Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Translating the Word

He who begins by loving Christianity better than Truth will proceed by loving his own sect or church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all.
~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Do you trust God enough to seek His Truth even if it shatters what you have believed up to this day? If not, please do not bother to read further; this message is not for you.

The Princess and I have been studying Classical Latin and Koine Greek together and when I write this I mean that we work on the assignments, check each other's work, and quiz each other with flash cards. In this way she is learning another valuable lesson of life: all teachers are also students and all students are also teachers. The benefit for me personally is that I am learning these languages and not just relying on the answer booklet.

It was suggested in our Greek curriculum that we begin copying the New Testament in its original Greek text starting with the Book of John and I am considering copying the same from the Latin text since the entire Bible was translated into Latin also. Immediately, within the very first verse of John, I found that there is a good reason look deeper into the translation. Now just about every Christian has the first part of John memorized so it is easy to translate, but the very first verse of John is a point of great contention between the trinitarian and non-trinitarian believers.

Both ancient languages have their own specific syntax. Greek is much like modern English in that a sentence begins with a subject followed by the verb. If I have lost you, "Mary ran" is a subject-verb (action) example but "roses are flowers" is a subject-verb (state of being/copula) where the Greek order could be "flowers roses are" or even "roses flowers are." Latin is a bit more confusing as it places the most important word first, usually the subject of the sentence, and the verb is usually the last word of the sentence so it could literally read: David the lamb in the nothern field chased. (Think of Yoda in a Stars Wars movie and you get the picture. We can understand it, but the syntax seems backwards to us.)

In both Greek and Latin, there are noun declensions or the inflection of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and articles to indicate singular and plural, nominative (subjective) case, genitive (possessive) case, gender, and so on. In both languages, the ending of a noun indicates its declension. Also, Latin has no articles at all, and Greek has no indefinite articles that would translate to be "a" or "an" but does have definite articles that would translate as "the."

Now let's take a look at John 1:1 in its original Greek:
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεός ἦν ὁ Λόγος.

Yeah, it used to look Greek to me also, but I can read and understand it now. It might look a bit more familiar to you written with our alphabet (the capitalization is not in the original Koine Greek):
En archē ēn ho Lógos, kai ho Lógos ēn pros ton Theón, kai Theós ēn ho Lógos.

In most Bibles, the translations reads:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

However, being a new student of Greek, it seemed to me it should literally read:
In (the) beginning (there) was (existed) the Word, and the Word was (existed) with the God, and God was the Word.

Or without the capitals so that we can look at this objectively as it was in the original Greek text:
in (the) beginning (there) was (existed) the word, and the word was (existed) with the god, and god was the word.

I noticed that in the last phrase both "god" and "word" are in nominative case. This is why the last phrase is written Θεός ἦν ὁ Λόγος instead of Θεός ἦν ὁ Λόγον (notice the last letter in the last word). The predicate nominative seems interchangeable or at least as important as the subject in the translation to English, but which is the subject? Translating the phrase to the Word was God is probably not an error.  However, the real point of contention between the trinitarian and non-trinitarian believers is mostly about the lack of an article and if an indefinite article should be inserted so that it would read the word was a god (or a deity).
If it had, left in its literal translation with its syntax so similar to modern English, would it make sense to place an article there?

in the beginning was the word, and the word was with the god, and a god was the word
or, another possible translation could be
in beginning was the word, and the word was with the god, and a deity was the word

But, if Θεόν is "god" in the previous portion of the sentence what is the change of mood that would it be "deity" in the latter or does it read differently if they both are "deity"?

in the beginning was the word, and the word was with the deity, and a deity was the word

I decided to look into this further because there are the unique nuances to any foreign language which more seasoned scholars would understand and there seem to be one that suggests it is proper to change the order. The absence of the article before Θεός could be meant to indicate that "god" is the predicate nominative of the phrase. Because Greek does not use word order quite the same as we do in English to indicate subject-object-predicate distinctions, there is ambiguity in a subject-predicate nominative construction. In such cases, the subject can be preceded with a definite article and the predicate nominative would have no definite article. I found this is called "Colwell's Rule" and it, too, is a point of controversy with non-trinitarian believers.

Yet, this rule is evident at 1 John 4:8:
ὁ Θεὸς ἀγάπηn ἐστίν which might seem to read "the god love is"

If "love" had a definite article, it would read "(the) love is god" but the definite article precedes "god" as in "(the) god is love." Its true meaning is a qualification of God rather than a deification of love.

Similarly, the absence of the article in John 1:1 may not indicate that Θεὸς is an indefinite noun as "a god," but that it is not the subject of the phrase. The absence of the article could assure the reader that "the Word" is the subject and that "God" is the predicate nominative of this phrase.

I have read about another argument in the use of Acts 28:6 that is translated as:
...But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.

The Greek of that last phrase reads:
αὐτὸν εἶναι Θεόν

Certainly they would not mistake him for the God in this context and this translation of "a god" makes sense amidst of a polytheistic society where even great leaders were claimed to be gods. Also, notice that Θεόν in this phrase differs in that is also not in the subjective case but in the accusative case. Yes, different writers, but then comparing to the John 1:1, it comes to my mind that the author of John was specifically using the subjective case Θεὸς to make a point that it was God, subordinate to none, and not "a" god. Even authors today use improper grammar purposely to define a special point or make a phrase noticed and remembered.

There is also this from In the Salt Shaker

  • 1st Position: Article - Noun/Subject - Noun/Predicate
    Here the construction must involve two nominative substantives, no modifier (like an adjective or participle). For one thing, an articular modifier is never placed in front of a noun it modifies. Then, if the anarthrous nominative is a modifier, this is an attributive position, not a predicate position. But, if both are substantives, the subject will be the one with an article, and the subject complement (put on the predicate side of the clause) will be anarthrous:
    ὁ Θεὸς πνεῦμα ("God is spirit.")

  • 2nd Position: Predicate - Article - Noun/Subject
    Here, the second term, the articular nominative, always must be a substantive (a noun, or something functioning as a noun). If it is an adjective, preceded by an anarthrous noun, this would be an attributive position, not a predicate position. If the articular nominative is a substantive, the anarthrous nominative in front of it can be either a substantive or a modifier (like an adjective or participle). The articular nominative substantive is usually the subject, while the anarthrous nominative in front of it is the subject complement:
    πνεῦμα ὁ Θεός ("God is spirit.")

  • 3rd Position: Noun/Subject - Noun/Predicate
    Here neither nominative will have an article. If one is a modifier and the other is a substantive, the modifier can be translated either as an attributive ("a good man") or as a subject complement ("a man is good"), depending on what seems to fit the context. But if both are nominative substantives, the first is usually translated as the subject, and the second as the subject complement:
    Θεὸς πνεῦμα ("God is spirit.")

So, there are three ways to express the same translation of "God is spirit" without interjecting an indefinite article.

John 1:1..."the"... "a"... or no article--does it really matter? Apparently it does. The translation of this verse is one of the greatest rifts in Christian religions dividing those who believe in a Triune God and those who do not.

However, let us push all theology aside and think about this from viewpoint of the author (it may not have been John himself) and his writing style. If the author believed in one God, what purpose would it have served to write that anyone, even Jesus, was "a god"? It would only confuse people with a polytheistic viewpoint and it would be heresy if the Word (Jesus) was not God. I cannot see the logic in translating this phrase as anything but "the Word was God."

In the end it is not what I was taught by by men that forms my beliefs today, but what the Lord has shown and continues to show to me. He radiates Truth and I welcome Truth to be revealed to me, even if the knowledge would tear apart the foundations of what I have believed. Better to be in the Truth than to hold fast to that which is not from God. So I ask again: Do you trust God enough to seek His Truth even if it shatters what you have believed until now?

~ Lord, the more I learn, the more I question what I have learned. You are the only source of Truth. May I be ever open to hearing it and keeping it in my heart. ~

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Little Girl Growning Up

We've had bad luck with children; they've all grown up. ~Christopher Morley

While out on an errand on Tuesday, we drove past a little store in the historic area of a nearby small town. It was a warm day and the front door was open. Glancing over I saw a pink nightstand. Now I have had it in the back of my mind to get the Princess a proper nightstand since she has really taken responsibility for organizing her room to her liking and maintaining it in a orderly fashion as well as cleaning it every Saturday―on her own and with zeal, I might add. (I am living the dream!) This has been going on for a few months so I have been looking for a white nightstand, white because the girl's room is pink and the shelves in her room, which originally was a large hutch of a china cabinet most likely, are painted white. I have been looking in thrift stores when I can but I just have not been finding anything.

The Princess asked if we could go back to see it, so we did. Upon closer inspection, it was a refinished piece done in pink, but distressed with the presently popular Shabby Chic look. It looked as if it would be a few inches lower than the surface of her bed and she did not like that so much, but otherwise she liked it. The price tag said $65 and the signs on the door read 20% off the entire sale. I told her we would think about it and we finished errands.

By the time we arrived at home again, the Princess was sure that she wanted it and had planned to pay for it herself with the money she had received as gifts and had been saving. I told her to measure the height of her bed and take the yardstick with us when we go back. In the evening her father suggested to her that she try to bargain with the shop owner to get a lower price. Even though I knew the price was reasonable as well as affordable for the Princess, we discussed her plan on the way there Wednesday afternoon.

The Princess was armed with the yardstick and all her gift money. I looked the piece over again to be sure it was functional and sturdy, and then I sat down in a chair to remove myself from the transaction. The shop owner was an easy mark and did not even know what hit her. The Princess looked over to her as she was sitting behind the counter and asked if she remembered us from yesterday. She did and then the Princess asked how much it would be with the 20% discount. Dazzled by the Princess' awkwardness, the lady blurted out that she would take 30% off before the child could begin her bargaining. Originally tagged at $65, it now was $45.50 plus tax, leaving it at under $50. Briefly, the Princess almost looked a bit disappointed that she did not get to bargain with the woman (or perhaps she was just taken back in surprise and relieved). Recovering, she confidently said she would take it.

My part was in the transport to home and carrying it into the house. Once in her bedroom, the Princess went to work emptying the three-drawer plastic cart that we had been using as a nightstand. We originally were using it in the closet when she was younger for odds and ends toys. As a nightstand it lacked a top rigid enough not to bow down in the middle so we had not placed the lamp on it. Now the Princess has a level study surface double the size to place her things on the top and two large drawers, which are quite organized now.

~ My Lord, thank you for Your guidance as my daughter grows up taking on greater responsibilities. ~

Monday, February 4, 2013

Church #3

My fear is not that our great movement, known as the Methodists, will eventually cease to exist or one day die from the earth. My fear is that our people will become content to live without the fire, the power, the excitement, the supernatural element that makes us great. ~John Wesley

There is nothing like a little tiff on the way to church that can taint your mood and your first impressions of a church to which you have never been before. Having a parking attendant telling where to park and asking you to move up just another six inches after you have placed the van in park would have been funny to us usually, but not that morning. We had arrived early and were directed to park next to the entrance, which I would have thought should be reserved for the handicapped, and why my husband had initially picked a space further away.

As churches go this was medium size by my standards, which meant in this place that every parking space is used and then some. The sanctuary had plenty of empty seats though, so it was not crowded but comfortably filled. A few people introduced themselves. One explained that during the worship time we could leave our seats and worship up in front or in the aisles and that the flags were there for anyone who wanted to use them. She seemed to be interested in making us feel comfortable. The Princess went for a pair of flags and stood waving them in the front as soon as the music started—and she still tries to claim that she is shy!

A well-rehearsed band led the praise and worship and went on for a long time, probably at least an hour, with people doing whatever they were comfortable doing during it. The music was bit loud for my taste and the songs were all unknown to us. At times, some people jumped up and down, some clapped, some shouted words of praise, some raised hands, and some were on their knees on the floor. The Princess was waving flags and changed them out for different colors and sizes at times.

There were Words of Knowledge, speaking in tongues, and healings, things we wanted to to see in the church service. My husband and I had come from conservative, traditional, conventional churches where you sit when you are told to sit, stand when you are told to stand, sing when you are told to sing, read responsively when you are told to do that, and the rest of the time you are to be quiet. This church was quite the opposite of that, more so than the first two churches we had visited...well, maybe not more so than Church #2, but there just were more people at this one so it had a different feel to it all.

There were people there of all ages and quite a few children. The senior pastor's wife is also a pastor and is the director of an accredited homeschool school—as odd as that sounds—that has classes two days a week for each grade and extra tutoring on Friday. After the service, which was for nearly 2½ hours, we were invited to have some food, mostly things like scones and cookies I think, but we declined after my husband saw the time because he needed to go to work a little later.

Now, I have to say that I probably would have liked it more if we not walked in with a bad attitude to start. I also have to say that at one point I began feeling like I could not stand any longer. I felt shaky from the anointing as I can when I am in prayer for healing someone. Following that the pastor shared a word of knowledge about someone there needing for a new disc in the spine and then there was a call for healing anyone with rheumatoid arthritis. Here I was with all these people who really believe in healing and I had felt workings of the Holy Spirit just before there was the call for healings! Wow! So very powerful! It was just so strange to me, as if this is how it should be and yet I felt like...well, I can only describe it as someone who has been gone from home for a very long time and then returning. It is familiar, but not, at the same time.

As we drove on our way home, I kept thinking how sad I was for people in churches who miss out on such workings of the Holy Spirit in their midst. I am sure wherever Jesus was that there was such things going on. Still, it is different for us as well, but we are ready for different. The Princess loved that everyone worshiped freely and while she was into the flag waving more than focusing on the  praise itself probably, at least she was participating and not at all not bored. While I like the praise and worship, and I feel they seek the Holy Spirit's leading, I felt the beginning of the sermon was delivered with a more hype than depth, but it certainly did end with soul searching and surrendering.

The Princess definitely wants to revisit this church—she is so shy! We feel we might like to go again also, hopefully starting out with better moods.

~ My Lord, I am enjoying the many ways my Christian brothers and sisters worship you. Thank you for this time to experience churches where the workings of the Holy Spirit are on fire, powerful, and exciting. ~

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Division Within

The full acting out of the self's surrender to God therefore demands pain: this action, to be perfect, must be done from the pure will to obey, in the absence, or in the teeth, of inclination". ~C.S. Lewis

Some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit I have kept in secret with the exception of very close friends because it pleases my Lord to do so, perhaps because it makes people quite uncomfortable...or want to stone me in the street. However, very few know of my blog and most of them are kindred spirits in the Lord. I do not ask for people to be kind, but should you have concerns or disagree, I ask you to pray before you comment, to hear what the Lord has to say on the issue and respond as He has directed you.

We all know that there have always been people in the church who believe they are saved yet are not, but often we are surprised to find who they are once they confess...and this has been more common with pastors than people would like to believe. Our former pastor had been a pastor for a few years before he was saved and the one before him was in ministry for some time before she was saved.

I remember well when I first met a man in a church and knew he was not a believer. He knew all the right things to say and he was well liked, but he had not yet accepted Jesus as his Savior. I talked to him and he was very convincing in speech and action, but I could see his heart. This is called a Word of Knowledge. I did try to help him see that he was missing the mark, but he was completely convinced in this deception, as were others including his wife, who had been ill, and his children, which is why they were so surprised when his marriage fell apart and he announced being in a relationship immediately afterward. Even as my husband and I hoped for the best, we were not surprised at all, because we knew through Words of Knowledge.

I have a friend who sees something like a black veil over the faces of the unsaved and the saved to her would have a glow around the face. In fact, it was because of this gift that she approached my booth at a health fair, but that is a long story. I am just throwing this in to suggest that other people have such a gift to determine the state of another's soul even though the way the knowledge is revealed to them can be different than the way it is revealed to me.

One woman once was quite offended when I told her she was not a Christian, but I felt the Lord pressing me to be stern with her. I did not like it and she left in a huff. I prayed for her often and then I saw her a year later when she came to one of my seminars on health. Her face was glowing! I told her that I could tell something was different about her. Smiling she told me that certain events had happened after she saw me last, one was the pastor at the Unity church had thrown down the Bible and said it was unneeded. The other was she had read the Left Behind series. Afterward she joined a Bible study within a few months she became saved. Then she looked me sternly and said, "I want you to know that I really thought I was a Christian" and I replied "And God really wanted you to know you were not."

I have had discussions with many people over the years who have told me "we cannot know, therefore we cannot judge." They close the door on the entire idea saying that which is in the thoughts, mind, or heart of another person, even knowledge of what they have secreted in their hearts and will do before they have done it, only God can know. Yes, and only God does know...however, I believe God can give this knowledge to whomever He wills.

Then two questions follow:
Do you believe that God does give this knowledge?
If so, then do you believe He would give it to me?
If the first question does not trip up the unbelieving believer, the second one usually does. After all who am I to be given such knowledge that only Jesus had the power to know? I am no one special at all.

Not only are there the deceived and deceiving unbelievers, but there are unbelieving believers, those who are saved but have not come to The Surrendering, which I wrote about over two years ago on my blog. They are saved and often they are devoted, Bible-believing, God-loving people, but these things do not equate to The Surrendering. In the Nazarene denomination, it is called Sanctification and in other places it is known as Baptism of the Holy Spirit, but it is not necessarily a thing that happens when one is prayed over. It happened to me in a private place and a sincere prayer at the end of a 12-day fast without any witnesses. As I wrote in the last paragraph of that aforementioned post...

Those who have surrendered will understand, those who have not, will not, just as believers understand what unbelievers cannot.
Knowing that there have been some deceived into thinking they are believers, does it not follow that there would be even more people in our churches who are believers but are not surrendered to the Holy Spirit and some of them would be in positions of authority in the church? Those who believe Jesus died for their sins, and who talk the Christian talk and walk the Christian walk, but really are not listening to God, therefore are not obeying Him? And if God judges hearts and chooses to reveal this to one who will listen, is it possible that this knowledge has been revealed?

I have learned that respecting church elders does not mean they should never be challenged, because I had been called to challenge. I understand now that longevity or position in a church does not gain favor with God, as it can with man. In fact, people in position who are not obeying God can hinder the task God has placed on the church. I have always known that God looks at the heart and that the knowledge is often passed on to me, but I resisted hearing it. I chose to close my heart to the knowledge previously in my former church, but during this last trial, when I was faced with opposition, I questioned over and over if I was being obedient and I was given confirmation of my obedience...and yet even more opposition came from my fellow Christians, who just were not hearing God. I know that He wanted me to see what I would not accept, what I did not want to believe, what sickening me, literally.

I read somewhere that many things that can divide a church. The five main ones are:

  • Pride
  • Heresy 
  • Legalism
  • Distrust
  • Traditionalism

It is the last one that is the most subtle of Christian idolatry and so suppressive of the workings of the Holy Spirit.

God does not say to one "lead the church to the right" and to another "lead the church to the left." He will challenge us and direct us to do different things within the church, but He does not divide His House. There are those who hear and obey, those who hear and do not obey, and those who just do not hear at all. There are no gray areas here. There was a time to remain silent and then came the time to speak out in obedience to my Lord. One must hear to obey and all else is disobedience in the eyes of the Lord. To call disobedience anything else, in an attempt soften the edges of it so it would be inoffensive, is to enable it to continue. The outcome is a church that is of no good to the Lord it claims to honor.

My husband told me this trial would make us stronger a few evenings ago when I felt like a failure. I am seeing it now. I will continually work on keeping my heart open to whatever God will reveal to me and act in obedience regardless of what it will cost me...and this last trial did cost me, but what is that in comparison to Christ?

Those who have surrendered will understand, those who have not, will not.

~ My Lord, may all who read here be surrendered to You. ~