My top Bibles for 2008

Bryon has posted his top bibles for the year, and it has inspired me to do so as well. In 2007, I was 90% King James, still considering myself a King James Primary bible user, but this year has seen me change that dramatically.

So, here it is,

  1. NKJV
  2. NLT
  3. NRSV
  4. NET
  5. NETS

1.) The New King James Version has quickly become my favorite  for church service – although the KJV is the only thing used in service. It is still similiar enough to the KJV that I can read along while calling attention to some of the faults of the KJV. The particular version that I use is the OSB, which you can read about once you click the review.

2.) I opened this translation because of my daughter and have since found that it is more than just an ‘easy to read’ bible, but has a good dose of literalism even in the most informal translations. It is direct and to the point, and it is a version of the bible that my daughter can actually read and understand.

3.) I use the NRSV for comparsion, especially with the Deuteroncanon. It is within the Tyndale tradition so it mirrors the RSV and the KJV (NKJV) enough that the structure is familiar.

4.) The New English Translation is one that I laughed at, until I read it and looked at the translator’s notes. This bible is worth something alone because of those notes

5.) Granted, the NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint does not include the New Testament, but it’s highly literal rendering of the LXX makes it viable enough to study. I have it on my Palm Centro (do not get a Palm Centro) so if I were to ever need it, I don’t have to carry the hard copy around.

Other honorable mentions include the RSV, the Jerusalem Bible, the NAB, and the Living Oracles. I like Mace’s translation as well.

From the Bible that is Rarely Read: Sirach 39.1-11

*I am not trying to design these as a commentary, but as a point for discussion and perhaps as a bit of a devotional. They are a spiritual and mental exercise for me. If I find an error in Sirach that I cannot rectify, then it must be considered mortal and merely a good read. Until then, if then, I will continue to read and learn from Sirach. Please feel free to point me in the right direction.

In studying the book of Sirach, I found nothing to disagree with the Christian faith as handed down by the Apostles. Instead, it often times edifies that Faith. In this passage, we find what might be considered a prophecy of the Apostle Paul as well as  a picture the ideal disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As a fundamentalist (although that is arguable) I approach the Bible as the Word of God, divinely inspired, and without imperfection in the Original. I believe that the spirit of God moved the holy men of old to write His words and His thoughts and because this, they are scared and must never be removed. In Sirach, although not recognized as inspired by Protestants and others, is a book of immense value and spiritual insight. It has provided many of the early Christian writers with a foundation to stand on, even in opposition to the Jews who dismissed it. Perhaps, it is because of passages like this, which point, seemingly to Christianity, even in part.

As a fundamentalist, I am not shy about my belief that biblical prophecy is a direct revelation from Jesus Christ, nor am I shy in saying that we find these prophecies, most of the time, after they happen. With reason, I am ready to hesitantly say that I believe that the Lord foresaw the Apostle Paul and through Inspiration, we read Sirach’s words,

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From the Bible that is Rarely Read: Sirach 5.1-7

Sirach 5:1-7 from the Revised Standard Version

(1)  Do not set your heart on your wealth, nor say, “I have enough.”
(2)  Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.
(3)  Do not say, “Who will have power over me?” for the Lord will surely punish you.

The Prophet Amos preached against the idea that wealth will shield you from the natural course of this world. It will buy you neither salvation or security from death. The greed that plagues our society is a great disease, bringing with it destruction, hatred, evil. It is not a sin to be wealthy; however, it is a sin to trust so much in your wealth that it becomes a shield to you from the Lord. The Apostle Paul gave to Timothy a great Charge in his ministry, and in one of those aspects, we read,

Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;  (1st Timothy 6:17 from the King James Version)

We can read of the similarities of Paul the Pharisee and Sirach the Jewish Master and see the agreement that produces an idea that those who would entertain themselves with the fantasy that wealth will bring great and eternal things will suffer a great disappointment.

John Chrysostom says,

Rich in this world, for others are rich in the world to come.

Implied in Sirach is Paul’s thought of the other riches. It is the Lord in whom we are to trust, and in whom we can gain a steadfast wealth.

The one LORD tells us through His prophet, Jeremiah,

Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. (Jeremiah 17:5-8 KJVA)

Before Sirach was this warning against trusting in ourselves. Salvation is not of ourselves, but of God, and is the riches of salvation that much occupy our goals.

(4)  Do not say, “I sinned, and what happened to me?” for the Lord is slow to anger.

The Apostles Peter, writing to the diaspora, says,

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:3-9 KJVA)

In our society and world today, there seems to be a silent hope among those that know by tradition the way to Christ but are eager to seek the path of the Prodigal Son, that perhaps they may keep God at bay until their death bed, and upon their death bed, in their final moments, when there is one left to impress and no more sin to pleasure themselves with, that upon this bed they may seek repentance. This is a foolhardy assumption and a dangerous method of living.

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; (Ecclesiastes 12:1 KJVA)

If the Lord is slow to anger of your sin, then perhaps you no longer have the way of repentance.

Augustine comments,

O evil Christians, O ye, who in filling only press the Church by your evil lives; amend yourselves before the harvest come.  (Augustine, Sermons on the New Testament)

Returning to Sirach, we read,

(5)  Do not be so confident of atonement that you add sin to sin.
(6)  Do not say, “His mercy is great, he will forgive the multitude of my sins,” for both mercy and wrath are with him, and his anger rests on sinners.

Sirach here writes of anger and wrath that awaits the sinner who continues to trust in the wealth of this world, waiting for the opportune moment for salvation. The Apostle Paul wrote,

Whom God had publicly put forward that by the shedding of his blood he would be a mercy seat, through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint, God had overlooked previously committed sins to declare at this present season his righteousness — That God might be righteous and declare everyone righteous who has faith in the name of Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26 Commentary in Translation Version)

Now that there is an exclusive hope in Christ, we must no longer wait to be overlooked. There is no other Gospel, no other remission of sins, no other Hope for the sinner. We cannot hope to out wait the Gospel of Jesus Christ that calls for sinners to repent.

John Chrysostom speaks of the sinners who wait,

Many of the more careless sort of persons, using the lovingkindness of God to increase the magnitude of their sins and the excess of their disregard, speak in this way, “There is no hell, there is no future punishment, God forgives us all sins.”  (Chrysostom on John)

Sirach issues his call for repentance, some that must be done daily.

(7)  Do not delay to turn to the Lord, nor postpone it from day to day; for suddenly the wrath of the Lord will go forth, and at the time of punishment you will perish.

The one Constant in this World is the promise of the Lord. He has said that there is no other way, no hope for the sinner with Christ. He has promised that He will return one day, to bring the final judgment and to bring the Body of Christ into the same relationship that Adam had. His promises are secure and His Word eternal. Knowing this, Sirach in doubt a moment where the Divine Author gripped the pen, and seeing that soon there would come a time that would hasten all of humanity to repentance, warned those that would read his words not to delay in turning to the Lord.

Have we not wept when we seen those that have had the path to repentance slip away in death without ever having traveled the avenue? God is a merciful God, and He has required but the Faith in Jesus Christ to be saved and yet so many are unwilling to give up the riches of this life for the wealth of the World to Come.

The young man again, let him also consider the uncertainty of death, and that oftentimes, when many older persons continued here, the young were carried off before them. For, for this reason, that we may not make traffic of our death, it is left in uncertainty. Wherefore also a certain wise man adviseth, saying, “Make no tarrying to turn unto the Lord, and put not off from day to day: for thou knowest not what to-morrow shall bring forth. For by putting off there is danger and fear; but by not putting off manifest and secure salvation. Hold fast then by virtue.”  (Chrysostom on 2nd Corinthians)

Let us be like David who wrote, no doubt with Joy,

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.Selah I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.Selah
(Psalms 32:1-5 NKJV)

From the Bible that is rarely read: Sirach 10.1-25

I have grown to enjoy these posts a great deal. (Here, here, here, and here) It is my blog, after all, and it has allowed me to discover the style and manner of writing and investigation into scripture that I like, and this seems to be one of them. Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus to the Protestants out there, was written well before Christ and was wrestled over until after Christ by the Jews.

I endeavored to read this book one a while ago, but go no further than the 10th chapter when i realized that at that time it was futile to investigate this book if the results would do no one any good. Now, I focus on my own edification and hope that others will be built up as well. I don’t mean to be selfish here, but there are times that we have to strengthen ourselves (1st Samuel 30.6) in the LORD our Great God. I have found encouragement in the pages of Sirach and hope to continue to do so.

We can approach this passage from Sirach in one of two ways:

  • First, we can see it in the socio-political light that most likely it was written in. Here in the States, we are embroiled in a political election for the President of these united States. It will get ugly and bitter and cause much strife even among those that call each other brother. If we should choose to do this, then we cause a division in the universal body of Christ, be it British or American, Chinese, or Indian. Further, we fail to show our separation from this world that is so well illustrated in Diognetus chapter 5.
  • Second, we can understand that with Christ, rather since Christ, and His Church, those things that once applied nationally to Israel now apply to the Church. In doing this, we understand that the leaders and magistrates of Sirach are the pastors and ministers of the Body of Christ. If we take this second route in understanding, we pay heed to Christ’s command to render to Caesar and to the understanding that the Kingdom of God is not a physically attainable goal, but the Church which is both visible and invisible.

I will approach it primarily, if not in totality, from the second stance.

Sirach 10:1-25 from the Revised Standard Version-Modified

(1)  A wise leader will educate his people, and the rule of an understanding man will be well ordered.
(2)  As the leader of a people, so are his officials; and the inhabitants of the city will reflect the ruler.
(3)  An undisciplined king will ruin his people, but a city will grow through the understanding of its rulers.
(4)  The authority of the earth is in the hands of the Lord, and over it he will raise up the right man for the appointed time.
(5)  The success of a man is in the hand of the Lord, and he confers his honor upon the person of the scribe.
(6)  Do not cherish anger with your neighbor for any injury, and do nothing by acts of insolence.

We are talking about these wise leaders, or magistrates as older translations have them (judge in the NETS) – who are prevalent among the people of God. In Sirach’s time, most likely these were perhaps the Hasmonean Kings, or even the generation earlier, both in which the temple priesthood was being used by those in power. We know from history that Judas Maccabeus saw the near complete degradation of the Jewish elite as they gave away to paganism and encourage the people to do so.

We have pastors and ministers, or those that say that they are such, that are neither wise nor well-ordered. I speak, of course, from experience. Now, I am not speaking about the wisdom of books or man’s words, but the beginning of all wisdom – the fear of the LORD (Psalms 111.10). They are filled with arrogance and this pride will cause not only them to fall, but the congregation as well. It by the leader that the city will either grow into glory or fall into perdition.

Have you every seen a congregation bitter and destroy by gossip or sin or by apathy for the things of God. I am not speaking about one or two, but the entire congregation. (There will always be those that choose not to live up to the examples set by the pastor or ministers and called for by the Scriptures). Look at the pastor of that congregation. What example is he setting? Does he gossip? What about his fear of God? The reverence paid to the things of the Lord? What of his love of the the Spirit? Are they themselves disciplined? Do they in a godly reverence watch over your souls so that when the accounting is called, they may give a good one?

Remember King Saul who, when had disobeyed God, had his kingdom taken from him. God alone is the giver of liberty and sovereignty. Too many people desire to be a pastor or a minister and for what? For what glory, rather, for whose glory? For God? More than likely it is for themselves. We see numerous pastors and so-called evangelists stand in the spot light but give no room for God. Even in the local congregations, how many desire the holy titles of Bishop, or Pastor, Elder, minister, deacon? Who many would choose them if they were all called servant and called no vestments of authority?

Verse 4 connects well to Wisdom 6.3

For power is given you of the Lord, and sovereignty from the Highest, who shall try your works, and search out your counsels.

Yes, there are times I believe that God will set us up to fail, so that we may be useful to Him when we remove ourselves.

Sirach, as you know, is a translation into Greek of the Hebrew original. In the Hebrew original, ‘scribe’ is ‘statute-maker’, or perhaps it is better to say ‘law-maker’. The authority that God gives His judges and leaders is an awesome power, and one which God will grant success if you abide in His fear.

(7)  Arrogance is hateful before God and all of humanity, and injustice is outrageous to both.
(8)  Sovereignty is transferred from nation to nation on account of injustice and insolence and wealth.
(9)  How can he who is dust and ashes be proud? for even as he lives, he insides are decaying.
(10)  The physician scoffs are a long illness, but the king of today will be dead tomorrow.
(11)  For when a man is dead he will inherit reptiles, and wild animals, and worms.
(12)  The beginning of man’s arrogance is to depart from the Lord, for his heart has forsaken his Maker.
(13)  For the beginning of arrogance is sin, and the man who clings to it will pour out an abomination. Therefore the Lord will bring upon them extraordinary afflictions, and completely destroyed them.
(14)  The Lord has pulls down the thrones of rulers, and seats the gentle in their place.
(15)  The Lord plucks up the roots of the nations, and plants the humble in their place.
(16)  The Lord overthrows the lands of the nations, and destroys them to the foundations of the earth.
(17)  He has removes some of them and destroys them, and puts an end to the memory of them on the earth.
(18)  Arrogance was not created by humanity, nor fierce anger by the offspring of women.

The original Hebrew serves as an interesting backdrop to the Greek here. As this is not a pure commentary, I will not go into detail here, but only provide a few points.

In this section, we find the beginning of arrogance, or pride, and in some ways, the end result of pride. We find that pride is hateful before a holy God and even before all of humanity. Both must consider pride as an injustice.

In 8b the Hebrew reads (replace on account of…) ‘because of violence of pride). Because of the violence that pride causes, or perhaps pride itself is a violence before God and Man, the sovereignty of a nation (or the ministry of a man) is removed and bestowed upon another. We know of all manners of violence – abuse, rape, libel, slander, physical, emotional – but pride? Is pride really a type of violence? Think of it this way: Pride causes a sin; sin is a rebellion against God; rebellion is violence; thus pride is violence.

Verse 9 is made the more poignant in the Hebrew which reads, ‘Why should dust and ashes be proud when his entrails are decaying even as he lives?”

In verse 12 the Hebrew reads ‘The beginning of arrogance is when a man becomes shameless’. The Hebrew and the Greek both offer the truth. When a man forgets his Maker, Saviour, Redeemer, and becomes his own ruler, judge, god and lord, he is without shame and has departed from the Lord, the only God.

(19)  What race is worthy of honor? The human race. What race is worthy of honor? Those who fear the Lord. What race is unworthy of honor? The human race. What race is unworthy of honor? Those who transgress the commandments.
(20)  Among brothers their leader is worthy of honor, and those who fear the Lord are worthy of honor in his eyes.
(21)  The fear of the Lord goes before the gain of authority: but in roughness and pride one will loose it.
(22)  The rich, and the eminent, and the poor – they glory in the fear of the Lord.
(23)  It is not right to despise an intelligent poor man, nor is it proper to honor a sinful man.
(24)  The nobleman, and the judge, and the ruler will be honored, but none of them is greater than the man who fears the Lord.
(25)  Free men will be at the service of a wise servant, and a man of understanding will not grumble.

Sirach closes this section with the passage that has stuck with me for the past 5 years, so I will start there. A bishop has a great job indeed, as does the pastor and the evangelist. The music director is talented. The youth leader is great with children. The grounds committee has the best looking campus in town. The bulletin and newsletters are done with professionalism. The well-off fund every project needed. The pastor has well-prepared sermons. The evangelists are leaders revivals all over the world. Yet, the man who fears God is greater than all of these.

What? Do I think that these wonderful things can be done with the fear of God? Yes. It is well written and documented that God is not always behind the scenes in the things that ‘give Him glory’. Yet the poor wise men and women who glory in the the fear of the Lord, in whose fear the authority is gained, and who is honoured among the brothers and sisters, in these men and women, often nameless, is the greatest work of the Lord.

Finally, let us say that in wisdom do we fear the Lord and it is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom. Let us support our clergy and pray that God strengthens them. Let us pray that we no more than the wise servant, no more than one who fears the Lord. Let us ora et labora that our city will not see ruin, but grow and prosper for the Kingdom of God

From the Bible that is rarely read: Sirach 15.11-20

Do not say, “Because of the Lord I left the right way”; for he will not do what he hates. Do not say, “It was he who led me astray”; for he had no need of a sinful man. The Lord hates all abominations, and they are not loved by those who fear him. It was he who created man in the beginning, and he left him in the power of his own inclination. If you will, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. He has placed before you fire and water: stretch out your hand for whichever you wish. Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses will be given to him. For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything; his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every deed of man. He has not commanded any one to be ungodly, and he has not given any one permission to sin. (Sirach 15:11-20 from the Revised Standard Version RSV)

I remember being in grade school, 2nd grade I believe, and quickly running a foul of a classmate. He was a PK – preacher’s kid and new to the school. I remember sitting in the cafeteria before school began and having a conversation about the devil – yes, I know, but hey, I didn’t have the blog then! – and he said that it was the devil who makes him do ‘bad things’. It is the same excuse that many people use today – speeding, cursing, violence – ‘the devil made me do it.’ Obviously, this was a problem a few centuries before Christ as well. Sirach confronts it with a very abrupt statement – Don’t blame anyone but yourself. We have free will as a creation of God – we can employ it for good or evil.

Recently, I have been asked about the idea of apostasy. Apostasy involves the idea of falling away from God. It is right to be reminded that nothing can remove us, but we sure can jump ship! The very idea that people would blame God for their sin, transgression, or apostasy appalls Sirach. I have actually met people that blame either the Church or perhaps the Pastor (or the easiest thing to do, is to blame the pastor’s wife) or perhaps a member. The real fault lies in the person themselves. They have chosen to ‘leave the right way’, to ‘fall away’ as the King James Version puts it.

The Greek here is a paraphrase of the Hebrew (yes, contrary to the KJVO myth Sirach was written in Hebrew originally) which reads ‘Say not, From God is my transgression, for that which he hates he made not.’ This leads us to a slightly different understanding of the verse, but both implying that God does not make sin and would not lead people into it. James clearly echoes Sirach here, when he says,

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.  (James 1:13 NKJV)

It is interested to note the Hebrew addition to verse 13(b). The Greek says, ‘The Lord hates all abominations, and they are not loved by those who fear him’ to which the Hebrew adds ‘and he will not let it come hear those that fear him.’ Again, Paul agrees here when he says,

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NKJV)

Sirach here sees the orthodox idea of sin – that it is by our own inclination, will, and choice. We must choose to live sinless lives. Sirach says that before us is fire (the curse) and water (the blessing) and it is up to each and everyone of us to choose between the two, but if we choose the fire, then it is not because of God that we do this, the blame falling on our own shoulders.