Saturday, September 29, 2012

Amos 4 in 35 Seconds

YHWH speaks to Israel: "You cows of Bashan! You women who oppress the poor and crush the needy, who nag your husbands, 'Bring me a drink!'

"Disaster is coming."

Verse 6 - "I sent famine. And you got hungry. But you didn't get hungry for me. You ignored me."

Verse 7 - "I sent drought. And you got thirsty. But you didn't get thirsty for me. You ignored me."

Next few verses - "I ruined your crops. I sent you plagues. I brought war to your doorstep. I overthrew some of your towns. And you ignored, ignored, ignored, ignored me."

Verse 12 - "So, prepare to meet your God!"

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Feeding the Puppies

Sad, that we get the wrong concept so often from badly translated passages in our mainstream Bible versions. For example, here's Mark 7:27 from a few different mainstream versions:

KJV - But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.

HCSV - He said to her, “Allow the children to be satisfied first, because it isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

NIV (1984) - “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

ESV - And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.”

and so on....

Of these versions, the NIV comes closest to the meaning. But these next three do the best job:

YLT - And Jesus said to her, `Suffer first the children to be filled, for it is not good to take the children's bread, and to cast [it] to the little dogs.'

Amp - And He said to her, First let the children be fed, for it is not becoming or proper or right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the [little house] dogs.

ISV - But he kept telling her, "First let the children be filled. It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the puppies."

When we read the first versions, we get in our mind an insult, that Jesus is referring to this woman's ethnic group as dogs. The mental image that arises is Jesus turning his back on her in a huff, throwing his nose up into the air, and saying, "Begone, Dog!"

But that's not what's going on. He's drawing a picture of a harried mom trying to get things done while the kids are at the breakfast table and she's focused on the wrong thing by feeding the household puppy dogs instead of feeding the kids.

And the woman to whom Jesus speaks replies, "Yes, but even when a good mom pays attention to her kids, where it's supposed to be, instead of to the puppies, the puppies still benefit from the spilled crumbs -- they don't go hungry. The mom does not actively prevent the pups from benefiting from what the kids drop."

That word "little" (such as seen in Young's Literal Translation) makes a substantial difference in how our brains draw up the picture, doesn't it?

For those who are curious, the Greek word is word #2951 in Strong's Concordance (

kunarion: a little dog
Original Word: κυνάριον, ου, τό
Part of Speech: Noun, Neuter
Transliteration: kunarion
Phonetic Spelling: (koo-nar'-ee-on)
Short Definition: a little dog
Definition: a little dog, a house dog.

Cognate: 2952 kynárion – properly, puppy, a diminutive of 2965 /kýōn ("dog").

We would do well to be teaching Biblical Greek and Hebrew in our Sunday school classes, to our little ones who have the absorption capabilities to learn new languages. Within a generation, we'd have a church membership which is much more Biblically literate than our current crop of Christians.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Unalienable Rights

According to the Founders of our great and united States of America, our rights come from our Creator, not from Government, and they are unalienable ("not to be separated, given away, or taken away"). Further, our unalienable rights are not limited to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, but rather these are just three examples amongst them.

When I was a kid, one of us might ask if we could do such-and-so, and another would answer, "It's a free country; do what you want." Nowadays, the answer is more likely to be, "You'll have to ask permission at the permit office. And pay a fee."

I don't own my land; if I did, I wouldn't have to ask the government permission to cut down a tree or put up a fence or build a house or risk losing the land if I don't pay the "protection money", er, I mean,  property tax.

I'm not arguing against all restrictions; some are necessary to avoid tromping on the rights of my neighbors; I'm just pointing out the change in mentality that has occurred in the past half-century which has ceded our freedoms to the "authorities" who are now responsible, no longer for guaranteeing those freedoms, but for dispensing them.

Many of our leaders (as well as many of the American sheeple) seem to be of the mentality that our certain unalienable rights are endowed to us by government. That conflicts with the Founders' viewpoint. It's an unAmerican position.

If you've never read the Declaration of Independence, give it a read, or at a bare minimum, the first two paragraphs; it's a short document:

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Elders, Pastors, Bishops, Shepherds, Part 2

In my previous post, I answered two questions asked on an email list (Church_of_Christ on Yahoo!Groups) from the questioner abotsipatrick. In this post, another email list member responds to the same questions.


"abotsipatrick" asks:
"Do the terms pastor, elder, bishop and overseer refer to the same office or different offices?"

Bishop and overseer both translate the exact same word from the Greek NT--"episkopos."  You'll find "bishop" used by English translations from more of the "high church" tradition in Php. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-2; Ti. 1:7 (cf. KJV, ASV, RSV, NKJV, NRSV).  In those very same passages, other English versions (particularly those prepared by a predominantly Evangelical committee), you'll find the term "overseer" in place of bishop (cf. ESV, NASB, NCV, NIV, NET).

Do we find in the NT the three terms ["pastor/shepherd" from poimaino, "elder/older" from presbuteros, "overseer" from episkopos] being used interchangeably for the same role in the NT church or for three separate roles?  Acts 20:17-28 has Paul sending for the "elders" of the church in Ephesus and telling those elders that the Holy Spirit has made them "overseers" in order to "pastor" (shepherd, care for) the church of God.  In 1 Pet. 5:1-2, Peter exhorts his fellow "elders" to "pastor" the flock of God, exercising "oversight" (verb form of episkopos).  Titus 1 uses overseer and elder for the same role Paul is describing, a role he uses overseer for in 1 Tim. 3.

An "elder" is who this person is--an older as opposed to younger individual, someone who has gained some practical wisdom through life experience over time.

"Overseer" is what this person is, what it is they do--care for the church, providing guidance, direction, protection.

"Shepherd" is how the this older person is to exercise oversight--like a shepherd with his sheep (see Ezek. 34 and Ps. 23).  They are to nurture, nourish, and protect the members of God's flock.

Side bar:  notice I have refrained from using the term "office," which is foreign to the text.  If we're going to import terminology into the text, I think "function" is superior to "office".  Elder/overseer/shepherd is not a string of titles but descriptions for a function within Christ's body the Church.  If one is not functioning as an overseer/shepherd, providing that nurturing, nourishment, and protection, then they aren't shepherds.  One can have a title and hold an office yet have no function.  Not so with elder/overseer/shepherd.

Abotsipatrick asks a second question:
"Does Eph. 4:11...teach that being a pastor is a gift from God that does not require the appointment or ordination of humans?"

No.  Yes, it teaches that the roles or functions of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher are gifts from God, just like service, generosity, exhortation, leadership, being merciful are gifts from God (Rom. 12:6-8).  It does not necessarily follow, however, that stepping in to the role of an apostle or evangelist or pastor does not require some form or recognition and affirmation of that gift by the Body of Christ through some appointment or ordination by humans.

Did not Paul and Barnabas (two humans) go through the congregations they had planted and appoint elders in each congregation (Ac. 14:23)?  Did not Paul, a human, leave Titus, another human, on the isle of Crete to appoint elders in every town as Paul directed him to do (Ti. 1:5)?  How was it Timothy became an evangelist?  Was it not through Paul's deliberate selection based in part upon the recommendation of the believers from Timothy's home congregation (Ac. 16:1-4), and did it not include the laying on of hands of an eldership (1 Tim. 4:14).  Was not Timothy himself, in being given instructions about what to look for in a prospective overseer or deacon (1 Tim. 3) cautioned not to "lay hands" (i.e. commission or ordain) on anyone too hastily (1 Tim. 5:22)?  Was not there direct human involvement in the selection of Judas' replacement to the role of apostle?  For it began with Peter addressing the need and setting out the parameters for the kind of person they were looking for.  The congregation narrowed the field down to two individuals.  After that, they asked God to make his choice of the two known through prayer and casting lots (Ac. 1:15-26)?  Human involvement working with Divine guidance.

The Lord save the church from self-appointed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

Final observation:  Somehow, somewhere, we've picked up the notion that having a gift means permission to use that gift in any manner the gifted one seems fit.  But a gift is not a license to do as one pleases.  Bezalel and Oholiab were divinely gifted by God and filled with God's Spirit "with ability, intelligence, knowledge and craftmanship to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, bronze," etc. in order to construct the tabernacle (Ex. 31; 35:30-36:5).  Yet those gifts were only to be used within the boundaries established by God.  When God said to use almond blossoms for the menorah, for example, they did not have the artistic license to add or substitute cherry blossoms in the design.  Gifted artisans though they were, they were not at liberty to use those God-given gifts to construct an idol, or pornographic sculptures, etc.

Reception of a gift is not permission to then use it in any manner or fashion we please.  We must exercise our gifts within the parameters God has established.
Stephen Lord

Elders, Pastors, Bishops, Shepherds

On an email list of which I'm a member, abotsipatrick asked the following:
Do the terms pastor, elder, bishop and overseer refer to the same office or different offices?
Secondly, does Ephesians 4:11 ("and some pastors and teachers") teach that being a pastor is a gift from God that does not require the appointment or ordination of humans?
In this post, I give my response. In my next post, I will give the response of another list member.


Let me encourage you to think in terms of "roles", or "services", first, and then apply that to the concept of "office".

pastor - I encourage you to mentally translate this word as "shepherd". The role of a shepherd is to care for a flock of dumb sheep, making sure they get fed, watered, and are safe, occasionally helping in the process of birthing or other medical service, etc. The shepherd is not a rule-maker, or a tyrant, or a business person, except only insofar as taking care of the business of flock-care requires.

elder - I encourage you to mentally translate this word as "older person". The older people in a group tend to be those who have been wizened by life-experience, and who thus have influence on the direction the group goes. They would tend to make or at least influence the making of whatever rules are needed for the flock's personal safety.

bishop, overseer - same word, different eras of language. I encourage you to mentally translate this word as "overseer", or "supervisor". This is a person who directs, takes charge, assigns tasks, makes sure things work according to the mission statement. They would would tend to make whatever rules are needed for the flock's communal safety.

An ideal, mature leader will have all of these characteristics, such that the roles overlap in one individual. I believe that in the New Testament, the ideal was that the local church leader[s] would fill all of these roles. However, when a leader recognizes that he's not suited to a particular task, he might delegate that task to another, such as how the leaders in the early church (Acts 6) delegated the shepherding role of of physically feeding the community to specially-designated servants, while they focused on the shepherding role of spiritually feeding the community.

Likewise, a local community of believers might have a leadership body containing one person who is very good at the business aspects of running the group - this person would most likely fill the role of bishop/overseer. Another person in the leadership might excel at dispensing wisdom, and might serve as the counselor who is sought out for his answers to life. A third person in the leadership might be an awesome teacher, filling the minds and spirits of the membership with God's food. Or perhaps each of the leaders excels in all three areas, or a mixture.

So to answer your question, yes, the terms all do refer to the same "office" - that of leadership, but they do not necessarily all refer to the same officeholder, the same leader. As Romans 12:4 says:

KJV For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
let us focus on using whatever gift God has given each of us, and let those with the gifts of shepherding and of wisdom-dispensing and of supervisory capabilities use their gifts to care for, lead, and take care of the community. And let us recognize that it will be rare to find one person with all these characteristics, which is part of the reason a leadership body might be better composed of multiple leaders with differing strengths rather than trying to force-fit a single leader into filling all the roles.

abotsipatrick's second question:

Secondly, does Ephesians 4:11 ("and some pastors and teachers") teach that being a pastor is a gift from God that does not require the appointment or ordination of humans?

Paul writes in Galatians 1:1 that he is "an apostle—not from men or by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father". The full text of the verse you reference is:

HCSB Eph 4:11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
Yes, being a pastor is a gift from God that does not require the appointment or ordination of humans. Compare Romans 12:

According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy,
use it according to the standard of one’s faith;
if service, in service;
if teaching, in teaching;
if exhorting, in exhortation;
giving, with generosity;
leading, with diligence;
showing mercy, with cheerfulness.
and 1 Corinthians 12:
Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:
to one is given a message of wisdom
through the Spirit,
to another, a message of knowledge
by the same Spirit,
to another, faith by the same Spirit,
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10 to another, the performing of miracles,
to another, prophecy,
to another, distinguishing between spirits,
to another, different kinds of languages,
to another, interpretation of languages.
11 But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. 28 And God has placed these in the church:
first apostles, second prophets,
third teachers, next miracles,
then gifts of healing, helping,
managing, various kinds of languages.
29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets?
Are all teachers? Do all do miracles?
30 Do all have gifts of healing?
Do all speak in other languages?
Do all interpret?
31 But desire the greater gifts.
God gives each of us one or more gifts, to be used in building up the body. Some of them are miraculous; some are not. Some are given according to what God deems best; some are given according to what we desire (v 31 above) and pursue (1 Cor 14:1) and ask for (1 Cor 14:13).

However, just because a person has a gift, that does not necessarily mean he will be appointed within a particular community to exercise that gift. Paul instructed Titus to appoint people to serve as elders in each town; but he restricted those appointments to people who were suitable for the task. God gives the gift and the overall appointment; Man gives the local appointment.