Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Body" or "Ears"? The Readings of Psalm 39:7(LXX), Psalm 40:6 (Hebrew), and Hebrews 10:5

Here is a new Q&A I put "upon the lampstand" today, on Elihu Books, which I hope will help clarify some of the textual issues and understanding surrounding the most likely reading in the source text quoted by the author of the letter to Hebrews, Chapter 10, Verse 5.

In my new Q&A I try to give a helpful, descriptive summary of the best available evidence, and then also indicate how Christians today understand this early Jewish, Christian reference in Hebrews 10:5, by answering this question:

Why does the Greek text of the New Testament book of Hebrews 10:5 use “body” in its quotation of Psalm 39:7/40:6, when the Hebrew Masoretic Text of the quoted Psalm uses “ears,” not “body”?(June 17, 2012)

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to get the most recent Q&A, in this case, the one cited above for 2012.

You can comment on the article or on any directly related issue in this thread on the Christian Witnesses of Jah Forum.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why No "Y" in Forms of the Divine Name in English?

According to Webster’s II, New Riverside University Dictionary, page 1227, a word is "transliterated" if its letters in one language are represented "in the corresponding characters of another alphabet" (page 1227). For example, the Greek name represented by the characters Ιησους is "transliterated" into English as either Iesous or Iēsous, with ē representing a long "e" sound. This is not, however, the English form of the name, but the Greek form represented in the English “corresponding characters.” 

A word or name can then be further made into English, for example, Iēsous as “Jesus,” the Modern, Anglicized form of the Greek name, which is based on the earlier Hebrew name Yehōshua' ("Joshua"), which combines the divine name Yehō and a form of the Hebrew noun yeshuah, meaning "salvation" (notice the final heh [h] in the transliteration, making it different from the name of similar sound discussed below).

The verb "is" is understood in relation to these two elements, with the resulting meaning in English, "Jaho(h)-ah/Yaho(h)-ah is salvation." In later biblical and other usage, the name Yehoshua' was shortened to Yeshua'. See the explanation by Werner Foerster (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [TDNT] 3 [1965], page 284), cited with further discussion of these and related issues in my article, "'Christian' Witnesses of Jah, Jaho(h)-ah God," Watching the Ministry (April 2, 2011).

As for why there is no "Y" in most English forms of either the original names for "Jesus" or for "Jah," but instead the Anglicized "J" (even though in English we do have a "y" character), the answer is simple: English does not regularly, in writing or verbally, communicate ancient names by means of transliterations. That is why we say "Jeremiah," "Joshua," "Jehu," and many other ancient Hebrew names without using the transliteration Y for the initial Hebrew yod ( י ) character.

Sometimes this is done, as in this very article, but that is because I am discussing transliterations in relation to Anglicized forms of ancient names. While in English the Hebrew yod or "y" sound can be represented, the practice of making foreign words English predominates our usage and they become the best, ongoing means of accurate representation and communication with other English persons. Anglicized forms of names such as "Jesus" and "Jehovah" are far more familiar to us (and within the range of accurate representation) than either Yehoshua' / Yeshua' or Yehowah, and that is true for most other Anglicized forms of ancient biblical names in comparison to their transliterated forms.

By contrast, the “-weh” in Yahweh has nothing to do with accurately transliterating or with Anglicizing the divine name, in any of its best and most ancient Hebrew and Aramaic forms, and even its best Greek Jewish forms, as shown in the chart in Chapter 1 of my Third Edition of Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, beginning on page 40.

For these reasons, I choose to continue to use accurate, Anglicized forms of ancient names unless I am writing an article or giving a comment having to do with using transliterated forms, or how these forms should simply lead us to the best Anglicized or other-language forms of the original words for most of our native-language communications. This is in large part because we should not allow the process of coming up with better/the best English, transliterated form(s) further remove us from consistent, accurate language usage and communication using Anglicized forms of the same ancient names.

Better it is, I think (in English), to continue to use primarily those forms of ancient names provided by the process of accurately making accurate forms of ancient names a part of our own language through Anglicization. This way, too, more people who may not yet know much or anything about transliterations or about the pronunciation of transliterated characters can still be comfortable in their own language when regularly speaking ancient words to others. 

At this point, I do not see that using a transliterated "Y" instead of an Anglicized "J" is the best way to make further use of the divine name popular or more welcome in English. But I am convinced that while this discussion may continue the question about whether to use a form like "Yahweh" has been sufficiently answered, so that we should start to see and hear "Yahweh" less and less as a credible transliteration of the divine name, and "Jah"/"Yah" and "J/Yaho(h)-ah" more and more, even in spite of many academics and others who continue to fail to reconsider the best available evidence.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Christian Witnesses of Jah Discussion Forum

The Christian Witnesses of Jah Discussion Forum (CWJ Forum) started as a place where people who Believe in "Jah" as a the eternal, intelligent life who gave life to other life, as the one often referred to as "God," often in English as "Jehovah," often wrongly as "Yahweh," most recently and for good reasons as "Jaho(h)-ah," and whose existence is easy to prove scientifically, historically, cosmologically, and in other ways according to the very same standard each one of us uses to decide or should use to decide everything else: the best available reasons or evidence.

Related to this main or primary belief is our Acceptance of Jesus of Nazareth as the one foretold in the writings of Moses (Deuteronomy Chapter 18 [supported by pre-Christian textual evidence in 4QDeut = 4Q33, frags. 10-12, dated to the 2nd/1st cent. BCE]), the famous leader of the Exodus of ancient Israel from Egypt, where Moses was raised (Exodus 2:10) and where he therefore likely first learned about much of the ancient world. We believe Moses was later visited by Jah (Exodus 3:1-4:17) and that after the Exodus Moses was given laws which, even according to the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (1st century BCE) Moses referred "to the god who is invoked as Iao [IAO]" (Library of History 1.94.2).

In English, "IAO" is the same as "Jaho(h)" in "Jaho(h)-ah." The "-ah" is added for reasons related to other forms of the name, as well as evidence derived from the divine name's use in biblical and in other ancient writings and from early writers about biblical books. For more information on "IAO" and on the English forms "Jaho(h)" and "Jaho(h)-ah," see my article, "'Christian' Witnesses of Jah, Jaho(h)-ah God," Watching the Ministry (April 2, 2011). [June 4, 2012, UPDATE: See also my recent, "Why No 'Y' in Forms of the Divine Name in English?" Watching the Ministry (June 3, 2012).]

Jesus, we believe, came to earth because he was "sent forth" (John 7:16; 8:16) by the same God who sent Moses to Pharaoh, only Jesus came from the spirit realm of heaven down to the earth to live as a real human being, and to fulfill the Law of Moses (John 5:46; 6:38; 8:23, 26-27). We believe Jesus did this to Jah's satisfaction all the way through to a torturous but (barely) bearable death. We believe Jesus was then raised up to life again as a spirit being with God-given authority over "all things," until "all things" are restored as Jah intends them to be.--Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, 45; Revelation 21-1-4; 22:1-5.

While we respect others, Christian and non-Christian, who disagree with us, we believe because of good reasons we have found that the ultimate purpose of Jesus' descension from heaven and his death on the earth as a human was to give Jah praise through his obedience and sacrifice, and to show us how to live, and how to die, and that is by Treating people the way we would want to be treated by others in the same or in similar circumstances or conditions.--Matthew 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8.

For these reasons, you will find on the CWJ Forum "boards" where you can participate in a number of discussions related in some way to the above Three Things, including the progressive, online edition of my translations of The Great Message and Related Texts. If you have something you wish to share or to ask about the Three Things, the Great Message, related texts or issues, or questions about how you can work with us and help others in need, you are welcome to join!
Be sure to read the "Participating in this Forum" board first, so you understand the best ways to be a member of the Forum and to get the most out of your participation rather than feel overwhelmed with information or with obligations to respond to more than for which you may have time. It is meant to be a place of joint learning and encouragement, but it is also open to a large extent to the discussion of issues about many things and for questions from all people.

Soon, the Christian Witnesses of Jah web site will be ready, whereas now there is only a draft image which is not how the site home page will look once it is online. For now, in addition to the CWJ Forum, a good place to find more useful information related to the beliefs of Christian Witnesses of Jah is the Elihu Books Topical Index.

 To get a fresh, daily presentation of translations of The Great Message and Related Texts, follow The Great Message on Twitter.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Letter from Jesus' Half Sibling (Jude): A New Translation

A half sibling is one who shares the same mother with another person, but a different father. When it comes to biblical Christianity, Jesus' real "father" is said to be none other than the God of Moses, Jah (Exodus 15:2; 17:16; Psalm 68:4; 102:18; 115:17; Isaiah 12:2; 26:4; 38:11; Revelation 19:1-6). The Christian belief expressed clearly and frequently in biblical writings is the God of Moses caused his "firstborn," heavenly spirit Son to be born through a woman, "Mary" (Matthew 1:16-20; Mark 6:3; Luke 1:27-56; John 19:25; Hebrews 1:6). The union of God's spirit with a human woman's seed brought about, in Christian belief, a perfect human in the likeness of the first man, Adam (Genesis 1:26). That is why Jesus is referred to as "the Last Adam" in the writings of first century Christians.—1 Corinthians 15:45; compare Romans 5:14.

Whether "Jude" is one who was raised with Jesus does not affect the clear teachings provided in this letter, teachings which powerfully address a great concern, even one which overrides Jude's preferred subject, namely, the salvation he shared in common with other Christians living during his time. More important even than this, Jude felt it necessary to warn Christians about some who had "infiltrated the congregations" (Jude 3, 4), persons who were subverting the faith of others which reached the point where it disrupted the early Christians' ability to meet together to share in the eating of unleavened bread and drinking wine moderately in remembrance of Jesus' life and death, with the hope of his eventual return.—Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19-20; Acts 1:11; 1 Corinthians 11:20-34; compare Revelation 3:20; 19:9.

In his warning to the early Christians, Jude drives his point home with a series of ancient events and texts, many of which not only show what will happen to those who intentionally cause others to stumble (Luke 17:2), but in providing his warning Jude also makes it clear that before Jesus came to earth to live as a man he lived in heaven as a spirit being, and there he served as Jah's great angel, even as the one who led the Israelites out of Egypt (Jude 5). According to P72, Jude also, like John (1:1), calls Jesus "a divine being" (theos) or "a god" in the biblical sense of being one of God's S/sons, one given life by the Father in his own divine image.—Compare John 1:18; 5:26; 6:57; Colossians 1:15.

If you have never before read Jude's letter, or if it has been some time since you last read it, consider my new translation of Jude according to the third century text of P72 in my new Elihu Online Papers 5, "The Letter of Jude: A New Translation According to the Text of P72" (January 18, 2012). Remember as you read through it that even though Jude opens his letter by seemingly distancing himself from Jesus as a relative by referring only to "James" as his brother, "James" is also one of Jesus' half siblings (Matthew 13:55). When you consider how Jude proceeds to describe Jesus and his prehuman existence as a divine being, as the angel who led Israel out of Egypt, then it is not too difficult to see why Jude chose not to emphasize his partial, human relationship to Jesus and instead decided to keep Jesus set apart from him in this respect.—Compare John 8:23.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Day Dr. Robert Morey's Debate Career Ended

Back on September 27, 2006, I was invited to appear on the Narrow Mind radio show with Pastor Gene Cook, Jr. On the day of the show, Dr. Robert Morey showed up and then essentially took over the show from Gene Cook, Jr., and Morey even changed the entire course of the show's intended subject from the deity of Jesus and the Trinity to God's foreknowledge of events. Even with all this, Morey ended up losing this debate badly on the subject of God's foreknowledge, even going so far as to challenge me to another debate in the future, one which Dr. Morey subsequently failed to show up for or even write in response to my several articles, articles which I prepared in anticipation of the debate and in direct response to Morey's request! 

Of course, given what happened to Dr. Morey on the Narrow Mind on September 27, 2006, it is no surprise at all to me that Morey has disappeared for well over 5 years since his now, already-answered challenged was issued. Here is a sample of what took place even though Morey had every advantage during the debate, including showing up without hardly any notice being given to me prior to the show, and then changing the subject as the show began:

Morey: We know that we are to go to the New Testament for the final revelation of God. There, for example, we are told in terms that are explicitly clear in the Greek, in Ephesians 1:4. It’s pro kataboles kosmo, “Before the creation of the world.”

Stafford: No, it doesn’t say that.

Morey: God’s plan of redemption had already …

Stafford: It’s says, “before the throwing down…” You just misquoted the scripture.

Morey: “Before.” Pro kataboles kosmos.

Stafford: Kataboles [means (signal interruption)] the “laying down.”

Morey: And there the word, if you look in any lexicon…

Stafford: You said, “creation.” That is not accurate. Now let me respond to what you said.

Morey: Oh, really? You mean the lexicons are wrong? I have the lexicons in front of me.

Stafford: I’m telling you that you are wrong in saying that kataboles kosmos means the creation of the world inclusive of Adam and Eve.

The above was cited on page 479 of my Third Edition of Jehovah's Witnesses Defended. Consider also this part of my 2006 debate with Morey, where Morey attempted to turn Jesus' own words on their head in order to try and prop up his rather sickly view of God's knowledge:

Morey: Did God in fact know ahead of time, let’s say, that Judas would choose to betray Christ and does Scripture indicate that God’s foreknowledge was complete and he knew everything everybody would do concerning the crucifixion?

Stafford: He knew that it would happen but “woe to the one through whom it comes.”

Morey: So in other words …

Stafford: That’s Jesus’ words.

Morey: …even though Judas’ betrayal was fully understood from all eternity, so Luke 22:22 “it had been determined.”

Stafford: Well, I wouldn’t say that.

Morey: Well, Luke 22:22, “he went to betray Christ as it had been determined.” At the same time…

Stafford: But that doesn’t say “determined from all eternity.”

Morey: Well that…yes…yes it does. Because as you take a word study of that word and you go over to Acts 2 and Acts 4, you find that the crucifixion of Christ was foreordained from the foundation of the world.

Stafford: Well, that’s not “eternity,” that’s the “foundation of the world.”

For more on my debate with Dr. Morey, see Chapter 7 in my Third Edition of Jehovah's Witnesses Defended. See also the linked articles listed in the beginning part of my recent article, "Dr. James White and the Assumptions of Trinitarianism Revisited," Watching the Ministry (August 1, 2011).

Dr. Morey lost every single point raised during our 2006 debate, and most of his own followers have admitted to me as much in the years since that time. Most of those with whom I spoken also cannot understand or explain Dr. Morey's total disappearance and failure to live up to his own challenge going on 6 years after the fact.

In spite of Dr. Morey's rather embarrassing appearance on the Narrow Mind show on September 27, 2006, Dr. Morey and his followers love to promote him no matter how weak are his arguments and no matter how condescending is his demeanor. To hear both for yourself, and to hear once more how Dr. Morey's debate career truly ended (since he since then disappeared where it concerns his own challenge), listen to the debate which took place well over 5 years ago here.

While Dr. Morey may continue to debate others, his collapse during our 2006 debate and his subsequent failure to show up for his own issued challenge to debate me again, in writing or in person, show clearly that his debate career is effectively over. In fact, in the sense in which it matters most his debate career ended on September 27, 2006.

Elihu Books is currently preparing a full, written transcript of my two debates in 2003 with Robert M. Bowman, Jr., and Dr. James White, as well as of my 2006 debate with Dr. Morey and Gene Cook, Jr., on the Narrow Mind. This volume has no release date, but it is in preparation with all three debates being carefully transcribed so people can see and read, in addition to hearing (all three) and seeing (Bowman/White), what took place when I debated each of these three well-known Trinitarian teachers. Until then, the audio for my debate with Morey can be heard using the above link, and the DVDs of my debates with Bowman and with Dr. White are still available through Elihu Books.

If you have not heard or seen any of them yet, I highly recommend you do so.