Monday, January 3, 2022

Luke 3.15-22 Translations and Notes (RCL Baptism of Our Lord; First Sunday after Epiphany Year C)

Fresco in St. John The Baptist Roman Church at Bethany Beyond the Jordan
The appointed RCL text for the Baptism of Our Lord = First Sunday after Epiphany Year C is Luke 3.15-17, 21-22. I'm guessing they wanted to focus just on the baptism part, but it makes no sense to me to omit verses 18-20, so I'm sharing Luke 3.15-22 here.

A few things worth noting from a close reading of the text:

  • Clearly there was some speculation that John the Baptist was a messianic figure. In Luke's depiction of him (especially in contrast to Matthew and Mark), his role is downplayed. He is locked up in prison apparently before Jesus is baptized! My suspicion is that this is part of Luke’s plan to minimize John’s role and separate him from Jesus. (Cf. John 3.30!) Note that the execution of John is never detailed except for a passing reference in Luke 9.9. Also note the ongoing influence of John the Baptist in Acts 18.24-28 and 19.1-10 over against the community of Jesus followers. Apparently there continued to be speculation whether John or Jesus was the more important figure.
  • In verse 18, how are John's "exhortations" understood to be the "gospel / good news"? 
  • The Greek is rather clunky in this passage. Verses 15-17 are one sentence, and John's quote in verses 16-17 is especially complicated. Greek admired a long subordinated sentence, but I think this stretches matters. Verses 19-20 and 21-22 are similarly complicated and need help to get into English.

Here are my collection of translations and my notes on translating.

Monday, December 27, 2021

John 1.1-18 Translations and Notes (RCL 2nd Sunday of Christmas Year C)

John 1.10-18 is the appointed text for the Third Sunday of Advent in Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary, but it doesn't make full sense without verses 1-9 preceding it. This is such a rich text, and there is so much going on with decisions needing to be made about text variants (v18), punctuation (vv3-4), and many translation options. 

It is also so typically Johannine with ambiguity and confusion for anyone who does not understand the coded language of the text. For example, I suspect most Christians perceive from verse 1 that the "Word" is a reference to Jesus, but in the Greek, it is not clear that a person is even in mind until verse 10. And it's not until verse 17 that the person is actually identified as Jesus! The passage spirals around with repetition, but it clearly moves forward with greater detail and clarity as it describes Jesus nature and identity. 

This passage is definitely worth working through the Greek or at least comparing the translations. I also encourage people to consult the helpful NET Bible notes. I offer my own translation, but my notes will explain what's going on in the Greek.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Luke 3.7-18 Translations and Notes (RCL 3rd Sunday of Advent Year C)

St. John The Baptist Roman Church, Jordan River Baptismal Site, Jordan
αὐτὸς δὲ ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ
Luke 3.7-18 is the appointed text for the Third Sunday of Advent in Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary. It continues the reading from the previous Sunday.

What is it about John’s preaching that is so powerful that it causes not just the Jewish people but even tax collectors and soldiers to seek his advice? The question posed by all of them is, “What then are we supposed to do?” That question still lingers. Where is the "good news" in all of John's "exhortations"?

A collection of translations, including my own, and notes:


Monday, November 29, 2021

Luke 3.1-6 Translations and Notes (RCL 2nd Sunday of Advent Year C)

Jordan River valley wilderness looking east from Jordan to the river and the traditional baptism site of Jesus.
Luke 3.1-6 is the appointed text for the Second Sunday of Advent in Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary. Luke had already introduced the story of John the Baptist's and Jesus' births and described some events in Jesus' childhood. Turning to John's ministry, Luke locates it within Roman political history, eastern Mediterranean geography, and Scripture.
Luke cites Isaiah 40.3-5 which concludes, “… every mortal shall see the salvation of God.” Was this a past reality fulfilled in the time of John and Jesus? Is this still a future reality? What does the salvation of God look like today?

A collection of translations, including my own, and notes:

Monday, November 22, 2021

Luke 21.25-36 Translations and Notes (RCL 1st Sunday of Advent Year C)

"Look at the fig tree..." (Luke 21.29) - Sycamore fig tree on the Arbel looking west

Luke 21.25-36 is the appointed text for the First Sunday of Advent in Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary. It's a bit odd to have a text that is focused on Jesus's second coming in the season when we are looking ahead to his first coming. It does raise a good question, though: How is thinking about Jesus' second coming helpful in preparing for his first coming?

The file here provides a collection of translations and my notes on translating along with my own suggested translation. There are always nuances in the text worth considering, and attending to the small details often helps us see the big picture.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

John 18.28-40 Translation and Notes (Christ the King Sunday RCL Year B )

This shows the western wall of Jerusalem and is a probable spot of Gabbatha (John 19.13) where Pilate brought Jesus out to be condemned.
John 18.33-37 is the designated RCL text for Christ the King Sunday Year B. It was doubtless chosen because of the dialogue between Jesus and Pontius Pilate questioning whether Jesus was "King of the Jews." The pericope really should at least include 18.28-40 (which my notes include), though the section of Jesus and Pilate goes through 19.16.

As depicted by the narrator, Jesus' trial before Pilate is a total travesty of justice. The Jewish authorities are hostile to but have no legitimate charge against Jesus. They are more concerned about their own survival and purity than they are for the truth. Pilate is depicted as a bored bureaucrat who does not really comprehend and who would have preferred not to have been bothered by this Jewish disturbance. Jesus is the only one who speaks the truth.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Bible Geocoding and Rethinking the Bible Atlas

An example of the KML file results which has about 7,100 placemarks in Google Earth.

I have mention OpenBible.info before as an excellent resource for things like data visualizations and especially its Geocoding. Stephen Smith has recently updated his work and explained what he's been doing in this post: "Past as Probability: Rethinking the Bible Atlas for 2021." He writes:

What does rethinking the Bible Atlas mean?

This project is a Bible atlas (technically, a gazetteer) that (1) comprehensively identifies the possible modern locations of every place mentioned in the Bible as precisely as possible, (2) expresses a data-backed confidence level in each identification, and (3) links to open data to fit into a broader data ecosystem. The goal is to provide a baseline for future Bible geography projects to use.

In my original design document for this project, I have the following guiding principles; I’ll discuss their implementation below:

  1. Comprehensively reflect current scholarship.
  2. Use linked data.
  3. Be accurate and precise.
  4. Quantify uncertainty.
  5. Handle non-point data.
  6. Include media.
  7. Open the data.

It's a pretty stunning achievement considering the amount of work pulling the material together. His description of his work is worth reading, but if you just want to take advantage of his work, go to the Geocoding section. From there you can download the KML file for Google Earth with its 7100 Bible placemarks linked to the passages where a site is mentioned. You can also browse online by book and chapter of the Bible.

Thanks are due for sharing this resource so openly!

Monday, November 8, 2021

Mark 13.1-8 Translations and Notes (RCL25th Sunday after Pentecost Year B )

Jerusalem Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives where Mark 13 discourse is set.
Mark 13.1-8 is the RCL designated text for the 25th Sunday after Pentecost Year B which occurs on 14 November 2021. The following Sunday is Christ the King Sunday that concludes the lectionary year, so Mark 13 is the eschatological chapter that leads up to that commemoration. 

Verses 1-8 of the chapter, however, are limited in their scope, focusing primarily on what would prove to be the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Romans in 70CE. Still, there is the warning about those who would deceive people in the face of "wars and rumors of wars," nations rising up against each other, earthquakes, and famines. If all these are but the "beginning of the birthing pains," Christians still need to watch out!

Here are a collection of translations, including my own, and my notes on translating this passage.


Monday, November 1, 2021

John 11.32-44 Translations and notes (All Saints Sunday)

The Lazarus story of John 11 takes place in Bethany. There is a "Tomb of Lazarus" there today commemorating the event.
John 11.32-44 is the appointed RCL text for All Saints Sunday. The whole of John chapter 11 is a unity, so this selection is only notable for including the scene where Lazarus (somehow, considering that he is all bound up!) comes out of the tomb. The story is well told and actually includes some humorous elements. (The dead man’s sister, Martha, says to him, “Lord, already there’s going to be a stench. It’s been four days, you know.”) One can also easily imagine it in oral performance.E.g., the parenthetical explanation that the tomb was a cave strikes me as something that would be spoken to an audience quite naturally.

The text is also notable for including the third shortest verse in the NT, 11.35: "Jesus wept." (KJV) Yes, it's the shortest verse in English in the KJV, but the shortest verse in the NT in the Greek is actually Luke 2.30!

Careful translation does not solve some of the puzzling aspects in the story. In particular, Jesus' emotions of anger, agitation, and distress in verses 33 and 38 are the subject of considerable speculation in the commentaries.

Here are a collection of translations, including my own, and my notes on translating this passage.

 

Monday, October 25, 2021

John 8.31-36 Translations and notes (Reformation Sunday)

The Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives
John 8.31-36 is the text designated for Reformation Sunday. The incident takes place while Jesus is in Jerusalem and teaching on the Temple Mount.

The passage actually starts at 8.12 when Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” But this causes controversy with the Pharisees whether he is testifying about himself and whether it’s true. This leads into a discussion about who Jesus’ father is, and then Jesus says “I am going away, and you will look for me but will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” The Jewish authorities speculate that this means he plans to commit suicide. Jesus says that they are clueless. That’s why they will die in their sins, unless they believe, Jesus says, that “I am.” They now ask Jesus who he is, and Jesus says, “When you lift up the Son of Humanity, then you will know that I am.” It’s reported that this exchange caused many people to believe in him. 

Things only get worse following the exchange in 8.31-36 and ends in 8.59 with people picking up stones to stone Jesus.

It's helpful to keep in mind that John is a 2-level story:

  • The story of what happened in Jesus' life
  • The story of what has been happening in the Johannine community whose experiences parallel Jesus’ experiences

I.e., the Gospel of John is a meditation on the life of Jesus that reflects the experiences of the Johannine community. It is a community that understands themselves in faithful continuity with Jesus. 

Here are a collection of translations, including my own, and my notes on translating this passage.

Mark 12.28-34 Translations and Notes (RCL23rd Sunday after Pentecost Year B )

The blue box shows where Solomon's Portico was located on the east side of the Temple Mount. It is reasonable to suggest that this is where Jesus' teaching occurred that is described starting in Mark 11.27.

Mark 12.28-34 is the RCL designated text for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost Year B which occurs on 31 October 2021. (Many Lutheran / Protestant congregations will probably celebrate Reformation Sunday on this day. I'll have a separate post for John 8.31-36.)

On Monday of Holy Week, Jesus had driven the merchants out of the Temple Mount, but he returned on Tuesday to continue his teaching. Jesus is confronted with questions by various Jewish authorities to trick or entrap him, but he replies and refutes each challenge successfully. And that brings us to the last question posed to him here in Mark 12.28-34.

Here are a collection of translations, including my own, and my notes on translating this passage.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Mark 10.46-52 Translations and Notes (RCL22nd Sunday after Pentecost Year B )

Mark 10.46-52: Jesus and Bartimaeus on The Way from Jericho to Jerusalem
https://biblemapper.com/blog/index.php/2020/01/04/jericho-wilderness-of-judea-and-qumran/

Mark 10.46-52 is the designated RCL text for the the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, 24 October in 2021. This account of Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus forms a frame with the earlier healing of a blind man in 8.22-26. This time, Bartimaeus 'sees' Jesus for who he really is and ends up being a model of discipleship following Jesus on The Way to Jerusalem and Jesus' crucifixion.

Here are a collection of translations, including my own, and my notes on translating this passage.

 I also recommend that people check out the resources at the GoTell site including this chapter 7 on the Bartimaeus story in Thomas Boomershine's  Story Journey: An Invitation to the Gospel as Storytelling

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Mark 10.35-45 Translations and Notes (RCL21st Sunday after Pentecost Year B )

Mark 10.35-45 is the appointed text for the RCL 21st Sunday after Pentecost Year B and occurs on October 17, 2021.

The disciples continue to display their lack of comprehension. Following Jesus is not a matter of glory and sitting in honor but of following Jesus and enduring in some way what he also was going to endure. Once again, pointing back to Mark 9.35, we hear that true greatness is about service, even being a slave to all. Mark 10.45 gives the most explicit explanation of an atonement theory in Mark. 

For even the Child of Humanity didn’t come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Here is a collection of translations of Mark 10.35-45 along with my notes on translating this passage. My own translation tries to capture the oral character of how this story might have been 'heard' when originally performed.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Mark 10.17-31 Translations and Notes (RCL20th Sunday after Pentecost Year B )

"As Jesus was setting out on the way..."(Mark 10.17) - Wadi Hamman path with Arbel in distance

Mark 10.17-31 is the account of Jesus meeting the person who wants to know what he should he do to inherit eternal life. It the appointed RCL text for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B, which occurs on 10 October 2021. The account ends up centering around wealth and following Jesus. 

There are a number of notable narrative details.

  • Note that the effect of the account is ruined if it is billed as the story of the "rich young man." Only Matthew describes him as young. (Luke introduces him as a "ruler" which also changes the dynamic of the story.) In Mark, we only learn that he is rich at the very end, a detail that heightens the suspense of the story.
  • The hearer / reader struggles to know how to respond to the man. It seems he is sincere and not testing Jesus because he kneels before him. But then Jesus chides him for calling him "good." I think the reader is supposed to admire the man for his faithfulness in observing all the commands Jesus mentions, but the astute reader is also mindful of what is not mentioned. (And when Jesus tells him to sell all and follow him, is that what the first part of the commandments dealing with humans' relationship to God is about?) It is not clear whether the man responds simply with dismay and sorrow or shock and anger. Importantly and surprisingly, however, we are told that Jesus "loved him." This is the only person in the whole gospel of Mark whom Jesus explicitly "loves."
  • Do not forget the man's original question: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" What must anyone do to inherit anything? Usually nothing... but someone has to die.

Here is my collection of translations and notes.