Three Reasons Why I Am NOT Reading through the HCSB in 2012

Over the past few years I have spent my devotional times reading through the entire Bible. As I am finishing up, by grace, again this year my thoughts have turned to what I will study and read next. All in all, I pray that God would show me more of Christ’s greatness and conform me more to His likeness in 2012.

A couple weeks ago I purposed to read through the Bible in 2012, but in a different translation this go-around. Since about 2003 my regular translation in reading has been the ESV and I have taught almost exclusively from it over the past six years in pastoral ministry.

Overall, the ESV satisfies me in accuracy and in style for my teaching responsibilities and devotional needs. Recently, however, I have heard more about the HCSB, been given an HCSB, and have been asked about the HCSB. Though I have no plans to permanently switch translations, some things about the HCSB intrigue me and I wish to be able to comment more knowledgably to those who ask me about the translation. So, by grace, I hope to read through the Bible again in 2012 and I will use HCSB as my translation in 2012.

With that stated there are at least three things that do not “jazz” me about the HCSB. And curiously these three things are advertising points to draw Bible readers to consider the translation.

So, here are three reasons why I am NOT reading through the HCSB in 2012:

  1. I am not reading the HCSB because they translate God’s name as “Yahweh.” In short, I prefer the traditional convention of translators to use the word “Lord” in large and small caps. Though I could provide a longer defense of the traditional translation (this was the very topic to my Th.M thesis that I never completed), let me list two reasons to translate God’s name as “the Lord” with large and small caps. First, using some form of the title “lord” for the Tetragrammaton (YHWH, in Hebrew) conforms to the NT writers’ quotations and translations of the Old Testament. Second, it is important to pattern our own OT translations after the NT writers so that we can more easily recognize the continuity between the Lord of the OT (Yahweh) and the Lord of the NT (Jesus).
  2. I am not reading the HCSB because they translate doulos as slave. Though ‘slave’ would be a permissible and sometimes (perhaps most times?) the best translation of ‘doulos,’ I do not think ‘slave’ will most accurately represent, in many instances, to the English (particularly the American) reader what kind of relationship a doulos and a kurios had. Our notions of slavery are, at times, much different than those of the first century. UPDATE, of sorts: I did a quick search on Bibleworks to see how consistently the HCSB uses ‘slave’ for doulos and its verb form and I found that they used some form of ‘serve’ or ‘servant’ in the following 18 instances: Acts 20:19; Romans 7:6; Romans 9:12; Romans 12:11; Romans 14:18; Romans 16:18; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 6:7; Philippians 2:22; Colossians 3:24; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Timothy 6:2; Revelation 10:7; Revelation 11:18; Revelation 15:3; Revelation 19:2; Revelation 19:5; Revelation 22:3; Revelation 22:6. So, perhaps HCSB and I agree more after all.
  3. I am not reading the HCSB because they translate outos in John 3:16 as “in this way.” Though I have previously taught this and have heard others (not my own pastor, mind you) teach this from John 3:16, the KJV translators got it right with “so loved the world.” Jesus emphasizes the quantity or strength of God’s love here and not the manner of that love. Really the manner (that he gave…) points to the greatness of His love. My mind changed back into agreement with the KJV translators by finding similar grammatical combinations of outos and hoste to that in John 3:16 (for example, see Josephus’ Antiquity of the Jews 3:106; 8:206; 9:98; 9:255 and BDAG outos, 2.; and BDF section 391,2 and Robertson, 1000) and discovering the seemingly uniform meaning behind this grammatical pairing. The outos points to the greatness of the extent of God’s love and so I would still translate it “God so loved the world that He gave…”.

Irrespective of their advertising ploys, I plan to enjoy a fresh translation as I work through the Bible this year. Particularly, I look forward to the fresh and I presume accurate renderings in the HCSB translation. I trust, in the end, I will discover a fresh, helpful, and accurate translation that puts Scripture into words that will be easier to apprehend than some of the more traditional translations (i.e., NASB, NKJV, ESV). But only time and reading (!) will actually tell. If I find something worthy of note and if I find the time, I will provide any updates here.

BTW: I use this reading plan.


How Does “Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” relate to Jesus? Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (pt. 4)

Picking up from our last post on “How We Blaspheme (or Don’t Blaspheme!) the Holy Spirit, we said with no justification that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit directly relates to Jesus. So, let’s us look afresh at this crucial component.

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is ultimately a Jesus issue. This assertion appears less intuitive from our discussion. Furthermore, to say blaspheming the Holy Spirit really revolves around one’s response to Jesus seems flat wrong when comparing with the other gospel texts that each say something like this: “Whoever says a word against the Son of Man [i.e., Jesus], it will be forgiven him. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven” (Matt. 12:32). That aside, I find the context from Mark 3 and Matthew 12 to point in this direction. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit really boils down to an informed denial of Jesus.

  • Mark 3: After he concludes Jesus’ comments on blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, Mark gives insight as to why Jesus was bringing this up: “for they were saying, ‘He has an unclean spirit'” (v. 30). First, who are they? They are the scribes from verse 22 that said this about Jesus: “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out demons.” Going back to Mark 3:30, what is an unclean spirit? A demon. So with the “for” starting verse 30, Mark ties the whole discussion of blaspheming the Holy Spirit to the scribes’ accusation that Jesus is demonic. Though the scribes are blaspheming the Spirit, their negative assessments are assessments of Jesus. But, what connects the Holy Spirit and Jesus? From Mark’s Gospel (1:9-11), the Spirit comes upon Jesus at His baptism to then empower Him for His Messianic ministry.  Through the miracles like exorcism, the Holy Spirit would proclaim Jesus’ identity (cf. Heb. 2:3-4). So by denying Jesus, they are deny/blaspheming the Holy Spirit’s testimony through Jesus.
  • Matthew 12: Matthew 12 contains a parallel or at least very similar discussion on the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. There you find the statement about forgiveness and then the laying out of unforgivable sin, just as Mark 3. But the first words in Matthew for this passage are “for this reason” (Matt. 12:31). So, what was the immediate reason for talking about blaspheming the Spirit? Matthew 12:30 says, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Jesus here draws a line in the sand. You are either for Jesus or against Him. There is no middle ground. You cannot be neutral to Jesus. “For this reason…blasphemy of the Spirit will not be forgiven” (v. 31). Allegiance to Jesus becomes the dividing and main issue (this too fits the context of insiders and outsider of Mark 3). To deny Jesus then, is to deny the testifying work of the Spirit in Jesus. This answers why after talking about allegiance to Him, Jesus moves right into the discussion on slandering the Holy Spirit.

In keeping with the New Testament’s theology, Jesus stands as the defining figure of history and life, even in regards to the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. In His own words, if you are not for Jesus, you are against Him.

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is an informed denial of Jesus. This essentially summarizes what or how one blasphemes the Holy Spirit. Above we concluded that blaspheming the Holy Spirit comes by denying Jesus. But, blaspheming here is not a simple denial. It is an informed denial of Jesus. That is, the bushman who denies Jesus because he has never heard of Him does not commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. He has no real exposure to Jesus or the Spirit’s power through Jesus. But the scribes in Mark 3 were seeing Jesus and Holy Spirit’s testimony in action. Yet, they denied it so vehemently and hard-hearted-ly so actually ascribe that testimony to demonic forces.

Thus in our own context, those most at risk to commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit are churched people. Those exposed to the Christ in the life-giving gospel have been informed. Their denial is an informed one. And dare I say, perhaps, they are the ones who commit blasphemy against the Spirit by denying deity and power of the Son.

So, what should be our task? Preach Christ. For even Christ can break through the hardest of hearts.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16  But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,  16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

2 Corinthians 4:4-6   4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

How Does One Blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (pt. 3)

Teaching through Mark we came upon the sober passage on the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. While theologically thought provoking, this study provides much more than a theological question. The consequences to blaspheming the Spirit are grave, as they are eternal. So, we wish to clarify what it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit that we might guard ourselves and others from it.

Last post, we broke down Mark 3:28-29 to define what blaspheme of the Holy Spirit is. Succinctly put, to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to slander, demean, or malign the Holy Spirit. Unlike other sins however, the blasphemer will never be forgiven and has a sin that results in eternal judgment.

Now, how does one actually do this, or protect himself from not doing it? Is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit saying these precise words, “I blaspheme the Holy Spirit”? (This appears to be the route of many who partook of youtube’s blasphemy challenge). No, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not exclusive to uttering those words (as some kind of magic phrase), but nor is the pronouncer of this phrase certainly innocent either.

  • Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is broader than speaking these words: “I blaspheme the Holy Spirit.” This seems obvious as we noted before that to blaspheme is simply to slander or malign. You can degrade the Holy Spirit in many more ways that simply saying “I blaspheme the Holy Spirit.” That is, instead only saying you blaspheme the Holy Spirit, you actually do it. (Now realize, I do not recommend either as a good proposition to take).
  • Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is a heart issue. This, too, seem obvious judging professions of faith for salvation. Saying you are a Christian or that Jesus is your Lord (cf. Matt. 7:21) does not make Him really your Lord or does not make you really a Christian. Though not entirely insignificant (Eph. 4:25), words are mainly just words. More importantly, words manifest what goes on in our hearts. Or as Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). Our words are a window into our hearts. The one that simply utters the words “I blaspheme the Holy Spirit” may or may not be eternally condemned. But the heart that dishonors, distrusts, and hates the Spirit condemns itself for all time.
  • Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is ultimately a Jesus issue. This assertion appears less intuitive from our discussion. So, I will take the next post to cover this specifically.
  • Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is a continual denial of Jesus, not just a single event. Taking the previous bullet-point for granted, see how the verbs in Mark 3:29-30 point to a continual denial of Jesus, just as they point to a perpetual guilt or punishment.* After mentioning the act of blasphemy in a general way (“aorist tense”) in verse 29, Jesus continues by disclosing a perpetual lack of forgiveness and guilt for eternal sin. Here, the perpetuity comes out in the use of Greek’s present tense (“[he] does not have forgiveness” and “he is guilty…”). More importantly however, are Mark’s verbs in verse 30. Talking about the scribes, Mark writes, “they were saying” (imperfect tense). They did not just say or think it this for a moment. The scribes were continually asserting that Jesus had a demon. Furthermore, the scribes, as put by Mark, did not think Jesus had a demon for a time, but that He “has an unclean spirit” (present tense). These verb tenses tell us that the scribes blasphemy of the Spirit was more than a one-off denial or passing thought. These are not chance doubts or weak moments. Their denial was continual and perpetual. This is a perpetual denial of Jesus as God’s Son and Savior to sinners.

Very straightforwardly then, why is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit an eternal sin? You deny the lone Person who can take your sin and its punishment, other than yourself. So if you deny the only salvation, there is no other one (cf. Acts 4:12).

But, the perpetual aspect to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit also provides hope and good sense of the gospel invitation from the Scripture. For the heart that God draws to come to Christ out of its denial, receives forgiveness and reconciliation with God. As Jesus said, “Whoever comes to Me, I will never cast out” and “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever believes in Me has eternal life” (John 6:37, 47).

So, troubled  heart know Jesus will take you in, if you will just come.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

What is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?: Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (pt. 2)

Going through Mark 3, we stumble upon these most sober words from Jesus: “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” Certainly, the greatest joys of the Christian gospel is forgiveness by grace through Jesus. Yet, that all seems compromised by this single statement from Christ. Thus, this topic deserves attention.

First, I think, we must answer precisely what blaspheming the Holy Spirit is?

Looking simply at Mark 3:28-30 a few brief clarifying points can be made.

  • Blasphemy is slander. First, we ought to define this key term: blasphemy. Perhaps this seems obvious, especially because “blasphemy” in our language carries religious tones. However, the word translated “blasphemy” does not necessarily have to be in reference to the sacred. As, Paul can speak of himself being “blasphemed” or slandered in Romans 3:8. Slander more closely represents the full meaning of blasphemy. The Greek word basically transliterated “blasphemy” means to disrespect, denigrate, or belittle by speech.
  • Slander is sin. Note how sins and blasphemies are paired together in Mark 3:28. So, slander is a sin.
  • Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is slandering/degrading the Holy Spirit. Understanding what we just stated above, to blaspheme the Holy Spirit would mean to simply slander, revile, or speak disrespectfully about the Holy Spirit.
  • Blasphemy is a forgivable sin. But like (most) any sin it can be forgiven. Regardless of what objects are “blasphemed,” these sins can be forgiven. “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter.”
  • Slandering the Holy Spirit is unforgivable sin. After asserting the comprehensive forgiveness possible in Christ, Jesus warns against the seeming lone exception to forgiveness: blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Slandering the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven. Jesus makes this clear with two statements. First, He says that the one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit that “never has forgiveness” or as translated in the NET Bible, “will never be forgiven.” Literally rendered, Jesus says that the blasphemer “does not have forgiveness into the age/eternity.” Second, Jesus forcefully explains, “but [the blasphemer] is guilty of an eternal sin.” That is, the blasphemer has committed a sin with eternal consequences.  In two forceful statements, Jesus insists on the eternal ramifications to slandering the Spirit. The blasphemer is affirmed in his eternal guilt and denied any hope of forgiveness.

As we continue our study, we will proceed to think about how does one slander the Holy Spirit, so that we may guard ourselves and others from it. This we do with earnestness as person’s eternity depends upon it.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (pt. 1): Mark 3:28-30

As I mentioned last week, we are taking the next couple weeks to cover an important theological issue from our last passage in Mark 3:7-35: the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Mark 3:29 reads, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (ESV).

Over the next few posts, I will unpack a few related issues that would help us understand this, perhaps most, important theological question. We’ll cover the following questions:

  • What is “Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit”?
  • How does one blaspheme the Holy Spirit?
  • How does the “Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” relate to Jesus?
  • Are there any references to “Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” outside of the Gospels?
  • Can a Christian blaspheme the Holy Spirit and so lose his/her salvation?
  • Is there hope for backsliders, blasphemers, or those who commit apostasy?
  • How ought we think about God’s election (cf. Mark 3:13-14) and Judas’ betrayal?

But here let us briefly underline the context to Mark 3 and then the massive importance to this theological question.

Marks paints two pictures for us what it means to be on the inside or outside in relation to Jesus. The healing hungry crowds stand on the outside (in some sense) as Jesus withdrawals with His chosen apostles (3:7-19).  His family wonders if Jesus is a lunatic and the religious leaders presume Jesus deceitfully and demoniacally casts out demons. Then the passage concludes with disclosing who the most inside (“family”) insiders are. They are those drawing near to Jesus and doing God’s will.

Sandwiched between this second piece of outsiders and insiders lays Jesus’ response to the scribes that He is demonic. In short, Jesus responds in a two-fold way: first, He contradicts the very logic of their assertion; second, He warns them of these theological assertions.

This warning (3:28-30) is a most sober one. Jesus gives a heads-up to the gravity of the issue when He begins, “Truly I say to you.” Furthermore, Jesus puts the consequences to their faulty thinking in the most threatening category: eternal damnation. Perhaps, no greater question lay before the scribes and other outsiders at that point. What is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? And the question poses no small issues for us as well. One’s eternity hangs in the balance over the issue of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

Overall, this has something to say about being on the inside and outside in reference to Jesus. Your soul and mine depend on it.

Acts 4:11-12, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (ESV).

Outsiders and Insiders: Mark 3:7-35

From Mark 3:7-35, we see a few different groups picked up in Mark’s narrative: crowds from all over, the apostles, Jesus’ family, Jewish religious leaders, and Jesus’ spiritual family.  Among these groups that Mark’s surveys, they can really be thrown into two larger groups: insiders and outsiders (see R.T. France’s commentary on Mark).

In Mark 3:7-19, Mark lays out for us the insiders and outsiders with the context of the great crowds from all over coming to Jesus. Essentially the whole surrounding region comes out to Jesus. The throngs are so great that Jesus fears being trampled by them. However, it does not appear they come to Him to receive the kingdom of God, as much as to receive the healings and see the miraculous works.

Then amidst the great throng (cf. v. 7 and v. 8), Jesus withdraws with a select group of special men, set aside for the work of ministry. In a real sense the crowds become the outsiders, while Jesus withdraws with the insiders, the apostles.

Following in Mark 3:20-35, we find two outsider groups and the final insider group. The first outsiders are Jesus’ family (3:20-21). Apparently, their assessment of the hysteria around Jesus leads them only to conclude that Jesus is actually a lunatic. Then the religious authorities from Jerusalem come down to Galilee to asses all the “hub-bub” around this Jesus figure. Their assessment of Jesus is no more flattering than Jesus’ family’s. The scribes say Jesus is demonic, perhaps a sort of lunatic liar.

Jesus responds by noting the irrationality of their assessment (3:25-27). Simply, a house divided will not stand, even if the division is to be feigned for a greater “good.” So, if Satan’s house is not divided, then when He does cast out demons, Jesus really then subdues Satan’s minions and powers. Jesus then follows up with a sober warning (“Truly I say to you…”) about getting your perspective on Jesus wrong. In the end, if you get Jesus wrong, you get eternity wrong (“guilty of eternal sin”). But, we hope to pick up more about this next week as we talk about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (v. 29).

So, if that above section covers the final group of outsiders, namely His family and religious leaders, what then becomes of the last insiders here? In this picture (vv. 31-35), Jesus’ most intimate family looks for Him and cannot get near Him on account of the crowds. Some in the crowd alert Jesus to this. He then asks, “Who is my mother and my brothers?” Scanning the crowds surrounding Him, Jesus declares, “Behold, my mother and my brothers.” Excuse me, Jesus? What do you mean? “Whoever does the will of God, this one is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Astonishing isn’t? Those who would presumably be the most intimate and closely tied to a traveling Rabbi would be his family and other Rabbis. But with Jesus, they turn out to be the farthest from Him; they are those most on the outside. Then those that are inside are those invited by Jesus (cf. 3:13). Or to look at it another way, those on the inside are those “do the will of God” or in the words of C.S. Lewis, those that see Jesus as Lord.

So are you on the inside or outside? The scary thing for us religious types is this: we can think we are and seem so close to Jesus because of our outward religiousness, but in reality we may be far from Him. Commentator James Edwards says it this way: “Sinners and tax collectors are less likely to commit this sin than are the learned, religious, and moral. In this respect, wickedness poses a lesser problem to the grace of God than do pride and self-righteousness” (p. 123).

The difference between the insiders and outsiders were in the first instance was Jesus’ initative and in the second case, it was their view of Jesus as a forgiving (cf. 3:28) Lord. And Christ lovingly and freely calls us do lay down our false notions and self-righteousness and come be on the inside.

For my full outline, click here.

Pictorial Guide to Using Strong’s and Vine’s

Over the years, perhaps no two books have proved more useful for moving the typical Christian student beyond simply reading God’s word in English to studying in more depth than the classic Strong’s Concordance and Vine’s Expository Dictionary.

Though a bit dated, Strong’s and Vine’s still serve the church well with good content and easy access. You can find these works in most any Christian bookstore or major book seller; beyond this, you can find them sold together for great deals. (This even fails to mention what may be out there online).

To encourage Bible students to go deeper in their study, I have wanted to provide a pictorial guide to using Strong’s and Vine’s together in Bible study. Here will be something that a Christian could come back to again or follow along with and see exactly (or close to it) what he will see when he opens his Bible and these books.

How to Use Strong’s and Vine’s in Word Studies: Example 1, “Life” in Colossians 3:4

Colossians 3:4

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
You read Colossians 3:4 above and wonder what does this mean that Christ is my life. Maybe if I knew more about the word “life” or saw how it was used elsewhere in the Bible, I might get a better idea.
You first go for Strong’s.
Then you find the “Life” entry in Strong’s. This will list all the times the word “life” appears in the KJV translation (some editions of Strong’s or other concordances list according to different Bible versions [i.e., NIV, ESV, NASB]).
Note the many times “life” occurs in the Bible.
Look for the verse you are studying. In this case, we find Colossians 3:4 listed as “Col 3:4.”
While you are there, note as well the many occurrences of the same Greek word (indicated by the number “2222”).
Now turn to the back of Strong’s and discover the Greek word. Look for your number “2222” and see what Greek word is there.
Now with this information (and even more!) you can dive in Vine’s and find an expanded definition of this very Greek word, keyed to the number 2222.
As you open Vine’s, be sure to be in the correct section, whether Old or New Testament. Since we are studying Colossians, we must be sure to be in the New Testament section.
In Vine’s you look up our word (“life”). Upon scanning Vine’s entry for “life” (actually titled as “Life, Living, Lifetime, Life-Giving”), one notices that nine different Greek words are defined. You must carefully look for the actual word which we discovered from Strong’s. Look for the number of our word we saw in Strong’s; in this case, we are looking for number 2222.
Here it is! Note as well that under his discussion of word 2222, Vine’s mentions our specific verse in question: Colossians 3:4.
I close this guide with two thoughts:
  • First, word studies are helpful and essential in Bible study, but they can be abused. D.A. Carson so painfully and helpfully makes this assertion in his Exegetical Fallacies (see his chapter on “Word-Study Fallacies,” at least in the second edition). In short, do not let a word study supremely(that is, domineeringly) govern your reading of a verse or passage. Let the context reign to give the passage’s meaning while using the word studies to nuance or help draw out the passage’s significance.
  • Second, though one can find Vine’s definition and the essential content in Strong’s online (see Blue Letter Bible), I recommend not using electronic resources over books all the time, especially for beginning students. Though it does take more time and you make end up with a few paper cuts, you will learn more by perusing through the old books. You pick up more in the surrounding context to your entry; for example, when you simply click on life and it gives you the definition for “zoe” (2222), you are unable to easily compare it with the other words translated “life,” like “bios” for example. These things you pick up by digging in the books themselves.