Archive for the ‘exegesis’ Category

In spite of how easy it seems to be for our southern neighbors to migrate into the USA, it can be extremely difficult for those who follow the legal process. We tried to get visas for an Indian couple to attend the missionary linguistics courses at BJU this summer, but they were denied. So, we tried again but this time to just have the man go, but once again we were denied. After sending many, many emails to try to get this process to succeed, we have to set aside all that work and go with Plan C, which is to figure out how to get them training in-house. I’m currently collaborating with my consultants to figure out an in-house training program. I look forward to seeing what the Lord will do through this process. At least, we saved BI from having to spend thousands for this couple to go to the USA to get the training, but it sure creates a lot of work for us who have to do the training ourselves.

BI needs someone to help put down new mulch on our small campus, so I wonder if someone in the area would be willing to give half a day to do that. This may sound overly spiritual but it’s true–it’s a simple way to be part of missions work!

BI has also broken down some of our funding needs into “bit-sized” chunks. Below is a list of “small projects” that churches or individuals may consider contributing to. All of these have merit and are needed, but I’m particularly interested in seeing the resources for Lun (and his wife) supplied as well as the computers for the projects in Chad. If we could get our Chad projects computerized, we could save thousands of dollars in the long-run, since it would really speed up the work, especially the quality checks at the end.

Small Project List 2016


Project: Funding Need:
Waalii (Ghana)  – Dictionary $ 500
National Translation Consultant (Lun Hangluah) – Resources $750
Chakma (India) – Literacy Printing $ 1,000
Chiru (India) – Literacy Printing $ 1,000
Kamar (India) – Literacy Printing $ 1,000
Kaulong (Papua New Guinea) – Literacy Printing $ 1,000
Matu (Myanmar) – Scripture Portions $ 1,000
Ranglong (India) – Literacy Printing $ 1,000
Tenek (Mexico) – Literacy Printing $ 1,000
Day (Chad) – Computer(s) $ 1,200
Kaowlu (Côte d’Ivoire) – Computer(s) $ 1,200
Metanoia (Unnamed) – Computer(s) $ 1,200
Sara Kaba Deme (Chad) – Computer(s) ($1,200) & Scripture Portions ($1,000) $ 1,200
Sara Kaba Naa (Chad) – Computer(s) $ 1,200
Tangkhul Naga (India) – Computer(s) $ 1,200
Neao (Côte d’Ivoire) – Computer(s) ($1,200) & Literacy Printing ($1,000) $ 2,200
Ngam (Chad) – Computer(s) ($1,200) & Literacy Printing ($1,000) $ 2,200
BI Building – Attic – Insulation & IT Wiring $ 3,000
Total Funds Needed to Complete Projects $22,850

This week I’ve read a few articles on how to translate γύναι in John 2:4 and 19:26. One article suggests that “woman” is too disrespectful and that “my lady” or “dear lady” are better. Another article pointed out that the Greek term is quite neutral in its usage in general, but that it’s quite shocking for Jesus to use it in reference to His mother. Thus, Jesus is expressing a detachment from His mother by His use of the term, as well as of His question “what does that have to do with us?” Maybe “dear lady” would express that in English, though I still favor “woman” as the best translation, as long as it is read with a soft tone of voice.

Oksana and I look forward to heading back to the Indy area this weekend. We will be with our friends at Faith Baptist Church in Morristown, IN, first. I went there a number of years ago and really enjoyed my time with Pastor Scott and his congregation. They have continued to stay in touch, though they don’t support us financially. I even dropped in on Pastor Scott and his wife one icy winter day when I was trying to get back to GR. They graciously housed an intern and me when we realized it was going to be impossible to get any further.

Then, on Sunday evening we are going to return to Colonial Hills Baptist Church so the people can meet Oksana. She missed the last visit because of the emergency trip to Ukraine. I look forward to having the church hear her salvation testimony and then getting to know the people, especially the Russian-speaking couples.

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When I began this furlough trip, I thought I could somehow still maintain a fairly regular work routine of getting on my computer to keep up with correspondence (in the office I send around 30-40 emails per day and read even more than that). After a few weeks of struggling but failing to achieve that, I’ve finally accepted that furlough travels demand a great deal of flexibility. Sometimes I stay in homes that have no internet, but thankfully I can pull out a book to read for ministry. But then there are the times of fellowship that are very important to this trip. And then there are the unusual opportunities that come up–playing volleyball and ultimate frisbee at a church picnic (Duryea, PA), playing softball at a weekend men’s retreat (Elkins Park, PA), making dinner with the pastor for his family (Reading, PA), speaking in a school’s chapel (Berryville, PA), and getting dessert after church with a new friend (Frederick, MD). I have totally given up on trying to make sure I get at least 40 hours worth of work in each week (I’m pretty sure I am logging more than that)! But I’m thankful for the joy that the Lord has given as I’ve served Him on this trip and for the peace He’s given when I’m not able to keep up with the BI tasks that come my way. I’m actually just barely keeping up, but I’m definitely not getting ahead!

On the other hand, I finally had a number of quiet hours strung together that allowed me to finish two translation helps for translators who work on Habakkuk. At BI we like to prepare a “BI Model” of each book, which can serve as a “consultant-on-paper” when we are not able to be present. It guides them through difficult structures and other complexities in the biblical text. I picked Habakkuk, because it’s short so I thought I’d get through it rather quickly. I quickly came to discover that though it’s short, it’s not easy in Hebrew!

One thing I learned about the book concerned the key verse:  “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.” The verse is beset with various complexities, but the most significant one in my mind is how to translate the word “faith.” The word could refer to a person’s trust (faith) or to his trustworthiness (faithfulness). I advised that though many versions use the latter idea (NIV, NET, NLT, CEB), the former is preferred because the more significant versions use it (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, RSV, NRSV). Actually, both ideas are probably in view here, since a person who trusts in God will also be a trustworthy person, because he will live according to God’s Word. This double meaning is probably in view in Heb. 10:35, where Hab. 2:4 is quoted. The idea of trusting is the meaning when Paul quotes it in Rom. 1:17 and Gal. 3:11, where the emphasis is on being justified by believing in God. In order to maintain the connection between all these passages, it would be better to translate Hab. 2:4 with “faith.” (By the way, I also learned that the supposed root meaning of “firmness”, as suggested by older works like Keil and BDB, is not quite as easy to prove as I was taught. Some believe that we should look to other Semitic languages to determine the root meaning, but one scholar noted that the Hebrew verb was probably used earlier than the other languages began using their similar words. Rather than looking for a common root idea behind the words in this group, it’s better to look at the usage of each word in the Hebrew text, which itself is not straightforward. In various cases it means “trust” and in others it means “trustworthiness.”)

I have also had time to do some reading in a book that is highly recommended for BI translation consultants. It’s The English Bible from KJV to NIV by Jack P. Lewis. It’s somewhat dated since Lewis published it in 1981 and then again in 1991, but it has a wealth of information. Lewis has PhD degrees from Harvard and Hebrew Union College. His book is positively reviewed by Bruce M. Metzger and D. A. Carson. Lewis has compiled a wealth of objective information on the major translations up to the NRSV.

I was particularly struck by various comments he made about the KJV. I was already familiar with various archaic uses of certain words: “meat” for “food”, “conversation” for “lifestyle”, “prevent” for “come before”, “suffer” for “permit”, etc. But I didn’t know just how many word meanings had changed, and I realized I wasn’t actually detecting the change in all cases as I use the KJV. I didn’t realize that “wealth” actually meant “welfare” in certain passages (e.g., 1 Cor. 10:24), nor that “wealthy” meant “happy” rather than “rich” (e.g., Psa. 66:12). “Advertise” meant “advise” (e.g., Ruth 4:4), “apparently” and “evidently” meant “clearly”, “sometimes” meant “formerly” not “occasionally”, “by and by” and “presently” meant “at once”, “instantly” meant “earnestly”, “anon” meant “immediately” and not “after a time”, and “comprehended” meant “overcome” (Jn. 1:5). “Virtue” had a broader meaning than it does today, but I was probably focusing on the modern-day meaning and misunderstanding “virtuous woman” in Prov. 31:10 (until I learned Hebrew!). I didn’t know the words “minish”, “astonied”, “clift”, or “pranse.” I didn’t comprehend that when Paul said “I know nothing by myself”, he meant “against myself” (1 Cor. 4:4). I misunderstood the Pharisee when he said, “I gave tithes of all that I possess”, when he actually meant “all I acquire” (Luke 18:12). One misunderstanding that I did catch, though, is how many Christians speak of Jesus’ “broken body,” but that’s based on a textual reading of 1 Cor. 11:24 that contradicts John 19:36 which says “a bone of him shall not be broken.” Another misunderstanding that has become quite firm in the Christian tradition is reflected in the song, “In the Sweet By and By.” As I noted above, “by and by” means “immediately”, not “afterwards” or whatever the song is communicating. Another song issue is “Are you washed in the blood?” which is based solely on a minority reading in Revelation 1:5 (“washed”), though other manuscripts have “loosed.” Lewis points out that this is the only possibly place where persons are spoken of being washed; elsewhere, it is the saint’s clothes that are washed in the blood (e.g., Rev. 7:14). I could go on, but I’ll stop here. Lewis’ book is well-worth a reading for those who, like me, have grown up on the KJV. We need to understand what we are reading!

Back to deputation/furlough activities…. I had a great time at Calvary Baptist in Elkins Park, PA, last week on Wed. I really enjoyed reconnecting with that church. I was also able to have a meeting with a Pakistani man who wants to get the Bible into Punjabi, his mother tongue. We’ll see where the Lord takes that possibility! Last Sunday I reported at Calvary Baptist in Lancaster, PA, and enjoyed being back with Pastor Jewers and his congregation. I swung by Harvest Bible Church in the evening to reconnect with friends and then returned to Calvary for a Sunday evening cookout. On Monday I headed down to Frederick, MD, to spend time with Pastor Ramler and other friends at People’s Baptist Church. I continued farther south and west to Berryville, MD, on Thursday to see Pastor Wright and his people at Keystone Baptist Church. I enjoyed speaking in the school’s chapel this morning.

Tomorrow I head back to PA to be with Community Baptist Church in Fleetwood. I get to enjoy another church picnic tomorrow and then will take all the services on Sunday. It’s been a joy to reconnect with so many friends!


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The Lord gave me an encouraging time at Bethel Baptist Church in Schaumburg, IL, this past weekend. It was fun to hang out with the singles SS class for the weekend. It was also a blessing to see my friends there, both old and new.

I have one more week to finish up preparations for my trip to Africa, that begins on Saturday. The preparations have been going well, so things seem to be falling into place smoothly. My trip will take me first to Mali (via France) where I will meet up with the Songhai NT team to work through 1 and 2 Peter and Revelation. Then I will travel with the missionary coordinator overseeing this project to Niger where I will probably meet up with people interested in a revision to our Zarma Bible. After just a day or two there, I will continue on to Benin where I will meet with the Dendi  OT team to work through Esther, Jonah, and Obadiah. I’ve been home for 6 weeks straight, and I’m ready to hit the road again!

I’m basically finished with Moisés Silva’s Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics. Even though he wrote this in 1983, it’s still a very valuable work on how to think through various issues concerning how to define words correctly. Here are his suggestions for “determining meaning and the proper English equivalents of specific words in specifics contexts” (pp. 176-177):

  1. First, the student should determine, insofar as this is possible, to what extent the term is or is not referential.
  2. Using standard lexicons, determine the attested semantic range of the term, paying special attention to the distinction between acceptations and translation equivalents.
  3. Consider the paradigmatic relations of the term. (synonyms, antonymns, etc.)
  4. Consider the synagmatic combination and broader contextual levels in which the term is found. (moving from smaller contextual circles to larger ones, with a preference for the former)
  5. Consider the historical (diachronic) dimension.
  6. A final decision should focus on the consciousness and intention of the writer.

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Esther 7:3

Now that I’m going through Esther for the Dendi workshop in Benin, I am finally understanding what Esther 7:3 means. It’s by reading the French translations that the meaning became clear to me. Here are how the English translations that I am familiar with it translate this verse:

(KJV) Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request:

(NKJ) Then Queen Esther answered and said, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request.

(NAU) Then Queen Esther replied, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request;

(ESV) Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request.

For some reason the meaning of Esther’s words wasn’t apparent to me by these translations. But when I read the French, I saw what Esther was saying, and then I also saw what the English versions were saying. Here are some French versions:

(LSG) La reine Esther répondit: Si j’ai trouvé grâce à tes yeux, ô roi, et si le roi le trouve bon, accorde -moi la vie, voilà ma demande, et sauve mon peuple, voilà mon désir !

(COL) La reine Esther répondit : Si j’ai obtenu ta faveur, ô roi, et s’il plaît au roi, voici ma demande : avoir la vie sauve ; voici ma requête : (la vie) de mon peuple.

(TOB) En réponse Esther, la reine, déclara: «Si j’ai rencontré ta bienveillance, ô roi, et s’il plaît au roi, que me soient accordées ma propre vie, telle est ma demande – et celle de mon peuple, telle est ma requête.

The last one gives a good way of punctuating this complex sentence. In English, it reads, “May my own life be given to me, such is my petition– and that of my people, such is my request” (the Hebrew text has just “–my people, by my request”). The section keeps repeating “petition” and “request” (5:6,7,8; 7:2), so Esther uses those words once again, linking “my life” up with the first and “that of my people” in the second. Her words are succinct but get right to the point: she wants her life and the lives of her people to be saved!

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Since I’m not moving from one overseas trip to another this month, like I had to do most of last year, I have time to do reading in my field so that I can develop myself professionally. I’m currently reading through Biblical Words and Their Meaning, by Moisés Silva. In his discussion on the proper use of etymology for lexicography, Silva notes that Greek needs the help of root meanings of Greek words and related languages much less. Hebrew, on the other hand, requires more help from etymological studies because of the many words that occur only one time in the Old Testament (called “hapax legomena”). He says that Hebrew has 1,300 of these and that 500 words occur only twice. With only about 8,000 words in the entire OT, that’s quite a few words that are difficult to remember because of their rarity! No wonder Hebrew is such a challenge (among other reasons)!

He also sheds light on the Greek words for “love” in the NT. He says that the common understanding is that “while the Greeks normally used philein, this verb was considered inadequate by the LXX translators, who preferred the relatively rare term agapan (and even coined a noun, agape) and infused it with a nobler meaning, leading to the New Testament use of this and cognate terms for ‘divine love'” (p. 96). Silva points out that, contrary to what this common understanding leads us to believe, the LXX translators preferred this supposedly nobler term for incestuous lust in 2 Samuel 13:15. He also explains that, in contrast to this supposed uniquely biblical use of the terms, the preference for agapan over philein for “love” is actually “quite generally attested in Hellenistic times.” Apparently, the Greeks avoided the former because it began to acquire the meaning “to kiss.” The actual Greek term for “to kiss” (kunein) sounded too much like the word meaning “to impregnate” (kuein), so it’s understandable why they wouldn’t use that term. So, as philein became invested with the meaning “to kiss”, agapan took over the semantic ground that philein had given up. The understanding of these relationships is possible through a “structural perspective.” The “structure” of a language has to do with how all the words in that semantic space (e.g., “love” in this case) interact with each other. We need to be careful that we don’t make conclusions about words on the basis of only two words in that semantic space, if there are other words in that space as well. All need to be examined before making conclusions about any.

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Every other day or so I get a little more material to work through in preparation for the upcoming workshops in India and Papua New Guinea. For the Kaulong project (PNG) the translator’s wife (she and he are both in California dealing with family matters) has to prepare the back-translation, so she’s trying to pump them out as she has time between family obligations. So far I have received about half of the material. I ran out of Kaulong material on Friday, so I jumped over to the Simte material (India). It was a little slower going in that, maybe mostly because I was in Zephaniah, and not Paul’s familiar epistles. I finished Zephaniah Sat, so I had nothing else to do, until the Kaulong of 1 Timothy came last night. I got through the first 2 chapters today and plan on picking up with chapter 3 on Thursday. I want to enjoy one more day of vacation (besides the three I took last week) before I hit a very busy stretch that begins on Thursday. On Wed I’ll be driving back up to snowy Michigan, so I’d appreciate your prayers for safety in travel and for good fellowship with the Lord.

As I was working through the Kaulong translation of 1 Timothy, I was finally able to understand better what Paul meant in 1:12-13:

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service,
13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; (NAU)

I always wondered if Paul truly meant that God put him into the ministry because of his faithfulness. How can his faithfulness be the reason for God’s choosing of him for the ministry? I also wondered if Paul was truly excused and worthy of receiving mercy because he acted ignorantly in unbelief. Aren’t all sinners acting in ignorance and unbelief? Well, after studying these verses more in-depth, I finally realized what Paul meant. It dawned on me that Paul is talking about God’s perspective on him before his conversion, so clearly Paul didn’t demonstrate faithfulness, thereby earning God’s choosing of him. It was God’s strengthening of Paul that made him faithful, and God’s knowing that He would do that led Him to choose Paul for his strategic ministry.

Also, when Paul speaks of “ignorance”, he is alluding back to the distinction made in the OT between sins of the “high hand” and sins of “ignorance.” Paul wasn’t sinning in defiance against God, as a hardened rebel. In fact, he thought he was serving God by his persecution of the church. So, Paul was saying that his sinning was not in defiance but was “in ignorance.”

As far as figuring out what 1 Tim. 2:15 means, I’m still puzzled about that one. But, it is interesting to note that the antecedent of the “they” in “if they continue” has only one grammatical possibility in Greek: the implied subject of “they shall be saved”–i.e., women. I suppose you could make the argument that there’s a semantic antecedent: “children” in the phrase “the bearing of children” (the Greek word behind this phase is only one compound word). But I prefer to think that those who should continue in faith, love, and sanctity with self-restraint are mothers, not their children, if the mothers hope to experience the deliverance promised in this verse. It sure fits the grammar better!

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Far beyond what I expected, we are on track to finish the Psalms by Thursday. We checked 30 pages today, the most of any day, and have only 45 left to go. The only issues that might slow us down is that Daniel has a slight cold and I have a slight fever. I’m not that bad, so as long as it doesn’t get any worse overnight, I should be OK for tomorrow. Lord willing, it will only get better, thanks to your prayers and the medications I was given. The neighbors right next door invited me to visit them some time during my stay. They are members of the church that I usually attend while down here. It just so happened that tonight was the best night for me to come by, and it just so happened that she is a doctor. She gave me some medical counsel and some medications, so we’ll see what happens overnight. God’s timing is perfect!

To clear things up about my translation example in the last post, some versions do have the rendering that Daniel first preferred. So he wasn’t trying to find a meaning that wasn’t legitimate.

Pastor Simpson and the believers at Worthington Baptist Church in Worthington, PA, are now partnered with me, so my support has gone up to 87%. And a pastor in Reading, PA, said the leadership is putting my name before the church for a vote on Dec. 18. We’ll see what God does!

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