Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Variations in the Bible

When I was a youth, our church leaders encouraged us to memorize scripture, likely in accord with the prayer of the Psalmist: “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee” (Psalm 119:11 KJV). They even ran contests for memorizing scripture with rewards at the end. At that point in my youth, I only knew one translation, the King James Version, written in 16th century English. It was not until my later teenage years that I even became aware of multiple translations. I discovered that even if the translators are working from the same critical Greek text, all translations are somewhat different.

I suppose one can be comforted that the translations generally sound the same. If one reads closely, however, the differences subtly suggest different meanings to the reader. For example:

In the Revised Standard Version, Ps 119:11reads: “I have laid up thy word in my heart that I might not sin against thee.” In an American Translation, it reads: “I have stored thy message in my heart, that I may not sin against thee.” In the English Standard Version, it reads: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” In the New American Bible, it reads: “Within my heart I treasure your promise, that I may not sin against you.” In the English translation of the Septuagint, it reads: “I have hidden thine oracles in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.”

To point out one subtle difference: “treasuring your promise,” “storing thy message,” and “hiding thine oracles” in one’s heart do not sound like one is memorizing the words of the Bible.

On the other hand, if one always reads the New Testament using two different translations, one is sometimes surprised because the translations occasionally contradict one another! It is not that a slightly different meaning is being suggested, it is a clear contradiction. For example, in 2 Thess 2:13 in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) the translation reads: “…because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit…” whereas the Revised English Bible (REB) reads: “From the beginning of time God chose you to find salvation in the Spirit who consecrates you….” This disagreement is not a case of different translators translating the same Greek text differently. This is a situation where the ancient Greek manuscripts of Second Thessalonians disagree between themselves by using different words. Some Greek manuscripts read απαρχην (first fruits) while others read απ απρχης (from the beginning). The critical Greek text used by most scholars (Nestle-Aland 28th edition) reads “first fruits” in the text and gives as an alternate reading “from the beginning” in the apparatus.1 The translators of the REB preferred the alternate reading.

            Sometimes the contradiction is more extensive. For example, the Revised English Bible skips from Matt 16:2 to 16:4. Verses 2-3 are missing in the REB. The text reads: (verse 2): “He answered them: (verse 4) ‘It is a wicked and godless generation that asks for a sign and the only sign that will be given it is the sign of Jonah…’” The NRSV on the other hand includes verses 2-3. (Verse 2) “He answered them. ‘When it is evening you say, “It will be fair weather for the sky is red. (Verse 3) And in the morning, “It will be stormy today for the sky is red and threatening.” ‘You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.’” Most scholars regard verses 2-3 as a later insertion into the Greek text from a source similar to Luke 12:54-56, or from the parallel Lukan passage itself.2 The Nestle-Aland critical Greek text includes verses 2-3 in the text but place it in square brackets indicating: “that textual critics today are not completely convinced of the authenticity of the enclosed words.”3 Hence the translators of the REB disagree with the Nestle-Aland critical text, and the NRSV agrees but omits the verses entirely. This disagreement between modern scholars raises the question, who is correct? Is Matt 16:2-3 a part of the Bible or not? These verses are after all in some Greek manuscripts.

            I stumbled across the latter two discrepancies in the preaching services of the church following along in the Greek text with the minister who was reading his text for the day in English. No mention was made of the problems that existed in the text. Should ministers inform their congregations of these kinds of difficulties existing in the biblical text?

            These discrepancies leave a “wanna-be-true-to-the-core-but-not-really-succeeding” Baptist pondering the situation. It appears that the Bible we read today does not spring unaided from the mind of God, but, in the final analysis, the versions of the Bible that eventually reach the hands of the reading public are products from the desk of the text critic and the translator.

How do you see it?

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1The apparatus consists of notes at the bottom of the page of Greek text. It was a committee decision to make the text read “first fruits.” For the rationale see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2nd ed.; 2000), 568.

2Metzger, Textual Commentary, 33.

3Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, page 9*.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Words with Double Meanings in the New Testament

The French have a word for this phenomenon: double-entendre or double-entente. It occurs when an author deliberately chooses a word for its ambiguity in which the word has a second meaning.1 Here is an example:

In Homer’s The Odyssey, when Odysseus is captured by the Cyclops Polyphemus, he tells the Cyclops that his name is Oudeis (ουδεις = No-one). When Odysseus attacks the Cyclops later that night and stabs him in the eye, the Cyclops runs out of his cave, yelling to the other Cyclopes that "No-one has hurt me!", which leads the other Cyclopes to take no action under the assumption that Polyphemus blinded himself by accident, allowing Odysseus and his men to escape.2

In a double-entendre the word chosen by the writer constitutes a bit of word play, if you will. Usually, but not always, in the contemporary use of a double-entendre one of the words will have a frivolous or bawdry meaning.

            One can object, however, that the ambiguity creates the following problem: Has the writer deliberately intended a word play or has a creative reader invented a word play about which the writer would be surprised to learn? Not all readers catch-on to what other readers find to be a double-entendre. Usually, the biblical text is thought to be comprised of serious and straight forward language. Nevertheless, some have found double-entendres in the New Testament. Here is one example (Mark 8:14-21) where Jesus uses a word (ζυμη = leaven/yeast) with respect to the Pharisees and Herod (Mark 8:15). Leaven was used both as a negative symbol for malice and evil as well as for sincerity and truth (1 Cor 5:6-8). The disciples completely missed the word play and regarded it as a reference to the leavening agent in bread (Mark 8:15-16, 21). They heard yeast when Jesus was talking about malice and evil. The author Matthew makes the double-entendre even more clear (Matt 16:11-12).

            Another double-entendre occurs when Jesus speaks to a woman of Samaria by a well (John 4:4-26). Jesus asks her for a drink of water (John 4:7). She replies why are you a Jew asking me a Samaritan for a drink (and the narrator clarifies that Jews and Samaritans do not associate with one another, John 4:9)? Jesus offers her “living” water (John 4:10), which she persists in understanding as “well” water (John 4:11-12, 15). Even after Jesus explains he is talking about a different kind of “water” (John 4:13-14), she still does not get the word play (John 4:1). She thought he was talking about well water that one imbibes for physical life and Jesus meant a spiritual water that brought eternal life (John 4:14).3

A possible instance of a double-entendre may be concealed in Paul’s comment to an addressee in Phil 4:3. What is the name of the person to whom Paul refers (translated in virtually all translations) as his “genuine fellow of the yoke” or “yokefellow” (γνησιε συζυγε),4 from whom Paul is requesting help to settle a difference of opinion between two women (Euodia and Syntyche) in the community of Jesus followers at Philippi, a Roman colony.

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, a genuine fellow of the yoke, to help these women who shared my struggles in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement, and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Phil 4:2-3)

It seems odd that Paul would leave unnamed one he regards as a “genuine fellow of the yoke” in their common struggle for the success of the gospel, in a section where he names three other coworkers and he also insists that all his co-workers have their names inscribed in the book of life (Phil 4:2-3). The inference I draw from the image is that the addressee as “a genuine fellow of the yoke” (in the sense, perhaps, of Matthew 11:28-30 or 1 Clement 16:17) would understand the requirements of being yoked as part of a pair. Such a person would best be able to assist Euodia and Syntyche in resolving their differences.

            Many suspect that Paul did indeed name this figure in the very language he used, in what I am calling a double-entendre: συζυγε, = vocative form of Συζυγος, which many think may be the name of the man. His name is comprised of two Greek words: συν (with) + ζυγος (yoke), or “a person with the yoke.” His name (if indeed it is a name) would be Latinized in most translations as Syzygus. Many translators suspect this might be the case, and will add the name of Syzygus as an alternative translation in a note at the bottom of the page, even though the word has not yet been found as a proper name among the inscriptions.5

How do you read these passages? Are there yet other secrets to be uncovered from New Testament language? Bible translators are good honest folk, but the products they produce are no better than their skill, professional training, critical judgment, and that their subconscious agendas will allow.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1See Hugh Holman and William Harmon, A Handbook to Literature (6th ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1992), 147-48.


3Here are a few other passages that are generally thought to contain a deliberate play on words: Matt 16:18 (Peter/rock= Πετρος/πετρα); John 2:19-21; John 3:3-8 (ανωθεν = born from above/born anew); John 7:37-39.

4Sometimes the expression is translated as “yokefellow.” For example, in the New International Version, or “companion” in Ehrman, or “comrade” by Goodspeed. It is translated as Syzygus in Eugene H. Peterson, The Message, The New Testament in Contemporary Language (NAVPRESS, 1993).

5For a brief summary of critical thinking about the issue that hasn’t changed much since 1868, see J. B. Lightfoot, St Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians (12th ed.; Lynn, MA: Hendrickson, 1981), 158-59.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Time at the Far End of Life

This is a very personal note to my brothers and sisters nearing the end of their allotted term. It is time to start thinking in critical time. Life eventually boils down to time, particularly for those of us at the far end of life: how much time do we have left and what shall we do with it? At age 89 I have just begun to ponder both of these questions some three months after the death of my wife of 67 years from Alzheimer’s. From age 20 through her passing she, and later our children, formed the basis of all my decisions about time. The time we spent was always our time together or, when the children came along, family time. When Alzheimer’s manifested itself, I became her caregiver and my time became her time.

How much time is left and what to do with it are not existential questions that necessarily trouble those in youth or middle age.  The very young initially have their time taken-up with schooling mandated by the state, family associated activities, and, later, things concerned with preparation for life’s long haul: occupation, marriage, children, etc. For the middle aged there is daily work for paychecks to pay for the things of life that have claimed one’s time. All things being equal, these two questions about critical time belong particularly to those of us at the far end of life, and those terminally ill. Once life has irrevocably changed (retirement, death of a spouse, advanced old age, terminal illness, etc.) we stand in a critical moment, at a critical juncture, where we are turning into that period of life we begin to recognize as our final days.

            The ancient Greeks recognized the nature of critical time and distinguished generally between two words for time: Chronos (χρονος) and Kairos (καιρος). Chronos designated “a definite time, a period of time, a while, a season,” but Kairos with respect to time designated “the right point of time, the proper time or season for action, the exact or critical time.”1 The latter moment is where many of us now find ourselves, at a critical juncture facing the end of our days at some unknown point in the not-too-distant future. The question is very personal: what to do with these final days?

Since Peggy died, I have received advice for dealing with loneliness and grief in various forms: pamphlets from funeral homes, personal advice from good friends, calls from social workers, etc. The advice, probably coming from experience (personal and otherwise), is informally the same: seek counseling from a licensed therapist; find a support group; volunteer with some social service agency, hospital, or charity; take a class; perhaps take a trip where one is forced to make new acquaintances; find reasons to visit with old friends; take up a hobby or immerse oneself in hobbies of long standing. All of these are helpful suggestions. But, somehow, they have not resonated with me, being so close to the end of this final term of life (pardon the academic allusion). I have strong family support from my children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, most of whom live right near in my neighborhood.

What religious rationalists might do, when confronted with a ponderable crisis, is pick up a Bible. In spite of its many blemishes, mistakes, and other shortcomings it records the ponderings of religious folk of two ancient religions over a 1300- year period, roughly from the Israelite Exodus (around 1250 BCE to the writing of 2 Peter (around 125CE).2 Not unreasonably one may expect here and there to find helpful suggestions. I found a convenient “hook” for pondering my last days in Eph 5:15-16 and Col 4:5. Two of Paul’s students, writings under the pseudonym of “Paul, an apostle” (i.e., they are putting words in Paul’s mouth)3 urge their readers to be wise “making the most of crucial time” (εξαγοραζομενοι τον καιρον),4 the only two instances in the New Testament that these two words are used together. How does one “make the most of crucial time”? The authors of these two texts do not share the specifics of their thinking about that question. Hence, everyone must decide for themselves what will be their specific response to their latter days. In short, they must decide in what they will invest themselves, considering their abilities, health, and interests.

            I have not yet finished the pondering process, but I have come up with four general suggestions (devoid of specifics because everyone is different) that have been helpful to me for staying engaged: 1. Make an effort to stay involved in living to the best of your abilities, and resist withdrawing into yourself. 2. Aim to make a contribution to the lives of others. 3. Learn something new every day (you just have to be curious). 4. Keep a sense of humor about yourself and your situation in life. There is nothing in these suggestions that is profound, but they are certainly cogent.

One other suggestion comes from the Apostle Paul himself. Writing from prison (Phil 1:7, 12-17) from Rome, Caesarea, or Ephesus (Phil 1:13; 4:22),5 Paul harbored hopes that his situation might yet change for the better (Phil 1:19, 26-27; 2:24). But whether it did or not was unimportant and he asserts: “I have learned how to manage in whatever circumstances I find myself” (Phil 4:11).6 Good advice for those of us at the far end.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1The abridged version of Liddell and Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (from the 7th edition of Liddell and Scott; Oxford: Clarendon, 1975). Here are some examples in the New Testament of time used as “the proper time or season for action”: Mark 1:15; 11:13; Matt 13:30; 21:34; 26:18; Luke 12:56; 21:8; John 7:6, 8; Acts 3:20; 7:20; Rom 9:9; 13:11; 1 Cor 4:5; 7:29; Eph 5:16; Col 4:5.

2See Hedrick, Unmasking Biblical Faiths (Cascade, 2019), 2.

3For the pseudonymity of these two letters, see W. G. Kϋmmel, Introduction to the New Testament (Howard Kee, trans. 17th ed. rev.; Abingdon, 1975), Colossians, 340-46; Ephesians, 357-163.

4This is my translation of the expression in Eph 5:16 and Col 4:5. In some older translations (for example, King James Version) one may find the expression translated as “redeeming the time,” which doesn’t quite communicate the Greek, in my view.

5See Kϋmmel, Introduction, 324-32.

6A. J. Dewey, et al., The Authentic Letters of Paul (Polebridge, 2010), 181. This is the only occurrence of αυταρκης in the New Testament. The usual translation of the word as “contented,” is inadequate.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Provocative Possessive Pronouns in Matthew

This essay began when I was struck by an unexpected use of a plural possessive pronoun ("their") modifying synagogue (Matt 10:17), when the simple article, "the," would have been sufficient. There is no antecedent specifically identifying who these "owners" of synagogues are. In the immediate context "they" (Matt 10:17), that is, those people and "their synagogues" appears to be the "wolves" in 10:16, a rather harsh term for those who are Jews themselves to use for other Jews (Ioudaioi), who worship in synagogues. The possessive pronoun is provocative because it immediately calls attention to the other group in Matt 10:17 ("you") whom the Jews allegedly will flog in "their synagogues"; this group is unnamed, but in the larger literary context it is possible they are the twelve whom Jesus sends forth (Matt 10:5) with his instructions in Matt 10:1-11:1. There may be another possibility, however.

The use of the possessive "their," for those who gather in synagogues, is odd because Jesus and his disciples were also Jews and attended synagogues. The possessive pronoun (their) and the designation of Jews as wolves, on the other hand, suggest that Jesus and his disciples are in no way identified with the synagogue, which is obviously not the case in first-century Palestine. They also attended synagogues. By using the third-person possessive pronoun to modify synagogue, the author of Matthew has evoked for the reader another shadowy group who does not identify with the synagogue but who consider themselves over against those who gather in synagogues. Here is the rationale for this statement: If you say an object is "theirs," it implies an ownership not shared by the one who speaks.

The use of this pronoun without clarification raises the question, who is this group that is not identified with the synagogue? Has Matthew deliberately evoked them, or is it simply an accidental verbal slip? Has Matthew inadvertently, momentarily, let slip aside his cover as a (theoretically) neutral describer of earlier events and opened for readers a window into events current in the author's own later time, as happens at Matt 28:15 (and Matt 11:23 and 27:8): "And this story is still told among the Jews to this day (italics mine). That is to say, the story is still being told in Jewish communities in the author's own later lifetime, but it is not being told by those in the author's different community.

The word "synagogue" appears in Matthew's Gospel a total of 9 times.1 Out of 9 times Matthew modifies synagogue by the third-person possessive pronoun "their" a total of 5 times and once by the second-person plural possessive pronoun "your" (23:34). Mark, on the other hand, uses a possessive pronoun to modify synagogue only twice (1:23, 39) out of eight uses. Luke uses a possessive pronoun with synagogue only once (4:15) out of fifteen uses with synagogue. John uses synagogue only twice, both times without a possessive pronoun. In Acts, Luke uses synagogue 19 times, none of which are used with a possessive pronoun but he does modify synagogue with a prepositional phrase as the "synagogue of the Jews" (Acts 13:5; 17:10). James uses synagogue once with the possessive pronoun "your" (2:2).

Possibly the use of the possessive in "their synagogue" might allude to Jews in a specific geographical location. For example, if the possessive pronoun "their" modified synagogue in connection with the village of Capernaum, "their synagogue" would likely be the synagogue of the Jews who lived in Capernaum, as happens in Mark 1:21, 23. But no named villages are mentioned in Matthew with respect to any of the passages where Matthew writes "their synagogue." There are two unspecific general regional locations, however, in Matt 4:23 ("throughout Galilee") and 9:35 ("all the cities and villages"). Another general location sets-up a contrast in an area where Jesus was brought-up (Matt 13:54) in which "they" have "their synagogue." That is to say, there was a synagogue in the general area of Jesus' own part of the country (patris). This passage (Matt 13:54-58) sets up a negative contrast between the people of the synagogue and Jesus. The synagogue folk were quite familiar with the family of Jesus (Matt 13:55-56), yet what he said "astounded" them, and they became "offended" at him for what he said in "their synagogue" (Matt 13:54).

If one will allow that Matthew has inadvertently allowed his/her cover to slip and thereby evoked another religious group competing with the synagogue of the Jews in his (Matthew's) day by modifying synagogue with the third-person possessive pronoun "their" rather than an expected "the," how might this group be characterized? Apparently, they did not think of themselves as Jews, for synagogues are worship centers for Jews: the force of the pronoun is that "Jews use synagogues; we don't." This other group apparently used the anachronistic term "church" (ekklēsia, is usually translated as "church"), which turns up three times in Matthew. Matthew apparently conceived this later term as a worship gathering, which was not so used in Jesus' lifetime, to contrast with "their synagogue" at 16:18 (18:17 twice).2 Matthew even describes the term in connection with a few early community rules (18:17) of the later formal Christian ecclesiastical order (18:15-22).

Relationships between the church and synagogue in Matthew's later day appear less than cordial. The group represented by Jesus' church ("my church," 16:18) and who worship Jesus' Father ("my Father"),3 viewed those of the synagogue negatively, effectively replacing them as the people of God (Matt 21:43; 8:10-12). Jesus was sent to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (10:5-6; 15:24). The people of Jesus will in the end-time judge the twelve tribes of Israel (19:28). Matthew chapter 6 contrasts the people of the synagogue (6:2, 5, 16; 23:2-7) with the followers of Jesus (6:3-4, 6-15, 17-18; 23: 8-12). The people of the synagogue and the leaders of the Jewish people are excoriated and execrated for their behavior in Matt 23:13-36. And the Judean mob at Jesus' trial before Pilate audaciously accepts the blame for the death of Jesus (27:24-26).

Read in this way Matthew's Gospel reveals hostile relationships between the church and the synagogue in Matthew's day in the period from 80 to 100 CE when the Gospel of Matthew was likely written.4

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1With possessive pronoun: Matt 4:23; 9:35; 10:17; 12:9; 13:54; 23:34; without possessive pronoun: Matt 6:2, 5; 23:6.

2In Jesus' day, and even in the later time of Paul, the term ekklēsia should be more loosely translated as "gathering." The term "church" does not appear in Mark, Luke, or John.

3My Father: Matt 7:21; 10:32-33; 11:27; 12:50; 16:17; 18:10, 19, 35.

4Werner G. Kϋmmel, Introduction to the New Testament (rev. ed.; from the 17th German ed.: SCM, 1975), 119-120.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

A Chance Meeting that produced a Book

Here is something a little different. I have asked Rev. Dr. Jerry B. Cain, retired President of Judson University in Elgin Illinois, to provide a guest essay announcing the appearance of an important new book on the history of Christianity in Myanmar: by Angelene Naw, The History of the Karen People of Burma (ed. Jerry Cain; King of Prussia, PA: Judson Press, 2023).* What follows is Jerry’s review of the book for the curious reader. 

Charles W. Hedrick 

The History of the Karen People of Burma recounts the interactions of the three m’s that historians of the nineteenth century colonial period always have to negotiate—merchants, missionaries, militaries. The Karens (CAH-ren) were an animistic minority in Burma who took to the message of American Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) while the majority Buddhist Burmese ignored or even persecuted him. Primed by a legend that a white man with a book would arrive on a ship from the west and show them their destiny, the Karens responded positively when Ann and Adoniram Judson disembarked from the Georgiana in the summer of 1813 with a Bible. Prophecy fulfilled!

This first generation of missionaries codified the language of the Karens (and the Burmese) setting up schools to teach them how to read and write their own language as well as English. When the British colonizers needed local bureaucrats, the Karens were skilled to fill these administrative positions often at the expense of the less-trained majority Burmese Buddhists. And the tensions grew as the British took more and more of Burma through three wars (1824-26, 1852-53, 1885) and animosity grew between the majority Burmese and the minority Karens.

Then came the twentieth century and the independence movements in India and southeast Asia. WWII stalled those independence efforts and in Burma the Karens sided with the British while the Burmese sided with the Japanese creating more hatred. Then the players changed, the war ended and independence was experienced, sort of. The story continues into the twenty-first century as both groups, Burmese and Karens, remember their sectarian and ethic struggles of the past 200 years.

Dr. Angelene Naw is uniquely qualified to describe the history of the Karen people, which is most often retold as oral history. She was born during the insurgencies of post-WWII Burma and lived her first six years in the jungles where her father was an officer for the Karen army in rebellion against the new government of Burma. Dr. Naw finished two degrees from the University of Rangoon before completing her PhD at the East-West Center of the University of Hawaii. I am honored that she came to the US to teach Asian history and culture at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois, where I served as president.

The first Burmese I ever met was John Shandy, a former Buddhist monk, who was employed on the plant operations staff by Judson University. The arrival of Dr. Naw made number two from Myanmar. Soon another refugee couple came to town and the only place the Baptist church could find them a job was at the local casino. Under the leadership of Dr. Naw, who was a rock star in the diaspora Karen-American community, we gathered about 50 families and started the Karen Baptist Church of Western Chicago. (When I retired and moved to Kansas City, I affiliated with the Grace Baptist Church that hosts a Karen congregation every Sunday afternoon.)

My role in creating the book was to make Dr. Naw’s book readable for the western reading public. We had two audiences in mind for this publication, the student studying Southeast Asian history and the Karen diaspora spread around the world who will never return to Burma nor experience their desired independent nation, which they named Kawthoolei. Persecuted in Myanmar, the Karens have been emigrating to the US, Australia, Norway, Singapore, and other places from four major refugee camps in Thailand where they were settled by the United Nations. The History of the Karen People of Burma is now being translated into the Karen language to better reach these two audiences.

The History of the Karen People of Burma describes pre-colonial Burma before 1824 when the British military moved in and the impact of the American missionaries in establishing Karendom. The educational thirst of the Karen people was addressed by the missionaries creating tension between the minority Karens and the majority Burmese. The political and military intrigues of WWII between the Japanese, British, Burmese, and the Karens are described in detail because Dr. Naw and her family were intimately involved. The post-WWII political and military struggles by the Karen people take this story into the 21st century.

Since the last military coup of February 1, 2021, the Karens have again been given the “dirty end of the stick,” as they would say. Public focus has been on the Muslim Rohingya on the western side of Myanmar but forced labor, targeted bombing, and discrimination against Christian Karens on the eastern side continues as it has for the past 200 years. Their plight has been captured in major motion pictures including a 2008 Rambo movie starring Sylvester Stallone. The story of democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been told and retold with great appreciation, but there has been little political movement from the outside world. She has been sentenced to 33 years imprisonment since the 2-1-21 junta took over.

The History of the Karen People of Burma is important for anyone who wants to understand the recurring discord and dysfunction of cultural and political systems in modern Myanmar. It provides a 30,000-foot overview of the recycling military rule and futile attempts at democracy, and the recurring religious turmoil involving Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians from one who has lived it and continues to love her country with all its problems.

Jerry Cain

*For details on how to purchase the book see https://www.judsonpress.com/Products/J306/the-history-of-the-karen-people-of-burma.aspx

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Does God Tempt People to do the Wrong Thing?

Or put another way the question is: does God as depicted in the Bible entice, seduce, or lure us humans into improper behavior? I know the question may sound strange, until you recall that one petition of the Lord's Prayer is usually translated as "do not lead us into temptation" (Matt 6:13; Luke 11:4; Didache, 8:2). Each week the Lord's prayer is recited in Christian congregations around the world. It is believed by the faithful to be a prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray. I have often wondered, did Jesus himself pray such a prayer?1 And when the prayer is offered at funerals and church meetings for what exactly is a person praying when s/he says "do not lead us into temptation"? Why would anyone suppose God would entice us to do something we should not do?

            Some translations attempt to resolve the situation by translating the petition used in the prayer as "do not put us to the test," or "do not bring us to the time of trial," as, for example, the New Revised Standard and Revised English Bible translate the word. The Greek word used in the prayer (peirazō), however, according to the lexicons can be used both ways, as either a temptation to do something wrong, or as a test to prove someone. The Bauer-Danker, Greek-English Lexicon prefers the translation of an "attempt to make someone do something wrong, temptation, enticement to sin" for both Matt 6:13 and Luke 11:4.

            The Greek word peirazō is used a number of times in the New Testament where it is clear that the situation depicted concerned an enticement to behave improperly, as for example, when the devil is tempting Jesus (Matt 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13; see also 1 Thess 3:5 and Jas 1:13-15). In other instances, the situation clearly involves a testing: 1 Cor 10:13; 2 Cor 13:5; Rev: 3:10.

            In the Hebrew Bible God is frequently depicted as testing the Israelites. For example, God tested the faith of Abraham by telling him to offer his only son as a sacrifice (Gen 22:1-2). The stated reason was that God wanted to test his faith (Gen 22:12).2 There are also other passages where the Israelites tested God,3 although God specifically said they should not put the Lord to the test (Deut 6:16).

            I know of only one passage where God is involved in a situation clearly deceiving people in order to tempt them to improper behavior (1 Kgs 22:19-23). The prophet Micaiah had a vision of the Lord on his throne surrounded by the host of heaven. In the passage the Lord wanted to deceive King Ahab and solicited a "lying spirit" to "entice Ahab so that he would go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead" (1 Kgs 22:20). One Spirit came forward saying "I will entice him" (1 Kgs 22:21). And the Lord said, "you are to entice him and you will succeed, go forth and do so" (1 Kgs 22:22).4 One might well suspect from this passage that the ancient Israelite belief included a God who tempted them to improper or hurtful conduct (of course, believing a thing to be so does not make it so). At this point one may recall comedian Flip Wilson's immortal line: "The devil made me do it," which is the prevailing view amongst the faithful: the devil is our tempter. But still the Lord's prayer in most translations petitions God not to tempt us. Why?

One might also well suspect that God should have known the probable outcome when he placed Adam and Eve in the Garden, telling them there was only one tree whose fruit they must avoid (Gen 3:1-7). Of course, it was the serpent that actually tempted Eve (2 Cor 11:3; 1 Tim 2:14), but one might make a credible case that the enticement was actually caused by God who set Eve up for her lapse, particularly since the popular belief is that God always knows what is going to happen. What was the serpent doing in the Garden of Eden, if it wasn't by divine design in the first place?

And this brings us back to where we began; for what exactly does one pray when one utters the words of the Lord's prayer: "lead us not into temptation"? Did Jesus think that God brought people into temptation in order to test them? Why not, if God also tested them in other ways? What is temptation if not simply another way of testing the faithful? So how should we pray that one line of the Lord's prayer?

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1See R. Funk and R. Hoover, The Five Gospels. What did Jesus Really Say? (Polebridge/Macmillan, 1993). The Jesus Seminar colored this line of the petition Grey, meaning for the Seminar that Jesus did not say it.

2Here are other instances where God tested the Israelites: Exod 17:2, 7; Deut 8:2, 16; 13:3; 33:8; Jdg 2:21-22; 3:1, 4; 2 Chron 32:31; Ps 26:2; Ps 78:41.

3In some passages The Israelites tested God: Exod 17:2, 7; Num 14:22; 2 Kgs 20:8-11); Ps 78:18, 41, 56; 95:9; 106:14; Isa 7:10-12.

4The same Hebrew word is used also in the following instances, where enticement seems the better translation: Exod 22:16; Jdg 14:15; 16:5; Prov 1:10-11; 16:29.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Is God Immutable?

Immutability means never changing. I recently heard a minister declare during the Sunday morning preaching hour: “Our God will never change!” Is that true, do you suppose? As is the case with all things religious: it depends on whom you ask. The minister declared what he (and his congregation?) believed about God. Others, of course, may not share that view. The question, however, is interesting and it may yet be a question that will remain open in spite of the heat of opinion on both sides of the answers.

With respect to the Greek Gods who frequently changed their shapes to encounter human beings and hence appeared frequently in disguise, Plato argued the following:

God is altogether sincere and true in deed and word, and neither changes himself nor deceives others by visions or words or the sending of signs in waking or in dreams.1

His rationale is that God is perfect and has no need to change. Therefore “any change must be for the worse. For God’s Goodness is perfect.”2

In his Republic, Plato dismisses the idea found in Greek myth and poetry that the gods can change in any way. Rather, Plato argues, God is perfect and cannot and does not change. For if a god is already the best possible in these respects, a god cannot change for the better. But being perfect includes being immune to change for the worse — too powerful to have it imposed without permission and too good to permit it. Thus, a god cannot improve or deteriorate, making any change within God impossible. Following Plato, the idea that God is perfect and cannot change became widely accepted among philosophers. Aristotle also accepted the idea that God was perfect and unchanging and it became a central point of his philosophy, which would influence philosophers and theologians throughout the Middle Ages.3

The view that God (the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible) will never change is still popular today. There are a number of passages in the Bible that are usually cited as confirming the idea that God does not change. For example, Malachi, the prophet, quotes God (translated into KJV language) as saying: “For I the Lord do not change” (3:6).4

            As happens, however, so often, between texts written over hundreds of years apart, if one looks long enough one will find contradictory ideas. Here are a number of biblical texts that (surprisingly) depict God as changing.5

When God saw what they did how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it. (RSV Jonah 3:10)

The Lord God repented concerning this; “It shall not be, “said the Lord. (RSV Amos 7:3)

The Lord repented concerning this; “This also shall not be,” said the Lord God. (Amos 7:6)

And if it [a nation] does evil in my sight not listening to my voice, then I will repent of the good which I had intended to do to it. (Jer 18:10)

And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people. (Exod 32:14)

The word of the Lord came to Samuel: I repent that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me, and has not performed my commandments. (1 Sam 15:11, 35)6

Where should these passages leave us? Do we change our minds about God? Do we change our minds about the Bible, or do we try to explain them away in some way? For they clearly describe God as changing.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Plato, The Republic (P. Shorey, trans.; 2 vols; New York: Putnam, 1930), 1.2.382-83 (p. 197). My translation, in part. For another translation, see H. D. P. Lee, trans., Plato, The Republic (Penguin, 1955), p. 121.

2Shorey, p. 191; Lee, p. 119.


4Here are a few other passages cited in support of the idea that God does not change: Num 23:19, 1 Sam 15:29, Ps 33:4, Ps 90:2, Ps 102:25-27, Ps 119:89-90, Isa 40:8, Isa 40:28, 2 Tim 2:13, Heb 13:8, Jas 1:17.

5F. Brown, S. R Driver, C. A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford, 1968), p. 637. The Hebrew word used in these passages carries the English concept of “be sorry, rue, suffer grief, repent, of one’s own doings,” in other words to change.

6Here are a few more passages reflecting the idea that God can and does change: Gen: 6:6-7; 2 Sam 24:16; Ps 106:40-46; Jer 18:8; Jer 26:3, 13, 19; Jer 42:10; Joel 2:13-14; Jonah 4:2; Zech 8:14.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Does God know Everything?

The big word describing God’s knowledge is omniscient, all knowing—so the Christian theologians tell us. God must be all knowing because s/he is God. Of course, there is no way to verify that to be the case because we have no access to God except through the human mind. In the human mind God is whatever everyone thinks God is. Another practical way to address the question is to ask if the Bible ever depicts God as not knowing something, or being surprised. The Bible, I was taught, is the basic grammar for Christian living and belief. In my religious tradition the Bible is the “go-to” book for information about God. Hence, the question: does the Bible depict God as unknowing; that is, as lacking knowledge of minutiae of the past and details of the future?

We are fortunate, for many have read through the Bible and gathered together passages that depict God as not knowing things. Here is one of the many collections of God’s lack of knowledge in the Bible.1 The passages noted by the collector are as follows:

Gen 3:9-13: God does not know where Adam is, does not know who told Adam he was naked, does not know that he ate of the tree with forbidden fruit, and does not know why Eve did what she did.

Gen 11:5-7: The Lord had to come down in order to see the Tower of Babel to know what was happening.

Gen 18:20-21: The Lord had to go and see what was going-on at Sodom and Gomorrah.

Gen 22:12: The Lord did not know that Abraham truly feared the Lord until Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac.

Isa 5:4: God does not know why his garden yielded wild grapes.

Jer 31:34: God promises to forget the sin of the Israelites.

Jer 32:35: God confesses that he did not know that the Judahites would sacrifice people to Molech.

About these passages the collector, Mr. Stewart, says that they “seem to be passages that teach the limitation of God’s knowledge.” Although he states that he believes in the “inerrancy of Scripture,” Mr. Stewart carefully explains away the plain meaning of the words of the text to bring these passages in line with current conservative theology. In other words, for Mr. Stewart the text does not mean what it plainly says. Here are a few more depictions of God’s lack of knowledge of past and future events:

Gen 6:5-6: God had forgotten the covenant that he had with Israel.

Exod 4:24: God could not find a way to kill Moses.

Exod 33:5: God did not know what to do with the Israelites.

Jer 3:6-7: God did not know that the Israelites would not return to him as an obedient people.

Jer 26:1-3: God did not know whether the Judahites would listen to him or not.

Jonah: 3:1-5, 10: God did not know if the people of Nineveh would repent and had to break his own word and stay the destruction of the city of Nineveh (3:4).

            In all of these passages the writers depict God anthropomorphically; that is, as having the characteristics of a human being. Generally, God is believed to be stronger than us, wiser than us, more gracious than us, etc., yet God is still described in the Bible as limited in knowledge, as are we. The descriptions are not as crass as the depictions of the ancient Gods of Greece and Rome, but the Judeo-Christian God is still described as not knowing certain things. The inevitable conclusion is that the frequently ungodlike descriptions of God in the Bible disqualifies the Bible as the standard for determining the character of God (if God there be).2 The Bible claims that the Judeo-Christian God created human kind in his image (Gen 1:25-27). In reality human beings through time have created their Gods in whatever ways seemed good to them. The character of the Christian God at its worse is based on how he is described in the Bible, and at its finest on the idealistic ideations of the Christian mind.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Blue Letter Bible Ministry: https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_362.cfm

2Here are two more essays about the ungodly descriptions of God in the Bible: Hedrick, “Could God have a Character Flaw?” Unmasking Biblical Faiths (Cascade, 2019), 182-83; Hedrick, “Hérem: God’s Holy War,” Unmasking Biblical Faiths, 192-94.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

"God Cannot Lie"-So claimed the Minister

One Sunday morning, during his sermon I heard the minister say: “God cannot Lie.” The purpose of the statement went right over my head and I was stuck, startled, by the statement “God cannot lie.” What about lying for good reasons—little “white lies”? Ministers are encouragers, admonishers, and defenders of the faith. They say what will help motivate the believer’s faith and what is needed to keep the believer walking in the way of faith. They are not critics or thinkers outside the box of faith. In this case, I might have said “God does not lie,” but, now as I think about it, not even that statement quite rings true.

               On the other hand, it is true that there are numerous passages in the Bible depicting God as hating lying and falsehoods. For example, in the Decalogue: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exod 20:16; Deut 5:20) and on numerous other occasions throughout the Bible (for example, Lev 19:11; Num 23:19; Prov 12:22; Prov 19:5, 9; Rev 22:15). The writer of the Apocalypse even asserts that liars have no right to the tree of life for they are outside the holy city New Jerusalem “coming down out of heaven from God” (Rev 21:2, 10). Liars, on the other hand, are “outside the gates of the city” along with “the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolators and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Rev 22:15).

               In the Bible the only passage I can recall where God is depicted as deliberately lying is 2 Thess 2:11: “Therefore, God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false.” There are also two other biblical writers who portray God as commissioning lies: 1 Kgs 22:5-23 and 2 Chron 18:4-22.

Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, “I will entice him.” And the Lord said to him, “by what means?” And he said, “I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” And he said, “You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go forth and do so.” Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has spoken evil concerning you (1 Kgs 22:21-23).

In the light of these three statements, the minister’s assertion that God does not lie demands modification in some way, or at least the clash with what is generally believed about God’s behavior demands explanation, for in the view of three biblical (inspired?) writers God can lie and apparently has indeed done so. Hence, it seems that those who “trust” the Bible to serve as their principal guide to truth and a guide for living must change their views about the Bible and/or change their view about God’s character.

               The truth is God does what s/he wants. God (if God there be) is neither male nor female but is sui generis; that is, of its own kind—in other words God is unique, and hence unlike human beings. It is also true that God is a grand idea and our ideas of God derive from what we read, from what others tell us, and from the personal testimonies of those who claim to have “experienced” God. The “experiences” people claim to have of God, however, occur only in their minds and from interpretations of their own life experiences. God is not palpable or tangible. God cannot be touched, felt, or handled. Some claim to have “sensed” God, but it is not like sensing the palpable presence of another living creature in a dark room. The “sensing” in the case of God is mental, not physical; it occurs in the mind. In my experience God cannot be seen, although some may claim to have “visions” of God. Such visions do not register on the retina of the eye; they are brought about by mental imagining.

               In regards to God’s visibility an interesting disagreement exists in the Bible as to God’s accessibility by vision. In Exodus 33, the writer vacillates between views as to God’s visibility: in Exod 33:11 The Lord is accustomed to speaking face to face with Moses, as a man speaks with his friend; in Exod 33:20 Moses is told that he cannot see God’s face and live; in Exod 33:23, Moses is only permitted to see God’s back. In the New Testament it is claimed that no one has ever seen God (John 1:18, 6:46; 1 John 4:12).

               In short, God exists in our minds as mental image and God is, as each of us thinks God is.*

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

*Hedrick, Wry Thoughts about Religion Blog: “God does not exist,” May 17, 2016: http://blog.charleshedrick.com/2016/05/god-does-not-exist.html Or in later in revised form: Unmasking Biblical Faiths. The Marginal Relevance of the Bible for Contemporary Religious Faith (Cascade, 2019), 168-70.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Social Spaces, Idols, and Pagan Temples

The earliest followers of Jesus encountered certain social problems that Christians today seldom face. One problem for them was the issue of animals that had been sacrificed in temples to the indigenous deities of the Greco-Roman world. In our world religious sacrifice of animals, construed as cruelty to animals by the courts, is illegal, but not so in the ancient world. Animal sacrifice was ubiquitous. Followers of Jesus were a minority in the ancient world and were engulfed by the customs and practices of these religions. The animal was sacrificed at an altar that was presided over by an image of the God (an idol) whose priest received the offering. Part of the meat was immolated as an offering to the God; the remaining portion was divided among the temple staff and the worshippers (1 Cor 9:13). The priest had the authority to sell part of the temple's share of the sacrifice. In this way meat from the sacrifices made its way to the public sidewalk into the meat markets of ancient cities.1

In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul addresses three social locations where the problem of idol meat surfaces for members of the Jesus community in the ancient city of Corinth (1 Cor 8:1-13; 10:23-11:1): in the local meat market (1 Cor 10:25); in home meals with unbelievers (1 Cor 10:27-30); in eating meals in an idol's temple (1 Cor 8:10-13; 10:19-20).

Apparently, the Jesus gathering (ekklēsia) at Corinth was divided over the issue of sacrificial meat. Bible translators think they have identified statements in Paul's text where he quotes slogans from the debate originating from one side of the disagreement and are confident enough to place this text in quotation marks and/or also add words not in the text ("as you say") following the phrase in quotations (see 1 Cor 8:4; 10:23, 26). The quoted slogans likely belong to a faction Paul called the "liberated" (8:9; 10:29) as opposed to those the "liberated" regarded as weaker members of the Jesus gathering.

Paul's attempt to resolve the situation is based on the principal that with regard to this matter the liberated should always defer to those the liberated regarded as the weak (8:9-12; Rom 15:1-2). Thus, one should not attend feasts in pagan temples (8:9-13).2 He tells them to buy whatever they need from the meat market without worrying about idols, since idols have no real significance (10:19-20, 25). If one is invited to the home of a non-believer, one can eat whatever one wants without raising questions of conscience. If others raise objections to the idol meat, then "do not eat it out of consideration for the one who informed you" (10:27-30).3 His rationale is that while the liberated may know that idols are nothing to be feared, others may not have that knowledge (8:7). Paul concludes that if food is a problem for a fellow believer, he would never eat meat again (8:13).

Eating idol meat may not be a modern problem, but the principle of deference to the weaker believer will apply to many modern situations (compare Rom 14:13-15:2). Paul actually alludes to another ancient practice that can also be a modern problem: drinking wine (Rom 14:21). He does not say drinking wine to excess; he only suggests that drinking wine is not right if it causes a fellow believer to stumble. He also seems to extend this principle to the "neighbor" who is not part of the community of believers (1 Cor 10:24, 31-33; Rom 15:1-2).

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1For a brief description of the sacrifices, see the discussion in Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (3rd ed.; Eerdmans, 2003), 188-92.

2Note, however, Paul seems to stop short of absolutely forbidding attending feasts in pagan temples, and leaves it to the individual to decide. Nevertheless, Paul's intent seems clear enough. From my reading of the text, it was a difficult situation for Paul. He basically agreed with the liberated faction that idols were nothing (1 Cor 8:1-4; 10:19-20), so to enforce his position that the liberated should not eat in pagan temples, Paul could offer his principle of concern for the weaker members of the Jesus gathering at Corinth (1 Cor 8:9) and his own example of never eating meat if it caused the weaker person to stumble in faith (1 Cor 8:13). His argument about pagan sacrifices being offered to demons (1 Cor10:20-21) seems more like a slur. I doubt that people who offered sacrifices in pagan temples thought they were sacrificing to demons. These two verses (1 Cor10:20-21) constitute the only mention of demons in the Pauline letters.

31 Cor 10:29b is a problem for the sense of the text. The Revised Standard Version puts verses 10:28-29a in parentheses, which in effect makes verse 10:29b a continuation of 10:27 and makes verses 28-29a a digression. Thinking of the text in this way retains the sense of the passage, for otherwise 10:29b contradicts 10:28-29a. See also Dewey, et al., The Authentic Letters of Paul. A New Reading of Paul's Rhetoric and Meaning (Polebridge, 2010), 94, where verses 28-29a are treated as a digression and placed in parentheses.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

The Lowly Punctuation Mark in the New Testament

Something to which we pay little attention when we read the New Testament are the punctuation marks in the text. In a sense, we take them for granted. The truth is that in the earliest extant Greek manuscripts of New Testament, texts only received a few marks by their first inscribers. Originally punctuation appeared in a text “as an aid in reading, especially in reading aloud, by marking the various resting-places for the voice.”1 Texts in antiquity were read audibly and not silently.  The words of the sentences were not separated, but sentences were written in a continuous string of letters. The result of this lack of standardization in Greek texts of the New Testament is that “modern editors are compelled to provide their own punctuation and hence often their own interpretation. The latter is very definitely the case, e.g. when a mark of interrogation occurs (found in [manuscripts of the ninth century] AD at the earliest).”2

            What this means in a practical sense is that punctuation in translations of the Bible is due to the interpretation of modern editors of a text. Editing a Greek text for use by readers or translators means separating the string of letters of a line of text into specific words, correcting the ancient scribes’ errors, and deciding how the text should be punctuated. These procedures constitute an initial interpretation of a text. Translators of a text into modern languages usually work from such a “critical Greek text” that has already undergone these interpretative procedures.

            It is not uncommon that editors and translators of a text will themselves make errors in their interpretation of the text, or at the very least disagree in what should appear in critical editions of Greek texts and their translations. Editors are, after all, human and prone to error, and that is why we have different editions of critical texts and translations.3

            Here are two examples showing that what has been construed as interrogative sentences in the Gospel of John make good sense in the context as statements. My two examples demonstrate that editors of a text can come to different conclusions about a question mark. In John 14:2 a sentence that is construed as a question by one translation is construed in another as a statement:

If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (New Revised Standard Version).

If it were not so, I should have told you; for I am going to prepare a place for you. (The Revised English Bible).

The Nestle-Aland 28th edition of the critical Greek text punctuates the sentence with a question mark.

            Here is the second example. In John 20:29 a sentence that is construed by one translation as a question is construed in another as a statement:

Have you believed because you have seen me? (New Revised Standard Version).

Because you have seen me, you have found faith. (The Revised English Bible).

The Nestle-Aland 28th edition of the critical Greek text punctuates the sentence with a question mark.

            What is the difference between a statement and a question? Basically, a statement is the expression of an idea. A question is the expression of uncertainty and/or request for information. Hence in John 20:29 the paper character of Jesus affirms that the basis for Thomas’ faith is seeing the resurrected Christ (REB). In the NRSV, on the other hand, the character Jesus is unsure why Thomas believes. In the REB version of John 14:2 the character Jesus appears to admit an error on his part; that is, he should have told them he was going to prepare a place for them, but failed to do so. In the NRSV, on the other hand, Thomas finds faith precisely because he has seen the risen Jesus, which Jesus notes is not true of everyone.

One finds this same disagreement between construing the text as a question and a statement between the translators of the REB and the NRSV in John 6:42. I have also found a number of other places in John’s text where it appears to me that the sentence arguably works just as well as a question or as an affirmative statement: John 7:26, 9:40; 11:8, 16:19, 19:10.

            I do not know how familiar readers of the New Testament are with the above information. The information, however, should make a difference to them. What is the significance of this ambiguity in the Greek text of the gospel of John of which the translators of the Revised English Bible and the New Revised Standard Version were surely aware? In the first place the problem of ambiguity lies with the extant Greek texts. They are ambiguous enough that they can reasonably be read at some points in two different ways by readers of ancient Greek. In the second place it is a virtual certainty that the original Greek text of the gospel of John would not have been any different because scribal practices were similar. That is to say, the author’s original hand-written copy is likewise flawed. Readers of the author’s copy would have faced the same ambiguity.

            The Bible is extolled as divinely inspired by Christian believers, but many of its passages (like Psalm 23 and 1 Corinthians 13) are also regarded as inspired and inspiring as is all exceptional literature. In the end the biblical text that reaches the hands of the reading public is due as much to human inspiration, ability, skill, and flaws as all literature is.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1George B. Winer, A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament (7th ed. Enlarged and improved by Gottlieb Lϋnemann; Draper, 1892), 55-56.

2Blass, Debrunner, Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (University of Chicago, 1961), 10. E. M. Thompson, An Introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography (Oxford: Clarendon, 1912), 60; both of these authors say that the question mark appears in the 8th or 9th century, common era.

3The current critical Greek text in use by Western scholars is the so-called Nestle-Aland Critical text: “Novum Testamentum Graece.” Based on the work of Eberhard and Erwin Nestle. Edited by Barbara and Kurt Aland, et al. We are currently in the 28th Revised Edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece.