remains to be dislodged.
The margin notes made by a purple Pigma Micron 005 remained waterproof and there was no smearing or bleeding of any kind whether handwritten ink or print. I give the Cambridge and the Pigma Micron an A+.

The most disappointing damage personally was on the soft, supple goatskin cover, which now has a few marks where items in the backpack pressed impressions into the leather. While this does not make me overjoyed, it was bound to pick up some blemishes and I hope to grow old with this Bible full of battle scars.

Overall the Bible underwent the trial amazingly well. It is fully functional. The pages are slightly wrinkled and have some orange discoloration where the art gilding was rubbed off and bled through. The gilding on the top is roughed up quite a bit and the cover has some impressions pressed into the leather, but in a few months this will just be character and will remind me of the ministry. My hat goes off to Cambridge for creating a product that survives such an ordeal with grace, and my thanks goes to God for preserving my possession while still humbling me and devaluing material things.

New Testament Reading Plan

Greg Gordon, the creator and moderator of Sermonindex.net, just posted a 1 Month New Testament reading plan:


this is a good plan if you are desiring to read through the entire new testament in just one month.

1. Matthew 1-9
2. Matthew 10-15
3. Matthew 16-22
4. Matthew 23-28
5. Mark 1-8
6. Mark 9-16
7. Luke 1-6
8. Luke 7-11
9. Luke 12-18
10. Luke 19-24
11. John 1-7
12. John 8-13
13. John 14-21
14. Acts 1-7
15. Acts 8-14
16. Acts 15-21
17. Acts 22-28
18. Romans 1-8
19. Romans 9-16
20. 1 Corinthians 1-9
21. 1 Corinthians 10-16
22. 2 Corinthians 1-13
23. Galatians – Ephesians
24. Philippians – 2 Thessalonians
25. 1 Timothy – Philemon
26. Hebrews
27. James – 2 Peter
28. 1 John – 3 John
29. Revelation 1-11
30. Revelation 12-22
Check out the original post at Sermonindex.net

Thursday, August 26, 2010

ISV Translation

1In the beginning, God created the universe.  2When the earth  was as yet unformed and desolate, with the surface of the ocean depths shrouded  in darkness, and while the Spirit of  God was hovering over the surface of the waters, 3God said, “Let there be light!” So there was light.
 This is the opening of 2011's brand new International Standard Version translation (ISV). The translation was brought to my attention by Derek Ouelette from Covenant of Love; you should surf over to his post as he gives an excellent overview, detailing the key features of the ISV and what might be good or bad.

1In the beginning, the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He existed in the beginning with God. 3Through him all things were made, and apart from him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life brought light to humanity.5And the light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.
The ISV seems to be a mostly thought for thought translation and is intended to be highly poetic. This is an interesting concept because the standards for translating poetry vary. As an English literature major I prefer translations of poetry that preserve imagistic and aesthetic intentions and accuracy without bending the language to have rhythm and rhyme in both languages. The ISV turns many familiar passages into verse. I find this a bad choice concerning in both accuracy and aesthetics, but as an idiot when it comes to Hebrew and Greek my opinion has a very narrow foundation.

The front matter of the ISV details its unique properties:

The Uniqueness of the ISV

With so many English language Bible translations available today, the reader is faced with an important question: “What distinguishes the ISV from other Bible translations?” The ISV offers six features that distinguish it from other recent English language translations:
1. The ISV is a New Translation, Not a Revision
The ISV is a totally new work translated directly from the original languages of Scripture and derived from no other English translation. It was produced by Bible scholars who believe that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 ISV). The ISV takes advantage not only of the most ancient manuscripts available, but also of the most recent archaeological discoveries. The translators of the ISV have selected the English equivalent that most closely reflects the meaning of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts.
2. The ISV is a Computer-Friendly Translation
When the ISV project began in October 1994 (actual translation began in the Spring of 1996), the ISV became the first English language Bible translation conceived, designed, translated, and formatted primarily for a computer-literate generation. It has been produced entirely by computer and is the first Bible translation ever published with version numbers after the manner of fine software. (The version number of this edition is Version 2.0, Build No. 0.)
3. The ISV is Sensitive to Poetic Forms in the Original Text
The ISV treats subtle nuances of the original texts with special care. For example, several passages of the Bible appear to have been rendered in poetic form when first penned by their authors. The ISV has meticulously crafted these original passages as true poems—thus communicating a sense of their original literary form as well as translating the original intent of the author. As a result, passages that would have been read as poetry by first century readers actually appear in poetic form in the ISV. For example, see Christ’s complaint to the Pharisees recorded in Luke 7:32 (page 1747), the Christ Hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 (page 1994), the Apostle Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 (page 1945), the Common Confession of 1 Timothy 3:16 (page 2017), Paul’s Hymn to Christ in Titus 3:4-7 (page 2029), Paul’s witty quote of the ancient Greek poet Epimenides in Titus 1:12 (page 2027), and the “trustworthy sayings” of Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15 (page 2015), 1 Timothy 3:1 (page 2016), 1 Timothy 4:8 (page 2017), and 2 Timothy 2:11 (page 2023).
4. The ISV is Sensitive to Literary Forms in the Original Text
The ISV treats synoptic parallels with special sensitivity. For example, historical narratives in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were carefully examined in the original Greek text in order to compare each occurrence in the text where the narratives appeared to describe similar instances. Unlike all other English language translations available today, the ISV translates each separate synoptic instance with exact translational parity in each textual occurrence. In those parallel passages where the Greek text occurs with word-for-word synoptic identity, readers will discover that the ISV translates these passages into word-for-word English equivalents. In those parallel passages where the Greek text in the parallel passages approaches, but does not reach, a word-for-word identity, the ISV has adjusted the English language translation to reflect the similar, but not exact, nature of the parallel passages. Similar attention to detail has been adhered to in the synoptic pre-exilic Old Testament history books of Chronicles, Kings, and Samuel.
The reader will notice—particularly in the Bible’s historical narratives, in the four Gospels, and in the Book of Acts—that the ISV usually shifts its style of English composition in order to utilize contractions when translating quoted words of a speaker, even though the ISV generally avoids the use of contractions when rendering historical narratives or written correspondence. It was intended that a sense of the informal be communicated when people are speaking and that a sense of the formal be communicated when people are writing.
5. The ISV is Sensitive to Conservative, Modern Textual Scholarship
The ISV includes the latest scholarly analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls and is the first modern English language translation to contain an exhaustive treatment of catalogued Dead Sea Scrolls materials produced courtesy of Dr. Peter Flint and Dr. Eugene Ulrich, two authorities on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Every major variant from the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Scriptures contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint was carefully examined and catalogued for the ISV by a special team of scholars under the direction of Dr. Peter Flint. All significant departures from traditional understandings of various Old Testament readings were carefully analyzed and are presented for the reader’s consideration in footnotes. The present release of the ISV contains these analyses only for the Psalms and Proverbs. A future version release of the ISV will contain an analysis for the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures. The ISV’s book of Isaiah was translated by Dr. Peter W. Flint directly from the text of the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa), which was found among the Qumran Cave 1 collection of Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts.
6. The ISV is a Literal-Idiomatic Translation
The translation theory behind the ISV differs from theories employed in previous Bible translations. Traditionally, two basic methods of Bible translation have been used. The older method (and for many centuries practically the only method used) has been labeled “literal” or “formal equivalent.” This type of translation allows readers to identify as fully as possible with the source languages of Scripture and to understand as much as they can of the Bible’s customs, manners of thought, and means of expression.
The other method is termed “idiomatic” or “functional equivalent.” The goal of an idiomatic translation is to achieve the closest natural equivalent in modern language to match the ideas of the original text. Idiomatic translations have little or no concern for maintaining the grammatical forms, sentence structure, and consistency of word usage of the source languages.
All major translations of the Bible fall somewhere on a scale between complete formal equivalence and complete functional equivalence. It is clear that each of these methods of Bible translation has its limitations. Competent Bible translators have always recognized that a strictly literal translation of the words of Scripture can be misleading. For example, “the wicked will not stand in the judgment” might be interpreted as proving that evil people actually would not be judged. Hence literalness is not always equivalent to accuracy.
On the other hand, the limitations of idiomatic translations are also obvious. Such translations frequently tend to cast the words of Scripture into new molds that convey the ideas in a significantly different spirit or emphasis. Idiomatic translations have, in a sense, a commentary built into them; they represent a choice made by the translators as to what the translators think a passage means. For that reason, an idiomatic translation is easier to read but less reliable for careful study.
A good translation will steer a careful course between word-for-word translation and interpretation under the guise of translating. In other words, a good translation will be both reliable and readable. The best translation, then, is one that is both accurate and idiomatic at the same time. It will make every effort to reproduce the culture and exact meaning of the text without sacrificing readability. The ISV Foundation calls this type of translation “literal-idiomatic.”
Of these three basic types of translation—literal, literal-idiomatic, and idiomatic—the translators of the ISV have, without hesitation, opted for the second. This is not because it happens to be the middle option, simply avoiding extremes, but because the literal-idiomatic translation is the only choice that avoids the dangers of over-literalness and of over-interpretation discussed above. Teaching biblical truth demands extreme fidelity to the original text of Scripture. However, a translation of the Bible need not sacrifice English clarity in order to maintain a close correspondence to the source languages. The goal of the ISV, therefore, has been both accuracy and excellence in communication.

These differences are greater than what they might initially seem. It is quite odd (though not bad or even unsettling) to read through the Bible and never find the word "Christ" but constantly find the word "Messiah." It is even more odd to find sections to have an bouncing rhyme scheme. The ISV seems to have made many choices in order to be different or stand out. However, its uniqueness does not promise it a place on the shelf. The publisher does not seem to be doing a thorough job of marketing the translation and with many switching to the ESV and HCSB there may not be room for a new and slightly strange translation. However, Davidson Press has made the ISV available for free download in DOC format (PDFs were available but contained errors) which means that its a prime candidate for a homemade looseleaf Bible and a joy to Bible study aficionados like me who will spend time formatting the perfect text block and writing in custom margins (see the Homemade KJV Looseleaf post). The ISV New Testament is currently available in paperback and the full Bible will be available in 2011. I will leave you with Romans 6 as rendered by the ISV:

Chapter 6
No Longer Sin’s Slaves, but God’s Slaves
1What should we say, then? Should we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2Of course not! How can we who died as far as sin is concerned go on living in it?
3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into union with the Messiah  Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore, through baptism we were buried with him into his death so that, just as the Messiah  was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too may live an entirely new life. 5For if we have become united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old natures were crucified with him so that our sin-laden bodies might be rendered powerless and we might no longer be slaves to sin. 7For the person who has died has been freed from sin.
8Now if we have died with the Messiah,  we believe that we will also live with him, 9for we know that the Messiah,  who was raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10For when he died, he died once and for all as far as sin is concerned. But now that he is alive, he lives for God. 11In the same way, you too must continually consider yourselves dead as far as sin is concerned, but living for God through the Messiah  Jesus.
12Therefore, do not let sin rule your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires. 13Stop offering  the parts of your body  to sin as instruments of unrighteousness. Instead, offer yourselves to God as people who have been brought from death to life and the parts of your body  as instruments of righteousness to God. 14For sin will not have mastery over you, because you are not under Law but under grace.
15What, then, does this mean?  Should we go on sinning because we are not under Law but under grace? Of course not! 16Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thank God that, though you were once slaves of sin, you became obedient from your hearts to that form of teaching with which you were entrusted! 18And since you have been freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.
19I am speaking in simple  terms because of the frailty of your human nature.  Just as you once offered the parts of your body  as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater disobedience, so now, in the same way, you must offer the parts of your body  as slaves to righteousness that leads to sanctification. 20For when you were slaves of sin, you were “free” as far as righteousness was concerned. 21What benefit did you get from doing those things you are now ashamed of? For those things resulted in death. 22But now that you have been freed from sin and have become God’s slaves, the benefit you reap is sanctification, and the result is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in union with the Messiah  Jesus our Lord.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Poll: How Much Do You Write In Your Bible?

A new poll has just been created! Be sure to vote and invite all your friends to do the same. This poll focuses on writing in the Bible. Some consider it necessary for Bible study; some consider it apostasy. Many of the Bible projects I describe here include writing in the Bible to a certain degree. I thought it would be interesting to see how much or how often my readers write in their Bibles. So be sure to vote and comment on this post along with your vote to describe your thoughts, opinions, methods or just to rant. You can find the poll on the left under the Blog Archive.

(I had technical difficulties with the previous poll, so I hope and pray this one will run smoothly)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Midnight Bride Meditations on The Song of Solomon

The Song of Solomon remains one of the most difficult and controversial books of the Bible. In conjunction it stands as one of the most if not the most poetic and exceptional books of the Bible. It is unique. It is often classified as Wisdom Literature but breaks the mold in its romantic and mystical qualities. Scholars argue whether interpretations should focus on earthly relationships, physical relationships, The Church and Christ's relationship, historical narrative, poetic construction... the list goes on as more and more genres claim the mysterious text. I make no pretense at anything beyond everyman Biblical scholarship, and I've read very little on The Song of Solomon (actually the only thing I've read is Mark Driscoll's rather graphically sexual interpretation from his mini-book Porn-Again Christians); however, I have always been swayed by allegorical interpretations focusing on the poem as a prophetic description of relationship with Christ.

For no easily apparent reason I was drawn to Richard Wurmbrand's The Midnight Bride, which is a later edition of The Sweetest Song put in devotional format by The Voice of the Martyrs, an international missionary agency which focuses on the persecuted church. Richard Wurmbrand founded the agency after many years of torture in communist prison for his faith. You can read his story in Tortured for Christ.  

In a Christian culture that produces and devours masses of devotional books, I have somehow managed to avoid such literature until now. It's not that I despise devotional literature, but I tend to be rebellious and desire to keep my time alone with God unstructured beyond His word and prayer and unconfused by any voice beyond His. That said, I have been enjoying The Midnight Bride immensely. Wurmbrand takes a highly expository approach to illuminate a mystical interpretation surrounding Christ's relationship with His bride the church. The concepts are illustrated with powerfully poignant stories from the persecuted church. The combination is impacting and leads to daily meditations on a single verse and how it reveals the heart of God. I can highly recommend the book and I will probably attempt to find a similar expository, meditation and scripture centered devotional in the future.

In conjunction with these meditations are interpretative notes I add to the margins of my Cambridge ESV Wide Margin. The verse per day meditation creates a rich experience that seems necessary in order to unpack the full nature of the Song of Solomon (and I'm sure I'm only scratching the surface). My notes don't always reflect Wurmbrand's exposition (there are occasions when I find his focus too narrow), but their often informed by his direction. Wurmbrand's understanding of the text is influenced by Jewish mysticism which views the Song of Solomon as one of the most sacred texts and sees the work as a highly mystical and prophetic message of love and romantic interaction between God and Israel, which Wurmbrand extrapolates into the New Covenant to reveal Christ and His bride, the church.

Song of Solomon 2:8-10

 8The voice of my beloved!
   Behold, he comes,
leaping over the mountains,
   bounding over the hills.

9My beloved is like a gazelle
   or a young stag.
Behold, there he stands
   behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
   looking through the lattice.

10My beloved speaks and says to me: "Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
   and come away,

 These verses are some of the most beautiful and touching revelations of grace and love in the whole of the word of God. Like the father runs to the prodigal son, Christ leaps and bounds to the believer shouting with joy at the arrival of His beloved bride. His voice stirs excitement in our hearts as He overcomes all obstacles between us: He comes to us. He's compared to a gazelle, meek but vigorous. He remains separated from us only by the windows and lattice. Now we see Him through a glass darkly but soon face to face. The only separation between us is this temporary flesh, which even now is passing away as we wait for the Bridegroom's return. His voice calls us to Him, beckoning us to ruse from our sleep, our weariness, sin, darkness and shame to come away with Him into an intimacy which introduces eternal and everlasting pleasure of the spirit.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Memorizing the Ten Commandments with Vit Ryznar

Vit Ryznar is a graphic designer who's work I discovered through Inspiks.com and more specifically through a recent post about using typography in Christian motion graphics. Check out this video featuring the Ten Commandments along with a cool graphic interpretation. You can use this video to memorize all ten. One statistic revealed that more than 60 percent of Americans can't name either half of the Ten Commandments or the four Gospels of the New Testament. Taking time to meditate on God's earliest principles may save us a lot of embarrassment here on earth and at the judgment seat of Christ. So many people make a fuss about the Ten Commandments not being in schools or public buildings, but most people don't follow them. Paul surely wasn't complaining about the Ten Commandments being absent from Roman schools or Roman government buildings. Let judgment start with the house of God. Let's get these into our hearts, knowing that we are compelled to obey the law of the spirit of life Romans 8:2.

The Ten Commandments - motion (kinetic) typography from Vit Ryznar on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bible Translation and Urban Ministry

How Hamtramck has Changed my Prejudices against Dynamic Equivalence

If you read my previous post on Bible Translation Basics you know that I have a strong leaning towards literal translations or formal equivalence translations. I value accuracy and openness in a translation, so that the translator's views and interpretation do not endanger new readings of the text. However, I was born again in college, in an academic atmosphere where the student population all had attained a certain reading level. Hamtramck is different. Urban ministry requires each minister of the gospel to be all things to all people, and the diversity of Hamtramck requires an even greater commitment to crossing cultural and educational lines in order to deliver the Word of Truth.

Hamtramck contains over twenty-five languages and a large number of ethnic groups. The racial tension runs high, overwhelming city youth and creating e barriers to education as well as the gospel. Hamtramck High School only graduates about 31% of the senior class. That means that more than 2/3rds of the students will not receive a high school diploma. Of that 31% only about 2% qualify to pursue a four year degree, and of that 2% an incredibly small number have the financial ability or motivation to do so. The police are forced to discharge mace an average of once per week in order to control the gang fights and riots that center around violent expressions of hopelessness, in the guise of ethnic and cultural conflict. The elementary schools here allow parents to override teacher's decisions to fail students, so many reach 6th grade without the ability to read and without a foundation to ever arrive at literacy within the school system. Over 80 violent incidents were reported to the District and that probably does not include fights in which no serious injury occurred. When you consider that there are only 180 days in the school year, you realize that High School here is truly a traumatic place. In addition to these challenges many children are cheated of opportunities from birth by alcohol, lead poisoning and homelessness. Literacy becomes a secondary concern to survival.

In the light of these barriers, functional equivalence translations such as the NIV and the NLT become great aids due to their ability to communicate across literacy barriers. Even in normal speech, normal Bible phraseology and "Christianese" becomes an impediment to understanding the truth of God's message. Before I was skeptical of these translations and the theological imbalances I felt they brought to the text, but when it comes to helping a city youth understand the simple gospel that has the power to free them from sin and deliver them from the of their situation, when it comes to life or , I'll take functional equivalence any day. Jesus came anointed to preach the gospel to the poor Luke 4:18 and His body still has that anointing today. The Holy Spirit presses us on to share across any barriers and allow no stumbling blocks to the message of hope and transformation. The people Christ most wants to reach are those who have the least of this world, and the least ability to find Him without miracles and missions.