Each Advent I spend some time in deep translation of the Greek New Testament. I love the GNT, but, oddly, my work as pastor keeps me from having the kind of time which I wish I had to study the Bible. But in Advent I just put everything on hold and shove it aside and do it. My method is not novel–what I do is follow the Gospel Readings from the Book of Common Prayer Daily Office Lectionary and translate them (This year is Year One). What always fascinates me is that the readings never follow the Nativity Story, but instead they take us to the last week of Jesus. I am certain that is on purpose. You can read last year’s Advent 1 translation here. I have included a few comments. Watch out; there is a fun textual variant in here.
And when he came into Jerusalem he entered into Bethphage, the mount of Olives, then he sent his disciples. He said to them, “Go into the village opposite us right now, and you will find an ass tied up and a colt with her. Untie them and lead them to me. If anyone should see you and ask, ‘Why?’ you say that, “Our Lord has need of them, right now, send them immediately.” This happened so that the word of the prophet would be fulfilled saying, “I say to you, Daughter of Zion, behold your king comes humble and mounted on an ass, a beast of burden.” Now the disciples went and did just as Jesus instructed them. They led the ass and the colt and they laid their clothing on them and he sat down. [The text is fuzzy, but it seems to indicate Jesus somehow sat on both of them, the mother and the colt.]
Now the great crowd was spreading their own clothing in the road and they cut leaves from the trees and were sp reading them in the road.
Both the crowd which led in front of him and those following shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one coming in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the heavens.” As they were coming into Jerusalem all the people of the city were disturbed, asking, “What is this?” The crowds, they themselves said it is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.
And Jesus went into the Temple and he threw out all those people selling and buying. He overturned the moneychanger’s table as well as those selling doves. He said to them, “It is written, ‘the house, my house, it will be called prayer—but you make it a den of robbers.” [The odd rendering is intentional—to me the Greek is choppy here and not as smooth as the “my house shall be called a house of prayer.” It seems like Matthew is remembering the emotional heat of the moment when elegance of speech was missing.]
And they brought to him blind and lame people and he healed them in the Temple. But now the chief priests and scribes saw the miracles he did and how the children and those in the Temple were shouting, “Hosanna the son of David,” and they were indignant. They said to him, “Do you hear what they are saying?” But Jesus aid to them, “Yes. Have you never read that from the mouths of infants and those nursing you prepare praise for yourself?”
Leaving them then he went out from the city into Bethany and spent the night there.
But early the next day he returned to the city and he got hungry. Seeing one fig tree upon the way in he went to it but found nothing on it except leaves; and he said to it, “Never will you bear fruit in this age,” and the fig tree became withered immediately. The disciples saw it and marveled saying, “How did the fig tree immediately wither?” Jesus answered them saying, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt yourself, not only will you do this to a fig tree, but to the mountain you may say, ‘Stand up and throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will happen. Anything whatsoever you may ask in prayer, believing, you will receive it.”
And coming into the Temple the chief priests and elders of the people came toward him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority do you teach these things? And who gave you the authority in these matters?” Jesus answered them, “I will ask a question first, if you answer me then I will answer you in what authority I do these things. John’s baptism, what are its origins? From heaven or from men?” They debated amongst themselves saying, “If we answer ‘from heaven’ he will ask us, ‘then why did you not believe him?’ but we cannot answer ‘from men’ because we fear the crowd for they all hold John to be a prophet.” They answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.”
He himself said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. What do you think? A man had two children and he came to the first and said, ‘Child, go and work in the vineyard today.’ But he answered and said, “’I do not want to,’ but later he changed his heart and went out. Now he came toward the other child and said the same thing. This one answered, ‘Yes sir!’ but he never went out. Which of the two did the will of the father?” They said, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and the prostitutes enter the Kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him; yet you, seeing, did not change your heart so as to believe.
Listen to another parable. A man who was an entrepreneur planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress, and built a tower. Then he leased it to growers and left. [In this parable I almost translated ‘growers’ as vintners. Vintners seems more likely, but the word is not common in most people’s vernaculars.]
But when he returned at harvest time he sent his servants to the growers to receive its yield. But the growers took his servants and beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants greater than the first and they did the same to them. Finally, he sent his son to them saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ Now, the growers saw the son and said to themselves, ‘This is the heir! Come on, lets kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes what will he do to these growers? They said to him, “Evil, evil people! he will destroy them and lease the vineyard to other growers who give back the harvest in time.”
And Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures, ‘A stone which the builders rejected has become a cornerstone? And this was the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.’ By this I say to you that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and it will be given to the nations who are yielding its harvest.
[And those who fall upon the stone, they will be smashed to pieces, and anyone on whom it might fall, they will be pulverized. Verse 44 is a textual variant and, by my reading, does not fit the actual flow of Jesus’ words, so therefore, I find it untrustworthy and I think it should not be counted with the original saying. One way of testing this is to read it and skip v. 44 as you do I think you will notice how smooth the flow is. V. 44 was likely a commentary on the original citation from the Hebrew Bible which a well meaning scribe inserted.]
When the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables they knew he was talking about them. And all the while they were seeking to arrest him but they feared the crowds since they held him to be a prophet.
Jesus answered them again in parables that he said, saying, “The Kingdom of heaven is like a man who held a wedding party for his son. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited to the part but they did not want to come. Yet again he sent other servants saying, ‘You tell those who are invited, ‘Behold, the meal has been prepared, the ox fattened, killed and is ready to eat—come to the party!’ But they ignored him and went out, each one in the same way to his own field or business. The others seized, attacked, and killed his servants. Now the king was furious and he sent his army and they destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘On one hand the wedding party is ready, but on the other hand those invited were not worthy. Go out, therefore, upon the distant roads and invite as many as you can find to the party.”
These servants went out to the roads and assembled everyone they found, but evil and good and the wedding party was filled with people reclining at tables. Now the king came in and looked around at those reclining. He saw this one man who was not wearing a wedding suit. He said to him, ‘Friend, how is it you came like this, not wearing a wedding suit?’
The man was silent.
Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him feet and hands, throw him outside into the darkness where there is crying and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few chosen.”
While they were leaving the Pharisees schemed how they might trap him in his words. So they sent their disciples, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you teach truth and the ways of God truthfully for you do not concern yourself about how you might appear to others. Therefore, tell us what you think, is it right to give tax to Caesar or not? Jesus knew their evil and he said to them, “Why do you hypocrites test me? Show me the coin for the tax.” They brought him a denarius.
Then he said to them, “Whose picture and whose name is on it?” They said, “Caesar.” He then said, “Give Caesar his things and give God his things.” Hearing this they marveled and left him and went away.