Archive for the ‘literature’ Category

>The Books of The Bible

2009 July 21 5 comments

>International Bible Society released The Books of The Bible in 2007. It is the Bible in a modified format. It has been released in Today’s New International Version (TNIV).

I think this is a good idea, though I am uncertain it is as revolutionary as it suggests.

My thoughts on the features.

1. They have removed the chapter and verse divisions.

This is probably the main feature. The goal of this is to encourage people to read the Bible in books (ie. The Books of the Bible), or longer passages rather than a few verses. I already do this and do not find the verse numbers affect my ability to do such. Though this can be an issue for some people. I had a Bible that has many of the words indexed to translation numbers within the text, which didn’t bother me; but a friend found it very difficult to read.

My thoughts are that the verses should stay and the chapter numbers should be reduced in size (and bolded) and removed to the left of the text; Psalms excepted. ESV places the verse numbers in a different font to illustrate they are not part of the text, but they also bold them which highlights their presence.

2. They use paragraphs

They comment that verse and chapter divisions are not part of the text and were added later, which is true, but of what significance. It is also commented that the text is formatted to reflect the author’s intentions. Presumably that means paragraphs for prose and stanzas for poetry. The use of paragraphs is the best advance in biblical format and significantly improves readability while removing reliance of verse format. But this is hardly new! And traditionally verse formatted versions such as the NASB and the NKJV are now formatted in paragraphs. I am not certain what is meant by author’s intentions other than this. There were no paragraph breaks in the (Greek) autographs, or punctuation, or even spaces between words. Hebrew had white space but I would be surprised if they follow this format (the Transparent English Bible does).

3. They remove the translators section headings and relegate footnotes to endnotes.

Reasonable on the section headings. I use them for reference and finding passages, though electronic searches are better for that. I would leave section headings in a study Bible, but shift them to the right of the text.

Endnotes are to prevent flow interruption. Whatever your preference I suppose. Footnotes are similar to verses, though perhaps more likely to affect flow, I am liable to check the footnotes. But I would probably anyway and footnotes are less disruptive than endnotes. I really don’t like endnotes (save webpages where footnotes are endnotes).

5. They alter the book order.

No big issue. The books are separate and the order of several is somewhat arbitrary. I believe the Protestant and Catholic order of the Old Testament follow the Septuagint. Books of The Bible has its own order for both Testaments with the Old similar to the Hebrew order.

I don’t like the New Testament order though. The gospel of John is located with his letters. Mark with Peter’s letters, presumably because Peter was a source for Mark. The only good modification in book order is Paul’s letters seem to be chronological, or as best as can be ascertained; I believe there is uncertainty on the dating of Galatians for example.

5. They join some books together.

It is true that Samuel was split into 1 and 2 Samuel, presumably for ease of use in scroll form. I think joining some books is a positive, though minor change. I am not certain of the legitimacy of joining Samuel and Kings into a single book. I wouldn’t join Chronicles to Ezra-Nehemiah. And though I understand the joining of Ezra-Nehemiah, I think the internal evidence is these were written as separate books.

But Luke-Acts? Sure, have them follow each other but Acts clearly documents these were written separately.

My understanding is that the gospel order reflects the sequence they were written in (traditional belief). This may be correct, although the current consensus is that Mark antedates Matthew. I would shift John to the beginning of the New Testament; the parallel to Genesis is appropriate; and then Luke would be followed by Acts. Then the letters in chronological order (with or without Pauline subgrouping), then Revelation.

6. They display the text in a single column.

Reasonable. Not the first Bible to do so. It depends on the size of the page I think. Narrow columns are quicker to read; and newspapers use columns so the format is familiar. I would use a single column in a study Bible, as I note the ESV Study Bible has also done, because of other formatting considerations.

7. They include book and book grouping introductions.

This is completely reasonable and I think introductions can be quite helpful if well written. This is because the Bible was written in a variety of genres and within a different culture. I do note the irony though: of removing verses and translation footnotes because they affect the text; then adding in significant interpretative advice.

My comments seem mildly negative. Probably because I have explained where I depart but only mentioned where I agree. The concept is reasonable and I would consider buying one if I didn’t already have Bibles in the double digits. I don’t own a TNIV so it may still be a consideration. Note also that I have not actually read it. Perhaps doing so will make evident that verse and chapter numbers affect reading more than I am aware. And if it gets people reading more of their Bible….

I have included the book order below as the link is a 3MB pdf. At only 2 pages long, this size is a little excessive.

First Testament
Covenant History

The Prophets





The Writings
Song of Songs




New Testament
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy


1 Peter
2 Peter

1 John
2 John
3 John


Categories: Bible, formatting, literature

>Mark Driscoll interviews Wayne Grudem

2008 August 29 Leave a comment

>I enjoy Wayne Grudem’s writing. Recently Pastor Mark Driscoll meet Grudem and asked him about which doctrines he thought Christian leaders should study in their preparation for the future. Grudem’s initial response was Scripture and authority.

[Grudem] said that he sees authority as a pervasive problem in our culture. As we talked, it became clear that what he meant is that people profess to be Christians yet refuse to submit to God’s authority, including Scripture, and people God has ordained to be in loving authority, such as godly parents and pastors.

Grudem is also praying about writing further books and on which topics. The options being ethics, global poverty, and government. These are important issues and if God has given Grudem significant insight into these subjects then some good books may be forthcoming. He desires prayer for wisdom about whether to write them and in which order.

He has previously written a well regarded systematic theology and much material on gender roles in Christendom. Several of his books are free for download:

Categories: gender, literature

>Free will and determinism, a parallel in literature?

2008 August 22 10 comments

>I have argued that God does not ordain evil and raised the question: How can God will a man to do an action and God be without sin, yet the man be with sin despite being obedient to God’s intention in his life?

Some have claimed that there is a parallel in fiction. The author is parallel to God and the characters are parallel to created persons.

The problem with this analogy is that it is back to front. Fictional characters are not real. They are constructs of the author that do not exist in reality. They have no will of their own. If a character is murdered in a novel we don’t think of book author as evil, even though the murder solely originated in the mind of the author, because no one actually dies. We think of the fictional murderer as evil because we carry the fictional back over to reality. Book characters are not truly evil, they are fictional. But their behaviour as it corresponds to reality is recognised as evil.

The book analogy fails because we have been created with choice. We can murder or not murder (characters do not have this choice). It may be argued that this response is begging the question and the counter claim put forward that the book analogy is exact, we do not have a choice. If we have no choice then none of our actions are sinful. We are all doing the will of our creator. We are neither righteous nor evil.

>Jesus and the use of metaphor

>Now we have dispensed with the flat earth claim I would like to address Jesus’ ability to understand symbolism. The relevant part of Tilling’s post was,

Had you asked [Jesus] if there was a literal Adam or Eve and serpent, I think he would have been puzzled by the ‘literal’ tag, but I suspect that if you had pressed him he would have said that he believes in a literal Adam and Eve (though I cannot prove these statements. I am making historical judgments, and I see no reason why he would not have believe these things – modern science did not develop for centuries. Though as noted, the whole metaphorical / scientific categorisation would have probably puzzled him).

This is not an issue of scientific knowledge, it is one of literal versus allegorical.

Jesus was familiar with the Old Testament besides Genesis. He frequently quoted Deuteronomy and mentions the prophets. The Old Testament had plenty of material that was understood to be figurative. In the book of Judges we read of Gideon’s son Jotham telling his half brother Abimelech a story of the trees having a council:

The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’ And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’ And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’ Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’ (Judges 9)

This is more than a thousand years before Jesus yet these people understood fable. In fact trees seem to be a recurrent theme in the Old Testament with Joash sending a message to Amaziah concerning a cedar and a thistle (2 Kings 14, 2 Chronicles 25), and God informing Ezekiel about an eagle removing the upper twigs of a cedar to a different land (Ezekiel 17). Jesus certainly would have been familiar with these passages.

Moreover, Jesus frequently spoke in parables himself. He didn’t just inform people of theological truths but made use of stories to illustrate these truths. Matthew adds,

All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. (Matthew 13)

The parable of the sower is a good example. This parable uses symbols thru-out: sower, soil, birds, rocks, thorns, birds—all symbols of some other thing.

The clincher that Jesus both understood and affirmed the literalness of Adam and Eve is seen in his description of John the Baptist. The Old Testament closes with a prediction of God’s visitation and his forerunner Elijah:

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.” (Malachi 3)

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” (Malachi 4)

Now this could be interpreted as either Elijah returning (as he ascended to heaven in a whirlwind) or as a person coming in the ministry of Elijah. We are told it is the latter in the gospel of Luke; the fulfilment in the person of John the Baptist:

And [John] will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, (Luke 1)

Jesus affirms this,

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,

” ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,/
who will prepare your way before you.’

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 11)

Jesus applies Malachi 3 to John and Jesus specifies that John is Elijah. From this we can note that Jesus is perfectly able to understand that a passage can have figurative aspects to it. Jesus does not think that John is literally Elijah or that Malachi meant that Elijah would literally return. And Jesus thought this is even though several of his contemporaries thought that Elijah would literally return.

So when Jesus claims that Adam was a real person he is fully able to comprehend the difference between this and the concept that Adam fictitious person representative of humankind. He is able to understand whether the creation story is historical or mythological. This is not surprising as Genesis clearly historical narrative and Joash’s story is clearly allegorical. Malachi may be more subtle but that is often the case with prophecy; that Jesus is aware of this subtlety demonstrates our thesis more strongly.

>Quoting wikipedia

2007 December 16 Leave a comment

>Several reports have denounced the use of wikipedia in university assignments. This is rightly so. To conclude that wikipedia is therefore unreliable may be somewhat excessive. So is wikipedia generally correct or not? Is it free of bias or not?

I use wikipedia at least weekly. I think it is a useful source. As with all material, an appreciation for presuppositions helps one decide what he can and cannot use.

It is therefore appropriate to use or point someone to wikipedia for general information. But it is not helpful in argument to refer to wikipedia as an authority. I may have material on a subject; that some random editor has judged my material and found it wanting, or is unaware of its existence, or claims that it is an inadequate/ inappropriate source for use in an encyclopaedia (even if my material is true!)—none of that invalidates my material or argument. An appeal to wikipedia is merely an appeal to an authority with which I disagree; rather my material needs to be refuted on its own grounds.

So someone’s reference to wikipedia at one time does not justify your appeal to wikipedia on the basis that he has done the same prior; he hasn’t.

Encyclopaedias are more useful for breadth of knowledge, less so for depth, and they are inappropriate to refute those who knowledge of the subject is similar to the author’s.

Categories: knowledge, literature