Monday, October 17, 2022

Luke 18.9-14 Translations and notes (Judge and Widow: Lectionary 30, 20th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C)

The Revised Common Lectionary gospel text for Lectionary 30 (on 23 October 2022) is Luke 18.9-14, the parable told be Jesus commonly known as "The Pharisee and the Tax Collector." There are some interesting word choices that need to be made (just- or right- cognates? exalt / lift up / promote <> humble / bring down?), so you may want to check my translation and notes. 

We have had all these parables lately in the lectionary, and one resource I recommend is Robert Farrar Capon's Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus. (Affiliate link) I really think he has the right idea about how the parables work. You may not always agree with him, but he's always provocative in a way that I have found him to be a good conversation partner with this parables. For this Pharisee and tax collector parable, check out this short reflection. (It's from a 1983 interview on the Chicago Sunday Evening Club and 30 Good Minutes. The original transcript is no longer on the web, but the link is to where someone preserved it.) He gets right to the heart of why it should not be easy to preach this parable. Are you just hoping for the tax collector coming back and being able to humble-brag pray like the Pharisee? "The answer is we fear salvation that is so cheap that it saves everyone in his or her death." And to see just how hard it is for people to hear this, check out the interview that followed Capon's presentation HERE. The interviewer just can't get his head around it despite Capon's insistence the parable is about death and resurrection, not about being a better person.

 One other resource to note if you are not familiar with it is the GoTell website. Lots of excellent stuff. Check under the Stories header to find comments on specific texts. Here is the page for Luke 18.9-14.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Luke 18.1-8 Translations and notes (Judge and Widow: Lectionary 29, 19th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C)
The Revised Common Lectionary gospel text for Lectionary 29 (on 16 October 2022) is Luke 18.1-8. It seems to be a simple enough parable that Luke explains for the reader in verse 1: Always pray and don't get discouraged. That's good advice, but there is lots more going on in the parable than that. 

When I go over this parable in my classes, I don't have people look at the text, and I start and just read the parable in verses 2-5. When you do so, the judge is clearly the focus. I then include verses 6-7 which also reinforce that interest in the judge, but the logic here is from lesser to greater, a typical pattern: If a bad judge can do good, how much more so a good God. Okay, that works, but it is an odd way to think about God's actions as simply being better than a bad example.

But now when I include verse 1, the focus switches to the widow. The word typically used to describe the widow is "persistent," and that is reflected in her actions of keeping on coming and keeping on pestering the judge. (The verbs are present tense with the sense of a repeated or ongoing action.) Okay, that's fine, but I think the key is not just about persistence but also about not getting discouraged.

Then, I add verse 8 to the reading. Suddenly we have introduced the Child of Humanity and the issue of faith. Further, reference is made to the Child of Humanity "when he comes." Here we should note that the verb used twice to describe the widow is the same "coming" verb. What if... the God / Jesus figure in the parable is the widow and not the judge? In that case, this parable functions similarly to the Luke 15 parables where the shepherd persists in finding the lost sheep, the woman persists in searching for her lost coin, the father persists in trying to bring home both his sons. And if we are to think about ourselves in this parable, I suspect we are closer to the judge by not regarding God properly and thinking about ourselves more than others. 

While it's good advice to always pray and not get discouraged, this parable is also one of grace. Does it matter whether the judge ends up doing right even for the wrong reason? The parable points to a persistent God who will not stop until the unjust do the just thing. In the end, that's what really matters.

If you want to study further, here is my collection of translations and notes. I also include my own translation. If you go to the end you will see how I have highlighted themes in the parable. The parable also has a nice oral quality to it that I try to capture in my translation.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Luke 17.11-19 Translations and notes (Ten "Lepers": Lectionary 28, 18th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C)

The Revised Common Lectionary gospel text for Lectionary 28 (on 9 October 2022) is Luke 17.11-19, the well-known story of the ten "lepers." (Persons with a leprous skin disease would be a better description. The NRSVue uses "defiling skin disease.") There is lots of odd stuff going on in the story:

  • Where is "the midst of Samaria and Galilee"?
  • Jesus only indirectly heals by simply telling them to go
  • 1 out of 10
  • One is a Samaritan

 With this in mind, I think it is more helpful to read this story as a parable instead of a healing miracle. I did a rhyming sermon once upon a time when this text was the regular text for Thanksgiving services. You'll see that I take it in the direction of a parabolic reading that makes it more than a simply scolding about remembering to say "Thank you." HERE is the sermon. You are welcome to use / adapt it for a non-Thanksgiving context. (I would appreciate a reference to my site if you do.)

I also have accumulated a variety of translations and added notes and my own translation you can consult. As one gets used to an author's style, this one is typical Luke in some ways, but it also strikes me that one can still hear echoes of how this story was orally presented and not literarily improved.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Luke 16.19-31 Translations and notes (Rich Man and Lazarus: Lectionary 26, 16th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C)

The Revised Common Lectionary gospel text for Lectionary 26 (on 25 September 2022) is Luke 16.19-31, the well-known parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Lots going on in the parable, and even in Luke's improved Greek style, it 'sounds' like an orally told story.  Here is a collection of translations with my notes and my own translation: Luke 16.19-31 mgvh notes 

For a couple examples of historic takes on this parable:

 And check out this Virtual Museum of artistic interpretations of the parable

Friday, September 9, 2022

Luke 15.1-10 Translations and Notes (Lectionary 24, 14th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C)

Good Shepherd; Corinth, 4th CE; Christian Byzantine Museum (Athens) mgvh

The Revised Common Lectionary gospel text for Lectionary 24 (on 11 September 2022) is Luke 15.1-10. These are the first two parables that really set the stage for the parable of the lost son/s in 15. It's important to keep in mind that the reason for these parables is that the Pharisees and Law experts were grumbling about Jesus welcoming and eating with tax collectors. Even without the final parable in the series, these two provide a challenge to the religious authorities both asking them to identify with low status characters like a shepherd and a poor woman while also appealing to their awareness of God's role in seeking to reclaim all people. In the end, the issue is less about sinners repenting and more about the 'righteous' rejoicing that sinners are restored to God's family.

A collection of translations and my notes and translation:

Monday, June 13, 2022

In the Steps of Paul - New Trails Planned in Greece!

Part of Via Egnatia between Kavala / Neapolis and Philippi

I am taking an outstanding class in Athens now on "Jews and Early Christians in the Graeco-Roman World" with the Hellenic Education and Research Center. Our teacher, Dr. Socrates Koursoumis, Archaeologist at the Hellenic Ministry of Culture & Sports, has shared plans that Greece is planning to create three Pauline pilgrimage paths that will hopefully be ready in 2023 or 2024. One path is from Neapolis / Kavala to Philippi, a path Paul followed on both his second and third journeys. The second path goes from Beroea / Veroia to Pydna, retracing Paul’s visit to Beroea and his escape to the coast before sailing to Athens as recorded in Acts 17.10-15. The third path goes from ancient Corinth to Cenchreae where Paul passed through at least once. (Acts 18.18) 

2nd Journey of Paul from BibleMapper Blog
This will be a fantastic opportunity for those wanting to walk in Paul's steps!

Monday, April 18, 2022

Automatic Hebrew Transliteration Website

I just came across that website that automatically transliterates Hebrew text into English using a variety of transliteration systems including SBL Academic, SBL Simple, Brill Simple, Simplified Modern Israeli, and more. You can copy/paste in Hebrew, or you can use the Reference to enter a biblical text. Choose the transliteration scheme you want, click the button, and the result appears in a popup window that can be copied. Very handy!

HT: Peter Gurry on Twitter

Monday, March 28, 2022

John 12.1-8 Translation and Notes (Fifth Sunday in Lent RCL C)

Bethany (late 19th century; used w/ permission

John 12.1-8 is the designate RCL Year C text for the Fifth Sunday in Lent. It's the familiar story of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany by Mary. The familiarity is due to the presence of an anointing story in all four gospels, but the problem is how they have been conflated over the centuries. Most notably, Pope Gregory the Great in 591 was the earliest to equate Mary of Bethany (John 12) with the 'sinful' woman of Luke 7 with Mary Magdalene. How the events relate is unclear, but it is best to treat John independently. For comparison:

The John story is explicit in identifying Judas as the one who questions Mary actions but notes that it's only because he is a thief. In matters of translation, John 12.7 is obscure. See my notes and my suggested translation. The other challenge in this passage is verse 8. I understand more as a statement of reality than as as a resignation to poverty that allows Christians to ignore.

A collection of translations and my notes and translation:

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Luke 6.17-26 Translations and Notes (RCL 6th Sunday after Epiphany Year C)

View from Sea of Galilee with Tabgha in foreground and traditional Mount of Beatitudes up the hill.

Luke 6.17-26 is the designated Revised Common Lectionary Text for the 6th Sunday after Epiphany in Year C which occurs on February 13, 2022. It is the well-known Sermon on the Plain with Jesus' blessings and woes. It is parallel to Matthew's Sermon on the Mount. The similarities and differences between them are striking and worth comparing.

There are many decisions that need to be made in translating the text, beginning even with how one translates makarios = blessed, happy, fortunate, honored, blissful... There is a mix of present rewards (the dominion of God) and future ones. It's unclear who exactly the audience is (just disciples? everyone?) and the text switches between who "you" and "they" are.

My notes and translation comparisons and my own translation may help you sort things out.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Luke 5.1-11 Translations and Notes (RCL 5th Sunday after Epiphany Year C)

Shoreline of Lake of Gennesaret = Sea of Galilee at Capernaum looking SW to the Arbel
Luke 5.1-11 is the designated Revised Common Lectionary Text for the 5th Sunday after Epiphany in Year C which occurs on February 6, 2022. It recounts Jesus' calling of his first disciples (Simon, James, and John), but Luke has decided to reorder the story he inherits from Mark considerably. Luke put Jesus' 'inaugural' address first at 4.16-30, an event that doesn't happen until chapter 6 in Mark. Then Luke 4.31-37 picks up Mark 1.21-28 where Jesus casts out an unclean spirit in the Capernaum synagogue followed by Jesus' stay at Simon's house with the healings he performs there and the subsequent Galilean ministry. (Mark 1.29-39 // Luke 4.38-44) Note that in Mark, Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James, and John before he did anything in Capernaum. In Luke, Jesus has already stayed at Simon's house before he calls him as a disciple! Why would Luke do this? In Mark, Jesus calls the first disciples, and they mysteriously begin to follow him without any explanation why. In Luke, they have already seen Jesus perform a number of miracles, including the catch of fish in the story at hand, and so when he calls them to follow him, it does make good sense.

I have a compilation of translations of Luke 5.1-11 including my own. Though Luke is usually precise with his grammar, this story evidences a strong oral character. There are incomplete sentences, brief exclamations, explanatory asides... Again, most English translations smooth it all so that it reads well, but I encourage you to look at my translation which I think 'sounds' in English much more like the Greek actually 'sounds.' Let me know what you think!

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Greek New Testament Wordle!

 Wordle has become a fun distraction on the web. If you've somehow missed it, it's like the old Mastermind game where you try to guess a five letter word in six tries. You get hints after each guess whether you got the right letter or not and in the right spot or not. There is a new word each day, so it's not some deep hole on the web you'll get sucked into that will take up all your time.

And now... the amazing James Tauber has created a Greek New Testament Wordle! It works on the same principles. Do note that you can't type in the letters. Use the keyboard at the bottom. Also note that the words are all words in the actual GNT text. (I.e., all the inflected forms, not lexical ones.) Like regular Wordle, it will tell you if your guess is not in the word database. (Don't forget to use final sigma.) Tauber says that, "with case-folding and diacritic removal but with movable ν and ς supported, there are 1,444 five-letter words in the SBLGNT main text" available.

So I'm going to use it and encourage my students to use it simply as a way to keep Greek in front of them. Every little bit helps! 

This will also give you an excuse to use your Bible software. E.g., in Accordance, do a search on the Greek text for "?????" using the quotation marks. Then open an Analysis tab. Then click on the customize gear in upper right. Drag over INFLECT and delete LEX. There's your list of 5 letter words in the GNT! Have fun!

Some of my former students who are still using the venerable BibleWorks program were wondering how to get the list of words.
In the command line:

BNT             < BNT will only give NT words which is what you want
.?????         < That will give you all five letter Greek words; to see the list:
Tools > Analyzing the text > Word List Manager
Load or Generate List
Load highlighted words from last query / Verse Range Reset > Create list
There's your list of 1596 possible words!
If you need more help, and, e.g., you know the last letters are omicron and nu
One more thing: final sigma is regarded as a different letter than regular sigma.

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 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.