I Invite You to Speak (Please?)

If you have not noticed, at the top of my blog is a link that says “Friendly Discussion.” If you hover over it, you will find a handful of different categories. I have created these pages so that people can talk. If you have thoughts, questions, debates, or anything else, you can post them on these discussion pages. Unfortunately, they have not received any attention so far. This saddens me.Ā  šŸ™ So I implore you: if you have anything at all to say about any of the topics I have (“General Discussion,” “Christian Living,” “Theology and Apologetics,” “TV, Music, and Media Mayhem,” or “Silliness”), then post away and start a discussion! I would love to hear your thoughts. If you don’t speak, I will lose my will to live and for this reason eventually leave my wife a widow.

I Invite You to Speak (Please?)

Why Does the NIV Leave Out Verses?

Almost everyone in church has heard this at some point. Someone who refuses to use anything but a KJV Bible has told you, “The NIV leaves out verses, taking away from God’s Word!” Your immediate response may have been scoffing, but perhaps later during a sermon or Bible study you noticed something like 1 John 5:7-8. For the KJV says:

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

But the NIV says:

For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

“That’s odd,” you think. Then later maybe you were reading the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 and were confused to find this:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV)

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)

“Oh my goodness!” you exclaim. “Crazy Brother Bob with the angry beard was right! The NIV does leave out verses. They’re changing God’s Word!”

Crazy Brother Bob with the angry beard was right!

Okay, you may not have responded so drastically when and if this happened to you, but perhaps it did raise some doubt and questions. And that makes sense. As Christians, the Bible is our authority. We believe it to be God-breathed and the source of all truth needed for salvation. So if a translation of the Bible is messed up, that is a serious issue for us. If a Bible as popular as the NIV is subtracting from the words of God, we have to confront it.

NIV leave out verses

Fortunately, this is not the situation. If you do not already know this, I’ll explain the basic history of the Bible and how this leads to our modern translations, and their differences.

The Bible is actually 66 books, and they were written over a period of at least 1,500 years by over 40 people from various walks of life. There were original authors, editors, and copyists who produced the first generation of each book of Scripture. For the Old Testament, these books were written mostly in the Hebrew language, with certain portions in Aramaic. The New Testament books were written in Greek. The final book of the Bible was written sometime before AD 100.

If a Bible as popular as the NIV is subtracting from the words of God, we have to confront it. Fortunately, this is not the situation.

The next stage in development was copying. The Old Testament books were consistently and carefully copied by Jewish scribes for millennia. The rules they placed on copying Scripture were so strict that two copies of Isaiah, each written around a thousand years apart, were found to be 95% identical, with the remaining 5% mostly consisting of spelling variations and slips of the pen. However, the entire Old Testament is not in the exact same situation. Every book has a different history of copying. The matter is complicated by the Septuagint (LXX for short), a family of Greek translations of the OT that appear about 200-300 years before Christ. Ancient Greek and Hebrew were radically different languages, and so the LXX shows several translation issues and others differences, including sometimes even entire verses or passages, from most Hebrew manuscripts.

Then there is the New Testament copying. This was very different from the process for the OT books. In the early church, distribution was essential. They were determined to spread the Gospels and the writings of the apostles to every church as quickly as possible. This is both helpful and detrimental in understanding the original NT texts. On one hand, the vast number of manuscripts gives us a solid foundation for determining what the NT books originally said. On the other hand, the rapid and urgent copying led to many copyist mistakes and variations between manuscripts, thus leaving us with the difficult task of figuring out which reading among manuscripts is original.

[The NT copyists] were determined to spread the Gospels and the writings of the apostles to every church as quickly as possible.

If what I just said doesn’t make immediate sense, start at the beginning. Say that Paul sent the Greek letter of Romans to the church at Rome, who then copied it and sent it to the other churches around. These churches in turn made more copies, and as time progressed more and more copies were made. At some point the original letter was lost or destroyed. Now, if you were to collect all of these copies, you would see that some have unintentional errors, some have intentional alterations, some have added notes, some are incomplete, and some are part of collections. Now, the majority of this variations (which are called “textual variants”) are simply matters of spelling or obvious slips of the pen. However, some are more prominent, such as phrases, verses, or even a couple of paragraphs.

This is the case with every book of the New Testament (and also with the Old Testament, but the details are very different). So to deal with this, we have what is called “textual criticism.” This is the work of finding out based on copies what the original texts of something said. For example, some texts with Romans 8:1 say this: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Others say, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Others include “who walk not according to the flesh” but do not include “but according to the Spirit.” So which reading did the original manuscript of Romans have? Well, this is where the science of textual criticism comes into play. Textual scholars analyze external evidence (age, number, quality, and origin of manuscripts) and internal evidence (context, author style, length of variants, etc.) to determine which reading is most likely the original. In the case of Romans 8:1, most scholars agree that the shorter reading (“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”) is the correct one.

Textual scholars analyze external evidence (age, number, quality, and origin of manuscripts) and internal evidence (context, author style, length of variants, etc.) to determine which reading is most likely the original.

This is where many of the differences between the KJV and the NIV emerge. See, the KJV was translated in the 1600s. At this time, the best Greek New Testament of the day was based on a handful of late manuscripts (that is, manuscripts which were copied over 1000 years after the NT was written). These represent most of the NT manuscripts around. These manuscripts are part of the Byzantine family, because they come mainly from the area surrounding Byzantium (now Istanbul). However, since then a number of other manuscripts have been found. These are much, much older (and so closer to when the NT was originally written), and are found mostly near the Egyptian city of Alexandria. These are therefore called Alexandrian texts. In general, Biblical scholars today believe that the Alexandrian manuscripts are more reliable, mainly due to their old age and (according to many) more likely readings. The NIV, then, is based mostly on reading from Alexandrian manuscripts, while the KJV is based mostly on readings from Byzantine manuscripts.

One of the major differences between the Byzantine and Alexandrian manuscripts is that Byzantine texts are usually longer than Alexandrian ones. This is the case, for example, in Romans 8:1. It is also the case in Matthew 6:13. In the case of 1 John 5:7-8, the KJV reading is only found in a couple of medieval manuscripts. Most of the time, when the Byzantine readings are longer than the Alexandrian readings, the scholars find the Alexandrian readings more likely to be correct. For this reason the NIV is sometimes “leaves out” verses or phrases compared to the KJV. However, since the Alexandrian manuscripts are more likely to represent the original text, it is more accurate to say that, where the KJV and NIV are different in this way, the KJV has extra content, verses and phrases that were at some point added to the text either by accident or on purpose. So the reality is that the NIV does not leave out verses so much as the KJV (or rather, the Greek texts from which the KJV New Testament is translated) adds verses.

One of the major differences between the Byzantine and Alexandrian manuscripts is that Byzantine texts are usually longer than Alexandrian ones. For this reason the NIV is sometimes “leaves out” verses or phrases compared to the KJV.

All this is not to say that either version is unreliable. While the KJV does often seem to have extra content, and in some places the NIV probably is wrong, none of the errors in either are very significant. In fact, overall the estimated reliability of our current constructions of the New Testament text is over 90%. That’s an A, folks. Most of the differences are minor (such as “Jesus Christ” instead of “Lord Jesus Christ” or “Bethany” instead of “Betharba”), and even the bigger ones (such as John 7:58-8:11 or Mark 16:9-20) do not affect any critical doctrines, or have much impact on any doctrine. So be assured that your Bible is reliable, whether KJV, NIV, HCSB, ESV, or NLT (by the way, all of the versions made since around 1900 are like the NIV in this regard). All of these and others represent the Scriptures God gave us faithfully. God has kept His words to us in a form pure enough to save and sanctify us, all for His glory. Amen!

Why Does the NIV Leave Out Verses?

Learn to Forget You Exist

God never demands as little from us as we are comfortable giving Him. We are always called beyond the normal and the natural to a higher life. The Biblical way of being human is especially challenging and especially rewarding. So what does God ask of us? Kill yourself. Forget you exist.

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 10:39

Jesus tells us that we find our lives by losing them, and that the way to lose our lives is to try to find them. But what does that even mean? How do we save our lives by losing them? How does finding our lives cause us to lose then? Well, let me bring up two more verses.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4

Throughout Scripture, similar themes dominate ethics and instruction. The Sermon on the Mount repeatedly emphasizes denying your own glory, rights, and dispositions. But why? Is there virtue in not being happy? Does Jesus teach self-denial for self-denial’s sake? Of course not!

Jesus teaches love.

Love means forgetting yourself to embrace others.

Now I’ll back up and explain what I mean. Much has been written about love in Christian literature, but I would like to give a really basic definition of love for my purposes here:Ā love is actively uniting your heart, mind, and will with another person. Time fails me to show the importance of unity to Christian life, or the deep connections between love and unity, whether philosophical or Biblical, but I will provide you with a list of references to peruse at your leisure (Eph. 4:4; John 13:34, 17:21-23; Rom. 14:17-19; 1 Cor. 1:10, 12:12, 12:13; 2 Cor. 13:11; Col. 3:13-15; 1 Thess. 5:13).

Love is actively uniting your heart, mind, and will with another person.

Instead of trying to summarize the vast Biblical support for my definition, I will give some basic examples on why this makes sense. When you love someone, their sorrow makes you sorrowful. Their joy gives you joy. You are concerned for their concerns and well-being. What they feel becomes what you feel, and what they think about becomes what you think about. So you find that you have unity of heart and mind. I believe this is a core element that makes love love.

Now, here is where I go back to my main point, namely that love means forgetting yourself to embrace others. See, if you’re busy feeling for others, thinking about others, and concerning yourself with others, something interesting happens. You disappear. Think about how many people you know who you care about at all. What if you loved them all for real, enough to make their feelings, thoughts, and concerns completely your own? While imagining this scenario is certainly difficult, one thing is certain: you would not be very worried about yourself.

If you’re busy feeling for others, thinking about others, and concerning yourself with others, you disappear.

See, most people have a problem. We either think too little of ourselves or too highly. Unfortunately, the solutions proposed by our culture (whether our secular culture or Christian culture) often miss the point. If you think too little of yourself, you are told to remember that you have worth, you are loved, you are beautiful, and you have a purpose. If you think too much of yourself, you are reminded that you are a sinner, you are not worthy of God’s grace, you are no better than anyone else, and you are puny compared to God.

Both of theseĀ approaches to fixing people’s self-image have one problem in common: they are concerned too much with self-image. The real solution is to stop thinking of ourselves. What Jesus taughtā€”radical loveā€”involves the (bear with my word choice) abolition of introspection. To put it another way, when we love people (and God) like Jesus tells us to love them, we will have no time or inclination to think very much about ourselves, whether good or bad thoughts. And the best part is that we won’t miss a moment of it. When we are loving so deeply, we will never stop and think, “You know, I wish I was focusing more on my feelings and needs instead of all the people I love. Then I would be happier.” If you forget you exist, you can fill your mind with the Kingdom of God, your family, and everything else that is worth thinking about.

We either think too little of ourselves or too highly. The real solution is to stop thinking of ourselves.

In fact, from this point we find the essence of authentic, Biblical self-denial. We are not giving up our own pleasures because that makes us more holy or more useful to God, but we forget about our own problems and concerns because our hearts and minds are set on the feelings and thoughts of God and other people. While on one hand this is a painful work which involves resisting the self, on the other hand this kind of life leads to more joy and freedom than before. Our self-denial as believers is not hostility toward self but leaving self on the back burner to joyfully fill our lives with God and others. For there is one truth we can know from all those who have lived long lives: happiness is never found in fixating on yourself, but found in living beyond yourself. So Christian self-denial even sets itself apart from the asceticism of other religions because it creates true joy, not just numbness, vague enlightenment, or escape from reality.

Now, having said all this, I must clarify that I do not mean we can do nothing we enjoy ourselves. It is most certainly right and good for us to have our own hobbies and passions. However, even in these, we are made to think of ourselves last, and love them, knowing that they also are God’s gifts to us. Do you like to read? Then read, and don’t worry about how good of a reader you are or whether you should read more or less. Do you have a passion for art? Then engage in it fully, losing yourself in the human creativity that God has gifted to us. Whatever you enjoy and whatever you do, be willing to deny yourself in pursuing it, because the good things of life are gifts of joy, ways God expresses Himself and His love to us. In denying ourselves even to pursue our passions, we find greater fulfillment because God has provided for us richly all things to enjoy. We just get in our own way! Every moment I spent thinking about me is a moment I could find greater fulfillment in by thinking of my wife, my God, or my hobbies. The same goes for you. If you forget you exist, even your hobbies will be more pleasurable.

Every moment I spent thinking about me is a moment I could find greater fulfillment in by thinking of my wife, my God, or my hobbies.

To conclude this all, remember that love, love as Jesus taught it, means finding ourselves outside of ourselves, first in God, second in other people, and finally in the things we enjoy. When we deny our tendency to self-center, we find greater joy, greater godliness, and greater life. So learn to forget you exist. Lose your existence in pursuing love for God, others, and passions. Once you’ve forgotten yourself, you won’t even know what you’re missing (because you really won’t be missing anything!).

Oh, and last of all, pray for me so that I can live like this too!

Learn to Forget You Exist

Yes, This Is A New Year’s Resolution Post

There are few things more expected from a blogger than some kind of post for a major holiday, including New Year’s. Also usually expected is a post about New Year’s resolutions, especially from people who blog about personal stuff.

Most people don’t follow through on most of their New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I’m pretty sure jokes abound about not making a resolution because you actually want to accomplish something. I have a theory, though. I think one of the main reasons that people don’t follow through is that they make their resolutions far too ambitious. It seems that most people resolve to fix all of/most of/the biggest of their life problems. That’s admirable, but such changes often take many years, or happen imperceptibly. So those kinds of resolutions rarely work out like people want.

This is why, this New Year’s, I’m making a really simple resolution: read. I’ve always enjoyed reading, and have always been somewhat of a reader. Lately, however, I have not been reading like I used to. I’ve let my electronics and laziness get in the way. This is a shame, because not only do I enjoy reading, but reading is good for me. It sharpens my mind, edifies my spirit, expands my knowledge, and engages my imagination. God has made me to read, and I thrive in living that out.

So my New Year’s resolution is to read more, read a bunch like I did in days gone by. In fact, I think I’ll start by reading through the whole Bible, as I saw suggested to reader-y types like me on The Gospel Coalition Blog. I pray God will use this to edify me and bind me nearer to Jesus. I think I’ll make my goal to finish by the end of January.

My advice to everyone else: if you want to make a New Year’s resolution, make it simple. Start with something basic, and pray God works with it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be spiritual. God owns your whole life. Choose any part to make better. I believe God blesses that.

Happy New Year’s!

Yes, This Is A New Year’s Resolution Post