Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Visiting a Church in Old Corinth in 50 A.D.

If it were possible to step into a time machine and travel back to the first-century, you would immediately be disappointed. There were no Christian church buildings in the first century to visit. Such edifices, built to honor God and cater to the religious needs of progressive and affluent congregations, did not begin to emerge until the early third century.1 One possible reason there were no buildings is because they believed the world was soon going to end—within their lifetime (1 Cor 7:26, 29-31). You would be further disappointed because there were no “Christians” in the first century, at least, not like we today think of someone being Christian.2 The creedal statements that shape modern traditional versions of Christianity hearken back to the framers of the creeds of the 4th and 5th centuries.3 Who were the predecessors of those who developed the foundational creeds of modern Christian faith? What were their gatherings like?

            They gathered4 in homes (1 Cor 16:19; Rom 16:3-5; Philemon 2; Col 4:15), rather than buildings constructed to accommodate their particular worship style. Apparently, there was no distinctly Christian symbolism in statuary and painting. These expressions of faith, like all other physical remains, do not emerge until near the end of the third century.5 Corinth in the first century was not a Greek city. The Greek city had been destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.C., and left to lie in ruins for a century. It was rebuilt as a Roman city in 44 B.C. under Julius Caesar. As one of the leading cities of the Roman Province of Achaia by 50 A.D., it had something of a cosmopolitan flavor.6 Basically, Roman houses in which the Corinthian Christ group gathered were fronted by a spacious atrium leading onto a courtyard garden open to the sky, which was surrounded by rooms. Romans did not use glass for windows but there were small openings in the rooms that opened into the courtyard.7 So, we cannot peek through the window from the street and peer in on their gatherings. Fortunately, they welcomed outsiders to their gatherings (1 Cor 14:23-24).

            It appears, to judge from Paul’s letters, the gatherings of these early Christ groups were charismatic, meaning that those who shared in the gatherings believed themselves to be possessed of divine gifts (charismata). Persons in the gathering were enabled by the spirit of God to special ends. Some were endowed by the spirit to speak wisely and to utter knowledge, others to heal and to perform miracles or to prophesy, and others to distinguish between spirits (1 Cor 12:4-11). Some, they believed, were enabled to speak and sing to God in a kind of spiritual language (1 Cor 14:2, 15), these gestures were left for others to interpret (1 Cor 12:10; 14:27-28). Paul did not deny the presence of this gift (1 Cor 14:5, 18-19), but he was uncomfortable with how it was practiced (1 Cor 14:9, 15, 26) and particularly, with the excessive outward display of spiritual gifts (1 Cor 14:23). Paul thought all the spiritual gifts could be controlled (1 Cor 14:32) and should be (1 Cor 14:26-31, 37). On the other hand, Paul also had some odd ideas about spirit (1 Cor 5:3-5; 2 Cor 12:1-4; 13:5; Gal 4:6; 2:20).8

            The Christ group association at Corinth was not governed democratically by Robert’s Rules of Order. No leader in the gathering was elected by majority vote, but the spirit of God decided who filled every function (1 Cor 12:27-31). They had no pastors, deacons, or bishops. These came later (1 Tim 3:1-13). Leaders in the early gatherings were generally male (1 Cor 14:34-36), although there were exceptions (Rom 16:1, 3, 6, 12).

Personally, my time-travel self is a little uncomfortable with what I am finding in the Jesus gathering at Corinth. I am rather certain, as an heir of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, that I am more comfortable in the Sunday service of a modern church, which follows Robert’s Rules of Order, checks the credentials of church leaders, and discourages an excessive spiritualism, than in a middle first-century gathering, which could be interrupted by outbursts of glossolalia, competing prophetic voices drowning out one another, and people standing around the room with both arms lifted heavenward simultaneously audibly praying (1 Tim 2:8).9 My world today is not informed by spirits, holy or demonic.

When groups today advertise the organization of a “new ‘Jesus Church,’” they need to be more specific about what it is, and what might be expected by those of us who are becoming increasingly more than wary of some forms of religious expression, where (as Paul put it) such confusion (1 Cor 14:33) makes them seem crazy (1 Cor 14:23). How do you see it?

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University


2The term Christian appears in the New Testament three times (Acts 11:26, 26:28; 1 Pet 4:16).

3Bettenson and Maunder, Documents of the Christian Church (3rd ed.; Oxford, 1999), 25-27.

4Hedrick, “Pondering the Origins of the Church,” Wry Thoughts about Religion, Blog: Feb 16:2017:

5G. F Snyder, Ante Pacem. Archaeological Evidence of Church Life before Constantine (Mercer University, 1985), 2.

6Lamoine Devries, Cities of the Biblical World (Hendrickson, 1997), 362.

7Harold Johnston, The Private Life of the Romans (Scott, Foresman and Company, 1903), 117-47.

8Hedrick, “Putting Paul in his Place” Unmasking Biblical Faiths (Cascade, 2019), 124-27.

9Compare the discussion of the Orante in Snyder, Ante Pacem, 19-20; and also

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Are the Parables of Jesus deliberate Enigmas?

I ask the question because they have been exhaustively studied by parable ponderers since the first century and explanations even today are still getting more diverse and contradictory. Scholars today cannot even agree on what a parable is, and how it is supposed to function, much less what a given parable means. Historical Jesus Scholar, John Dominic Crossan, in a dictionary article suggests that this is the very result intended by the historical Jesus himself. He says that parables in the Jesus tradition are problematic.

This is probably because the parables were often told concerning the Kingdom of God and that explained a symbol by a metaphor…The presumption is that Jesus intended this effect, namely, that the parables would be both provocative and unforgettable so that the recipient would be forced inevitably to interpret.1

He concludes the essay this way:

All these differing interpretations…should not be considered the interpreter’s failure but rather the parable’s success. It is a parable’s destiny to be interpreted and those interpretations will necessarily be diverse. When the diversity ceases, the parable is dead, and the parabler is silent.2

An enigma is defined in Webster’s New World College Dictionary as “a perplexing, usually ambiguous statement, a riddle.”3 So far as I am aware no one has argued that parables are deliberate enigmas, but Crossan’s statement seems to lead us in that direction.

In the marketplace of the critical study of religion today there are at least six contemporary strategies for reading New Testament “parables.”4 One of these strategies treats parables as allegories. An allegory is a coded story that describes something totally different from what it says on its surface. On its surface the story of the Sower (Mark 4:3-8) describes the successes and failures of farming in first-century Palestine (Mark 4:13-20), but as its Markan interpretation (Mark 4:13-20) shows, it is really about success and failure of early Christian preaching. Most ecclesiastical interpretation of parables today are still treating them as allegories, particularly in church circles.

In the late 19th century against the excesses of allegory, Adolf Jϋlicher, a German scholar, argued that parables were comparisons comprised of two parts, a picture part (the parabolic story) and a “matter” or substance part. The “matter” part was the unspoken “issue” of the comparison; the “matter” was the real subject of the picture part. Something learned in the picture part evoked the substance part in terms of a single point expressed in a universal moral of the widest and broadest generality. For example, Jϋlicher’s moral for the parable of the Two Farmer’s and a Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9) was “all who do not repent will perish.”

In 1935 C. H. Dodd, a British scholar, argued that parables are metaphors. A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes one known thing in language appropriate to another known thing. Dodd argued that parables, introduced by the frame “the Kingdom of God is like…” were intended to cast light on God’s reign. In other words, God’s reign is described in language appropriate to Palestinian village life. As things go in the story, so go things under the reign of God. The specifics of the comparison, however, are never quantified, but left for auditors/readers to fill in. For Dodd, the Parable of the Sower illustrates the arrival of God’s reign in Jesus’ ministry by means of a harvest image.

In 1967, Dan Via, an American scholar, argued that narrative parables are neither allegory nor metaphor (a strategy that treats them as figures). Parables are narrative, freely invented fictions that work like any narrative does. They are a form of literary art that can be appreciated for themselves. They are literary objects that do not reference but instead call attention to themselves. What Jesus intended with the parables is lost to us in the twentieth century. All we have are the parables and they should be studied for what they are. These brief stories dramatize how Jesus understood human existence. In the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matt 20:1-15). The complaining workers understood life in terms of merit and were unwilling to accept the risk of relying on God’s grace.

In 1994, W. R. Herzog, Jr., an American scholar, argued that the parables were stories typifying the oppressed situation of Palestinian peasants at the hands of a wealthy elite. In his stories Jesus mirrored the oppressed conditions under which the peasants lived; they were intended to teach the peasants about their oppressed situation. This explains why Jesus was crucified. He was a threat to the state precisely because he sought to inform the peasants about their oppression. The Laborers in the Vineyard (Matt 20:1-15) reflects Herzog’s understanding of the clash between wealthy elite and disfranchised peasants. The amount paid the workers was not a living wage because day laborers do not work every day. The banishment of the worker who confronts the owner is intended to intimidate the other workers.

In 1994, C. W. Hedrick, an American scholar, argued that the parables are open-ended narrative fictions that Jesus invented by observing the world around him. They realistically portray aspects of Palestinian village life and aspects of the world around him. Complications raised in the narratives are left unresolved leaving resolutions for auditors/readers to solve. Because their polysemy (meaning they are capable of multiple meanings) and what different readers bring to them, they are capable of a wide range of plausible readings, as the history of parables interpretation demonstrates. Narrative fictions work by pulling the auditor/reader into their fictional worlds where discoveries about self and one’s own world may be made. Discoveries are evoked for auditors/readers in the nexus between the narrative and what they bring to it. In the story a Pharisee and Toll Collector (Luke18:10-13) the auditor/reader is presented with two flawed characters praying in the temple. The complication facing the auditor/reader is this: which flawed character will be acceptable to God?

Jesus did not explain his stories to his auditors. Hence, no one has access to that information. We do, however, know how some were explained (or not) in manuscripts through the third/fourth century: Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocryphon of James, Pistis Sophia, and The Apocalypse of Peter. Interpretations in the modern period add more diverse explanations. Explanations do not generally agree, but each interpreter claims to know how Jesus understood them. My own theory is that we do not interpret parables, but they interpret us (their readers), by evoking from us personal responses. How do you see it?

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1“Parable,” vol. 5.146-52 in The Anchor Bible Dictionary (Doubleday, 1992), 150.

2Ibid., 5.152.

34th edition, 2002.

4For the description of these six strategies, I have abbreviated and edited my dictionary entry on “Parable” in The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Abingdon, 2000), 374-76.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Is Prayer a Conversation with God?

In 2022 I published a Blog in which I said that I had discovered that while praying:

I was aware of no audible, or inaudible, “voice” in any language in my head, other than my own; I detected no indications of a presence other than me…Prayer was a one-sided conversation, and all efforts to communicate came from my end.1

This likely accounts for my reluctance to sign up for a 30-minute slot at a churchwide day of prayer at my local church recently. Later, I did agree to fill one of the slots and for 40-minutes I found I was still alone in my head. So, on the basis of personal experience, I must conclude that prayer is not a conversation with God; at least I have never been aware of voices responding to the thoughts in my head.

            Do conversations with God ever take place? That is to say: do any of those among us who spend time praying ever “hear” voices in their heads other than their own? Julian Jaynes, a psychologist at Princeton University, argued that the minds of our ancient ancestors worked differently than do our own today.2 Before we humans developed a subjective consciousness, ancient human beings had a bicameral mind (i.e., two compartments). In their left brain they received from their right brain auditory hallucinations from their gods. Jaynes exhaustively tracked the literary evidence for the shift from bicameral mind into human consciousness to near the end of the second millennium B.C.3 The interaction, however, in the bicameral mind between the right brain and the left was not a conversation but the hallucinated divine voices from their right brain directed their subjects to certain actions.4 The biblical prophets of the ancient Hebrews are near the end of the shift, Jaynes argued and reflect the gradual loss of the bicameral mind, and its replacement by subjectivity over the first millennium B.C.5

            A conversation is defined as a talking together, a casual or informal exchange of ideas or opinions between at least two persons. In Hebrew Bible I find few instances of a conversation between God and anyone. God is always the dominant party and the exchange is anything but casual or informal. For example, in Gen 2-3 compare the “verbal” exchange between Adam and God, and that between Adam/Eve and the serpent. The exchange with God is rather formal with God as the dominant party. The exchange between Adam and Eve and the serpent is more casual, more like a conversation. This assessment holds true for the exchanges between God and Cain (Gen 4:9-15), Noah (Gen 6-8; 9:1-17) and Abraham and Sarah (Gen 18). The dominance of God in any exchange is most pronounced in the exchange between God and Job (Job 38:1-42:6). My takeaway from these passages is that God (if God there be) doesn’t casually converse but during “verbal” exchanges, God dominates and directs, similar to Jaynes’ description of the bicameral mind.

            In the New Testament literature, the situation is more complicated because there are at least four divine figures whose “spoken” words are narrated: God (Mark 1:10-11; Mark 9:17), Jesus (Acts 9:3-11), the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2), an angel (Acts10:1-7). Again, similar to Jaynes’ description of the bicameral mind.

On the other hand, in places where people are formally portrayed as praying, God (or another divine figure) is not depicted as responding verbally (for example, John 17:1-18:1; Mark 14:32-42).6 I would describe none of these examples of prayer as casual conversations in which an exchange of ideas and opinions takes place. The divine figure is dominant in every exchange I cited.

            The biblical examples, cited above, suggest that by definition one does not have a casual conversation with God, or any other divine figure. Divine figures are not given to casual conversation. They don’t do a lot of listening, but they are always directing, and human beings do a lot of listening, to judge from Job’s experience.

            So, what is prayer, if one were wanting to describe it from biblical models? To judge from the model prayer Jesus taught his disciples (Matt 6:9-13=Luke 11:1-4), prayer consists of several elements all cast as petitions from the human side: hallow your name; bring in your rule; grant each of us our bread for the day; forgive us our sins; do not test us. Not much casual conversation or small talk in the prayer.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Hedrick, “Why Doesn’t God Speak English?” Saturday April 16, 2022.

2Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Break-down of the Bicameral Mind (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976).

3Jaynes, Origin of Consciousness, 84-125. And

4Jaynes, Origins of Consciousness, 75.

5Jaynes, Origin of Consciousness, 294.

6The situation in 2 Cor 12:7-10 is not a portrayal of Paul in the act of praying with God’s “voice” depicted as responding. Paul is described as relating a prior experience of prayer, but in either case God was directing.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Can you be too Goal Oriented?

I think there is something to be said for just “chilling out”; that is, relax and let life happen. My late wife was fond of telling me, “Relax and smell the roses,” but I was always much too busy trying to meet a goal of one sort or another. Goals are inevitably terminal by design. Once accomplished (or unrealized) we move on to set others. Goals proliferate, but occasionally the unexpected happens rendering all our goals insignificant in the face of some life-changing event.

Every goal-oriented person has at least four general periods in which time-sensitive goals are set, whether s/he knows it or not. Quotidian goals are activities that open or mark a given day. For example, most of us set goals for ourselves to meet in our daily routine: such things as a healthy breakfast, socially acceptable hygiene, personal appearance, and on-time arrival at obligations, or job interview. Goals such as these are almost the basic minimum for successful living in community. It would not be easy to eliminate them.

Many of us set short-range goals for ourselves to accomplish in the near-time frame. For example, one becomes dissatisfied with one’s job and starts looking for another, or we decide we want new living accommodations and look for another space. Neither of these is achievable overnight but as short-term goals they might occupy us for weeks, if not months. Short-term goals are part of life’s inevitable change but they also upset our set routines.

Many of us also set long-range goals for ourselves that take years and a lot of work to accomplish, such as working toward college graduation or completing graduate school, or perhaps one wants to make a trip abroad, something that cannot be done in the near-term but by laying money aside and planning we might just be able to swing a vacation on that Greek island of our dreams at some point in the future. Long-term goals usually involve setting many short-term plans that must be met first.

Strategic goals, on the other hand, are something quite different. They come near the end of life and constitute something we have been planning all our lives. Likely the achieving of these goals will only become evident in retrospect. For example, the goal of having a comfortable retirement involves the realization of a great number of other objectives throughout life that require planning as well: what will my final annual retirement annuity be, what will be the amount of my savings upon retirement, will my investments be secure and prosper? A strategic goal is something that one will fret over all through one’s working years.

At some point, given time, we will also ponder our personal mortality. Another strategic goal, expressed here in the most general way, is the hope that we will be found to have satisfied the standards of the considerable powers of the universe with the time we were given. Some of us orient our lives around preparing for that moment of the “dying of the light”—others not so much. It is reported that even Jesus pondered his own mortality before his death (Mark 14:32-42), and the experience was greatly distressing and troubling to him (Mark 14:33-34).1 According to Mark, he acquiesced, by accepting the inevitability of the moment. It is a rational act to accept the inevitably of one’s death. Nevertheless, that does not mean we cannot still “rage, rage, against the dying of the light.”2

My point in this odd essay is that if we are ambitious, goals are an inevitable part of life, and so is the end of life. Having too many goals, and the commitments they entail, can clutter our living with immeasurable minutiae, excessive pressure, and a great deal of time expenditure. Such a heavy investment of time may cause us to miss the wonder of Being altogether. So, find a way to relax, smell the roses, and chill out!

Here are three stanzas of a poem that is not writ in any book (perhaps wisely so). They express my own frustrations some years ago when I was feeling the pressure of too many irons in the fires of my own goal making. It seems obvious that I had too much on my plate.

Cloistered Space

Blessed be Free-Spaces

who bestow sanity and peace,

And Holy Passages-Between,

Who grants surcease

From demanding Musts

that loudly fill Silence

With shrill dis-ease,

Debilitating Indolence

Cursed be Duty and Decorum,

Twin Nemesis of Ease,

Those who plunder the House of Idleness

With loathsome and irritating Demands,

Omnivorous, crude, belching Time-Eaters,

Who forage in the Holidays

On Leisure and Repose.

Curse thee, we curse thee, we curse thee.

Oh, Blissful Solitude,

Irenic eye of Charybdis!

Bless us with Hiatus;

Seal us with infinite Vacuity.

From Thrall we seek release.

Baleful Locked-in,

She of the Ireful-Eye,

Chief Guard of Servitude.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Mark composed the story, inventing its dialogue, but there is a kernel of history at its core as a second witness attests (Heb 5:7).

2Dylan Thomas, “Do not go Gentle into that Good Night.”

Monday, July 24, 2023

Jesus on the Management of Slaves

Traditionally, scholars of the parabolic language attributed to Jesus will distinguish between types of parabolic sayings: simile (a saying that uses “like” or “as” for a comparison, Matt 13:33), similitude (an analogy, similar to a simile, but elaborated with more detail, Matt 13:31). A parable, on the other hand, is a fully formed narrative, a story with beginning, middle, and end (Matt 13:3b-8). There are relatively few similes in the gospels, and many think of similitudes as narrative parables with less detail.1 A case on point is Luke 17:7-9, a story with less detail.

Who among you having a slave ploughing or tending sheep, when he comes in from the field will say to him: “Come here at once and take your place at the table?” On the contrary, will he not rather say to him: “Prepare my meal, and after girding yourself, serve me while I eat and drink, and after these things, you can eat and drink?” He would not thank the slave because he did what was ordered, would he?2

The saying reflects the schema of a story: the beginning of the story: a man’s slave was working in the field. The middle of the story: the slave comes in from the field. The end of the story: his work day is not yet done. It is as much a story as is the “parable of the leaven,” Matt 13:33b.

Luke 17:7-9 is cast in the form of a conundrum, a series of three questions about how to treat slaves, and appeals to common social practice for the definitive answer: “Who among you having a slave…will say…?/On the contrary, will he not say…?/Does he thank the slave…?” (Luke 17:7, 8, 9). The conundrum provides one example of the treatment of slaves and allows it to stand for the customary practice as a whole: slaves do not eat before their owners; slaves exist only to make the owner’s life more comfortable.

The evangelist strains to find an appropriate religious moral for the story (Luke 17:10). Comparing disciples to the slave in the story (“So also you...”), the evangelist tells the disciples to admit that they are worthless slaves because they only did what was commanded (by God)—that is, they should have done more. Luke 17:10 is not part of the story; it is the evangelist’s interpretation of the story.3

The complication, which is left unresolved in the story, is: how should owners treat their slaves? The story leaves that question unresolved. It only describes what people usually do. Hence some readers are left pondering if there might be a better way of treating slaves, and that eventually raises the issue of the institution of human slavery itself for a thoughtful reader.

Slavery was ubiquitous in both ancient Greece and the Roman Republic and Empire. The general view of slaves is that they were chattel (a self-moving item of personal property). Aristotle argued that slaves should be thought of as a “live tool”; that is, as a living item of property (Pol. 1.2.3-6). Slaves had no legal rights and the slave owner had the power of life or death over them. The institution of slavery was based on violence, and the slave’s life was harsh. Hence, the best admonition for slaves was “Slaves obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling with single-hearted devotion” (Eph 6:5; Did. 4:11). The slave in the story of Jesus was a farm slave, where life was even more difficult than the lives of town slaves.4

We may be surprised that Jesus does not outright condemn such an inhumane social institution, but his stories are not frontal assaults on human degeneracy. His stories realistically mirror situations designed to provoke auditors into pondering their own situations in life through the story. Here is Adolf Jϋlicher’s description of the situation in Luke 17:7-9:

The Jesus who speaks in 17:7-9 is not the ethicist but the knower of men, who describes things, as they were at the time, without sentimentality also without exaggeration of the wretched conditions of slaves.5

His invention of a heartless slave owner and his treatment of a (single?) slave as characters for this story may be taken as a subtle criticism because it raises the question: might there be a better way of treating this particular slave? Paul, likewise, offered a subtle criticism of slavery, when he violates his own directive of “remain as you are” in view of the imminent end of the world (1 Cor 7:17-20). As I read the text, Paul allows an exception for slaves. If they can gain their freedom, they should do so (1 Cor 7:21).6 The short letter to Philemon (particularly verses 10-17) also support the idea that freedom is better than servitude, even though Paul does not specifically ask Philemon to free Onesimus.

The story in Luke 17:7-9 constitutes a subtle criticism of slavery. A better example, however, is the behavior of the appreciative slave owner in Luke 12:35-39. The slave owner dons an apron and serves his slaves a meal (Luke 12:37). There are other sayings attributed to Jesus that also suggest better ways in human relationships in general (for example, Matt 5:6; Luke 6:29a; Luke 6:32), and, hence, they obliquely apply to the treatment of slaves. A similar subtle criticism of slavery is reflected by Paul in his suggestion of a “better way” for the Jesus gathering at Corinth (1 Cor 12:31b-14:1a). The later writings of the New Testament, however, seem oblivious to the evils of slavery. Their authors advise slaves to obey their masters (even the hard or merciless ones) so as to reflect well on their religious faith (Eph 6:3; Col 3:22-23; 1 Tim 6:1; Tit 2:9-10; 1 Pet 2:18). On the whole, the Bible’s record on the institution of slavery is rather poor.

The Jesus Seminar voted that Luke 17:7-9 was not a genuine saying of Jesus.7 As I look today at the rationale for that decision, the reasons do not seem cogent. Our rationale at that time was that Luke invented the saying out of Israelite wisdom and Greco-Roman symposium traditions, but the meal in the story is not a symposium and no parallels are offered from Israelite wisdom traditions in support of the Seminar’s rationale. On the positive side, Luke 17:7-9 has the same oblique quality as Mark 12:17b (“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”), which was voted Red (assuredly genuine)8 at the University of Redlands in 1986. Luke 17:7-9 is, therefore, also likely a genuine saying of Jesus, the historical man.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Charles W. Hedrick, Many Things in Parables. Jesus and his Modern Critics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2004), 6-7.

2My translation.

3Hedrick, Many Things in Parables, xvi, 12-14.

4On slavery, see K. R. Bradley, “Slavery,” 1415-17 in The Oxford Classical Dictionary (eds. S. Hornblower and Antony Spawforth; 3rd ed.; Oxford, 1999); H. W. Johnston, The Private Life of the Romans (New York: Scott, Foresman,1903), 87-111.

5Die Gleichnisreden Jesu (2nd ed.; 2 vols.; Freiburg: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1899), 1.16. My translation.

6How the translation of 1 Cor 7:21 (μαλλον χρησαι) should be rendered in translation is disputed. For example, E. J. Goodspeed: “If you were a slave when you were called, never mind. Even if you can gain your freedom, make the most of your present condition instead.” RSV: “Were you a slave when called? Never mind. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.” Goodspeed’s translation slights the adversative (αλλα) that suggests a strong contrast between the two states of servitude and the slave’s opportunity to gain freedom.

7R. W. Funk and R. W. Hoover, The Five Gospels and the Jesus Seminar (New York: Macmillan, 1993), 363. The Jesus Seminar, “Voting Records,” Forum 6.3-4, 265. At Cincinnati in 1990, the vote on Luke 17:7-10 was Red=0, Pink=13, Grey=30, Black=57. Hence, the saying was considered nongenuine.

8Jesus Seminar, “Voting Records,” Forum, 6.3-4, 302.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Flawed Characters in the stories Jesus told

There is a subtle grittiness reflected in many of the stories Jesus told, that many readers of the parables seem to miss. Likely because most readers are searching for religious morals among the parables Jesus invented. For example, the story of the Samaritan (Luke 10:30b-35) occurs in the aftermath of a vicious assault and robbery on the Jericho Road that left the victim almost dead (10:30b). The first travelers on the scene after the mugging ignore the man lying in the ditch. The Violent Tenants (Mark 12:1b-8) is a story about some ruthless tenants who, in the course of the story, committed several murders, beatings, and multiple stonings of rent collectors; the story concludes with them murdering the son of the property owner. One story, The Killer (Gos. Thom 98), narrates the calculated planning and the cold-blooded murder of an important man.

            Other stories, while not as violent, feature characters seriously flawed by their less than ethical practices. For example, the story of The Manager Fired for Cause (Luke 16:1b-7) features a manager accused of wasting the owner’s goods. The owner summoned him and fired him on the spot. Before his firing became common knowledge, the ex-manager conspired with those in debt to the owner to pay less than they owed in hopes they would reward him in the future. The story is followed by three awkward attempts to find some religious value in the story (Luke 16:8-9). Another story features the blatantly unethical practice of paying day laborers the same amount of money for unequal amounts of work performed, and then taunting those who worked the longest number of hours by paying them last (Matt 20:1-15). Those paid first no doubt were delighted with their pay. Those paid last who worked the longest felt unfairly treated and their efforts unappreciated.

            In other stories the flaws of the protagonist are not immediately obvious. Consider the story Jesus told about a dysfunctional family (Luke 11b-32). The characters include a pampered younger son who wastes his inheritance in a distant land, an indulgent father who dotes on the younger son, and an elder brother, who is thoroughly piqued at being slighted by his father, after his years of faithful service to the family business. Another example is the striking lack of compassion by the protagonist over a small debt owed to him by another, when his own much larger debt, had just been forgiven (Matt 18:23-34). Luke 13:6-9 features a story about two bumbling and incompetent farmers, neither of whom knows nearly enough about the care of a fig tree planted in a vineyard. On the other hand, The Pharisee and Toll Collector (Luke 18:10-13) features two men praying in the temple. Both are counting on God’s forgiveness for different reasons. Both seem to know how God will respond to them: the Pharisee stands before God on his own merits, having fulfilled the law perfectly (he claims). The toll collector, with eyes cast downward, cries for God’s mercy for his sins, apparently with no intention of mending his ways.

            Sometimes the evangelist misreads certain characters in the stories and either commends or criticizes them. For example, Luke denigrates the personal character of the judge in Luke 18:1-5 by calling him “unjust” (Luke 18:6), when he appears to be a thoroughly honest judge who calls his cases based on how he sees the evidence (18:2, 4). The judge, however, considers compromising his integrity because of a perceived physical threat from a widow. The story ends before he renders his judgment, and the reader is left pondering how the story might have ended.1

            Why would a teacher of wisdom and religious values, who is touted as working miracles through the power of God, pepper his stories with such violent, unethical, and otherwise flawed behavior? The answer is: such appears to be the nature of the society in which Jesus lived. The stories of Jesus were realistic fictions and he invented his characters from the world around him. As John Kloppenborg aptly puts it:

The parable, in order to challenge or problematize prevailing values or beliefs, must be told in a realistic vein and evoke a world in which the audience is at home if it is to succeed in its rhetorical purpose of deconstructing or challenging that world.2

Ancient Palestine was a world in which banditry was commonplace suggesting that those on the bottom of the social scale, rural peasants and urban poor, were always at risk. Their world was not a safe place. There are few ancient sources describing their plight (the works of Josephus being the principal nonreligious source).3 The parables themselves are part of the evidence for the dangerous conditions of that world. The elements of these stories invented by Jesus are problematic: his characters are flawed, his settings are realistic, his plots are gritty, and there is no resolution to his complications. All of which leads a reader to ponder, and that is how the parables of Jesus work.

In that nexus (that is in the reader’s mind reflecting on the story within the parable’s world) readers find affirmation, challenge, or subversion to the constructs under which they live their own lives.4

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1See C. W. Hedrick, Parabolic Figures or Narrative Fictions? Seminal Essays on the Stories of Jesus (Cascade: 2016), 171.

2J. Kloppenborg, The Tenants in the Vineyard (WUNT 195; Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 107. For a discussion of parables as realistic fiction see pp. 106-109 and Hedrick, Parables as Poetic Fictions. The Creative Voice of Jesus (Hendrickson, 1994), 39-56, and idem, Many Things in Parables. Jesus and his Modern Critics (Westminster John Knox, 2004), 53-54.

3L. R. Lincoln, A Socio-Historical Analysis of Jewish Banditry in First Century Palestine: 6-70 CE. Masters Thesis, University of Stellenbosch, Nov. 2005:

4Hedrick, Many Things in Parables, 85.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

An Early Christian Slogan?

There is a pithy statement in 1 Tim 2:5-6, written in terse prose omitting certain verbal forms that would help with the clarity of the piece, were they present. It is a concise statement of a slogan-like character.1 Line 4 has the character of a “tag line,” possibly functioning as a title. Likely for these reasons and the fact that the unit appears formulaic, the editors of the Nestle-Aland critical Greek text of the New Testament (NT) chose to print it in a structured format, a printing not generally followed by English translators of the NT:2

For one God

and one mediator of God and humanity

a human being, Lord Anointed Jesus

the one giving himself a ransom for all

the testimony at the right time

There are six other narrative units in the pastoral letters3 published by the Nestle-Aland Greek text in the same stylized manner.4 English Bible translators print some of these in a formulaic manner.

            The narrative unit 1 Tim 2:5-6 is a traditional piece, likely liturgical. It is tied loosely to the surrounding context and hence was likely not composed by the author of First Timothy. It was inserted at this point to support the author’s statement that God “desires all people to be saved.”5

Line 1: taking the word “one” (εις) as the predicate, the translation should be rendered as “God is one” (Rom 3:30; 1 Cor 8:6; Eph 4:5-6), rather than “there is one God,” as modern translators generally render it.6

Lines 2-3: These two lines comprise one thought. A mediator is one who mediates or arbitrates between two parties. That is to say the mediator brings about at-one-ment between two parties. There is no description given as to how the mediation occurs. The appellation “Christ” signals not divinity necessarily but rather that Jesus is “the Anointed of God.” (χριστος=Christ/Messiah=Anointed). The slogan uses the general term for human beings, or people (ανθρωπος). The appellation “lord” is a term used in ancient texts of a person who commands respect or exercises authority. In Hebrew Bible it is used as a substitute for the personal name of God, Yahweh. As applied to Jesus, it is not necessarily a term of divinity. “Giving himself” (stated again in Titus 2:14) is not the same thing as “giving his life” (as it appears in Mark 10:45 and Matt 20:28); compare 2 Cor 8:5 where it is said of the Corinthians that “they first gave their own selves” (see similar statements at 2 Tim 2:15; Rom 6:13). The lack of specificity as to how he gave himself is surprising. The word “ransom” (αντιλυτρον) immediately brings to mind the crucifixion (it is λυτρον in Mark 10:45 and Matt 20:28), but that is not the only way in the NT Jesus is said to have offered himself. In Heb 2:10 Jesus was the pioneer of a certain kind of faith. By being perfected through his own suffering, his own faith (Gal 2:16) established the way of faith for others to follow. The “price of their release” (ransom) was his suffering for his own perfecting; that is, it was not “in our behalf.”7 “Ransom” in Heb 2:10 (αντιλυτρον) in the NT appears only in 1 Tim 2:6, and is a word otherwise only attested in the post NT period.8

Line 4: It is unclear whether the “tag line” was composed by the author of First Timothy or if it is part of the liturgical quotation. “At the proper time” (also in Tit 1:3) in 1 Clem 20:4 refers to the processes of nature.

Evaluation: This liturgical statement is interesting for its lack of detail in the language describing Christ’s role in redemption; compare 2 Tim 1:9-10; Titus 3:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; 1 Pet 2:21-25. The stripped-down statement in 1 Tim 2:5-6 fails to mention his suffering and death in our behalf on the cross and his resurrection. The oneness of God and Jesus performing the work of redemption as a human being reads today like an anti-trinitarian formula. Compare, for example, the detail in Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 15:3-4: I have delivered to you what I also received:

That Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures;

And that he was buried;

And that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures;

And that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.

To consider 1 Tim 2:5-6 “Christian orthodoxy,” one must make a lot of assumptions.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University


2Out of the fourteen English translations of the New Testament on my shelf, only the following render 1 Tim 2:5-6 in a formulaic manner: Holman, New American, New Revised Standard, and Ehrman. All fourteen, however, with the exception of the King James, render 1 Tim 3:16b in a formulaic way.

3The Pastoral Epistles are 1, 2 Timothy, and Titus.

41 Tim 3:16b, 6:11-12, 6:15b-16; 2 Tim 1:9-10, 2:11b-13; Titus 3:4-7.

5Martin Dibelius, The Pastoral Epistles (Hans Conzelmann, ed. of the German edition; Philip Buttolph and Adela Yarbo, trans.; Helmut Koester, ed. of English edition. Hermeneia: Fortress: Philadelphia), 41-43.

6Dibelius, Pastoral Epistles, 41, note 38. For an adjectival predicate: H. W. Smyth, Greek Grammar, §910b, 944-48; Blass, Debrunner, Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament, §270 (1); 127-28. Dibelius (p. 35) renders the expression “God is one.” Dibelius, Die Pastoral Briefe (Handbuch zum Neuen Testament 13; 2nd.rev. ed.; Tϋbingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 26.

7See Hedrick, “On Calling Jesus my Brother,” March 4, 2021 and “How is Jesus the Son of God,” March 22, 2021:

8F. Bϋchsel, “λυτρον,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 4.349.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Hope and Faith in the New Testament and Modern Science

Hope is not just a small township in Arkansas.1 It turns out to be the primary anchor that makes religious faith possible: Hope is the slender thread by which believers are anchored to the bedrock of their faith.2 Hope for the future and religious faith are attitudes reflecting certain expectations. Yet all of us share hopeful expectations that have no religious associations; basically, it turns out, hope is a secular attitude with secular and existential expectations. Hope is also an essential aspect of religious faith, a necessary complement to religious belief.

Hope is “a feeling that what is wanted is likely to happen, a desire accompanied by expectation”; or stated differently, hope is an attitude that what is desired could come to pass. Faith, as exercised in Christian faith, “is an unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence.” As I understand these hopeful attitudes, they are similar but not the same. In First Peter (1:21) and 1 Corinthians (13:13) they are stated as different attitudes. They are both attitudes but they differ in the degree of confidence in which one holds the expectation that what one hopes-for could actually come to pass. Nevertheless, hope is a secular attitude utilized by religious believers in their faith. In its secular form hope is an attitude one holds toward what might be possible (not probable) in the future.3 As expressed in its secular form, hope is not necessarily oriented toward God or a particular God (for example, Acts 24:26; 27:20; Rom 5:4;1 Cor 9:10; 13:13; 2 Cor 10:15).

The word faith is also used in the New Testament to designate a body of religious belief to which one gives mental assent. Hence, in the New Testament faith is both an attitude (for example, Matt 8:10; Mark 5:34; Luke 8:48; Rom 3:28; 4:5, 19-20; 2 Cor 5:7; Gal 3:23-24) and the particular system of religious belief to which one ascribes (for example, Gal 1:23; 6:10; Eph 4:5; 4:13; Col 2:7; 1 Tim 1:2; 3:9; 4:1, 6).

There is a certain arrogance on the part of some writers of the New Testament who completely discount hope apart from that as exercised in their own sectarian faith (for example, Rom 1:21; 1:28-32; Eph 2: 11-12; 4:17-18; 1 Thess 4:13; 1 Pet 1:14). Nevertheless, “in Philebus 39e,” Plato “shows how human existence is determined not merely by the perception (αισθησις) which accepts the present but also by the recollection (μνημη) of the past and the expectation of the future.”4 In other words, hope for the future is a natural aspect or corollary of being human. Human beings are born with the capacity to hope. They are endowed by their “creator” with the inalienable right of having future expectations, as best it seems to each one. Someone who shares no religious faith might be led to express the following secular hope for continuity beyond the mortal field:

I hope that the considerable powers of the universe will not consign my personal consciousness to oblivion.

Such a hope would neither be directed toward a supernatural divine entity, nor would it be expressed confidently and unwaveringly. There is no certain proof or evidence to support such a secular hope. Yet, a glimmer of hope is encouraged in the fact that death is the great waster of consciousness in the universe and, to judge from life cycles on earth, the universe resists waste. Countless millions spend their lifetimes developing unique complex personalities that apparently disappear in the moment of death. Such universal waste and the tendency of nature to resist waste might lead someone to hope, in spite of the odds against hope, that something more may yet lie in our future. In earth’s ecosystem of life nothing material is wasted, but all is recycled; even some energy is transformed and reclaimed at each level of the food chain in earth’s ecosystem.5 This tendency of nature not even to waste nonmaterial energy encourages the slim hope that something more may yet lie before us. Such a hope is at least as certain as Abraham’s “hope against hope” (Rom 4:18; that is, continuing to have hope even though it appears baseless). Under the second law of thermodynamics, however, every energy transfer reduces the amount of usable energy in the universe and eventually no usable energy will be available. Thus, even this slender thread of hope is a hope against hope.6

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Other unincorporated areas and tiny villages in the U.S. also bear the name Hope.

2I posted an essay of the subject on hope on July 16, 2018: See Hedrick. “What lies behind Gospel Music.”

3Kierkegaard: “Hope, as a form of expectation, is an attitude towards the possible.”

4Rudolf Bultmann, “Ελπις: The Greek Concept of Hope,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Gerhard Kittel, ed.; Geoffrey Bromiley, trans.; Eerdmans, 1964), 2.517-18.


6Stephen Leacock, “Theory and Common Sense,” pp. 369-70 in Louise B. Young, Exploring the Universe (Oxford, 1971) and

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.