Neh. 8:8

In the “Jewish Translations of the Bible” essay I was intrigued to do a little more digging on what was mentioned about Nehemiah 8 when Ezra reads the Book of the Law to the people.  The essays discusses how there is debateover how to interpret vs. 8 in particular due to the fact that it is an explanation done in Aramaic.  So correct me if I am wrong…something that does happen quite often…but I assumed that was saying that this was one of those rare spots where Hebrew is not used in the original text. 

It occurred to me to look up that chapter in my NIV Bible and read it again for myself.  There was no way of reading that English version that I could have, or anyone for that matter, known that this particular text was written originally in two different languages, with vs. 8 being different than the rest of the chapter.

Then I looked it up in the Jewish Study Bible to see the footnotes, and Nehemiah was not where it was supposed to be.  I had to do something I hadn’t done in a long time and look up the page number in the table of contents.  While maybe I knew the Jewish Bible was in a different order than our OT, it never occurred to me what that order actually was.

My point is not the debate over Neh. 8:8, but rather that as an Englishspeaking/reading Christian American I would never have been aware of that.  Not only did I find it interesting, but am curious to do more research on what other verses from the OT may have not been originally written in Hebrew.  I think we take those things for granted, the OT was written in Hebrew and the NT was written in Greek, but most church goers never go beyond just the words on their page to dig deeper into how those words got there in that form.

Lesson 4

You will notice some new pages; lesson 4 in two parts. Stay tuned for a couple of additional sections. These are fairly short, but they introduce some important concepts that we will explore more fully in class. Pay attention to the words and concepts in bold print, and to the questions that are raised. Some of you may want to express a provisional opinion on some of these questions. Or, you may wish to explore further some new concepts; for example, what is Midrash?

I also want to encourage you again about our motto, “High expectations, low anxiety.” The internet posts are required assignments, but as long as I believe you are taking the assignments seriously, you will get credit for recording your insights or opinions. The purpose is to get you started thinking about the subject matter and to help us all get acquainted with each other. So far, I’ve seen some pretty good posts; and I appreciate the variety of points made. So, don’t be intimidated, jump in and join the fun!

If of you are having technical difficulties with Word Press–if you can’t figure out how to write a new post–you can email your comments to me and I will post them for you.

See you soon.

Related posts on “Historical Interpretation” 1, 2, 3, and other related issues such as fundamentalism, idolatry, F. F. Bruce 1 and 2, and Peter Enns.

Thoughts on Inspiration and Incarnation

I wanted to comment on Peter Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation.  I’m still reading and it’s taking longer for me to get through it than I originally anticipated.  I’m finding myself reading and re-reading certain sections to try to really get a handle on what point he’s trying to make.  I understand that he is addressing some scriptural issues in the Old Testament that he calls “problems,” but I’m finding it difficult to follow him sometimes.

I liked how he began the book in chapter one by simply explaining his goals to try to better examine and explain some of the issues in the Old Testament that he feels have not been handled well in the past.  In particular on page 17, I agree with him when he says: “as Christ is both God and human, so is the Bible.”  I would agree with Enns on this point, the Word of God is just that- God’s Word.  However, it was written by men of God, who were inspired to write as God lead them.  And that Word has since been translated and retranslated to be read and understood by people of different language, ethnicities, and cultures.

I guess one dilemma I have with the book so far(and it’s just a small one J), and this is only my opinion, is that I become somewhat frustrated when people use the word “problem” to address something in scripture.  Because what he and others may view as “problems”, I see not as problems, but as misunderstandings on our part.  But I am finding this to be a very good read and am interested to finish it.

I would applaud Dr. Enns for having the boldness and concern to write this book to try to answer questions and ease the concerns of some Christians or borderline-Christians who have some serious questions and concerns about different “misunderstandings” J that occur in the Old Testament.  I wanted to get a little background on the author, and in the course of my investigating I found that he has taken a lot of criticism for writing this book, and in fact has been suspended from teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary, pending a hearing on August 25, because it is thought that the teaching in his book contradicts the oath that he took to teach at Westminster to not “inculcate, teach or insinuate anything” that goes against the Westminster Confession of Faith, which states that the Bible is “entire perfection” and “infallible truth.” (

In fact, Dr. Enns himself discusses the whole ordeal in great detail on his website:  if you’re interested in reading his explanations.  I found it very insightful and helpful to me as I read the book to understand what he is trying to impress upon his readers.

I mention the above because I think that it is very important to understand that Enns had to have known he would face such opposition from the Presbyterian denomination and the Westminster Seminary, and yet he wrote this anyway because he believes it will help people come to know Christ.  And I think that is admirable.  And I really like how he puts it at the end of chapter 3 pages 110-111: “Christ is supreme, and it is in Him, the embodied Word, that the written Word ultimately finds its unity.  …if, as Christians say, Christ is the focus of Scripture, we should allow that focus to come into play in how we understand Scripture.  Christ is the ultimate example of how God enters the messiness of history to save His people.  He did not keep His distance, but became one of us.  This is true of Christ, the embodied word.  It is also true of the Bible, the written word.”

Amen.  Thanks for reading.

Reaction to “The Name of G-d”

     So far this has been a very interesting study for me.  I’ve been out of town for a couple of weeks and I’m trying to catch up, but still a little behind.  I’m going to try to make a couple of posts just to try to express some of my thoughts on the readings, and I want to separate them so they make more sense.  First, I wanted to respond to the article “The Name of G-d.”     

      I found it very interesting that in Judaism the name of God is treated with such respect and reverence.  I’m not very familiar with Jewish tradition and thought, so it came as a surprise to me that they won’t even casually write the name of God for fear that it might be erased of defaced in some way, even to the extreme that they have had to discuss and come to the conclusion that it is ok to type the name of God and backspace over it because typing on a computer is not considered a “permanent form.”

      I was especially interested in the most important of God’s Names, (YHVH), or as we say, Yahweh.  I knew that I had heard something else about this, but I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I did a little digging and found a DVD called “Breathe” with the popular teacher and preacher Rob Bell from his Nooma video series.  I watched it again, and it’s interesting that he explores this subject in not as much detail, but one of his conclusions is that the name of God is not able to be spoken, but rather the letters used, Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei, are very breathy sounds.  And that in many traditions the name isn’t pronounced because it’s considered so sacred and holy.

      And that the ancient rabbis believed that these letters were breathing sounds that were ultimately unpronounceable because they were just essentially the sounds of breathing.  And what I think is so interesting is how the Bible talks about breathing.  In Genesis 2:7, “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”  Could it be possible that when God breathed life in Adam, and all man-kind, He was using that as a metaphor to say I am putting a small part of myself into mankind?  Certainly through His Spirit, and by Christ’s sacrifice, we do receive a part of God, on a certain spiritual level.

      Paul wrote in Romans 8:17 that if we are God’s children then we “are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…”  I know as a parent that when I look at my son I see a part of myself, and a part of my wife, and I believe that when God looks at us He sees a part of Himself, and knowing that the Bible teaches that we were made in His image only clarifies that idea in my mind.  And knowing that truth, and considering the possibility that perhaps God’s Name is so sacred and so glorious that the closest we can get to even speaking it is by our breathing- the life breath that God has given each of us, just amazes me.  It gives fresh new meaning to the scripture in Acts 17:28, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.”

      I apologize for my rambling, but I thought I would share how this particular topic impacted me.  Thanks for reading!

Codex Sinaiticus

Last month in London, in the British Library, I had a glimpse of one of the oldest and most important copies of the Bible, Codex Sinaiticus.  It was acquired by the British in 1930.

This week the manuscript goes online.

This Website will go live on July 24, 2008

Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. Handwritten well over 1600 years ago, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Its heavily corrected text is of outstanding importance for the history of the Bible and the manuscript – the oldest substantial book to survive Antiquity – is of supreme importance for the history of the book.  AP

More here.


I am here in the fabulously beautiful and historic city of Praha, Prague, awaiting the start of the Tenth Bonhoeffer Congress.  Like the Olympics and presidential elections, the Bonhoeffer Congress occurs every four years.

Tomorrow night, Jůrgen Moltmann delivers the opening address on Prison As a Place to Do Theology.  On Saturday my daughter Tabitha and are scheduled to make a modest contribution of our own.  Before the congress starts we are doing some sight seeing and getting an education.  I plan to see the statue of Jan Hus later today.

Meanwhile, keep reading.  See you soon in Kentucky.

Dr. A

JSB – Week 3 reading

You weren’t kidding when you mentioned that some of the reading may challenge us. The first few pages of the reading for this week has really struck me. The author of the essay says that the Exodus account in the Bible “…must have involved fewer people than the exaggerated biblical numbers… Given the lack of historical data, it is impossible to say more,” (JSB p. 2050). He mentions that fact that their is little extra-biblical information on some of the events/names/places that are mentioned in the Bible. He is well-researched and knowledgable I’m sure by I am curious if he is venturing too far from the basis of our relationship with God… faith. It seems to me like he is very quick to discredit some of the scriptures for their lack of support in secular sources. I am anxious to read the rest of the assigned reading and see what else strikes a nerve.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. He is presenting his case and I just want to hear what some of you other folks are thinking.