In the second chapter of Romans Paul gives his reader a constant barrage of contrasts. There is the contrast of having the law but not doing the law, not having the law but doing it anyway, failing at the law but teaching others about it, good works and bad works, eternal life and eternal wrath, circumcision and uncircumcision, secret Jew and the apparent Jew, and spirit and letter. If one dug harder a person could find more contrasts, I’m sure.
All of these contrasts serve the purpose of showing the reader how unsuccessful a life committed to Hebrew law is, and how judgment looms on the horizon for all human beings. Verse 6, in my opinion, takes its place alongside Job 1:8 and Hebrews 10:31 as some of the most frightening in all of scripture.
Translation Notes: Verses 1 and 3 have a vocative and that is rare. I think it sets a philosophical tone for the chapter. Verse 18 was a particularly sticky wicket for me. I think Paul is referring to the idea that Jews not only have the law, but that they know (they think they know?) what it means. He is talking about hermeneutics and application. I played with verse 27 quite a bit. The phrase “by nature” I take to be best connected to the idea of judging rather than the usually take that it modifies circumcision as a natural or physical (ESV) reality. It is possible that I am applying a modern idiomatic construct here, but I like the way I worded it.
1. Therefore, O Man, you are without excuse! For whoever judges someone else condemns himself, because he is doing the same kind of things as the person he judged.
2. We know that the judgment of God truly is upon those who practice these.
3. What do you think, O Man, that you who do these things, and yet judge those doing them, that somehow you will yourselves escape the judgment of God?
4. Or do you, in the light of his abundant goodness, tolerance, and patience, not know that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
5. But with your hard and unrepentant hearts you stored up for yourselves wrath on the day of the revelation of the just judgment of God,
6. who will give to each according to his works.
7. On the one hand, for those who seek perseverance in good works, glory, honor, and incorruption, there is eternal life.
8. But, on the other hand, for those who out of ambition and disobedience to the truth are persuaded by unrighteousness, there is wrath and rage.
9. Distress and anguish will be upon every person who works evil, to the Jew first and then the gentile.
10. In contrast, glory, honor, and peace will be upon all those working good, to the Jew first and then the gentile.
11. There are no favorites with God.
12. Those who sin without the law will be destroyed without it, and those who sin with the law will be judged by the law.
13. Hearers of the law are not made righteous by God, but those doing the law will be made righteous.
14. For when gentiles, who do not have the law, might naturally do the things of the law, even though they don’t have the law, they are a law to themselves.
15. Since these people show the work of the law to be written on their hearts, their conscience bears witness, reasoning within them—both accusing and defending them
16. on the day when God judges people’s secrets by my good news through Messiah Jesus.
17. Now, if you call yourself a Jew and rely upon law and boast in God,
18. and you know the will, and you determine the best understanding of the law,
19. and so you believe yourselves to be guides, leading the blind out of darkness into light,
20. an instructor of the stupid, a teacher of babies, having the formulas of knowledge and truth in the law.
21. Therefore, you who are teaching others, will you teach yourselves? Will you who preach “do not steal” steal?
22. Will you say, “Do not commit adultery,” but be an adulterer? Do you detest idols yet rob temples?
23. Those who boast in the law dishonor God by their transgressions of the law.
24. Just as it is written, “The name of God is being blasphemed among the gentiles because of you.”
25. Now then, circumcision only benefits you if you keep the law, but if you transgress the law your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
26. So if an uncircumcised person observes the decrees of the law, will not his uncircumcison be counted as circumcision?
27. Naturally, the uncircumcised who keeps the law will judge you who have the letter and circumcision yet transgress the law.
28. It is not those who are apparent, neither is it those who are clearly circumcised in the flesh who are Jews.
29. But the secret Jew, who has a circumcision of heart in spirit, not letter, not the praise of people, but of God.
I know that tomorrow is Thanksgiving, but Sunday is the first day of Advent. As per my tradition, each year I spend time translating from the Greek New Testament some of the Advent readings. I do this for many reasons but now as I am a full-time writer I do it as a writing exercise. Translating is a different kind of writing, but it is an important skill in wordsmithing. By the way, wordsmithing apparently is not a real word but it should it be.
Where do I get these readings? Do I make them up on my own? No. They come straight from the most universally accepted source for daily Bible readings–the Book of Common Prayer. Most people would think these are readings about the birth of Christ. But no, they are not. These are readings, almost invariably each year, are about Jesus’ second coming and that is an important Advent theme. Just as Christ came into the world once, he promised to come again. Usually this means I end up translating the spooky Olivet Discourse from the gospels. But the last two years I have done the readings from the epistles. For 2013 I have translated the daily readings, year two, Monday-Saturday on the epistle ledger. For this year that means our readings are from 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation. That’s right. I have translated for you the first six chapters of Revelation. I know, the excitement is more than I can take. I am not really into the doom and gloom, but these passages are a powerful call to us in the midst of great materialism to consider what exactly are the things that will last once this earth passes away? Here is a clue: It will not be anything you get from standing in line at a Black Friday sale.
My translation theory is pretty simple. I seek to keep subjects and verbs close together and I attempt to translate a word the same away every time it appears. In addition I like to use gender inclusive language because that is the way I understand plural words such as “adelphoi” or “anthropoi” in their common usage. It is also important to me to be as faithful to the text as possible but, and here is the slippery tricky wicket, to make the meaning clear to the modern ear. The ancient Greeks and Jews thought about life and things differently than we do and to convey their meaning sometimes means playing around with words.
What I would like for you to do–and I mean this–is to maybe use these translations as a reading schedule for your personal Advent devotions. They are broken down day by day (I will post each week) and take you up through Christmas Eve. There are no Sunday translations because you should be at worship that day reading your church’s lections. I have included some interpretative notes in italics beside some of the verses. I just couldn’t help myself.
If you don’t like my renderings, please toss them and read instead from a really good translation like the ESV or the NRSV. However, I have found that these renderings, made by committee, often do not reflect the actual intent of the text but instead reflect the theological ideology of the group of people putting it together. But I digress.
When you’re reading week one, note that it is not me that skipped Chapter 2 of 2 Peter, but the lectionary. I don’t know why, but I followed their lead.
Monday 2 Peter 1:1-11
1. From Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are equally allotted faith by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
2. May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Whose divine power gives us life, godliness, knowledge, and purpose for his glory and virtue.
4. Through whom he has given the greater gifts of honor and promise, so that you might become partakers with the divine nature, escaping the corrupt desires in the world.
5. For this very reason all your eagerness must be leveraged to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge,
6. knowledge with self-control, self-control with patience, patience with godliness,
7. godliness with brotherly love, and brother love with unconditional love.
8. For these gifts are increasingly yours, not so that they might make you useless or fruitless, but for the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9. As for anyone in whom these gifts are not present–he is blind, closing his eyes, oblivious of the fact he received cleansing of his old sins.
10. Therefore, all the more, brothers and sisters, you must be firmly diligent, making certain of your calling and election. Anyone who does will never stumble.
11. and entrance will be richly supplied into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The ladder of virtues pushes us forward in our spiritual walk, and verse 8 is a warning. We do not grow toward agape “unconditional love” so that we can be useless or content but so that we might know Jesus better. Think about this as the goal of the Christ-followers life–to know Jesus better.
Tuesday 2 Peter 1:12-21
12. I intend to remind you about these things, even though they are known and confirmed in the truth that has already come to you.
13. Now I consider it right for as long as I am in this tent–this temporary dwelling–to awaken your memory.
14. Know that, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me, it is near time for me to leave my “tent.”
15. I will be diligent, now and always, that after I have my exodus you will remember these things.
16. For it was not subtle myths that you chased, but it was the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ made known to you. You have been made spectators of that greatness.
17. For he received from God the Father honor and glory when his voice carried such majestic glory, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am pleased.”
18. This is the sound we ourselves heard from heaven when we were brought to be with him on the holy mountain.
19. And, even more reliable, we have the prophetic word that you would do well to hold onto. It is a lamp shining in a dark room until the day dawns, when the morning star rises in your hearts.
20. Knowing primarily, that all prophecy, all scripture, is not a matter of personal interpretation.
21. For prophecy was not developed by the will of people but people spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Two notes here–one is the word play with “tent” that Peter uses. For him it is a metaphor for his body and uses it to speak about his impending demise. However, the linkage between tent as Tabernacle in the Hebrew Bible and his usage of the word “exodus” in verse 15 reminds of the constant New Testament analogy of Jesus leading us to a promised land out of slavery. Also notice that Peter seems to indicate that the scriptures, the Hebrew prophets are more reliable than his own eyewitness account of what God did. Think about that for a little while as a contrast to how we almost always make texts bend to match our own experiences.
Wednesday 2 Peter 3:1-10
1. I write these things again in a second letter, so as to stir in your mind sincere memories,
2. to remember the words that have been spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandments of the Lord and savior given to you by the apostles.
3. First, you should know that scoffers will come mockingly in the last days, acting according to their own desires,
4. saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For all our forefathers died, and so it continues just as it has from the beginning of creation.”
5. For they deliberately ignore that the heavens are ancient and the earth was formed from water and with water by the word of God,
6. Likewise, through water, the world was destroyed, flooded.
7. But now the heavens and earth are preserved for fire by the very same word of God. They are kept for the day of judgment and the destruction of godless people.
8. Now, do not let this escape your notice, loved ones, that one day with the Lord is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
9. The Lord is not slow with these promises, as some think of slowness, but he takes a long-term view among you, not wishing anyone to be destroyed but instead making time for everyone to repent.
10. Now the day of the Lord will arrive as a thief, the heavens will pass away with a rushing noise but the elements, being burned, will dissolve and the earth and all its works will be found out.
Thursday 2 Peter 3:11-18
11. Since everything is being dissolved anyway, what kind of people should you be in order to live holy lives in godliness?
12. Waiting, being hurried even, for the coming day of God when the heavens will be set on fire, and the elements will dissolve, melting as they burn.
13. For now we wait expectantly for his promise of new heavens and a new earth where righteousness lives.
14. Therefore, loved ones, while you await these things be eager to be found spotless and unblemished by him, in peace.
15. And consider the long-term view of our Lord as a salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul wrote to you about, according to the wisdom that has been given to him.
16. And as in all his letters, speaking in them about these things, some of which are hard to understand, and unlearned and unstable people distort, just as they do other scriptures to their own destruction.
17. You, therefore, loved ones, know ahead of time to be on your guard so as not to be lead away together in unprincipled error and to lose your own stability.
18. May you now grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ: To him be glory now and on the eternal day. Amen.
The phrase “long-term view” that I use is usually understood as the ‘patience’ of the Lord. There is nothing wrong with that, but I think what Peter is trying to communicate here is that the Lord sees more than the temporary. He sees further down the road and therefore holds out hope for people’s repentance. We too should have a long-term view in our personal lives and in the ministries of our churches. If churches took longer-termed views then perhaps we’d have more stable churches with a lot less debt.
Friday Jude 1-16
1. From Judas (aka Jude), a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James to those called by God the father, having been loved and kept for Jesus Christ.
2. May mercy, patience, and love be multiplied to you.
3. Loved ones, with a lot of excitement I prepared to write to you about the savior whom we have in common, but instead I now have found it necessary to write urging you to strive for the faith entrusted to the saints.
4. Some people sneaked in, as written to you beforehand, who long ago earned God’s judgment on the godless, those who transformed grace into debauchery and disown the only ruler, our Lord Jesus Christ.
5. Now I want to remind you what you already know: The Lord, once having saved people from the Land of Egypt afterward destroyed those who did not believe.
6. The angels who did not keep to their own realm but abandoned their own dwelling, he kept them in perpetual chains of gloom until the great judgment day.
7. Sodom and Gomorrah and like-minded cities nearby fornicated and chased after unnatural sensuality, as is evident because they set before an eternal fire undergoing punishment.
8. Those like them, nevertheless, dream of sexual defilement, reject authority and blaspheme glory.
9. Michael the archangel, when he contended with the devil, he kept arguing about the body of Moses but he dared not make a blasphemous judgment but instead said, “Lord rebuke you!”
10. But on one hand these people blaspheme, but on the other hand they act instinctively like wild animals and as such they destroy themselves.
11. Woe to them, for they wish to travel in the way of Cain and in the error of Balaam, all for a reward, and they themselves abandon obedience and are destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
12. These people are blots on your love feasts, eating without conscience and shepherding themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by winds. They are trees in season but barren, being uprooted and therefore doubly dead.
13. They shame themselves, wild waves foaming the seas, wandering stars, which, in this age, have been kept in gloomy darkness.
14. Enoch spoke to these types of people in the seventh generation of Adam saying, “Behold, the Lord came with myriad of his saints,
15. to execute judgment against them and to convict each and every soul of all their godless, immoral works and for every defiant thing those godless sinners spoke against him.”
16. These are grumblers; they are disgruntled; they are against everything; they follow their own desires.
Jude is not happy with his audience. He wanted to write them something sweet and uplifting, but instead he felt like he had to hammer away at them. The language here is very spooky as he references all the punishments of old. My favorite is the idea of these evil people becoming ‘wandering stars kept in gloomy darkness’ no doubt referencing comets or meteors.
Saturday Jude 17-25
17. But now, loved ones, please remember the words that have been spoken by the Apostles and our Lord Jesus Christ.
18. and what they said to you, that at the end of time, there will be mockers, following their own ungodly desires.
19. These spiritually empty people are those of the same type as those who divide.
20. But you, loved ones, build yourselves firmly in the most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.
21. Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ in eternal life.
22. Likewise, show mercy to those who are doubting.
23. You must save others, snatching them from the fire, show mercy yourselves, with love, hating the flesh as if it were a dirty shirt.
24. The one who is able to guard you without stumbling, and to stand you before his glory without blemishes in gladness,
25. to the only God, our savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty and might. As it was before all ages, so be it now and forever. Amen.
Each year during the Advent season I translate the Greek New Testament as part of my daily devotion. In previous years I have worked mostly from the gospels–which always tend to be the frightening Olivet Discourse. This year I am working through epistles.
I take the readings from the Daily Office Lectionary in the Book of Common Prayer. This year is Year One, as I understand it, and that makes the epistle readings from 1 Thessalonians for the first week. I started a week early so that I could post them before the actual assigned readings. I hope to stay a week ahead.
Before you begin to read the translation, please note that my translation style is, I think, unique. My overall goal is to maintain faithfulness to the text but a secondary goal is to make the reading as smooth and modern as possible. This is not always easy. I also try to keep verbs as verbs and nouns as nouns, but that too is tricky, especially given the persistent problem of slipper Greek infinitives and participles. I also tend to want to keep subjects and verbs as close together as possible. That is very hard in light of Paul’s writing style or putting the subject wherever he wants and shoving the verb at the end and oh, while we’re at it, let’s cram as many phrases and prepositions as possible.
In these particular texts from 1 Thessalonians, I’d like to observe that the verb “to walk” is an idiom for “to live.” Many translations go ahead and translate it that way (NIV) but I have decided to maintain the verb “to walk” even if it is archaic. Our lives are not spent walking like the ancients. However, I decided to keep it because it maintains the concept of life as a journey. I also call your attention to Paul’s constant use of “just as” in this letter. He does this as an affirmation of positive thins the Thessalonian believers are doing, but he does it right before he gives them exhortation to improve in that area. It should also be noted that this is a very emotional letter and Paul’s writing style here is, to me anyway, choppy.
Two other things to note. One, I cleaned up the beginning of most of the verses. Paul always seems to begin with a “for” or “but” or “therefore” for every sentence. It makes for good Greek, but lousy reading in English. Second, when possible, I try to use inclusive language for human beings–i.e. “brothers and sisters” where the Greek “adelphoi” is found because that is the way I understand the word’s usage in the plural. However, I do not use inclusive language for the Lord. However, in these readings, note Paul uses both feminine and masculine imagery to describe his relationship to the Thessalonians.
I have broken the text up into the six daily readings (the BCP lectionary Changes on Sundays) so that, if you desire, you could use this translation as your daily devotions for each day of the week in order.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Paul, Silas, and Timothy—to the Thessalonian church, grace and peace to you in Father God and Lord Jesus Christ.
We always give thanks for all of you, continually remembering you in our prayers
remembering before our Father God your faithful work and good labor as well as your patient hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
We know as brothers and sisters how you have been loved by God as the elect
because our gospel came not among you only in wonders, but in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with great conviction. You know this is just exactly how we came among you, and it was for your sake.
You became mimickers of us, receiving the word of the Lord in the midst of great distress with the joy of the Holy Spirit.
So much so that you became an example to all those who became believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
The word of the Lord resounds from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has spread to many other places to such a degree that I have no need to tell it anymore.
For they themselves report to us the kind of acceptance we had with you and how you converted to God from idols to serve the living and real God
and await his son in the heavens, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, the rescuer from the coming wrath.
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, our arrival to you was not empty.
And you know how we suffered and were insulted in Philippi yet by our God we had the courage to speak to you God’s gospel in the face of much opposition.
For our appeal comes not out of error, insincerity or subterfuge
because we have been approved by God to believe the gospel. So we spoke not to please men but God, who proves our hearts.
You know that we came not with flattering speech nor a pretext for greediness. God is our witness.
Neither did we seek glory from people—not from you and not from others—
even though we were able to by authority as Christ’s apostles, yet instead we became to you as a gentle mother nursing an infant, as she might cherish her own children.
We longed for you so much that we decided to share not only God’s gospel with you but our very souls, because you became dear loved ones to us.
Brothers and sisters, you remember our labor and toil night and day, working so as not to be a burden to anyone as we preached God’s gospel among you.
You believers are witnesses, and so too is God, of how devoutly, uprightly, and blamelessly we behaved among you.
You know we treated each of one of you as a father would his child;
encouraging you, consoling you, and affirming you to walk worthy as God calls into his own kingdom and glory.
1 Thessalonians 2:13-20
For this reason we give thanks continually to God because when you received the word you received what was heard not as the word of men but as it is, the word of God, and it really was the word of God among those of you who believed.
You became a copy of the bothers in the church of God in Judea, who are in Christ Jesus, because you both suffered from fellow countrymen; they from the Jews.
After having killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and persecuting us, they displeased God and became hostile to all men.
Hindering us to speak to the nations so that they might be saved—so much so that now their own sins are fulfilled, as sins always do, and wrath finally has come upon them.
Now brothers and sisters, you are in our hearts, yet we miss you because we have been orphaned off from you for a moment in time. So we very eagerly long for and desire to see you.
Therefore we desired to come to you—I, Paul, on more than one occasion—yet Satan blocked us.
Who is it but you who are our hope, joy, and boasting before the Lord at his coming?
You are our glory and joy.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
When we couldn’t bear it any longer, we decided to be left behind in Athens, alone.
And we sent Timothy our brother and co-worker in the gospel of God and Christ to strengthen and encourage your faith.
So that no one would disturb themselves in these afflictions, which, as you know, we are destined for.
You know that when we were with you, we forewarned that we are about to be persecuted.
That is why I sent to know of your faith when I could no longer stand it. I thought perhaps the tempter had tempted you and our labor had been empty.
But now Timothy came to us from you and told us the good news about your faith, love and fond memories of us and how you always long to see us, just as we long to see you.
Brothers and sisters, we were encouraged by your faith in our every distress and affliction.
That you stand firm in the Lord enlivens us!
For how can we thank God enough for all the joy and rejoicing about you before our God?
We pray night and day greatly to see your face and to complete your training in the faith.
May our father God himself and our Lord Jesus pave the road between us and you,
may the Lord increase and make rich your love toward one another and to everyone just as he has for us,
and to strengthen your hearts in blameless holiness before our God and father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with his holy ones. [Amen.]
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus to walk in such a way that you please God just as you received from us, like you do now, but even more.
For you know what rules we gave you by the Lord Jesus.
It is the will of God, for the sake of your holiness, to abstain from fornication.
Each of you knows how to control his tool in holiness and honor,
not in passionate desires as the heathens who do not know God do.
Do not go too far and take advantage in the affairs of brothers and sisters for the Lord is always an executor of justice in these matters, just as we forewarned and seriously testified to you.
God has not called us to unrighteousness, but to holiness.
Consequently the man who disregards this not only rejects God but the Holy Spirit he gave to us.
Now, about brotherly love, you do not have need for us to write to you, for you yourselves were taught by God to love one another
for you do so to all the brothers and sisters in Macedonia. But we encourage you, do so even more.
Make it your goal to live tranquilly and mind your own business. Work with your hands, just as we commanded you
to walk properly in the eyes of outsiders, but also so that you have no neediness.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to not know about those who have died, because you ought not to grieve as others who have no hope.
If we believe that Jesus died and rose then God will bring those who have died in Jesus with him.
We say this to you as the word of the Lord, that when the Lord comes, those of us who are living—left behind if you will—should not arrive before those who have died.
The Lord himself will come down from heaven as he summons the archangel with the sound of God’s trumpet and then those who are dead in Christ rise first.
Then we who are living—left behind—will all at the same time be carried off into the clouds meeting the Lord in the air and then we will be with the Lord always.