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Monday, 27 April 2009

In Hebrews 11:11, who got the power--Abraham or Sarah?

One more post on the TNIV, and then I think I'm done for another few months. Actually, as I looked into this verse, I found it to be a fascinating study of translation theory, in which the TNIV plays but a part. What makes this verse so interesting is that there are two textual variant units, each consisting of the inclusion or omission of a single word. The general--but by no means exclusive--tendency is for any given manuscript--any given version--and any given alternate within a version--to omit one and include the other, and this is reflected in the majority readings of the Greek and Latin manuscripts respectively.

There are nine discrete elements in the Greek text/s of this verse that can be broken down and listed by letter, as translated into English.

A) By faith
B) also,/, even
C) Sarah herself (several translations merge 'herself' into B)
D) barren, [variant unit 1] ('herself' is always attached, and 'being' supplied, when 'barren' is present)
E) received power to conceive [literally 'lay down'] seed
F) even/(translated as ',and,' when variant unit 2 is present, and often as 'when' when it isn't)
G) beyond the time of age,
H) gave birth, [variant unit 2]
I) because s/he considered the one having promised to be faithful.

Notice that of the two textual variants, either inclusion is awkward to the sense, and often requires an entire phrase rather than a single word or clause to translate it.

The least awkward rendition would include both variants, which I do here, showing all nine elements of the text apparently for the first time in the 600 year history of Bible translation into the English language:

"[By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called] . . . . By faith also, Sarah--herself barren--received power to conceive seed, and, beyond the time of age, bore a child--because she considered faithful the one who had promised.

Edited to add: No, I wasn't the first after all (whew). James Murdock in 1852, although in a slightly different order, gave the following rendition of the Western Peshitta:

"By faith, Sarah also, who was barren, acquired energy to receive seed; and, out of the time of her years, she brought forth; because she firmly believed, that he was faithful who had promised her."

I give a wide variety of translations here, to show that they all fall into several different patterns based on textual preference and translation style. Let's start with the earliest one, from the perspective of English translations:

Wycliffe (ABCDEFGI):
By faith also that Sara barren, took virtue in conceiving of seed, yea, against the time of age; for she believed him true, that had promised.

Here we see that Wycliffe's Latin text differed in a couple of places from the Greek text which existed in his day: the inclusion of 'barren' as a modifier of 'Sarah' (with 'that' for the usual 'herself'), and the omission of 'bore a child' as the secondary predicate.

Tyndale (ACBEHFGI):
Thorow fayth Sara also receaved stregth to be with chylde and was delivered of a chylde when she was past age because she iudged him faythfull which had promysed.

Tyndale, following the Greek rather than the Latin text, generates a unique pattern when he carelessly omits the word ‘herself’ in transposing ‘Sarah’ and ‘also’, which lie on either side of it in the Greek text.

Rheims (ABCDEFGI):
By faith also Sara herself, being barren, received strength to conceive seed, even past the time of age: because she believed that he was faithful who had promised.

Rheims pretty much follows Wycliffe, being from the same Vulgate text--but isn't as literal.

Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

The KJV remedies Tyndale's omission, but both translations have to transpose later elements of the text in order to fit in the part about her giving birth. In this rendition, the Greek word kai is translated as ‘, and’. Indeed, this is the only way to make sense of the majority Greek text.

By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and /she bore a child/ [NU-Text omits] when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.

I'm not sure where they get "the age" from; it's a common replacement for "the time of age." But there's a problem with the idea of a woman "conceiving seed." It's neither scientifically accurate, nor does it appear to reflect the prevailing idea in Wycliffe's, Jerome's, or even Paul's day.

Darby (ABCEFGI):
By faith also Sarah herself received strength for the conception of seed, and that beyond a seasonable age; since she counted him faithful who promised.

Darby, who is the only one so far to follow the Greek order, is also the first to leave out both variant units. Not only does he continue the custom of leaving out 'barren', but, following evidence compiled by his friend Samuel Tregelles, he also drops 'bore a child' as a spurious interpolation. This was the first step in admitting the idea that Abraham could be the subject of "received," rather than Sarah.

Westcott and Hort conjectured the reading (ABCEFGI):
Through faith, and by Sara herself, he received strength to establish seed when he was past age, because he judged him faithful who promised.

This reading (adding iota subscripts to 'herself' and 'Sarah'), found in no manuscript, apparently never made it into the text of any version--but observe the influence it had on the Revision in which they were key participants, the ERV.

By faith even Sarah herself received power to conceive seed when she was past age, since she counted him faithful who had promised.

The ERV was more or less contemporaneous with Darby. Note, though, how the 'she's' limit the interpretation to Sarah, even without the inclusion of 'bore a child'.

By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive [Lit. power for the laying down of seed], even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.

Although Westcott & Hort's order is still being followed, note the Foundation's discomfort with the combination of literally rendering 'laying down of seed' and Sarah as subject. The time was getting ripe for a full switch to Abraham.

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he [/By faith even Sarah, who was past age, was enabled to bear children because she] considered him faithful who had made the promise.

The CBT finally made the break in 1973, relegating Sarah's faith to a footnote with the addition of the textual variant 'barren', as recently added to the United Bible Society's Greek Text (NA26).

The Holman Christian Standard Bible reversed the trend, sending Abraham down to the footnote and bringing Sarah back up.

By faith even Sarah herself, when she was barren, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she [/By faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--received the ability to procreate since he] considered that the One who had promised was faithful.

The Revised Standard Version did away with the footnote, and the English Standard Version left the RSV unchanged. New scholarship at work? No, we've not made any progress since Darby, 100 years earlier. Sarah's barrenness has disappeared!

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.

As in the CEV, where, despite a third of the Greek elements being missing, that pesky TR variant is back with a vengeance, at least in translation!

Even when Sarah was too old to have children, she had faith that God would do what he had promised, and she had a son.

The trend has taken on, though. The New Living Translation, still a paraphrase, keeps Abraham in the footnote, but gives him the ability to bear the child!

It was by faith that even Sarah [/that he] was able to have a child, though she [/Sarah] was barren and [/and he] was too old. She [/He] believed that God would keep his promise.

The gender-sensitive NRSV reverses the RSV, but cautiously: Abraham himself is not named, and the footnote leaves an out, where we see the first mention in almost 400 years of a barren Sarah receiving power to conceive.

By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised.

By faith Sarah herself, though barren, received power to conceive, even when she was too old, because she considered him faithful who had promised.

Ah, now we come to that most recent product of the CBT, the Today's New International Version.

And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, [/By faith Abraham, even though he was too old to have children—and Sarah herself was not able to conceive—]was enabled to bear children because she [/was enabled to become a father because he] considered him faithful who had made the promise.

Yep, they reversed themselves to follow the latest trend. Sarah's barrenness, though, only comes through in the footnote's version. And 'bore a child' makes it back into the text, but not apparently as a direct translation of the Greek variant. Note that the mutually exclusive use of two different textual variants serve to change the subject from Sarah to Abraham and back, even though both of them clearly modify Sarah!

So, why did the CBT reverse itself--was it part of a desire to 'give Sarah balls', to put it in a vulgar expression common among Today's Young People, which would no doubt nonetheless be translated by the CBT as "instill courage?" Or was it only to capitalize on a trend of which no one knows how or why it started?

I can't say. But there's a deeper question here. In an earlier post, I showed that it was nothing uncommon for a man in Abraham's day to become a father after the age of 100--but quite unknown for a woman to have her first baby at the age of 90. So the question arises, was it only Sarah, or also Abraham, who was supernaturally enabled to become a parent? Countless sermon illustrations depend upon the answer; but the present confusion among expert translators does little to settle the question.


Going back a bit, it turns out that Ken Barker addressed this verse in his NIV defense piece, Accuracy Defined (IBS, 1995). He writes:

"[F.F] Bruce [Hebrews Commentary] points out that the major problem is that the Greek phrase for "to conceive seed' (KVJ) does not mean that. Instead, it refers to the father's role in the generative process. A literal translation would be 'for depositing sperm,' thus more likely referring to Abraham."
For whatever reason, Barker & Co. decided not to go with Bruce in these latest two revisions--the NNIV is unchanged.


I've moderated a bit in my criticism of the CBT since I wrote this post three years ago. For one thing, other translation teams have done even worse. For another, I've come to appreciate a little of the tension they were under to be modern, but not too modern. I'll admit that the text itself is problematic, even before it is translated: the context is Abraham's faith despite his feebleness, and yet Sarah's feebleness is also specifically mentioned, regardless of the textual variation.  So it appears that they both got the power--and the only remaining question is whether this power came strictly by Abraham's faith, or by Sarah's too. Obviously, the gender-sensitive approach of the CBT durst not give Sarah any less than her full due.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

Speaking of textual variation, though, the Good News Testament (© 1992 ABS), in footnoting the verse for the 4th edition of the TEV, blames the Abraham vs Sarah confusion on the varying manuscripts!

Today's English Version (First edition, 1966, GNFMM)
It was faith that made Abraham able to become a father, even though he was too old and Sarah herself could not have children. He trusted God to keep his promise.

Today's English Version (Fourth edition, 1976, GNT) marginal reading:
It was faith that made Sarah herself able to conceive, even though she was too old to have children. She[a] trusted God to keep his promise.

[a]It was faith ... children. He; some manuscripts have It was faith that made Sarah herself able to conceive, even though she was too old to have children. She

Friday, 24 April 2009

The TNIV and the Silence of Women

Mike Aubrey has added informative comments to some of my earlier posts on the TNIV. I appreciate his attention, among other reasons because it has brought out the likelihood of my readers misunderstanding why I appear to be so hard on the Committee and the version they produced. I believe some of my stated concerns will be addressed in the next edition--Tomorrow's New International Version? Today's Newer International Version? The Global Version?--, but it was never really my intent to improve the translation when I first set out down this path two years ago.

My stated intent, from the earliest posts (which should all be retrievable under the label 'translation'), was to respond to a propaganda package I had received from Zondervan, which touted the TNIV as a theologically conservative, linguistically precise, culturally relevant, and gender-sensitive improvement on every translation that had ever come before it. Until I received this packet, I hadn't paid much attention to the TNIV, and really didn't care one way or the other whether it turned out to be a commercial success or not. But being told so forcefully that all the opposition to the TNIV was a bunch of 'misinformation' goaded me to investigate the TNIV myself to see if it lived up to these lofty claims.

Now, let me reiterate, I like the idea of a theologically conservative, linguistically precise, culturally relevant, and gender-sensitive translation of the Bible into English. I'm rather bugged by translations that fail to distinguish between singular and plural in the second person, and use 'man' when 'person' would more accurately convey the force of the original. Alas, as I have demonstrated, the TNIV does both. And the more I looked at the TNIV, the more examples I found which gave the lie to every one of its lofty claims. Inasmuch as the charges of 'misinformation' were first brought up by the TNIV's publishers, I thought it incumbent upon me to point out that in making such claims for the TNIV, they were guilty of that very charge of misinformation. Thus the impetus behind these posts: not to debate the merits of the TNIV per se, but only to point out inconsistencies within the text of the TNIV that give the lie to Zondervan's claims that the TNIV is the best possible translation available today. I suggest that anyone who wants to dispute that the TNIV does not live up to these claims first read the book that impelled me to begin this series of posts: Perspectives on the TNIV from Leading Scholars & Pastors, an undated paperback published anonymously by Zondervan (ISBN: 0310931630). It would also be very helpful to watch the accompanying DVD by Mark Strauss.

Now, on to today's topic. First Corinthians is rather unique among Paul's epistles, or anyone else's for that matter. Instead of being addressed just to the church or the saints in Corinth, it is to "all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours." So, more than in any other epistle, the commandments set forth in this one should be binding on Christians of all times and all cultures. Notice, for example, how many times the TNIV uses the word "command/ment/s" exhortively in the epistles:

Romans 2
1 Corinthians 6
2 Corinthians 1
Galatians 1
Ephesians 1
1 Thessalonians 2
2 Thessalonians 3
1 Timothy 7
2 Peter 1
1 John 10
2 John 3
Revelation 3

Note that the Corinthians received more commands than any other single church; this letter had twice as many commands as any other ecclesiastical epistle. But here we refer only to uses of the word, not the thing itself; the final chapter of 1 Corinthians is actually one long list of specific instructions from Paul to the Church at Corinth.

Another unique feature of this epistle to the Corinthians happens to be one of these very instructions, which, had it been accurately translated, would have turned the whole TNIV approach to First Corinthians on its head. The CBT had set out to make the general message of the New Testament apply indifferently to men and women (something even they were not able to force the text to do in chapter 14 of this epistle), and this agenda-driven approach to translation forced them to mistranslate a key instruction of Paul to the Corinthians, in verse 13 of chapter 16. He told them to "Be men." Now, if that isn't a dead giveaway that the whole epistle is written in a male context, with exceptions to be given rather than assumed, I don't know what is. Looking at the LSJ lexical entry for this particular usage, the second person plural present imperative middle of andrizow, we find:
2. play the man, X.An.4.3.34, Pl. Tht.151d, Arist.EN1115b4, LXXJo.1.6,al., 1 Ep.Cor.16.13;

In other words, Quit you like men. But the TNIV found an entirely new meaning for this word--one not so much as hinted at even in the expanded lexical entry--namely, 'Be courageous' [but see comments]. Now, if someone is trying to encourage a young man to keep a stiff upper lip, he may well tell him, "Be a man" or "Act like a man!" But one would never tell this to a girl, or even to a mixed audience. There were a couple other words Paul could have used to the effect of "take courage"--in fact, he even used one of them in Acts 27 when speaking to a strictly male audience--and, in an refreshing display of candor, the TNIV even admits it:

21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: "Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.

So, Paul's use of the word andrizesthay is a dead giveaway that the commands in this epistle are directed to a male audience, unless specified otherwise. So when Paul in chapter 14 gives general instructions on keeping silence (in verses 28 and 30), he is referring to men. The specific instructions for the silence of women come in verses 34 and 35. The TNIV turns this all on its head by inserting women into the general commands, but letting stand the female-specific exceptions of vv. 34-35.

The translators of the TNIV are on a slippery slope. Having allowed their determination to make Christianity an egalitarian religion affect how they translated a key word to interpreting Paul's instructions on church order, it is only a matter of time before they reject the commands themselves as being too burdensome. As Mike pointed out [but see comments], at least some members of the CBT don't even think vv. 34-35 should be in the Bible. And once they go, a couple of verses in 1 Timothy 2 are next on the chopping block.

Addendum: Well, as Mike Aubrey suggested, I surfed around to see what others were saying about the TNIV. And what I found out was that bloggers are somewhat stumped at why the TNIV, excellent translation that it is, can't hold its own against the NLT, which, despite its new and improved facade, is still a paraphrase. Even The Message is outselling the TNIV.

Well, I think the reason may well be that all Tyndale House had to convince people of was that the New Living Translation was better than the Old Living Bible. Zondervan, however, tried to pass the TNIV off as the best possible translation man was capable of making (but look for another revision in only 4-5 years [2010: it didn't take nearly that long!]). I know what my reaction to this would have been, absent all the gender controversy: I'll wait 5 years and get one that's "even better yet."

So it is that in my house, with its dozen or more Bibles in half a dozen different translations, the only NIV's are missing their covers and/or many of their pages, there's an NKJV in enough pieces to please a papyrologist, and most of the KJV's suffer numerous lacunae; but there is a brand-new 2-column KJV/NLT. It would be hard to find two translations so diverse, but there they are, under one cover, and there is obviously a market for this sort of package. It's kind of like the American electorate: not trusting either the Republicans or the Democrats, they elect both, and vary the mixture from year to year.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

If 'ain't' isn't in the Dictionary, it ought to be

"Ain't ain't in the dictionary!" was an ironic phrase I often heard in grammar school.
"Grammar School," of course, is what they called it in my grandfather's day, at the end of which a boy could leave school for good without ever having learned to 'speak educated'. By my time, as just the first stage in a long educational career, it was then called 'elementary school,' the early years of which were referred to as the 'primary grades.'

All of these educational modifiers are essentially Latin words--as is 'educational' itself. What does that tell you? It tells you that Latin originally had a tyrannical grip on the education of the youngest speakers of the English language. And, as it turns out, English grammar rules were written by men whose education had been in Latin. So it was that the English language was forced to obey the grammatical conventions of a foreign language. And thus the word 'ain't' was banished from the dictionary.

Today, I'm not all that in tune with what goes on in elementary schools (the latter grades of which have been moved to that new invention--with an English name, no less--of 'middle school'). So I don't know if children are still being told that "ain't ain't in the dictionary." But the fact is, it now is. At least in the adult dictionaries, which of course contain a whole lot of words that children use, but aren't in the junior dictionaries. And despite generations of schoolmarms attempting to suppress its use, ain't has continued to grow and thrive. A computer search for the string "If it isn't broke" brought up 29,000 hits; but "If it ain't broke" resulted in 510,000. "If it is not broken" brought forth a paltry 3770. This despite the fact that ain't didn't originally exist as a colloquial contraction for 'is not', but for 'am not'. And, being forbidden to use ain't, schoolchildren end up using the grammatically incorrect but socially acceptable contraction aren't instead.

So, the attempt to suppress the only legitimate contraction for a very common verb form only caused it to go underground, where it spawned an innumerable corpus of uses, including its Black English usage as a contraction of 'did not' and 'have not'.

Well, for the first time in the history of American English, we have a President with close family members who actually speak Black English. And, having used the word ain't as a scripted colloquialism during a campaign speech, President Obama will hopefully ensure that the Department of Education under his oversight will finally ennoble this word with a place in the education of all young Americans--if not in all their dictionaries.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The TNIV and the church at the house of Numfan

There is a verse in the Pauline Epistles that has been the focus of gender-sensitive language for at least sixteen centuries: Colossians 4:15. I will quote it here in a variety of English versions, to give the idea of how it has been translated over the last couple of centuries:

The first part engenders no great controversy, but reads to the effect of:

"Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea . . ."

The latter part, however, has been translated as:

and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house. KJV
and Nymphas, and the church that is in his house. Rheims
and Nymphas, and the assembly which is in his house. Darby


and Nymphas, and the church that is in their house. ERV, ASV
especially to Nymphas, and to the Church that meets at their house. Weymouth

and finally:

and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. NASB
and to Nympha and the church in her house. NIV
and to Nympha and the church in her house. ESV

The reason for the differences are twofold:
1) Various manuscripts read 'his', 'her', or 'their' in relation to the house.
2) The householder is referred to in the accusative case as Numfan, which could refer either to a man named Nymphas or to a woman named Nympha.

The TNIV followed the latest critical Greek text, which identifies Numfan as a woman named Nympha. But not content with the change from 'his' to 'her', the Committee made the TNIV read:

Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

Now, I don't so much as suspect that Paul, in saying 'brethren,' meant to exclude any women; he typically greets women along with men at the end of his epistles. But note, according to the TNIV, the four different classes to whom Paul is extending greetings:

Male believers at Laodicea
Female believers at Laodicea
A Female householder by the name of Nympha
Believers (presumably both males and females) who congregate at Nympha's house

The TNIV thus makes explicit the location of Nympha's house as being outside the city limits of Laodicea. And actually, given the text upon which the TNIV is based, this is to be expected in a dynamic translation.

So, for the record, I don't particularly dispute the TNIV's rendering of this verse. Given that in their text a female owns the edifice in which a church meets, it's entirely fitting to bring out the fact that females are among those who meet there. And it's certainly a big improvement over the Revised Version, which inevitably implies that Nymphas was a member of the only believing household in all of Laodicea.

But the Committee's policy of gender inclusion gets rather comical when we get over to 1 Corinthians 14, where they change 'brethren' to 'brothers and sisters' a total of four times:

6 Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?
20 Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.
26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.

There's one more, but I'll save it for later. You see, in the TNIV Paul has set himself up to allow women to sing, preach, prophesy, and speak in tongues right along with the men. But imagine the shock of today's young person to find, right before the end of the chapter, this discordant note:

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

Oops! Does this not flatly contradict the TNIV's reading of verse 26? Now, the TNIV has a note here that these verses are found at the end of the chapter in some manuscripts (actually, ALL manuscripts of the Western text, and virtually no others). But how does this help? Re-naming them vv. 41 and 42, the end of the chapter now reads:

39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. 41 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 42 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

So, it's OK for women to sing, preach, prophesy, and speak in tongues right along with the men, as long as they do so silently--in order to keep things orderly, as it would be a disgrace for them to actually be heard!

There actually is an ancient precedent for such a policy, in The Silent Cry of Susanna.

Update 12/16/2011
The textual variety of this passage is interesting. Here are some of the variants, according to my reading of LaParola:

TEXT: "Nymphas and the church in his house."
Νυμφᾶν καὶ τὴν κατ' οἶκον αὐτοῦD (F G τὴν οἱ κατ') K L Ψ 150 181 365 424* Byz Lect syrp syrh(mg) goth Chrysostom Theodoret John-Damascus ς
TEXT: "Nymphas and the church in her house."
Νυμφᾶν καὶ τὴν κατ' οἶκον αὐτῆς88 104 326 459 1175 1739* 1912 2464 l422 

TEXT: "Nympha and the church in his house."
Νύμφαν καὶ τὴν κατ' οἶκον αὐτοῦF G 330c 1241  (330* 451 Νύμφας)
TEXT: "Nympha and the church in her house."
Νύμφαν καὶ τὴν κατ' οἶκον αὐτῆςB 6 424c 1739c 1877 1881 syrh syrpal(ms) copsa Origen WH

TEXT: "Nympha/s and the church in their house."
Νυμφαν καὶ τὴν κατ' οἶκον αὐτῶν‭א A C P 33 1962 2492 syrpal(ms) copbo slav Theodorelat

Friday, 10 April 2009

Will I be going to see The Cross this Eastertide? NOT!

Lately I've been thinking about people who claim God speaks to them. I personally know one such person, and I have to say it's rather annoying to have to listen to him. He literally can't carry on a conversation about anything without mentioning that the lord told him this or the lord has been showing him that. One would think that he has a direct line to heaven.

Oh, I'm not against God speaking to people; perhaps I'm just jealous that He never speaks to me. I wish He would; there are a lot of questions I'd love to have Him answer:
-Which house should I buy?
-Are the Dead Sea Scrolls more accurate than the Masoretic Text?
-What did He mean that a man couldn't divorce his wife, "except for fornication?"
-How many years ago WAS it that He created the universe?
-What day of the year was He born--or for that matter, which year?
-Which of the four gospels was written first, and when?
-Just what DID happen to those last twelve verses of Mark?

Alas, these are not the sort of things my acquaintance discusses when he and his lord have their chats. Only the first one would even qualify, and I can't say I'd trust any answer that came to that question as being from MY lord.

So, does God speak to people? My first instinct would be to say No. If God spoke to people, He'd have spoken to me, since I've asked--many times. But on the other hand, my God HAS spoken to people--many times. They are recorded in His Word.

God spoke to Noah and told him to build an ark. Noah obeyed, despite people thinking he was nuts. Sure enough, the ark kept him and his alive while the world perished. But later, Noah got drunk and was party to an unspeakable act with his son. Does that mean that we can brush off Noah as a phony and disregard the message he claimed to have received from the Lord?

This was on my mind the last few days as I pondered the mission of Arthur Blessitt, featured in a movie that just hit the theaters last month.

As he tells the story, God spoke to Arthur and told him to make a cross. He obeyed, and saw fruit come from that obedience; people 'got saved'. Then God told him to carry it up and down Sunset Boulevard in LA. Same story. New twist: God wanted him to carry it across the country. He did. Next step: Carry it around the world. He did. Last step: Carry the Cross in every sovereign county and territory of the world. He did. And at every step he saw miracles, healings, or salvations.

Now here's the problem. Was it God who was leading Arthur Blessitt on his record-breaking world tour, or Satan? If Satan, why all the conversions (including one George W. Bush)? If God, then why in 1990, just over halfway through his 38-year project, did Arthur claim God wanted him to divorce his wife Sherry and marry a young blonde he met on his trek?

My first question was, well, is this any different from Noah's indecency? My studied conclusion is, YES.

First of all: Noah never claimed God was telling him to get drunk. Or to get naked. And after he awoke from his wine, he didn't justify what he had done. Rather, he cursed. When Arthur divorced Sherry Blessitt, forcing her to go to work to support their handicapped son, [see comment #38] he was in effect cursing her. But Noah's curse was recorded for all time in the Bible. How about Arthur's? Well, nowhere on his website is Sherry ever mentioned. On his "Family Album" page, there are photos of him with his children and their children, but none with their mother. And, on a separate page, photos of "Denise, my Love." He even went back through his old newsletters when he put them online and changed the signature line from "Arthur and Sherry Blessitt" to "Arthur and Denise Blessitt."

If it really was God's will for him to put Sherry away, then why doesn't he want to admit that she ever existed?

On a related note, I have at least three friends who consider themselves homosexual. I say 'at least,' because I don't know how many more there may be. None of these particular three have ever told me that they are gay; I've had to find it out online. No, in communication with me, they describe themselves as 'single', 'divorced', or 'pro-gay-rights' respectively. Why is it that they don't want to disclose their orientation--is it not that they are ashamed of their sinful relationships? And so it is with Arthur Blessitt and his trophy wife. Oh, very proud of HER he is--but of their sinful relationship he must be ashamed, for he makes a point to never bring it out.

But what if he did? I know of one man who makes a point of introducing his extra wife with the information that God told him to trade in the wife of his youth for her. This same man says there's no reason to read the Bible, when you can just hear from the Lord directly--and little wonder, since what his lord is telling him is in contradiction to God's Word.

Arthur Blessitt, you almost had me fooled into thinking you were hearing from God. And maybe you even were. But whatever testimony you had is now shot all to hell by you claiming that God told you to commit adultery--and then covering it up.

Repent! Go back to your first love. Until then, you have nothing to pass on to me from God.

NOTE April 2014: This was, for a couple of years, my most-read post, and has probably attracted the most attempted comments of any post on my entire blog. If your first comment doesn't appear right away, sit tight: I will eventually approve it. If I find several comments by the same author awaiting approval, I will only approve the most recent one.

NOTE February 2015: It is interesting to re-read this still-popular post in light of current events in Elkhart County, Indiana. I speak of the revival that has broken out, characterised by many healings and salvations. Is what is going on now at any higher of a level that what Arthur Blessitt experienced on his walk around the world? It's worth pondering.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Another holocaust in the making?

I got this in an email today.

The relevant text reads:

"It was called The Holocaust, when millions of people perished because of their faith."

There's something wrong with the picture here. None of the millions of people listed "perished just because of their faith." The Jews who died in the holocaust were not killed primarily for their religious beliefs, or even for living out those religious beliefs. They were killed because of their race. And the reason it was so easy to identify their race was because it was listed on their birth certificates--and thus on their identity documents. And their census records.

As it is today.

In that sense, we are all set for another holocaust to come along at any time.

Religion can be changed. Race can't.

Those who don't learn from history will have to repeat it.

And by the way, this is no joke. The White Man does not celebrate National Atheists Day.