"The object of all good literature is to purge the soul of its petty troubles." ~ P.G. Wodehouse

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

John's Gospel and Intimations of Apocalyptic, University of Bangor

Day 1. We had some excellent papers to start off the first day of the colloquium.

John Ashton commenced the precedings with a well-written look at some of the historical traditions behind the connections between the Gospel of John and the apocalyptic genre. I find it fascinating that this sort of discussion always brings us to 1 Enoch. There are different views regarding what we do with any sort of connection between 1 Enoch and John, but the two texts have surprising similarities. One of the other questions that arises is whether the Fourth Evangelist is consciously replicating an apocalyptic structure or if such a structure was just part of his worldview.

Judith Lieu gave the next paper and discussed the issues of text and authority. She raised some excellent questions about writings in apocalypses (such as heavenly tablets) and the relationship these writings have with the written apocalypse. In relation to John, this comes to a head specifically in 20:30-31 and 21:24-25. The Gospel is a book and we find a reference to other books whether actually written or not. There are no conclusions here, but we are again left with some interesting connections between John and apocalypses.

April DeConick's paper addressed the relationship with the Gospel and Gnosticism. Discussion centered around John 8:44 and the Father of lies and gave us plenty to think about and discuss.

Tomorrow will be more papers. We begin with Ian Boxall and the relationship between the Gospel and Revelation.

Monday, July 19, 2010

John's Gospel and Intimations of Apocalyptic, University of Bangor

John's Gospel and Intimations of Apocalyptic Colloquium sponsored by the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Bangor and the Bible Society begins tomorrow afternoon with a paper by John Ashton entitled 'John and Intimations of Apocalyptic: Looking Back and Looking Forward'. The colloquium as a whole will be exploring the ways in which the Gospel of John reveals connections with apocalyptic literature and apocalypticism. This relationship has been argued by Ashton in Understanding the Fourth Gospel (2nd ed.; OUP, 2007), but not many scholars have undertaken a serious examination of the connection.

Highlights of the programme for me include the papers by John Ashton, Judith Lieu, April DeConick, Jorg Frey, Christopher Rowland, and Loren Stuckenbruck. It looks to be an interesting few days.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Translation of 1 John 3:19-20

1 John 3:19–20 reveals some translations differences between the NIV, NASB, and ESV.

  • Greek: ‘And by this we know that we are from the truth, and we reassure our heart before him hoti if our heart condemns us for [hoti] God is greater than our heart and he knows all things.’
  • NIV: ‘This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.’
  • ESV: ‘By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is great than our heart, and he knows everything.’
  • NASB: ‘We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before him, in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.’
The word hoti (‘for’, ‘because’) is used twice here. I have left the first one untranslated in the Greek translation. The NIV, ESV, and NASB translated the word similarly as ‘whenever’ and ‘whatever’. The question is does the word divide the phrase ‘our heart condemns us’ from v. 19 (ESV) or does it complete the thought of v. 19 before moving on to ‘for God is greater’ (NIV, NASB). The question ultimately comes down to a decision about early manuscripts which were written in Greek in all capital letters (uncials) with nospacesbetweenthewords. So we can have here either hoti eav (‘for if’, ‘because if’) or ho ti eav (‘whatever’, etc.). In this case, I think that the NIV and NASB are correct.

As to whether it is best to use ‘whatever’ or ‘whenever’ in English, vv. 17–18 speak of not closing our gut to our siblings and to loving in word and deed. Verse 19’s discussion of having ‘our heart’ condemning us is related to this loving in word and deed and looking after brothers and sisters. I, therefore, do not think that this is a time issue of ‘whenever’ but an event or specific instance of loving (‘whatever’). The reference to God knowing all things (panta; v. 20) is further evidence of this.

Thus, I would suggest a translation similar to the NASB: ‘And by this (loving in word and deed and not rejecting those brothers and sisters in need) we know that we are from the truth, and we reassure our heart before him, in whatever our heart condemns us, because God is greater than our heart and he knows all things.’

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

World Cup Final

Scoreless at half. Netherlands and Spain was the final I wanted to see from the beginning of the World Cup. Not an exciting match so far, but the Dutch are disrupting Spain's passing style. Who will score? Golden Boot to Villa or Sneijder?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Everybody Sins (1 John 1:8)

In my online course on the Johannine Epistles, we were looking at the apparent contradiction between 1 John 1:8 and 3:6 this last week. The first texts states: 'If we say that we do not have sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.' 1 John 3:6 says, 'Everyone who remains in him does not sin. Everyone sinning has not seen him or known him.' Ultimately the context of these two passages is important for understanding what is being said. Both are in a context that mentions the importance of living or walking as Jesus did, imitating him.

The other piece from both passages, especially 1:8, is that everyone sins. The New Testament makes clear that sin is part of the human condition (Rom 3:23). I just ran across an interesting passage from the Testament of Abraham which makes this same point. In chapter 10, Michael the archangel takes Abraham on a tour of the world. As they travel along, Abraham sees various sins taking place or about to take place--men sharpening swords, sexual immorality, and robberies. When Abraham sees the sins he calls on God to destroy the sinners, and God does so. After the third time this takes place, God says to Michael: 'O Michael, Commander-in-Chief, command the chariot to stop and turn Abraham away, lest he should see the entire inhabited world. For if he were to see all those who pass their lives in sin, he would destroy everything that exists' (10:12-13). This raises a number of other questions, but the point of this statement is clear: everybody sins or has sin. The Second Temple Jewish text of the Testament of Abraham has a similar view of humanity as does the New Testament.

Citation from E.P. Sanders, 'Testament of Abraham', Old Testament Pseudepigrapha vol. 1.