Archive for category Hebrew
I have spent a lot of time lately contemplating the Hebrew language (even more than usual). I simply cannot escape the conclusion that the language is supernaturally composed. It almost makes me wish I was a statistician so that I could calculate the odds of a human or group of humans developing a pictographic language such as that of the Hebrews.
I hope I never become one to recycle posts (because one of my very first posts was on The Language of God), but I do want to share this again now that all (for now) of the posts on Genesis 1:1 are finished. I will compile them in a single post soon for easy reference. But, more fundamental that that…
The word “Hebrew,” or Ibrit (pronounced ee’vreet, please forgive my phonetic spelling), is derived from the word Ibri (pronounced ee’vree, which is also “Hebrew” in English). Ibri means to pass over or sojourn. Abraham was first called the Hebrew (Ibri) in Genesis 14:13 because he was a sojourner in the land, or he was one who “passed over” the land. It’s certainly no coincidence that one of the chief Jewish holidays is Passover, perhaps just a great foreshadowing.
In many ways, all believers are called to be “Hebrews,” sojourners in this world. So, what of this word, “Hebrew,” that would ultimately become the name of the language spoken by the descendants of Abraham? Ibrit is spelled using the Hebrew letters AYIN, depicted in the ancient Hebrew pictographs as an eye and meaning to see, as by revelation; BET, pictured as a house or tent and meaning a house or lineage; RESH, pictured as a man’s head, meaning the first or highest person; YOD, pictured as a hand or arm from the elbow to the fist, meaning my or my hand/works; and TAV, pictured as two crossed sticks and meaning a mark or covenant.
Before I get to the breakdown of the individual letters that make up Ibrit, I want to point out that brit is the Hebrew word for covenant. Thus, Ibrit can be fairly seen as TO SEE or a REVELATION of the COVENANT. The conclusion that I have reached is that we will SEE, or the REVELATION of, God’s COVENANT will be in and within HEBREW. Both within the word “Hebrew” itself and generally though the Hebrew language.
Now, “Hebrew.” Recall from earlier posts that the Hebrew letters BET and RESH form the Hebrew/Aramaic word bar, or son, so in Ibrit we SEE the SON with his HANDS/ARMS on a CROSS. Here’s the visual (remember, Hebrew is read right to left):
Here is some more really cool Bible stuff. If you spend very much time at all searching Bible stuff online, you probably already know about these, but, if not, enjoy.
Codex Sinaiticus – A fourth century Greek Christian Bible with a complete New Testament. The Codex Sinaiticus Project is an effort to digitize the entire Codex and make it viewable online. The website which was recently launched has several complete books of the Bible already available for viewing and is scheduled to have the entire Bible online by July 2009.
Hebrew for Christians – Just about everything you needed to know about the Hebrew language.
AmazingBible.org – An interesting site which treats virtually every major issue in Christianity. It is essentially one large index of Christian doctrine and theology. The site is the product of a Baptist person or organization, although I haven’t figured out who or what specifically, so file that info away for what it’s worth. Candidly, my wife and I were members of a spirit-filled Baptist Church for a while, although we attend a non-denominational church now, and I have no idea whether or not I endorse everything in the site because there’s simply so much information I haven’t even come close to seeing it all.
Biblioblogs.com – A fairly thorough list of biblioblogs, so if you are a regular reader of this or other Bible blogs and you just can’t get enough, check out Biblioblogs.com and discover other great Bible blogs.
Previous Cool Bible Stuff Posts:
I have spent the last few weeks in Genesis 11 reading about what might have been one of the greatest construction projects in world history. Out of the blue one day I was overwhelmed with the need to go back (or forward – since most of my time is spent in Genesis 1) to the account of Babel.
I wasn’t really sure what I would find or even whether there was anything new to be found in this familiar account. As always, there is some pretty great stuff there, there is some pretty challenging stuff, and then there is just some stuff that needs to be worked out theologically. So, who knows where this is going.
Also, this will have to be a series because I have absolutely no idea when or how it will all play out, and it probably won’t be continuous – for those that know me, you know that Part XII may appear some time next year. For now, this first post is just a quick look at the ancient Hebrew pictographs that make up the word “Babel.”
In Hebrew, Babel is spelled BET, BET, LAMED. The Hebrew letter BET is the equivalent of our letter B, and it is pictured in the ancient Hebrew pictographs as a house or a tent. The letter BET also symbolically represents a house or lineage, as in “the house of David.” The letter LAMED is the equivalent of our letter L, and is pictured as a shepherd’s staff or ox goad. LAMED symbolically means to shepherd, lead, teach and/or prod.
What does that give us? Something quite remarkable really. The story of the Tower of Babel is of a unified, homogeneous group, perhaps an extremely large family, the descendants of Noah, sharing one language and coming together for one purpose: to make a name for themselves by building a great city with a tower that reached to the heavens. God puts a halt to this by confusing their language and scattering the people, presumably into different tribes or people groups with different languages (one “house” being transformed into multiple “houses”). So, the picture painted by Babel is of God, the great shepherd, taking His staff and scattering His flock into different families or houses over the earth.
Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth. Gen. 11:9.
More of the theological stuff later, but, for now, yet one more example of the divine nature of the language of God.
I chose the title “Beauty of the Bible” for this blog because I believe there is beauty in God’s Word beyond the mere words on the page (as beautiful as those are). I realize that even non-believers recognize the Bible’s poetry, prose, symbolism and literary value as being among the most beautiful in all of literature. I would suggest that we have barely scratched the surface.
I have written before that I believe every word, letter, or jot in scripture is divinely inspired and divinely placed. To evidence this, I have shown examples of individual Hebrew words and names that, when broken down into the individual ancient Hebrew pictographs, themselves are related scriptural references (see Isaac & Ishmael, Noah, Moses, and God/Elohim). If this phenomenon occured only occasionally, it would be remarkable, but for this to occur as frequently as it does in the Bible’s first book is nothing short of divine.
I’m convinced this complexity and elegance extends throughout the Torah and probably the entire Old Testament. In other words, I think the examples of storylines being retold and/or elaborated upon in the tales told by the Hebrew pictographs are endless. It took me several months to work through Genesis 1:1, so my ambition to work through the book of Genesis was perhaps a bit naive.
Nevertheless, while I realize that systematically working through every verse of Genesis would take me several lifetimes, I love doing this enough that I can’t imagine it ever getting tiresome. That said, any plans to continue with Genesis 1:2 are on hold because I want to apply this same method to other topics that interest me or that others might request.
I have answered requests before from friends and family, but I have only published one of those even though it was one of my own personal favorites (see God’s Blessing). I think the challenge of researching and answering these and the excitement generated by the results is too much to pass up. This is not to say that I will be doing this exclusively, by any means, but I will write about them more.
Several months ago I was asked to look at Genesis 3:15, the results were pretty cool. I actually arrived at this backward. Because of how individual words frequently open up and reveal the broader context in which they are contained, I chose to begin reviewing Genesis 3:15 by studying the context. So, I began by studying the word “serpent” (plus I thought it would be pretty interesting). Well, I was either really lucky, or God was very gracious in not having me spend several months in Genesis 3:15. Either way, “serpent” was the scriptural reference for Genesis 3:15.
Okay, here goes. In Hebrew, “serpent” is the Hebrew word nachash, and is spelled with the Hebrew letters NUN (the equivalent of our letter N) which is pictured as the “seed of life” or a fish and means seed of life or life. CHET (J or Ch) which is pictured as a wall or fence and which means to cut off or to exclude, separating those inside from those outside. And SHIN (Sh) which is pictured as two teeth, meaning to destroy or consume.
Genesis 3:15: I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel. (NASB/HCSB combo).
The letter NUN is the seed, CHET is the wall or fence separating the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (the enmity between), and SHIN (two teeth) is the serpent biting at the heel with his two fangs. It is really a pretty cool picture of “you will strike his heel,” but the result is the ultimate destruction of the serpent. Here’s the visual:
This month marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of my study of Genesis 1:1. When I first began studying Genesis 1:1 in the ancient Hebrew, I remember being amazed at how after 2 months I had yet to exhaust the remarkable wisdom and revelation contained in this one seemingly simple verse.
The one-year older and one-year wiser me now realizes that, even after a year, I still cannot wrap my head around all God has packed into those seven little Hebrew words. If you are new to this blog, please review these posts for reference:
- In the beginning
- God (The Lord is My Shepherd)
- created (On Creation)
- the heaves (Part 1 and Part 2)
- and the earth (The Salvation of “the earth”)
As wonderful and majestic as these revelations are, they barely scratch the surface. In addition to trying to show the word pictures painted in Genesis 1:1 by the ancient Hebrew pictographs, I have struggled for almost as long trying to come up with an accurate and appropriate English translation of Genesis 1:1. Quite frankly, I don’t think I can. I’m not sure anyone can. There are plenty of approximations, but none that I would endorse as being the translation.
After spending a year in this verse, I think I know why: Genesis 1:1 is ambiguous. I don’t mean to suggest that God meant for it to be ambiguous, or that He wants it ambiguous, or that He thinks it is ambiguous. But, Genesis 1:1 is not translatable into a single, simple rendering. The language of God (see The Language of God and God Speaks: The Origin of the Alphabet) is ambiguous because it is so meaningful and so complex that it cannot be rendered word-for-word or thought-for-thought and still mean all that it is supposed to mean.
I don’t think this sort of ambiguity is limited to Bible translation, scriptural interpretation is just as ambiguous. For example, I am familiar with four interpretations of why God favored Abel’s offering and not Cain’s (Genesis 4): 1) Abel’s offering involved a blood sacrifice, Cain’s did not, 2) Abel’s offering was of the first born of the flock, Cain’s was not of the first fruits, 3) Abel’s offering was made in faith, Cain’s was not, and 4) (the most recent and interesting interpretation I’ve heard was actually from our pastor, Eric von Atzigen of Emmanuel Fellowship Church) Abel’s offering was of the first born and not made in the course of time as Abel’s was.
Are any of these interpretations mutually exclusive? Don’t they all suggest scriptural principles? Can they all be correct? I’m not saying that all of these interpretations are necessarily right, but I find no scriptural reason why they couldn’t be. I think the same is (often) true of Bible translation. And I think it begins in the beginning.
Thus, a few suggestions for the many facets of Genesis 1:1:
1. The Runner Up: The translation of the Jewish Publication Society’s Hebrew-English Tanakh (I will presume the qualifications to produce such a translation). The Holman Christian Standard Bible contains a similar translation suggestion in a footnote as do other English translations. This is probably as accurate a translation as there is.
1 When God began to create heaven and earth-2 the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water-3 God said, “Let their be light”; and there was light.
2. The Narrative: My own personal idea of God as the great narrator, telling Moses the ultimate campfire story. I don’t pretend that it is a word-for-word translation, but I think it conveys what it needs to. It fits with the Toledoth (Hebrew for “generations,” translated “the generations of…”) structure of Genesis, and has that “Once upon a time” feel.
1 The beginning: God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void and darkness was over the abyss. God breathed on the surface of the waters and they started to vibrate. 3 And God said to light “you will exist,” and light existed.
3. The Technical: A very literal but useful translation which gives insight into the expansion of the universe and other cosmological observations. I pieced this together from the mechanical translation at the Ancient Hebrew Research Center and others.
1 In the beginning, God fattened the sky and the land. 2 The land had only existed in chaos and was unformed, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and a wind from God was fluttering upon the face of the water. 3 And God said “light will exist,” and light existed.
4. The Ultra-Hebraic: A translation that is somewhat surprising, but I think as plausible as any, although you would never know it from any of the traditional translations (see The Letter Aleph at Hebrew for Christians). I very much appreciate the idea that, if God creates things by speaking them into existence, the first creation has to be language and an alphabet.
1 In the beginning, God created the aleph-tav, the sky and the land. 2 The earth was chaotic and formless, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And a wind from God was fluttering upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let their be light,” and there was light.
5. The Traditional: The translation with which we are most familiar, with slight variations (a combination taken from the NASB and NIV). Although not necessarily the most accurate, it is the most common, and probably as accurate as any.
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
I do not believe that any of these translations are mutually exclusive, nor do I believe that any suggest anything that is scripturally false. I do believe that all of these are supportable from the text and that all suggest a slightly different aspect of God – all of which I love.
I write this to suggest that ambiguity in the Bible might not be ambiguity at all, but our inability to put the Word of God into simple English, or Spanish or Esperanto. If this is the case, shouldn’t we be less dogmatic about our own determinations about which translation is the most accurate. I think I prefer the idea that God’s Word is so rich and meaningful that it cannot be put into…well, words.
Most believe that the alphabet as we know it is a human invention. I do not. I have come to the sincere belief that every single word (or jot) in the Bible is divinely placed and meaningful. Additionally, I believe that the language in which the Old Testament was originally written is also divinely created and given by God (see God Speaks: The Origin of the Alphabet).
I think some of the best evidence for this belief can be found in Biblical names. I have previously shown the vivid pictures painted in the names Noah and Moses by the ancient Hebrew pictographs. I believe equally vivid stories can be told for most, if not all, names in scripture.
Among the reasons I believe that the ancient Hebrew alphabet was created and given to man by God is the superhuman mix of simplicity and complexity. The simplicity of an alphabet based on child-like pictures (an ox head to mean a strong leader or God) is in stark contrast to the complexity of a name prophetically depicting verses in scripture written some 500 years later (see Elohim as Psalm 23). I can imagine an extremely gifted human developing a language with symbolic alphabetic characters, perhaps even where the symbols can be arranged to form words, possibly even tell stories. But, when someone does this in a manner that also prophecies something 500 years in advance, then I might reconsider my position.
I believe there are countless examples of words and names depicting scriptures, a divine double entendre, but without the ambiguity. In this post, I want to focus on just two of these examples: Ishmael and Isaac.
I believe this is actually possible with any name in the Bible, I have studied Adam, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Moses and others, and never have I been disappointed. I might write on others later, but the account of Ishmael and Isaac has always fascinated me because of its reflection of God’s grace vs our works.
You all know the story, Sarah becomes impatient with her inability to produce a child and persuades Abraham to impregnate Hagar. I’m sure we can all sympathize with Sarah’s impatience. I know I’ve tried to help God along on more than one occasion. But, the promise is fulfilled not through our works, but through God’s grace. So what of the works? They amount to nothing, usually cause problems, and are cut off like Ishmael.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Gen. 22:2.
By this time Abraham had both sons, Isaac and Ishmael. But, what does God say, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac…” This is a harsh, but true reality. As far as God was concerned, Abraham had only one son, the son of promise. Now, God made provision for Ishmael, and promised Abraham that he would become a great nation too, but there were consequences. Here is how the Angel of the Lord explained it:
The angel of the LORD also said to her: “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Gen. 16:11-13.
First, more than a prophetic statement, this is now an historical fact. Second, this prophetic look into the future of Ishmael was decreed from the naming of Ishmael (You shall name him Ishmael). In Hebrew, Ishmael is spelled YOD, SHIN, MEM, AYIN, ALEPH and LAMED. In the ancient Hebrew pictographs, the YOD is pictured as a hand from the fist to the elbow meaning my, my hand, or my works. SHIN is pictured as two teeth meaning to destroy or consume. MEM is pictured as waves of water meaning waters, nations or peoples. AYIN is pictured as an eye meaning to see, or to see as God sees. ALEPH is an ox head meaning strong, leader or God. LAMED is pictured as a shepherd’s staff meaning to lead.
Recall from earlier posts that the combination of ALEPH and LAMED form the Hebrew name El or God. The name Ishmael means God hears me or my God hears because the YOD or “ee” sound is the letter or sound for my/me and “shama” (produced by SHIN, MEM and AYIN) is the Hebrew word for hear. So, Ishmael (or ee shama el) is my God hears or God hears me. But, when you look at the Hebrew pictographs what you see is Genesis 16:11-13, “his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers…” and “You are the God who sees me…”
Here it is in the ancient Hebrew pictographs:
As much as Ishmael is a vivid picture of future strife, Isaac (meaning laughter) vividly depicts the replacement of Ishmael and the sacrifice God asks Abraham to make with Isaac. The Bible says Ishmael was a hunter or bowman, a man of the bow. Ishmael is a man of the bow because the bow is a symbol of covenant (see my discussion of the bow as covenant), and, while God’s covenant with Abraham was to be through Isaac, we are reminded that God also promised to make Ishmael a great nation.
Nevertheless, the Abrahamic covenant was through Isaac, and Ishmael was completely cut off from it. We can see this is the name Isaac. In Hebrew, Isaac is spelled YOD, TSADE, CHET and QUPH. Again, the YOD is pictured as a hand, meaning my or my efforts. TSADE is pictured as a man lying on his side or a fish hook meaning to hunt or fish. CHET is pictured as a wall or fence meaning to cut off. QUPH is pictured as a horizon meaning some sort of time element. So Isaac is a depiction of the relationship between Abraham and Ishmael: MY HUNTER (Ishmael the hunter or bowman) will be CUT OFF for all TIME, or the product of MY EFFORTS, the HUNTER is CUT OFF for all TIME.
Moveover, in the ultimate test of one’s faith, God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. It is quite an amazing test, one I’m not sure many would pass. But, Abraham does, and it is recorded in this way:
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Gen 22:9-12
You can almost picture Abraham taking his son by the hand and then in his arms and laying him down to cut him with the knife, but the angel intervenes in the nick of time. What is truly remarkable is that this picture was painted before Isaac’s birth, when the Lord told Abraham, “your wife Sarah will bear you a son and You will call him Isaac…” Gen. 17:19. Actually, now that I think about it, all of these word pictures were painted before time began. They were only revealed later. Quite astounding!
Here is Isaac:
…lest anyone doubt the significance of a name!
When I first began writing this blog, I began by showing Genesis 1:1 in the ancient Hebrew pictographs and the beauty revealed therein. I showed that Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross was revealed from “In the beginning…” The last such entry was about “the heavens” and the various revelations made about Noah, Moses, etc. There is much more in “the heavens,” but I will develop that more later.
For those who began reading since then, and for a quick recap here is a brief summary of what we have seen in Genesis 1:1 to this point (and the links to those earlier posts):
- In the beginning – The Son of God would be destroyed on a cross.
- God – Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd…
- created – Jesus as the creator.
- the heavens – Noah and the flood (Part 1).
- the heavens (cont.) – The story of Moses (Part 2).
Now, “and the earth.” I realize it has taken several months to conclude what I began several months ago, but that is, in part, because I wasn’t satisfied that I had finished “the heavens” or “the earth.” Well, there is plenty more in “the heavens,” and I know there is more in “the earth,” but I doubt I will ever be able to exhaust either. That is no reason to prolong sharing what I know is there, so here it is.
Believe it or not, the “and” is quite significant on its own and probably deserves its own post, but for sake of time, I will combine the two. The Hebrew word v’at translated “and” is comprised of the Hebrew letters VAV, ALEPH, and TAV. If you will recall from earlier posts, the ancient Hebrew alphabet was made up of pictographs that represented a letter of the alphabet, a number, and had a symbolic meaning.
The letter VAV was pictured as a tent peg, hook or a nail. Specifically, the VAV was the tent peg or hook that held the curtains of the tabernacle of Moses together. The symbolic meaning of the VAV was to bind together or hook, and represented the connection between heaven and earth. The ALEPH was pictured as the head of an ox and symbolized strength or God, as in the Lord is my strength. The TAV was pictured as two crossed sticks and symbolized a cross, mark or covenant.
Interestingly, the VAV in v’at (and) is the first VAV in the Bible and connects “the heavens” and “the earth” as is symbolized by VAV. As I have written before, I believe “the heavens” symbolically represent God’s Old Testament Covenants. I also believe “the earth” symbolically represents God’s New Covenant in Christ Jesus. The “and” reveals this relationship. The NAIL or VAV is GOD’S COVENANT.
The “and” also is a reassurance that GOD is BOUND by His COVENANTS. Without this reassurance, what is revealed in “the earth” would be meaningless. “The earth” is comprised of the Hebrew letters HEY, ALEPH, RESH and TSADE. The letter HEY was pictured as a man with outstretched arms and means to behold. The letter HEY is also representative of God’s gift or grace. The ALEPH, as I mentioned before, was pictured as an ox head and represented strength or God. The letter RESH is pictured as the head of a man and means the first or highest man, or first born. The TSADE is pictured as a man lying on his side or bent at the knees, or pictured as a fish hook. The symbolic meaning of the letter TSADE was to hunt or fish.
Therefore, GOD’S COVENANT by which He is BOUND is the GRACE or GIFT of GOD which is His FIRST BORN. The conclusion, or TSADE, is even more remarkable. It is our great commission, to GO FISHING/HUNTING. This was and is God’s promise to the world, “Behold, I am going to send for many fishermen,” declares the LORD, “and they will fish for them; and afterwards I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them from every mountain and every hill and from the clefts of the rocks…” Jeremiah 16:16. Moreover, Jesus first chose fishermen to be His disciples, and He told them He would make them fishers of men.
Let’s go a little deeper. There are five Hebrew letters which have a sofit form which is used when one of these five letters concludes a word, such as the TSADE in “the earth.” The traditional form of the TSADE is a man on bent knees or laying down, representing humility, as in to kneel before or to lay down one’s life. The sofit form is the righteous man upright with hands held high (the Hebrew word tzadik means righteous person). If this is not a picture of Christ Jesus, I don’t know what is. The humble servant laying down his life and rising again. So, “the earth” is the GRACE of GOD in JESUS (HIS SON) who died and rose again, now go FISHING.
As rich and full as some literature is, the beauty of the Bible is beyond human capability and comprehension. Genesis 1:1 alone is fuller and richer in symbolism and meaning that any written work of man…and this is without touching on the numbers and gematria, which I will leave to others far more qualified than I. I used to think that you could devote a lifetime to studying the Bible and never get it all, and I still believe that, but I now think you could spend a lifetime studying Genesis 1:1 and still not get it all.
But it’s going to be fun trying.
As you may know, the Hebrew language and the ancient Hebrew alphabet in particular are the subject of many of my posts. I do not pretend to be an expert in Bible translation, so I try to avoid making critical distinctions between the numerous Bible translations on the market. However, one question does seem to come up in my discussions a lot (one I am asked, and one I ask): Which Bible translation do you prefer?
First, while I certainly have opinions about some of the translations available, I have come to the conclusion that, as with most other things religious, it is far too easy to become legalistic about preference in Bible translation. All translations contain a certain level of subjectivity in interpretation. I do believe some translations to be of a higher quality than others, but I have yet to come across a translation that was so bad or so heretical that I would tell someone not to read it. I would suggest that you find a translation you are comfortable with, read it, get to know it, and branch out from there.
Well, here are my two cents (because that’s really about all it’s worth).
My primary reading and study Bible is a thinline New American Standard (NASB). For regular reading and church going, I prefer not to lug around a 5lb. study or application Bible. Admittedly, when I first began studying the Bible seriously, I spent a great deal of time and energy researching which Bible translation was the most accurate. I don’t believe there is a definitive consensus on this point, but I was able to determine that a fair number of scholars far more qualified than I believe the New American Standard Bible to be the most accurate and literal English translation. The King James Version (or Authorized Version) being a close second. The one knock on the NASB seemed to be that it was less readable than some other translations. However, I have found the NASB to be very readable, and I would highly recommend it to anyone as a study and/or reading Bible. My NASB is my personal favorite.
Over time, I broke free from the bondage of having to use only the most literal translation. I know there is a large King James-only camp, and I almost developed an NASB-only mentality, but thank the Lord I didn’t because I have found considerable value in reading other translations. I have found the New International Version (NIV) to be highly readable and as accurate in rendering meanings as almost any translation available. In fact, when I have had occasion to give gift Bibles, I have given the NIV because of its balance between readability and accuracy. The NIV also seems to be the most common Bible in pulpits and pews where I live (west Texas). I have an NIV Hebrew-Greek Keyword study Bible and a thinline, plain text edition that I carry to churches where I know the pastor preaches out of the NIV.
My first post-NASB and NIV purchase was a pocket-sized New King James Version (NKJV). I purchased it as a curiosity more than anything else, and I had a difficult time getting into the flow of reading it. The New King James wasn’t quite as familiar as the old King James, and it wasn’t quite as readable as the NASB or the NIV, so I had difficulty early on. But, I have recently begun to enjoy reading the NKJV. Admittedly, it’s not as literal as the NASB and not as readable as the NIV, but it is growing on me. I know many in the KJV-only camp rant about the NKJV, and, on my personal list of favorite translations, the NKJV is about fourth or fifth, but I do not believe the NKJV to be the perversion that others claim it to be. I don’t think my NKJV will ever replace my NASB as my own personal favorite, but I will continue to read it frequently and, if you have only ever read one other version for the last several years, give the NKJV a try.
The most recent addition to my Bible collection is an English Standard Version (ESV) which I have only been reading for about a month. So far so good. I must confess, I was drawn to the ESV simply by walking through bookstores and seeing the stacks upon stacks of ESV’s with a size and decorative scheme for every taste. While I found many of the covers to be horrendous, there were a few that caught my eye. I resisted the urge, however, and only when I had a chance to snag a gray, pocket-sized ESV emblazoned with a Celtic cross on the cover for $5 with other purchase, did I finally give in. I’m glad I did because I have found the ESV to be both highly accurate and highly readable. I am seriously considering making my ESV my bookbag Bible (it fits perfectly in the pocket). And, although I have never been to a church where the pastor preached from the ESV (that I know of), it seems that everyone has a pocket-sized ESV (in matching color of course) in a backpack or purse ready to whip out at a moment’s notice. You might as well get one too.
Now, if only the ESV’s publisher would write a paragraph about the following footnote on the translation page rather than footnoting every use of brothers:
Fn. Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters.
I think it would save more than a few trees considering how many times brothers is used in the New Testament. Plus, I’m tired of being suckered in to reading a footnote that I have read over and over. If you have an ESV, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a small point, but one that is rapidly developing into a pet peeve. I may send the publisher a letter. Perhaps, he¹ will read this post.
¹The English word he has traditionally referred to both men and women, depending on the context, and may refer to either a man or a woman.
Shortly after I was set free from my dependence on my NASB, as I began my journey through the various translations, I came across a Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) in the bargain bin of a local Christian bookstore alongside the mis-imprinted Bibles (by the way, those bins are worth perusing if you are looking for other versions to study, God forbid you carry to church a Bible where your name is misspelled, or, worse yet, where someone else’s name is misspelled, but, to have on your shelf for studying when no one else will see, it is well worth the money). It was a great find, and not a misspelling or mis-imprint to be found. The cover design left a lot to be desired, I don’t blame others for leaving it on the shelf based on appearance. But, I have been particularly pleased with the treatment of the Hebrew, even if it is in the footnotes where the references to alternative translations of words and phrases are found. I would highly recommend the HCSB as a reading and/or study Bible.
Last, but certainly not least, the King James Version. How can you not love the King James Version (the Authorized Version to those outside the US)? The Lord’s prayer just isn’t the same unless it is in King James English. I’m not quite in the King James-only camp, but I do love to read the King James Version and to hear it read from pulpits. It just feels right. I know it has its problems, all translations do, but if I were stuck on a deserted island with only two Bible translations, I would take my NASB and my King James Version. I hope later generations influenced by text messaging and email will not completely shrug off the King James Version. I hope my generation doesn’t either. If you haven’t read your King James Version in a while, and I know you have one on a shelf somewhere, go pull it out and start reading it again.
What I Reference:
David Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible is one of my favorite resources for referencing and understanding Jewish and Hebrew stuff. The Complete Jewish Bible which consists of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the B’rit Hadashah (New Covenant/Testament) gives the traditional Protestant Bible a decidedly Jewish flare, rather than the Protestant Bible giving the Jewish Bible a Protestant flare. I don’t think even David Stern would argue the Complete Jewish Bible is a literal translation, but it is one of my favorites.
For my Hebrew research, I use a paperback copy of the Jewish Publication Society’s Hebrew-English Tanakh which is an entirely original translation of the Old Testament. I’m not a Hebrew scholar, but this translation has come in very handy.
My favorite New Testament resource is my Interlinear NASB/NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. I really cannot rave about this book enough, so I won’t bother trying, but, if you spend any time at all studying the New Testament Greek, get this book.
I have two Keyword Study Bibles, a King James Version and an NIV. I love them both dearly. Everyone needs a Keyword Study Bible.
When I’m writing, I frequently reference The Contemporary Parallel New Testament (eight translations side-by-side). It includes the King James Version, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, New King James Version, New Century Version (NCV), Contemporary English Version (CEV), New Living Translation (NLT) and The Message. I would love to have an entire Bible like this, but it would probably be 10,000 pages long.
What’s Next (And My Wish List):
We recently celebrated the birth of our first child, Libby, so I will be reading the International Children’s Bible for the next few years. I’m excited about that. I bought her a little pink one for her birthday.
I am also eager to get my hands on an Amplified Bible. I’m curious to read a Bible with a running in-text commentary.
My next major endeavor will probably be the Apologetics Study Bible. I must confess to being somewhat skeptical of the need to label anything “apologetics” or anyone an “apologist”. It seems all things are and we all should be. I’m also reluctant to endorse anything trendy, and apologetics is all the rage in Christian circles, but my curiosity is getting the better of me…
More Useful Information:
I was honored to have recently been invited to write a guest post for the blog Eved of HaShem. My post was entitled Restoring the Tents of Jacob, and I invite my readers to check it out. It is not typical of my writing, but it is a brief account of our recent trip to Israel and our time with Tents of Mercy.
Eved of HaShem (“Servant of The Name” or “Servant of God”) is the blog of Gil Burgos, a Sephardi Jew who believes that Yeshua is the Messiah. Gil is the founder of LOJF (The Lion of Judah Fellowship) in New York City. The Lion of Judah Fellowship is a Messianic Jewish organization. Please pray for the work Gil and the LOJF members are doing in New York.
I believe that I will be writing for Eved of HaShem on a regular basis. I will keep you informed as those writings are published. However, I would encourage you to support Eved of HaShem and LOJF in any way possible.
I wait with anticipation the chance to help my children learn to walk. I know when they take their first few steps they will inevitably fall, and I will smile and help them up, all the while knowing the process will be repeated over and over. I know, too, that as our children grow, they will invariably experience missteps of some sort throughout the formative years and into young adulthood. What I most hope for, though, is that my children know I will love them just as much after a fall than before, if not moreso.
Is this not a characteristic of our Father? Actually, is this entire process not us making our own children into our image? “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…'” Genesis 1:26. And then man fell, and ruined everything so God had to spend the next 4000 years teaching man the error of his ways.
I think the theology of “the fall” has been infected by sin consciousness. Eve just ruined everything, and Adam went right along, now we are separated from God.
I do believe there is an element of truth in this, but I believe this picture is incomplete. Human nature is best expressed when? Before someone makes a mistake? No. In this respect, Alexander Pope got it right, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” An Essay on Criticism (1711).
A more literal rendering of Genesis 1:26 is probably, “And He is saying, Elohim, we shall make man in the image of us…” Although I believe man was made in the image of God, I also think that God is continually saying, “let us make man in our image”. In other words, being made in the image of God was not a one time thing that Adam and Eve ruined for the rest of us. God knew all along this would be a process. How better to express one of his many natures(?): that of a redeemer.
Which man most resembles the image of God, Adam or Jesus? Adam fell, Jesus did not. Had Adam and Eve been what Jesus was, mankind would be quite different to be sure, but man would not be what man was intended to be: redeemed.
Notice that after “the fall” God says, “‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’ – therefore, the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden…” Genesis 3:22-23. If the process of making man in God’s image was complete before the fall, man would not have become “like one of Us”.
After man knew good and evil, he was banished from the Garden so he would not eat of the tree of life. Why? Because this would circumvent the process. When do we get to eat of the tree of life? When Christ returns and we have overcome. Revelation 2:7.
Before the knowledge of good and evil, Adam walked with God. After Jesus died on the cross, “the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom”, and the barrier between man and God was removed forever. Now, through faith in Christ we are able to walk with God again, and not just side by side, but with His spirit in us.
Jesus was truly man made in the image of God, and “as He is, so are we in this world”.