Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Last Post

As of today, 23/11/14, I can no longer support, endorse or agree with all the opinions and interpretations I've written on this blog. while I don't renounce everything, there is just too much chaff mixed in with the wheat for me to continue. Therefore, this is the last post on this blog. I'm not going to delete this blog (want it to stand as a record of my Christian maturation), but from this moment on, I'll be posting solely at the new the sting of salt and light.

For more of the why's and wherefore's, see the first post on the new blog.

See you there!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

On Sabbatical

But only from work and blogging!

σπούδασον σεαυτὸν δόκιμον παραστῆσαι τῷ θεῷ ἐργάτην ἀνεπαίσχυντον ὀρθοτομοῦντα τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας.
2 Timothy 2:15

You see, I'm studying full-time at Laidlaw (Bible) College in Auckland. Decided three months ago that it was time I got some formal & focused theological training under my belt (all my study up till then had been self-directed & scattered), so I enrolled in the Bachelor of Theology program; which means I'll be hitting the books for the next three years. My long-term goal is a post-graduate degree (DTh), but I'll hold that lightly. You never know what God has in store for you, am I right?

I'm about 7 weeks into my first semester and I'm loving it. My favourite course is History of Christianity, but that's probably because I can't take Greek until next year.

Okay, that's all for now. If I post again, it'll be very sporadic, especially during the first semester!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On The Tools of the Trade

My new Bible Works 9 is already paying exegetical dividends

σπούδασον σεαυτὸν δόκιμον παραστῆσαι τῷ θεῷ, ἐργάτην ἀνεπαίσχυντον, ὀρθοτομοῦντα τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας.
2Ti 2:151

Over the last four years or so, my primary computer-based exegetical tools have been the online helps at Blue Letter Bible and the phenomenal & free Bible software The Word. Both have served me exceedingly well and I’ve been more than satisfied with them. In fact, I simply cannot recommend them highly enough. However, since being turned on to the science of textual criticism (see here), I’ve been coveting a more advanced Bible study platform. In particular, I wanted one with a critical apparatus of the Greek NT.

Well, by the grace of God, I’ve now got one: Bible Works 9.

Now, instead of boring you to bits by describing all the things BW9 can do, I thought it would be better to just embed the demonstration video into this post and let the folks at Bible Works bore you to bits themselves:

I was joking, of course—although I know a few people who would be seriously bored if they watched that (Hi, honey!)—I, myself, was rapt when I saw it for the first time. If you were, too, then you’re going to love what I’m about to do next. If you’re my wife, you’ll probably want to go back to looking at shoes on TradeMe.

Anyway, I thought it’d be interesting and informative to demonstrate how I used the critical apparatus feature of BW9 to examine and verify the contentions I’d made in the previous post regarding the textual variant of John 14:17. When I first prepared and published that post, I didn’t have BW; after I got BW, I went back, examined my evidence, then added footnote #3.

So, by way of reminder, here is John 14:17 in Greek as it appeared in the last post:
τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, ὁ κόσμος οὐ δύναται λαβεῖν, ὅτι οὐ θεωρεῖ αὐτὸ οὐδὲ γινώσκει• ὑμεῖς γινώσκετε αὐτό, ὅτι παρ’ ὑμῖν μένει καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν ἔσται.
And, again, the word in red is the relative pronoun ho, which is translated “whom” in English. The word in yellow is auto, the neuter, accusative form of the 3rd person singular pronoun, which is translated “him”, rather than the more correct “it”, in all the English NT’s.

Now here’s a snip of BW9’s critical apparatus entry for the first auto in the verse:

The first thing to note is that the text at the top is the reading with the most manuscript support (the big list of letters & numbers directly below the Greek verse); which is why, except for the punctuation, it mirrors the NA28 text that I cited. And, just as I said in my post, the pronoun in question is neuter in this reading.

Now notice that first highlighted word half way down on the left. This is the textual variant auton, the Greek masculine pronoun, that I mentioned in footnote 3. The highlighted P66 to the right of auton is the “extremely significant witness”. The asterisk means that auton is “the reading of the original hand of ” P66. Here’s a description of P66 from BW9’s CNTTS:2

The information on that blurb is basically what is conveyed by the chart beneath auton and P66 in the first pic. The “3 c.” means “the third century” and the placement of P66 in Category I means:

As I said, “him” is a textual variant from an extremely significant witness. Furthermore, P66 has auton in place of the second auto, too:

With regards to the significance of the witness to a variant, I hadn’t mentioned it, but there is a variant reading for the relative pronoun, too. Instead of ho, “it whom”, we have hos, “he whom”, in manuscript 579:

Here’s the description of 579 from the CNTTS:

Note when the manuscript was written—in the 13rd Century, a thousand years after P66 and a full 1400 years after the Gospel of John itself was written.

Note also that it’s a Category III manuscript. Here’s the sad truth about Category III manuscripts regarding their relevance to “establishing the original text”:

With that, take another look at that pic of the 579 variant entry. Notice the first manuscript listed in support of the ho reading? That’s right, it's P66!

So, clearly, any challenge against the neuter “whom” in favour of the masculine “whom” would be entirely unsustainable. But, of course, we still have to contend with the mighty P66 with regards to auton.

Well, interestingly enough, many manuscripts had correctors, people who would check the original scribe’s work for errors—both omissions and additions—and then correct the manuscript themselves. In the CNTTS apparatus, a small superscripted “c” is placed beside the manuscript abbreviation wherever the reading was made by a corrector.

And P66 had a corrector.

Look at the first and fourth snips above, the ones showing the auton variants, you can see P66c in support of the auto reading!

Seeing that in BW9’s apparatus made me want to check P66 myself to see if the corrector’s edits were visible. Unfortunately, P66 isn’t one of the searchable manuscripts BW9 has in its database, so I was forced to resort to Google; which came up with the early bible site (This is where I got that picture of P66 that I put up on the blog when I added footnote #3).

Here’s John 14:17 in P66 itself (between the two sets of double red lines). The highlighted words are, of course, HO, AUTON and AUTON (P66 is a majuscule, so all the words are uppercase):

Notice the corrector edited the first AUTON by putting a stroke through the “N”, turning it into AUTO:

He then did the same thing to the second AUTON:

So, thanks in no small part to the exegetical tools of Bible Works 9, we’ve been able to examine the manuscript evidence and see that it overwhelmingly supports the use of the neuter pronouns ho and auto to refer to the Holy Spirit. In other words, we have an airtight case for stating that, in John 14:17 at least, the Holy Spirit can rightly—and Biblically—be called “It”, rather than “He”.

I wonder what James White would make of that.


1. Unless otherwise indicated, all English Scripture text is taken from the ESV2011 (the English Standard Version, 2011). Greek text is from NA28 (28th Edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece).

2. CNTTS refers to the Center for New Testament Textual Studies critical apparatus database used by BW9. It was developed by the H. Milton Haggard CNTTS.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It, the Holy Spirit

Why do most of the English Bible versions change “It” to “Him”?

καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν ἐνεφύσησεν καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς• λάβετε πνεῦμα ἅγιον
John 20:221

We recently discussed the topic of the Trinity at our home church, because I’d been listening to a lot of James White’s The Dividing Line broadcasts on You Tube. James White puts a great deal of emphasis on the Doctrine of the Trinity and seeing as he's a Reformed Baptist and an avowed Calvinist, his view of this Doctrine is very strict and classical. He has fully articulated this view in a book called The Forgotten Trinity2 (you can get a taste of it by reading his vintage Trinity article on the Alpha & Omega Ministries website). So, because I’ve never shared White’s particular take on the Trinity, I wanted to bring it to our fellowship and see what the others thought about it.

Now, I’m not going to review our whole six-hour discussion here—I prefer to keep my posts short (honest!)—but I do want to mention the main difference between my view of the Trinity and the classic position held by folks like James White. Then I want to re-ask the question I posed in the subtitle of this post.

Basically, I have never been able to believe that the Holy Spirit is a divine Person, co-equal with the Father and the Son. I have never been able to hear a Person being spoken of when the Old and New Testaments talk about the Holy Spirit. Even the primary metaphor used to describe It isn’t one denoting personhood: a father is a person; a son is a person; but a spirit—a wind or breath—is not a person! Why didn’t Scripture use a male family member metaphor for the Spirit? Why not the Holy Uncle or the Holy Brother?

Of course, the classic Trinitarian will say that the language of the Bible treats the Holy Spirit like a person in that it describes It as having agency, but this is an unsatisfactory argument. After all, the Scriptures anthropomorphize storms (Mark 4:37-41) and fevers (Luke 4:39), but no one seriously thinks of these as persons.

They would also say that the Spirit is treated like a male person throughout the New Testament by the use of masculine pronouns like he and him. Since the Greek word for spirit, pneuma (πνεῦμα), is grammatically neuter, the writers would've used the neuter pronoun “it”, rather than “he”, if the Holy Spirit wasn’t a person. But this use of the masculine pronoun was surely just a way for the writers to honour the One from whom the the Holy Spirit emanates, much in the same way we venerate Him in English through capitalisation. As our breath carries our voice, the Holy Breath carries the Voice of God. It is He, God, who is speaking whenever the Spirit is heard, therefore, to illustrate this relationship, the writers of the books of the NT sometimes used masculine pronouns when referring to the Holy Spirit.

Ah, yes, I did say sometimes! It turns out that only in some cases did the writers of the NT use masculine pronouns in reference to the Holy Spirit. For instance, in John 14:17, the Greek text uses a neuter pronoun for the Holy Spirit. Three times.
τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, ὁ κόσμος οὐ δύναται λαβεῖν, ὅτι οὐ θεωρεῖ αὐτὸ οὐδὲ γινώσκει• ὑμεῖς γινώσκετε αὐτό, ὅτι παρ’ ὑμῖν μένει καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν ἔσται.
The word highlighted in red, ho, the word translated “whom” in English, is a relative pronoun. In Greek, unlike English, the relative pronoun carries grammatical gender, meaning it has different forms depending on whether the noun it refers to is masculine, feminine or neuter. This form is the neuter, accusative form. The masculine accusative form of the relative pronoun is hos. So, the actual meaning of this “whom” in the Greek is “It whom”, as opposed to “He whom”.

The word highlighted in yellow is auto, the neuter, accusative form of the 3rd person singular pronoun and should be translated “It”. The masculine accusative form of this pronoun is auton, which would be translated “Him”.

This brings us to my question: Why does every English translation on Bible Gateway—the KJV, ASV, AMP, CEB, CJB, CEV, DARBY, DRA, ERV, ESV, ESVUK, EXB, GNV, GW, GNT, HCSB, PHILLIPS, JUB, KJV, AKJV, LEB, TLB, MSG, MOUNCE, NOG, NASB, NCV, NET, NIRV, NIV, NIVUK, NKJV, NLV, NLT, NRSV, NRSVA, NRSVACE, NRSVCE, OJB, RSV, RSVCE, VOICE, WEB, WE, WYC, YLT—read “Him” in this passage and not “It”?

Yes, yes, the critical apparatus of NA28 does give us a textual variant3 here that reads auton, but the NA28 text reads auto, just as the text of the Stephanus 1550 Greek NT does—and the Westcott & Hort text, and the 1894 Scrivener text, and the SBL text, and both the Blue Letter Bibles’ TR and GNT Morphological texts. All of which means that the preponderance of the manuscript evidence favours the auto reading, the “It” reading.

So, again, why do all the English versions change “It” to “Him”?

Eisegesis anyone…?


1. Unless otherwise indicated, all English Scripture text is taken from the ESV2011 (the English Standard Version, 2011). Greek text is from NA28 (28th Edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece).

2. I haven’t read White’s book as of 06/04/14, but it is on order from The Nile online bookshop and should be here within the next few days. Lord willing, I’ll post a book review when I’m finished reading it.

3. It must be stated that this textual variant is found in an extremely significant witness, P66, a circa 200, fragmentary papyrus manuscript of the Gospel of John. Since this variant suits the Trinitarianism of the English version translators, it is no doubt the justification for their use of “him”. However, in the same venerable witness, the relative pronoun in the verse is neuter. Isn’t it convenient for them that the English relative pronoun doesn’t show gender?