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I Corinthians 8:1-13

I Corinthians 8:1-13

            The eating idol meat was a hot issue for Paul and the Corinth Church.  One could write long essays on the matter and in fact I have.  For our purposes the details are not so important as is Paul’s solution.  In short, the problem was that pagan converts to Christianity were offended when they saw other Christians eat meat that had been sacrificed to pagan idols.  When former pagans saw this they thought that the other Christians were worshiping pagan gods.  The strong in faith, were those who knew that such meat was not contaminated by pagan spirits, but was meat that was more affordable in the market.

            Paul says that we all have knowledge, yet knowledge “puffs up” but love, “builds up.”  Just because you may know that there is nothing to eating idol meat, if you eat it and offend a brother or sister in Christ, then you sin against Christ.  If you eat it and cause a brother or sister to stumble, then you sin against them and God. 

            There are many good points for us to take from this story.  For instance, those who are strong in faith must be patient with those of lessor faith.  Likewise, words and actions can build up or tear down.   Anytime we begin to tear down we must step back, being “slow to speak and quick to listen” before we act. We should also look at matters from an eternal or spiritual angle.  Does this situation have eternal significance?   Do my actions have eternal significance?  Many of the issues that frustrate us the most are but trivial concerns from an eternal perspective. Finally, we must remember Paul’s words, “love builds up.”  By all means we ought to show with our love our faith in the forgiving God.

            Today it may not be idol meat, but we still put stumbling blocks in front of one another and still find opportunities to offend.  The rule of Paul should be our rule, if it tears down, if it offends, then avoid it.  Paul goes so far as to say that if eating any kind of meat would be a stumbling block for any sibling of faith he would never eat meat again!   


            Galatians is a wonderful letter and very inspiring.  During my own reading I found myself contemplating greatly several statements in chapter 6.  Paul writes, “my friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.  Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.   For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. . .So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”

            In a few short words, we are taught to seek to restore one another from transgressions, to bear one another’s burdens, to work for the good of all, especially those of the family of faith and not to think more of ourselves than we ought.

            As we have moved forward with the vision of our church, it has become easy to be distracted by our own efforts.  Yes, we have done something great, but it is only the beginning.  If we lose sight of our purpose by thinking too much of what we have done we have done nothing at all.  This is just one step!  Our purpose is to build bridges in the community, to find ways to reach the children and youth, to create opportunities to spread the gospel and to changes lives. Our purpose is not about ourselves, but God and all of God’s children. 

            I thank God for what we have, and I know that with God’s help we will not stop here but continue forward to God’s glory!  I thank God for what He is doing and will do here at Pisgah UMC!!  Now, “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.”               Blessing, Michael

What to look for in a Bible

Last month I talked about Paraphrases and translations.  This month we continue to talk about Bibles and what to look for in a Bible.  Just as there are different types of translations there are also different types of Bibles.  A study Bible usually contains numerous helps.  Some helps are introductions of books annotations/commentary for explanations, historical backgrounds, concordance of biblical words, maps, time lines, references textual connections, etc.  The downside to a study bible is that they are large.  Chronological Bibles present the text in the order that it happened.  Parallel Bibles will have several translations side by side.  Devotional Bibles will include daily or weekly devotions along-side the text.  Reference bibles will have notes that link texts based on references.  Of course, this is just a few, and the most basic is the text Bible that only contains the scriptures.

Sometimes it is very interesting to see who the publishers of a particular translation are and who own that publishing house.  One newer translation is the Holman Christian Standard Bible.  It is published by Lifeway and is owned by the Southern Baptist.  Knowing the publisher and who owns the copyright will tell you a lot about a particular Bible.

The United Methodist primarily use the NRSV (some other groups who use this version are:  Episcopal, Catholics, Lutherans, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, Presbyterians, etc.).  The owner of the copyright is the National Council of Churches.  The NRSV is a revision of the Revised Standard Version (1952), which was a revision of the American Standard Version (1901) which in turn is a revision of the King James Version (1611).

Why a translation is made, also gives to us key insights about that translation.  In regards to the NRSV, the stated rationale for a new version was that there have been many biblical manuscripts discovered since the publishing of previous translations.  For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls were not discovered until 1946 and 1956.  In addition there have been many archaeological finds from the ancient Near East that have given a great deal of new understandings of Greek and Hebrew grammar.

One final note….many people consider the Bible to be inerrant.  This means that it is totally free from error of any kind.  My personal problem with inerrancy is that it does not take into account translational problems or errors from translators or publishers.  The Koran is considered the Koran only in its original language.  Muslims protect the sacredness of their holy writing by formally stating that any translation is not officially a Koran.  Obviously we Christians do not do this.  Our approach ensures that the Bible is accessible to more people, but the downside is that there are always translation issues.  So, no translation is a perfect rendition of the original text.  Though I am not an adherent to inerrancy, I do hold to Biblical infallibility which is the belief that the Bible is useful and true in regards to matters of faith and Christian practice.  I believe that the Bible is completely trustworthy in all matters of salvation, and the life of faith.  This approach allows for translation issues and even publication problems, but also acknowledges that translation or not, it is still God’s Word to and for us.


                   Blessing, Michael

Bible translation


People often ask me to recommend a Bible translation to them.  It is often very difficult to just recommend one translation.  Oftentimes it is more about what you are looking for in a Bible than just what is the best translation.  So, I am going to spend time in several newsletter articles talking about Bible translations. 


            Before even talking about translations it is important to understand that there is a huge difference between a paraphrase and a translation, though both are often referred to as versions.  The Message by Eugene Peterson and The Living Bible are both paraphrases whereas the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and the English Standard Version (ESV) are translations. 


            In a paraphrase the interpreter seeks to give the meaning of entire phrases, sentences, or even passages rather than individual words.  They do not seek a literal interpretation of each word.  Paraphrases are often easier to read because they are expressed in a more natural speech rhythm.  The main drawback is that it can often result in being more of a commentary because the translator is not just translating words but also interpreting the overall meaning.  


            A translation gives a more reliable sense of what the words of the original text were. The disadvantage is that sometimes the text can be confusing in English.  Sometimes it is because there are a lot of words in the original languages that are not in the English language.  It can also be that the tense of words are used differently in their original language than in English.  So, it can be very difficult to even portray a word faithfully in English and this often results in sentences that do not flow well.   


            Interestingly there are many approaches that interpreters take.  Sometimes translators seek word for word or sentence to sentence interpretations that are as literal as possible.  Other translations (like the New International Version- NIV) seek a dynamic interpretation which seeks a balance between the literal and the paraphrase.  Of course the least literal is the paraphrase where the emphasis is about conveying the message rather than the integrity of the original text.  If you take time to read the introduction in the translation or paraphrase that you are using or considering, you will find the approach of the translators for that version.


            Of course any English bible is a translation but not all translations are created equally.  Some versions are just updates in language.  Others use only manuscripts for direct translations.  The Old Testament was mainly Hebrew and the New Testament was Greek.  However, there are many ancient manuscripts in Aramaic and some in Latin.  There are some single source translations that are only from a single manuscript source.  Whereas those like the NRSV have multiple sources and include in footnotes various differences in ancient manuscripts.  The most up-to-date translations will even have updates that refer to differences that have been found in the Dead Sea Scrolls that were discovered last century.  Again, you will find how well a version is by simply reading the introduction. 


Blessing, Michael