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Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations IV

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Question #1:  

I am one who would like to read the Bible in its original language: Hebrew and Greek. What is the best program or book that I can use as a beginner to learn to read the Bible in Hebrew and Greek that will help me to make sense out of it?

Response #1: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Please forgive the delay in response. I was out of town the beginning of the week and am only now digging out.

Here are two links for resource pages at Ichthys which link to online sources for studying Greek and Hebrew:

Greek Language Resources

Hebrew Language Resources

For Classics in general (Greek and Latin), you can also get some good ideas from the links page at my U of L site: Classics Links

Also, at Ichthys I have a list of the websites of some of the major evangelical seminaries:


I am not sure what your overall objective is, but in my experience there is no substitute for a knowledge of the original languages when it comes to exegeting the Word of God. If you are preparing for such a ministry, I would strongly advise you to begin planning so as to find a way to learn these languages in a traditional classroom setting. Some people do have the personal tools necessary to learn on their own or outside of class, but these individuals are rare, and, again, from what I have seen and experienced, even those who can and do go the independent route on this matter do not go as far as they would have if they had had the opportunity for more traditional study. Please see the link:

"How important is education for a pastor?"

You might also find these links helpful:

The Local Church and Personal Ministry I

The Local Church and Personal Ministry II

The Local Church and Personal Ministry III

The Local Church and Personal Ministry IV

Please feel free to write me back about any of this.

This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
1st Timothy 3:1 KJV

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:  

I have seen your insights into certain versions of the Bible here on the website, but I haven't seen anything about your opinion on the English Standard Version (ESV). Wonder if you could give us your thoughts.

Response #2: 

Thank you for your email. I have not read the ESV through, so can only give you my (what may be inaccurate) impressions. I do use it on occasion and do find some of its renderings helpful (even if I rarely quote it). It is my understanding that the ESV is substantially an improved version of the RSV, eliminating many of the offensive, liberalizing usages in that previous version. As such I have found it a sound translation in most respects. It seems to me somewhat less readable (in my opinion) than the NIV, but also more faithful to the original Greek and Hebrew in that sacrificing of readability. That is to say, it is less interpretive, and that has its positive aspects of course, but also a downside in the production of labored prose on occasion which may be difficult to understand:

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV


Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Ephesians 4:15-16 NIV

While I would translate:

[B]ut rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects, with Christ who is the head of the Church as our model. In this way, the entire body of the Church, fitted and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:15-16

All three renditions say approximately the same thing, but the ESV in this instance (and similar) seems to veer close to "translationese" instead of English. In doing so, it avoids interpretive translations which may in fact be misinterpretations (with which the NIV is unfortunately replete, and my preliminary analysis of the TNIV suggests that the second stab at things only made matters worse in this respect), but can leave people scratching their heads and wondering what they just read might mean.

As I say, this is only a impressionistic response. I would not wish to be any more dogmatic without reading the version through several times. However, if I am correct in my assumption that the ESV is really more of an "R-RSV" (i.e., a "revised" Revised Standard Version), then that would tend to confirm these characterizations.

Two last points of possible interest. First, I have a good friend from seminary who swears by the ASV (of which the RSV is itself a revision). Secondly, it is also my understanding that the ESV received a major work-over several years ago, but that it is still called the ESV (not the RESV or some such), and that may also affect the calculus here, to wit, "which ESV do we mean?".

I hope this is of some help. I would certainly be more than happy to discuss the ESV's treatment of particular passages, vocabulary, or doctrines.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:  

Hello--Sorry to bother you again so soon, but I have a quick question concerning verb form in "and the Word was God." What tense is "was" in, in the Greek? I don't think it is a literal past tense, and I think I read a long time ago that the Greek verb form was a tad difficult to render accurately into English. Some JW says it is past tense and that means Jesus was "a god" at one time in the past but is no longer, which is nonsense, since He was NEVER "a god" and is always and forever "God." Could you please explain the tense to me? Thanks. No hurry.

Response #3: 

Always good to hear from you.

The verb form is En (ἠν) the past tense of the verb "to be" (eimi). Technically it is the imperfect, but the verb "to be" doesn't have an aorist or a pluperfect in Greek, so this is the only choice to render something in the past with the copula. The tense argument is nonsense, of course. In all languages with which I am familiar, just because something was true in the past does not mean that it is no longer true in the present. Language, and logic, requires some sort of statement to indicate that a past reality is no longer the case in the present. John is describing the situation in eternity past before creation: "The Word was God". As you correctly surmise, this eternal truth about His deity is not rendered null and void because of the past tense ("was"). I suppose if John had said "is" instead of "was", they would tell us that "is" was used because He "was not" in the past and only later became God.

The Gospel of John is some of the simplest ancient Greek in existence. Whenever people read into it to the point of producing a nonsense-sounding translation, you can be sure it really and truly is nonsense.

In the One who was and is and will be our Lord and our God, dear Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Hey I know your pretty busy but if you get a chance would you please visit the website www.scriptureforall.org/OnlineInterliner/NTpdf/Johl.pdf. It gave me 1st John in Greek with a little extra stuff and I wanted to make sure that the notes under each word was correct before I reading it and stuff. Oh and just a little question: is chaire goodbye as well as hello? Just curious.


Response #4: 

I found the website (it's "4all" rather than "forall"), and the interlinear feature they have is pretty typical (see the link: "Interlinears"). I didn't see any obvious problems with the translations (in fact, it looked pretty good), but as you know now from studying Greek, there is not necessarily a "one for one" equivalent in English for Greek words, largely because our language has lost most of its inflected endings. So, for example, when they translate "this" for houtos, that is certainly fine as far as it goes, but of course we know that houtos is masculine and nominative (but in English it could be many other things). Also, they give two possibilities for Logos, but there are others as well, so they have made interpretive choices for space reasons. Simply put, interlinears may have their place, but they are necessarily limited in their approach. This becomes much more obvious in more complicated texts (e.g., it's hard to make heads or tails of Ephesians chapter one with an interlinear; John's gospel, in contrast, is very straightforwardly phrased).

Yup! Chaire!, like Shalom!, means either hi or g'bye.


Bob L.

Question #5:  

Dear Professor,

If, as many scholars think, Matthew and Luke relied on Mark (and Q) as sources, how is it that in your link, "Chronology of the Books of the Bible", you place Matthew as the earliest book in the NT?

I was also taught that Paul's Epistles pre-date the gospels (or perhaps I'm mis-reading your chronology....).

Thank you for your attention to this e-mail,

Response #5: 

The fact that many others have accepted the Q hypothesis I do not find to be a particularly persuasive point. When it comes to biblical matters, one has to take into account the strong and irrationally visceral prejudice which exists in the academy against any notion of the inspiration of scripture. I am not convinced that this hypothesis (which I consider essentially groundless) was not developed in the first instance out of a desire to undermine biblical authority and accepted and promulgated thereafter for the precise same reasons. It would be nice if academia were a place where truth was sought objectively and entirely for its own sake. In fact, of course, politics and personal prejudice often have much to do with what gets published and what becomes consensus and that is all too often true even in the so-called hard sciences. I am certainly willing to consider any of the arguments on Q's behalf, but please note that 1) tradition places Matthew's gospel first (although the priority of Mark is the fundamental precept of the Q hypothesis); and 2) Mark gives every impression of being the work of John Mark, associated with Peter and written from Rome (all features which would argue for a date later than that of Matthew).

Given the vast ocean of ancient biblical manuscripts, fragments, apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, it stretches credulity to the breaking point to ask us to believe that a source of such importance has left not the smallest trace outside of the gospels it supposedly influenced. I think it fair to say that a similar theory involving secular works from antiquity would never have gained such notoriety and general acceptance in such a total vacuum of actual evidence. The only support for the theory, of course, are the circular arguments of form-criticism and the like developed to support it.

As to "the gospel's pre-dating Paul's letters", the chronology of Paul's life and letters is a complicated one for which there is no complete agreement even among the community of those who accept biblical authority. This is a subject to which I would like to devote some serious time (if I live long enough to do so). The true issue, however, is really not so much one of when Paul wrote but of when the gospels writers wrote. The late dating of the gospels is part and parcel of the anti-supernatural bias of the academy which would have these works date from one to three centuries after the fact (making them thus bereft of any genuine truth). However, the evidence suggests otherwise. To take just one uncomfortable fact, P45, one of the Chester Beatty papyri, dates to the second century and contains portions of all four gospels. Not only do the papyri explode the late-gospel theories but they also leave precious little room for another source 1) to be written, 2) to be so widely distributed and become so well-known that Luke and Matthew were influenced heavily by it, and 3) to disappear from history entirely.

In short, it takes much more faith in the prowess of 19th century German scholarship to believe the Q hypothesis than it does to accept the evidence of the biblical manuscripts and the internal evidence of the documents themselves, evidence which corresponds with the essence of the traditional view, to wit, that the gospels are as they purport to be (which was, after all, the universal verdict of antiquity).

Thank you for your question. Please feel free to write me back about any of this.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob Luginbill

Question #6:  

Hi--I have a quick question--in Heb. 8:13, where the writer says "...a NEW covenant, He has made the first obsolete." The "has made"...is that really a past participle in Greek? I can't tell from our BibleWorks 4.0 what tense it is in. Every English translation it has, has "has made" or "has been made" I forget the exact wording. But all had a past tense of some kind.


Response #6: 

The form pepalaioken is a Greek (present) perfect. "He has made" is the English translation for the form. In English we use a periphrasis to form the perfect (i.e., "has" plus the participle "made"), but in Greek it is all one form.

Technically speaking, the perfect is not a past tense; rather, it represents something presently true or "in state" as a result of a past action (English is identical to Greek in this respect).

Yours in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Thanks. How then, would you explain what the writer meant, when he wrote, "When he said 'a new covenant', He has made the old obsolete."? Is it a done deal? Something that is still ongoing? What? Thanks.

Response #7: 

If something "has been made obsolete", it is now obsolete. The point in using the present perfect is to show that the act of rendering the previous covenant obsolete has already occurred in the past. In this context, the difference between using the present tense "is obsolete" and the perfect "has made it obsolete" is also one of greater emphasis since the perfect has to attribute the action to the doer (God), whereas the present would merely express the present state of things without reference to the Agent: "God has done it (i.e., rendered the old covenant obsolete) so that it is already done (i.e., not only no longer in force but also out of commission for some unspecified time since the cross)".

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Hi--This article on the canonicity of the book of Hebrews is great! I haven't been on your website for awhile, so I didn't know you had that Hebrew roots stuff on it. Thanks! I too thought that the "quotes" are sometimes paraphrases, and sometimes add a word or two, on purpose, to make something absolutely clear, what God meant--and all under the HS aegis (is that the correct word?). Sometimes, they just use synonyms, which doesn't make it a misquote at all--like in Hebrews 1, where it quotes Ps. 45. I think it Hebrews it has "oil of joy," but in the original Psalms, it is "oil of gladness." I mean, it means the exact same thing. So the NT quotes use a synonym! That hardly makes it a "misquote." This one guy told me, "Haven't you ever heard of quotation marks?" when I asked him if he hadn't heard of paraphrasing...I then retorted that there were no quotation marks back in those days or ANY punctuation marks, until hundreds of years later.

One thing does puzzle me, from Acts...you know where Stephen gives his defense against the Sanhedrin...he says that 75 people of Joseph's family went down to Egypt, but I think the Genesis account comes to 70 people, if I remember correctly. I have seen Jews, not Messianics, reject the NT because of this, on the Internet. Can you explain the discrepancy?

I agree that the Jewish Roots movement is becoming the "cult du jour" lately. On CARM, where I hang out, there is a real Jewish gal, who is a devout Christian who understand the New Covenant beautifully--better than these non-Jewish wannabee Messianics, who have made the Law their god and savior, instead of Jesus, though they give lip service to faith in Him. And you are correct--some see Him only as the human Messiah, but not all; many do believe in Him as true God. But one told me it was the Father who suffered and died on the cross for me--because Jesus and His Father are "one." I told her that is the heresy of patripassionism and condemned by the early church, and it means that Jesus and His Father are one GOD, NOT one Person. And I have repeatedly asked her to show me where the bible says the Father became flesh and dwelt among us...She hasn't. so far. Most of the other Messianics never have responded to her or backed her up; I think even they are embarrassed by her misunderstanding.

As for the "this cup is the New Covenant in My blood..." they either ignore that, when I bring it up, or try to explain it away, by saying we are only in the "fringe" of the New Covenant, because not ALL people "know God" as per Jeremiah 31. But most just ignore it. But it doesn't go away, does it? Sad, isn't it? But thanks again!

Response #8: 

On Acts 7:15, the first thing to point out is that this is not a quotation of the OT nor even a paraphrase; what it is is a statement of fact that appears to contradict Genesis 46:27 (cf. Ex.1:5; Deut.10:22). However, as Genesis 46:27 makes clear, Joseph's two sons are not reckoned in that number of 70 who "went down" to Egypt with Jacob, yet Jacob did reckon them as his own (Gen.48:5), part of his "progeny" (syngeneia), as it says in Acts 7:14.

The number 75 (rather than 70) occurs in the Septuagint version of Genesis 46:27, so it seems clear that later interpreters felt the need to include in the overall total Ephraim and Manasseh along with their sons and grandsons at the point of Jacob's death; that is to say, Makir and his son, plus Ephraim's son and first grand-son round out the total of 75 (cf. Gen.50:22b-23: "He lived a hundred and ten years and saw the third generation of Ephraim's children. Also the children of Makir son of Manasseh were placed at birth on Joseph's knees" NIV).

The religious crowd in Jerusalem of that day spoke Greek and used the Septuagint as the Roman Catholics used to use the Vulgate and as we use the English versions (even if we can read some Greek). Stephen, being well aware of the tradition of 75 uses the number in common parlance for this famous event (even though the Hebrew Bible says 70 since that was the number who actually "went down"). Notice, however, that Stephen is very careful not to connect the number with the action of "going down" to Egypt. What he actually says in the Greek is that the progeny of Jacob were 75 in number; not that 75 went down. Even English versions are usually forced to be ambiguous on this point; cf. NIV: "Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all." We would be within our rights to expand the translation as follows: "Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, [these were, by the time of Jacob's death in Egypt,] seventy-five in all". The Greek cannot be made to say without ambiguity that 75 souls made the trip to Egypt.

Thus, Stephen avoided giving offense for a supposed "factual error" (i.e., by giving the Hebrew Bible's number which was, nevertheless, not the number commonly assigned to the event by tradition), and yet also avoids saying something that would be biblically inaccurate (which would have been the case had he actually said "75 persons went down to Egypt").

In any case, this is not a translation of the LXX. It is a use of a traditional number contained in the LXX and not in the Hebrew Bible; but since Stephen never mis-attributes the number (merely nods to the tradition), there is no "error". Rather, the issue shows how well attuned to the actual biblical text the early Christians were (no doubt not without the considerable help of the Holy Spirit):

But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Matthew 10:19-20 NIV

Yours in our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Dear Dr. Luginbill--I hope you had a lovely and blessed Christmas and New Year...I am sorry to bother you again so soon, but I can't find something in my in-box, where I have stored all your e-mails to me. Even using the search engine for it doesn't bring it up, so maybe we didn't discuss this exact thing, but I would appreciate your opinion about something Dr. Robertson in his "Word Pictures of the New Testament" wrote concerning Matthew 28:1 and the meaning of "opse":

Now late on the Sabbath as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week (opse de sabbatwn, th epipwskoush ei mian sabbatwn). This careful chronological statement according to Jewish days clearly means that before the sabbath was over, that is before six P.M., this visit by the women was made "to see the sepulchre". They had seen the place of burial on Friday afternoon ( Mark 15:47 ; Matthew 27:61 ; Luke 23:55 ). They had rested on the sabbath after preparing spices and ointments for the body of Jesus ( Luke 23:56 ), a sabbath of unutterable sorrow and woe. They will buy other spices after sundown when the new day has dawned and the sabbath is over ( Mark 16:1 ). Both Matthew here and Luke ( Luke 23:54 ) use dawn (epipwskw) for the dawning of the twenty-four hour-day at sunset, not of the dawning of the twelve-hour day at sunrise. The Aramaic used the verb for dawn in both senses. The so-called Gospel of Peter has epipwskw in the same sense as Matthew and Luke as does a late papyrus. Apparently the Jewish sense of "dawn" is here expressed by this Greek verb. Allen thinks that Matthew misunderstands Mark at this point, but clearly Mark is speaking of sunrise and Matthew of sunset. Why allow only one visit for the anxious women?

What do you think of his idea that the women came twice to the tomb? And that dawning of the 24 hour day meant sunset, not sunrise? Now, I do remember--and found--what you thought about what Lenski wrote about "opse", that it had to mean "after", not late here (in your link: "The Greek Text of the New Testament"). And he listed some examples from other lexicons and scholars. You said it had both meanings, from Homer to after NT times, if I remember right. So, how would one know how to translate it--"after" or "late"? Robertson's commentary on this is the only one that seems to think that there may have been two visits to the tomb by the women--one near sunset of the Sabbath, and again, at dawn, on Sunday morning proper, according to what Mark says, which Robertson says clearly indicates morning dawn.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this. Oh, and what again is a "loan word" in Greek or any language? Is that a word taken from another language and transliterated into another? The way we have gotten "baptize" from the Greek "baptizmo"?

Thanks and God bless.

Response #9: 

No trouble always good to hear from you. I'm better at exegeting the Bible than I am at exegeting Robertson. I have noticed before that he could have used a good editor. Very often he says things that no doubt make sense to him, but are very hard for everyone who is not him to understand (regardless of proficiency in the language). As best I can determine (since he provides no translation) he has misunderstood the meaning and usage of opse (ὄψὲ) in Matthew 28:1. That is remarkable since he explains the correct translation as a possibility in his compendious grammar (645-646) = "after these things" although he is agnostic there about the precise meaning in this passage. What we have here is an adverb being used as a preposition (technically called an "improper preposition"); everyone agrees to that since sabbatOn follows opse here in the genitive case. However "late on the Sabbath", apart from being unlikely in my view because of the construction, clashes violently with what follows (not to mention with all the other facts we have from all the gospels which we are able to bring to bear on the passage). On the other hand, the most straight-forward way of taking the phrase, "after the Sabbath [i.e., was over]", makes perfect sense. The word is paralleled in this meaning in numerous later Greek writers (and in fact that seems to be the predominant meaning when opse is used as a preposition as it is in Matthew 28:1). For that reason, the modern versions translate it that way. Lenski's description of things is also somewhat confused, as I recall (see the link: The GNT and some issues of criticism).

On the number of visits to the tomb, Robertson is on the right track to some extent, but all of the visits happened on Sunday morning. Mary Magdalene went first on her own (as John's gospel relates). I have this all spelled out and reconciled at the following link: in BB 4A, "Mary Magdalene".

On loan words, yes, that is exactly correct. Most of us know (or think we know) what a "blitz" is; it is a loan word from German spelled exactly the same (although as a noun it would be capitalized in German), and it means "lightning". Baptizo is the Greek word for "dip", but because of the theological implications it was transliterated into the Latin Bible rather than being translated, and we have picked that up (to our great theological confusion most of the time you probably know my thoughts about water-baptism).

Hope this helps.

Happy New Year!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Hello--I have a quick (I hope) question for you--I know a reader on CARM--not an Messianic or cultist--who insists that 1 Timothy wasn't written by THE apostle Paul, but by another Paul, to another Timothy, in the 2nd century. I have never heard of this, before. I always thought that Paul's writings were some of the earliest books of the NT. I know that 2nd Timothy was the last letter he wrote, but have you ever heard of anyone claiming that 1 Timothy was written by another Paul, in the 2nd century? I find that ludicrous, because how likely would it be for there to be another Paul writing to another Timothy, in the 2nd century?


Response #10: 

This is a new one on me. I have heard similar claims made for 2nd Peter. Generally speaking, these sorts of assertions consider the later work of the couplet a forgery. Given the strong canonical case to be made for all of the epistles, and given the clear similarities in language between 1st and 2nd Timothy (as well as between first and second Peter), I find no evidence whatsoever for the idea. It is just another one of those hobby-horse theories that people attach themselves to because it makes them feel important somehow. This particular claim you relate here is all the weaker because the chances of there being a second Timothy and a second Paul and of the second Paul writing exactly like the first Paul are so infinitesimally small as to be non-existent in truth. Since all of the earliest and best manuscripts include both epistles to Timothy, the second letter could not have been a forgery (i.e., insufficient time for it to have been "sneaked" into the Bible).

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Hello--That was my thought...I mean, what are the odds that a second century Paul was writing to a second century Timothy?? And the language, as anyone reading it can see, is so very similar to what is written in 2nd Timothy. And I too have heard that 2nd Peter was one of the "anti-legomena--ones spoken against." Along with Hebrews, 2nd and 3rd John, James, and Jude. And it is indeed strange that the FIRST letter to Timothy would be considered a later edition, instead of the second. Thanks for your help.

Response #11: 

You are very welcome and thank you for all your good efforts defending the truth and the Word of God.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

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