Some Random Thoughts ON the ESV Wide-Margin Reference Bible

20160407_184942So, I’ve had about 24 hours to play with my new sword. I’ve copied what I consider to be my most important (mostly translation-related) notes for the entire book of Genesis, and did a bit of study in John and Mark. Here are my thoughts so far:

  1. The experiment is working in that I’m actually engaging with the text again, even in cases where I’m pulling notes over from my Zondervan.
  2. In general, the main notes that I find myself pulling over from my old Bible are linguistic or cultural in nature. I’m not yet sure whether I’m going to try to copy over longer quotes from other ancient sources (e.g., the Talmud, various mythologies that the Bible is riffing off of, intertestamental works like Enoch, Jubilees, et. al.).
  3. It took me only a couple of hours to copy all of the notes that I really wanted from my old Bible into the new one for the book of Genesis. I will be curious to see if that holds true as I continue.
  4. The cross-references are really good. I’ve been amused at how often they match the cross-references I wrote in my old Bible. There are a few missed connections, but on the whole, I’ll be wasting less time and space on making the obvious connections, and be able to spend more time on the more subtle ones.
  5. No, seriously, the cross-references are excellent. I could spend an immense amount of time just chasing down the connections, even with my pretty-well developed sense of the connections in Scripture. When I really start to focus, I’ll find out whether they’re just saving me the time documenting the more obvious connections, or whether they have a few surprises for me.
  6. Re-reading my old notes as I do some preliminary studies and decide what to carry over to the new Bible is actually letting me look at them with fresh eyes, and in many cases is reminding me of old discoveries that I’ve forgotten for some time.
  7. Conversely, I’m finding that there are a large number of “false starts” in my old Bible–basically, notes that either I realize aren’t true now, or connections that I started to chase down that I later realized didn’t mean as much as I thought.
  8. I’m having to make fewer corrections to the ESV than to the NASB. In fact, the ESV matches my own corrections at least half the time–more, if you include the linguistic notes at the bottom. However, the ESV still hits my translation pet peeves. Ah, well, you can’t have everything.
  9. The inner margins are surprisingly easy to write in. My least-favorite margin to write in is the far right, where I can’t get any purchase for my hand. (There’s a political joke in there somewhere.)
  10. My color system seems to be working out pretty well so far. I will probably eventually give in to the urge to highlight a very few key verses, but I’m managing to resist the “dark side” so far.
  11. Having the words of Yeshua in red letters is kind of interesting, if only because it really makes you realize just what each Gospel writer decided to put forth as the Messiah’s first and last quoted words. There’s a future post in there somewhere.
  12. I’m being very conservative with what I write in my Bible so far. We’ll see how that develops.

Basically, so far, so good, and this experiment is reinforcing my belief that everyone should have a wide-margin Bible–and that they should start with a new one about once a decade.

Shalom

Trying Out A New Sword: The ESV Wide-Margin Reference Bible

20160406_154322By far, the most popular thing I have ever written is Why You Need a Wide-Margin Bible, which accounts for something like half of all of the hits to this blog since I wrote it some three years ago. I wrote a sequel series on how to use a wide-margin Bible, but it never even came close in comparison–probably because, as I often do, I overthought things.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve used Zondervan’s Wide Margin NASB for some seven years now. Though there were a few things I would’ve done differently, like add cross references for at least direct quotations, I’ve been very pleased with it, and thanks to my handy leather case, it has held up remarkably well over the years despite the fact that I’ve carried it with me almost perpetually.

But all good things come to an end, and every sword eventually wears down with use and must be replaced if it is to do its job in battle. And so, with a certain wistfulness, I’ve decided that it’s time to replace my Bible.

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This is my Bible in Galatians. I would not spend this much ink on someone I thought was an apostate.

It’s not that it’s falling apart or anything like that. It’s worn, but in good enough condition that I could probably get it rebound if I wanted to. No, the problem is simply that I’ve filled it up. That’s not to say that every page’s margins are covered with notes from top-to-bottom. Many pages have only a few notes. But there are other well-worn paths that are completely filled in, like Genesis, Galatians, or (of course) Revelation.

It’s not just that I’m out of space to write notes in some places. It’s that when I go to read or study those areas, I’m not really seeing the text anymore–I’m seeing my highlights and notes. It’s causing my Bible study life to stagnate, so it’s time to start fresh.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of choice out there in the wide-margin world. Oh, if you want to spend a couple hundred bucks, you can get one of Cambridge’s, and there’s a reasonable selection for the KJV. But there’s a bit less choice in the medium-price, modern translation world. (And pretty much nothing for us Messianics.)

After reading quite a few reviews, including this one on YouTube, I finally settled on the ESV Wide-Margin Reference Bible in the TruTone cover. It finally arrived today, so here’s my initial review.

First, I actually like the TruTone cover. I’m told it doesn’t wear as well as real leather, but I’ve not had a problem with any of the other TruTones in the house and intend to keep it in my old leather cover when travelling with it anyway. It’s a good, flexible, attractive cover that can even perform “Bible-yoga”–albeit not as tightly as your “top grain” leathers:

I took just a few minutes to stretch out the stitched binding with my fingers, and now it lays flat on every page, from start to finish.

Structurally, it’s interesting to compare to my old Zondervan. The ESV is the same dimensions height and width-wise, but a good quarter-inch thinner:

Despite this, it actually has more practical writing space:

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You can see that while the Zondervan has a slightly larger outer margin, the ESV has both an outer and an inner margin with double columns, so you can more easily make sure your note fits right next to the verse. The ESV also has a full set of cross-references and the occasional textual footnote:

The trade-off is a slightly smaller font size (9 pt vs 9.5) and setting everything in paragraphs, which means you don’t have that little bit of space after most verses. If the paper is thinner, I can’t tell from the feel. However, the font itself is very nice and easy to read at 9 points, even for my less-than-optimal vision, and the paragraphs definitely make for a smoother reading experience. The font on the cross references is truly tiny (I’m guessing a 6 point font), but that’s not much worse than you would find for the cross-references in many study Bibles.

On the whole, it’s an excellent bargain at $35-45. If I keep it long enough that the cover really starts to wear, it looks like it will lend itself to rebinding pretty well. The only downside is that there aren’t any spare pages in the back, but that’s a minor gripe.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to what I plan to do differently in my marking scheme this time around. The first rule I’m going to (try to) follow is pretty simple: No highlighting. While my highlighting scheme in my previous Bibles was wonderful for being able to quickly locate passages later, it did tend to prejudice my thinking on further read-throughs. For example, I used purple to underline Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh (OT)–but many of those prophecies also have fulfillments nearer to the time of the original prophet, which I might overlook if I’ve already “flagged” them differently. Ditto highlighting eschatological prophecies in yellow.

I’ve picked up a set of Pigma micron pens to start the process (doubtless I’ll succumb to the temptation to use a ball-point eventually, but . . .). My planned scheme is black for general notes, blue for linguistic notes, green for historical notes or quotes from non-canonical sources, and red for translation errors, variant readings, and miscellaneous markups (e.g., counting how many times a key word appears in a particular passage). Rather than do my own cross-references in green, as I did before, I will note them in the color that the rest of the note is in.

I’d meant to add some philosophical musings on “listening to the text” of Scripture, but I find that this post is already hitting almost a thousand words, so I’ll save that for later. For now, I’m off to start reading my new Bible and add my first notes to it.

Shalom!

Sacrificing Logic: An Open Response to Dr. Heiser on Hebrews

417i-jxItJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_As readers of this blog know, I love Dr. Michael Heiser’s work. His work on the Divine Council paradigm, culminating in his book The Unseen Realm, is first rate. I’ve been following his articles and blog posts on this subject for quite a few years and have developed quite a few thoughts on the role of Israel based on his thesis. On the whole, I find his thinking and writing to be wonderfully clear and logical.

When someone of such profound intellect and clarity attacks a position in a way that is completely illogical and self-contradictory, that’s telling.

The Question

In episode 85 of his Naked Bible Podcast, Dr. Heiser answers some of his audience questions. Among them is this question from Tom:

“In Hebrews 10, the author talks about how futile the sacrificial system is when it comes to accomplishing atonement. When bringing this up to a person who holds to the temple being rebuilt and the sacrifices starting again, they mentioned that even Paul made sacrifices to defend this position in Acts 21.”

Dr. Heiser’s response starts with a dismissive, “Yeah, that’s very poor logic on the part of those who would do that for a number of reasons.” Well since he says so, it’s fair game to give Dr. Heiser’s own logic a good, hard examination. And when we do so, we find that not only is his dismissal contrary to Scripture, but that he actually contradicts himself!

Chasing Rabbit Trails

013-paul-corinthDr. Heiser’s answer takes up several minutes, and four pages of the transcript of the episode–yet never really gets to the core issue. That may be because he becomes lost on a side-issue: About half of his response is a meandering discussion on whether or not Paul’s sacrifice was part of a Nazrite vow. Now, I’ve argued before based on Luke’s careful foreshadowing in Acts 18:18 that the vow, the purification involved, and the shaving of the head all point to a Nazrite vow. After all, the whole point of the exercise was to demonstrate that Paul himself continued to “live in observance of the law” (Acts 21:24), so we should expect a vow taken directly from the Torah to be involved.

But here’s the thing: Insofar as Tom’s question is concerned, it is utterly irrelevant whether or not the vow in question is a Nazrite vow. Tom doesn’t even mention the word “Nazrite.” His question is how we should understand the undeniable fact that Paul had no problem sacrificing in the Temple some thirty years after the Cross! Even Dr. Heiser recognizes that the Nazrite issue is irrelevant: “[A]t the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if it’s a Nazarite vow or some other vow that concerned ritual purity.”

So why did he go off on that tangent if it doesn’t matter and Tom didn’t ask? Obviously he’s thinking of someone else’s analysis of Paul’s actions. (I would be tickled and flattered if it turned out he was referring to mine.) But he admits that it doesn’t matter and that it very well could have been a Nazrite vow–which makes the whole preceding section nothing more or less than a muddying of the waters, a distraction from the core issue: Paul sacrificed, and even says that his whole purpose in returning to Judea was “to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings” (Acts 24:17), prosphoras, which is used throughout the LXX to refer to animal sacrifices.

His Real Pet Peeve: Return of the Sacrifices

Dr. Heiser never disputes that Paul, and the other Nazarines, offered sacrifices. Instead, he goes on another tangent about why he believes that building a third temple would be blasphemous:

Now let’s go from that to this larger question of bringing back the sacrifices. I’ll admit up front this is a bit of this is a theological pet peeve with me because this makes no sense at all. If the sacrifices are brought back then the writer of Hebrews was wrong. He made an error because the writer of Hebrews has the work on the cross covering past, present, and future people, sinners, all of us. There is absolutely no coherent rational for bringing back sacrifices post-Jesus. What would their purpose be? They can’t be to atone for moral forgiveness because that would be covered by the cross unless the writer of Hebrews made a boo-boo. I would suggest if that’s the case, then you, the person who’s saying the sacrifices are coming back, I don’t know what the basis of your salvation is then because if the writer of Hebrews is wrong, then maybe you aren’t covered. Maybe your sins haven’t been atoned for. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to live during the sacrificial era when it comes. These are absurdities.

Arguing With–and Answering–Himself

He dismisses the idea that sacrifices during the Millennium could be “memorial” sacrifices of Messiah’s own perfect Sacrifice. On the whole, I agree that that’s not a very satisfactory answer. But here’s the thing: Dr. Hesier himself answered his own “pet peave” just a few paragraphs earlier.

Both the Nazarite vow and those other vows were not about moral transgressions. They were about incurring impurity on your person. And if you go back to the Old Testament impurity laws, that’s why you got a purification offering. I’m sorry it’s translated sin offering. It makes it sound like a moral violation. . .

He continues in his concluding paragraph:

But using the sacrifices, using what Paul does as a wedge to argue this is really poor thinking because no matter what Paul did, whether it was Nazarite or something else, it had nothing to do with the kind of forgiveness, the kind of atonement that resulted from the work on the cross as opposed to what you read in the Old Testament sacrifices. Those are largely just about purifying sacred space making you fit that you didn’t pollute things that have been designated God’s domain and God’s turf.

So which is it? Are sacrifices something you did as “the basis of your salvation” (in which case, we’d have to question the salvation of both Paul AND Jacob/James), or are they “largely just about purifying sacred space”–in which case, they would have exactly the same purpose in the third temple as they had in the tabernacle, first temple, second temple, and the Apostles’ own worship lives without invalidating anything that the Cross is really about!

The Real Point of Leviticus–and Therefore, of Hebrews

burnt_offeringHeiser’s own podcast on Leviticus demonstrates that the Levitical sacrificial system was not only insufficient to effect the forgiveness of human sins, but that it was never meant to. With the exception of the consecration of a priest, the cleansing of a leper and using the ashes of the red heifer to purify someone who had been in contact with death, the blood and ashes of the sacrifice were not applied to individual humans, but to the sanctuary. That is, they were not intended to cleanse an individual from sin, they were intended to cleanse real estate. “The blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify (present tense, post-Cross!) for the purification of the flesh” (Heb. 9:13), but “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (10:4).

It’s not just that the blood of the Messiah is superior, it’s in a whole different category! It serves a wholly different purpose! Only the blood of the Messiah could cleanse a human being and make a person into a mobile, living temple (1Co. 3:16-17, 6:19). But even post-Cross, the blood of animal sacrifices still have a purification purpose, or so the author of Hebrews tells us–and so Dr. Heiser inadvertently explained during the more than two months that he taught the book of Leviticus!

Since the once-and-for-all sacrifice of the Messiah Yeshua and the Levitical system serve completely different and mostly non-overlapping purposes, and since they obviously existed side-by-side in the lives of Yeshua’s first generation of Jewish disciples (and Heiser was unable to debunk the fact that Paul went to the Temple to offer sacrifices, and that this was apparently perfectly normal among the Jerusalem brethren), then there is absolutely no reason why they could not exist side-by-side again after the Second Coming.

(For more on how Hebrews is misunderstood–and even mistranslated–see Common Mistranslations: The Book of Hebrews and some of my older commentary on Hebrews 7-10.)

Picking and Choosing Scripture

Ultimately, Heiser’s position not only pits his own writings against his own writings, but pits the Bible against itself. In episode 70 (another Q&A), he states:

This is sort of a classic problem with the those who want to affirm a pre-millennial system of eschatology and they look back at Ezekiel 40 and 48 about a temple and that naturally begs the question of what about Ezekiel’s talk about sacrifices? How can we bring back sacrifices? That would be an abomination because the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus sacrifice was once for all. Yeah, he does.

I would agree with that. I don’t take the Ezekiel prophecy in chapters 40 and 48 as being a literal thing, that we should expect a temple to be rebuilt with sacrifices. And there are all sorts of the problems with it. The most obvious just as this one about having to offer sacrifice.

EzekielsTEMPLEBasically, in order to support his view, he has to toss out the last nine chapters of Ezekiel. This is a common problem with the amillennial crowd–if a clear prophecy of Scripture contradicts their theology, they’ll just claim that the rest of us are taking it “too literally” rather than actually attempt to reconcile the apparently contradictory passages. Note that Dr. Heiser doesn’t lay out what he sees as the “all sorts of problems” with taking Ezekiel at his word–and the one issue that he does raise was actually answered in his own commentary!

God Does the Cleansing Either Way

Dr. Heiser believes that the sacrifices in the Levitical system had no inherent power or particular significance, but were essentially arbitrary. He notes in episode 66, commenting on Leviticus 4:

It is ensuring decontamination. It’s like creating a clean room for those of you in engineering or maybe that work in computers. That’s the idea, you just cleanse and decontaminate, you protect, you insulate the specific area, in this case, sacred space, from this person bringing the offering, this person who has inadvertently committed an offense. God accepts the offering because he’s the one who laid out the system. . .

So the purification comes from God. God says okay, you’ve taken care of my sanctuary and God looks at the person bringing the chattat, the purification offering, the decontamination offering and says you’re good. You’ve done what I asked you to do when you have this inadvertent problem and you did it in good faith. You obeyed; you did it with the right spirit. You did this in good faith so to speak. We’re okay now.

So even in the Levitical system–which again, is concerned with purifying holy real estate, not purifying individuals–“the purification comes from God,” and those performing the ritual recognized this. Obviously, in a third temple where the Messiah, the Word of God made flesh, were to reside, nobody would see these sacrifices as either having power in themselves nor as superseding the Messiah’s sacrifice. The purification, both of space and person, would still come from God.

Conclusion

It may sound like I’m picking on Dr. Heiser here. I’m really not. I’m picking on Christianity in general for coming to illogical conclusions in order to preserve traditions that developed in more anti-Semitic days. And to demonstrate that, I’ve not needed a single source outside of the Bible itself and Dr. Heiser’s own teachings on the subject.

So to sum up:

  1. Hebrews and Dr. Heiser both teach that the Levitical sacrifices weren’t just quantitatively inferior to the sacrifice of the Messiah–they were qualitatively in a whole different category!
  2. By using the present tense, Hebrews admits that the temple sacrifices still had a purpose in achieving an external “sanctification of the flesh” even post-Cross.
  3. Dr. Heiser actually concedes the point that Paul was fine with performing sacrifices thirty years after the Cross, though he tries to hide that concession behind the rabbit trail of whether Paul was under a Nazrite vow or not–a point that he admits doesn’t matter either way.
  4. If Hebrews is simply pointing out that reconciliation of the individual with God and Paul (the book’s authority, whether or not he actually penned it) had no problem with making sacrifices post-Cross, then any alleged conflict between Hebrews and Ezekiel’s vision of a third temple comes out of an assumption, not out of careful exegesis.

Hopefully, Dr. Heiser will take the time to apply his studies in Leviticus to his interpretation of Hebrews and Paul at some point. I for one would love to see what gems he mines from the Word should he do so.

Shalom!

Happy Easter and Passover Prep

Passover LambIt has been far too long since I posted in this blog, but today seemed like a good day to post my very best wishes for my Sunday brethren who are celebrating Yeshua’s resurrection today. We may quibble on the exact date as a matter of scholarly debate, but we are joined in the Spirit and I for one appreciate those who hold the line with us wacky Messianics.

Since I’ve gotten a number of requests for help from people planning their own Passover seders this year, it also seemed like a good time to pull out some old posts:

First, the recycled links:

Passover
Inspecting the Lamb
A Bittersweet Beginning
Parashah 16:Bo
Messiah in Exodus
The Last Day of Matzah

In addition, I’ve written a free Messianic Passover Haggadah in pdf form. Just print as a booklet, staple, and you’re good to go. I did find a number of minor typos after I wrote it, but nothing critical and I haven’t had the chance to rewrite it yet. If I do get the time to rewrite it before Passover this year, I’ll post an updated version.

Honestly, my suggestion is to get a few different haggadahs, from both Messianic and traditional sources, and compare and contrast. It’s fascinating to see the slight differences in emphasis as you’re planning your own seder.

If you have questions, feel free to drop me a line. If it’s particularly interesting or something that I think a lot of people are probably wondering, I’ll happily convert it into a blog post.

Shalom!

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If You Hate Devotions You Are A Legalist, This Is Why

An excellent post by Gabriel Rivera over on the Naked Christian blog. While two of his points don’t really cohere (no one in Yeshua’s time would have connected devotional time with actually reading the text of the Bible, simply because most people couldn’t afford their own copies), I think he’s spot on in terms of the modern application: We CAN take our Bibles with us, and since prayer is how we talk to God, and the Word is the principle way that he talks to us, Reading + Prayer = Conversation.

Shalom

Messianic Jews, Mission and the Vatican |

AFP4787491_LancioGrandeThe ever-insightful Dudi at the Rosh Pina Project has released an excellent response to the Roman Catholic Church’s repudiation of a mission to the Jews. Here are just a few highlights, but you really should go read the whole article:

We should clear up the fog around this issue. Firstly, this statement does not say that the Vatican rejects mission to the Jews outright. It is more a reassurance to Jewish interlocutors that the Church has no specific outreach programme to Jews, due to unique sensitivities. However, the documents affirms the call to “bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews” in “a humble and sensitive manner”. . .

The Catholic Church also represents the idea of eternal, uncompromising Truth in an increasingly relativist world. The Church takes conservative stances on moral issues such as homosexuality and abortion, and consequently even Protestants cast a curious glance towards the Vatican, seeing them as a powerful institution that can take a stance against moral relativism and what they see as the degradation of traditional family values.

Viewing the Vatican in this way – as a body representing Christian morality if not the Christian Gospel – it is tempting for many Protestants (I include Messianic Jews in this bracket) to invest hope in the Catholic Church as a moral force to be reckoned with.

And this is why the news about the Church’s stance towards Jewish mission has such an impact, because Protestants and Messianics were expecting the Vatican to stand against relativism and stand for objective Truth. They see the Vatican’s stance as a victory to the moral relativists, and as a slight against the very purpose of Messianic Jews. . .

I understand the Messianic anger towards the Vatican playing down mission targetted towards Jews. But at the same time, it seems misplaced – we have no right as Protestants to demand the Catholic Church (which we split from) act according to our favoured model of religious proselytisation. Their understanding of Yeshua is not ours anyway, and we can add to this the fact that the Vatican does not reject mission to individual Jews – simply mission targetted to Jews, in the light of the antisemitism which previously accompanied Catholic mission to Jews.

So there are various issues tangled up together, and it is important to really think about what lessons we want to draw from the sudden media interest in Christian mission which concerns us.

via Messianic Jews, Mission and the Vatican |.

Well said, and shalom.

From Jediism to Judaism: Star Wars as Jewish Allegory

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It is a period of civil war. A new government has declared the practice of the old faith a crime punishable by death, disbanding an ancient order of sages and sending many into exile. Rebel fighters, striking from a hidden base, have won their first major victory against the evil Empire, stirring a spirit of defiance among the populace. Outarmed and vastly outnumbered, the ragtag band of rebels – aided by an all-powerful, all-permeating Force that binds together all life in the universe – remain the only hope for restoring peace and freedom to their people.

It’s one of the greatest epics known to mankind. No, not Star Wars. The above synopsis is actually the story of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival that commemorates a miraculous victory of Israelite insurgents against the tyrannical Seleucid Empire roughly 2,200 years ago.

via From Jediism to Judaism: Star Wars as Jewish Allegory.

My father-in-law shared this with me, and I couldn’t resist passing it along. Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Shalom