Are the Old Testament Saints in heaven… (Part 2)

You’ll need to see Part 1 of the argument. Were I discuss the Old Testament. This time I wanted to cover what Jews though about the intermediary state in the Pseudepigrapha. This is the body of writing from around 200 BC – AD 200. It gives us a window into what they were thinking at the time. It’s not unamious in its theology but there are some consistent strands that I want to highlight.

One of the most fun books of the Pseudepigrapha is 1 Enoch. In 51:1-2 reads:

In those days, Sheol will return all the deposits which she had received and hell will give back all that which it owes. And he shall choose the righteous and the holy ones from among (the risen dead), for the day when they shall be selected and saved has arrived.

This sounds like Revelation 21:13-15, doesn’t it? In 1 Enoch, all the souls, both good and bad, await judgment in Sheol. They are not in heaven but their cries reach up to heaven (1 Enoch 22:3-6). Here, the righteous cannot touch the tree of life (25:4). In chapter 102, we read: “But you, souls of the righteous, fear not; and be hopeful, you souls that died in righteousness! Be not sad because your souls have gone down into Sheol in sorrow, or (because) your flesh fared not well the earthly existence…” (vv.4-5). The righteous souls have “descended into Sheol” (11). The point here is that the righteous await the day of judgment, to be vindicated by God — which they are not presently (103:4, 7-8).

The book of Sirach (190 to 175 BC) treats Hades as the place where the dead go, you can take nothing there (Sir. 14:16). Like the Psalms, no one praises God in Hades (Sir. 17:27; cf., Is 38:18; Ps. 88:10-12). When commenting on Elijah bringing someone back to life (see 1 Kings 17:17-24) it says that he raised the boy “from death and from Hades” (Sir. 48:5 NRSV).

Baruch (somewhere between 150 and 60 BC) in a few places says much the same, that the spirits of the dead are in Hades, where they cannot praise God (Bar. 2:17).

4 Ezra (another composite work, in that it has Christian redaction on top of Jewish). In 2:16 (The Christian redaction) it speaks of resurrection, bringing the righteous out of tombs, God will save them from Gehenna (2:29). In the Jewish original, 4:33-43, The souls wait in chambers in Hades, (42) waiting for the new age. How long do they remain here, “Ezra” asks? Until their number is complete (Rev. 6:9-11) In 7:36 after everyone is brought back, Hell and Paradise (Rev. 9:2) are set before everyone at the final judgment.

There are quite a few works that I haven’t mentioned here, but the gist of the above shows that there is a strand of Judaism that believes in Sheol as a waiting place for both the righteous and the wicked – which is something that the Old Testament *could* confirm. But let’s let one other person speak, Josephus the Jewish Historian (c. 100 AD):

Now, for the Pharisees, … They also believe that souls have an immortal rigor in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again; … (In Antiquities of the Jews 18.1.3).

Josephus actually says more or less what the New Testament says, that the Pharisees believe in resurrection, against the Sadduccees who don’t (see Matt. 22:23; Acts 23:6, 8). The above works say that at least one strand of Pharisees did believe that.

Some of the Jews during the time Jesus was here on the earth believed that everyone went to Hades-Sheol awaiting resurrection, in fact this was the dominate view, see for instance Charles Hill’s Regnum Caelorum, p. 51 and Everett Ferguson’s Backgrounds of Early Christianity p. 544. (By the way, just head to a search engine and type in any of the works if you’d like to read them, there are freely available English translations. I’m using the revised two volume by Charlesworth that I highly recommend).


A Poor Man Seminary Library (2): Specialty Bibles

Languages getting you down? Would you like to learn Hebrew and Greek but don’t have the time or money to take classes? Well you live at a great time because there are some resources that can help with that.

The Comprehensive New Testament (CNT)
There are a couple of reasons why this Bible is *awesome*. The major selling point is that it is a translation of the Greek New Testament (GNT) put out by the United Bible Society (UBS). All modern translations make use of this the GNT in making their translations but they will make judgment calls, in terms of which reading in different manuscripts to use. 

A brief aside: for the New Testament every translation (back even to the days of King Jimmy and before) is translated from the various Greek manuscripts. We have tons of these manuscripts. So we have to determine what is the likely reading. Modern translations and semi-ancient translations must make informed choices.

So no modern translaitons completely matches the GNT’s put out by the UBS. Except the CNT. That is selling point #1. Second, all of those different options in the manuscripts are put in the GNT’s, called an apparatus. If you thought reading Greek was hard, reading these apparatuses is even harder. Well the CNT simplifies this and translates it into English so you know where the differences in translations are coming from – incredibly helpful to anyone in ministry to quickly see where Bible translations will differ.

Lastly, what I think is the most awesome part of this Bible is that it contains a mammoth cross reference system. This cross reference is not limited to the Bible. It often goes into the Pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, early church, and Nag Hammadi. Again, *awesome*. I actually can’t figure out why you haven’t bought this yet?

Purchase: [Amazon

New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS)
Moving along with good translations we come to the NETS, not to be confused with the NET (New English Translation – my favorite all around translation). The NETS is just what it says it is, a translations of the Greek Old Testament. Why do you care?

Well it seems that a majority of the NT authors actually worked from the LXX (the short name for the Septuagint). This matters because the LXX diverges from the main Hebrew text (called the Masoretic Text, or MT for short). So it can be helpful in places, like Job, Isaiah, and the Psalms to see differences in the text since a lot of early church fathers used the LXX as well. Augustine was unable to read Hebrew for instance.

The Septuagint is the most important translation that there is. Plane and simple and so it would be helpful to have a translation of it because the Greek in the LXX is miles above the Greek in the NT (languages change and often simplify over their lifetime, I was told that since Latin died so young it stayed very complex – while modern day Greek is vastly simplier compared to the NT and Homer).

Purchase: [Amazon

Not knowing the original languages is hardly an excuse now for deep indepth study. These resources above are just a part of the amazing blessings that we, especially as English speakers, have. The hard part is not being able to study well, but making sure you are using these gifts well. Are you?

Genealogical Conundrum: Rahab (2)

Previously I laid out some issues with Rahab being in the genealogy of Matthew (Matt. 1:5). See it here. Well I don’t know if this is the solution (it has some problems I think in terms of inerrancy) but it is novel and I think at least interesting. It’s from Richard Bauckham’s article “Tamar’s Ancestry and Rahab’s Marriage: Two Problems in the Matthean Genealogy” in Novum Testamentum 37, 4 (1995): 313-329. If you are a seminary student you have free access to it and it’s a good read.

In the genealogies of 1 Chronicles 2, we note something interesting. There are two Salma’s, the Hebrew reading of Salmon’s – which is the Greek translation of the name (the Septuagint). In 2:11 we read the genealogy of Salma that is in Matthew, Salma the father of Boaz. But in 2:54-55 we read of another Salma not related to the one in 2:11.

1Chr. 2:54 The sons of Salma: Bethlehem, the Netophathites, Atroth-beth-joab and half of the Manahathites, the Zorites. 55 The clans also of the scribes who lived at Jabez: the Tirathites, the Shimeathites and the Sucathites. These are the Kenites who came from Hammath, the father of the house of Rechab.

Note the last line, from the house of Rechab. As I noted in the first post, Matthew uses a strange spelling of Rahab whereas the Septuagint and the rest of the NT uses a different spelling. This wouldn’t be so odd if Matthew used the Hebrew spelling of Salma, but he uses the Septuagint spelling Salmon. The difference in the spelling of those households is an “e” vs. and “a” and so Bauckham proposes that these two are conflated. He’s argument is longer than what I presented here but it looks plausible doesn’t it?

I’m not sure what I think, since that then brings up questions on inerrancy. But I guess there seems some interesting questions regardless of which option you take.

My Translation of the Lord’s Prayer

I am glad we recite the Lord’s Prayer on a weekly basis. My five year old has asked – what is our daily bread as well as what are our debts. It shows the power of liturgy. However he has also asked – what is ‘thy.’ I can’t remember why I took up translating the Lord’s Prayer, but I did and this is my translation below. It isn’t terribly different from modern translations.

Our Father who is in Heaven,
Your name be made holy
Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,
And lead us not into [temptation/trials]
But deliever us from the evil one
For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

A few notes: First “hallowed” means to be made holy – that’s the point of the prayer. If you use hallowed you’ve successfully made sure 90% of those reciting don’t know what they are saying. We might as well go back to Latin.

Second, we say lead us not into “temptation.” The Greek word there can mean either temptation or trials. Since God does not tempt (James 1:13) I think the likely reading is do not lead us into trials – think of the wilderness wanderings, exile, etcetra (see 1 Cor. 10:13 where again the word could be trial or temptation, but trial makes more sense). There is no context so we have to determine it based on what the Bible says about God.

Third, evil and evil one is a tough call. The word can be both and it’s up to context to determine why one fits better than the other. We will always experience evil in a fallen world, but we can escape Satan. It could also be evil works (cf., 2 tim 4:18).

Fourth, yes I left in “For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever Amen.” It’s a completely true saying (likely adapted from 1 Chron. 29:11-13). The words “power and glory” appear in the Didache (an early church document) so it early when these lines are added. The text without this line appears in all major manuscripts, Siniaticus and Alexanderian (the two big and early ones), which is why all modern translations do not include it. As long as people know that, I think it’s a great way to conclude the prayer.

Those are the translation notes but my wider argument (which I will try to condense) it that since the Bible is timeless we should stop using archaic translations. It doesn’t help anyone to learn a separate language for church. The Bible isn’t written in a holy language(s), it’s actually written in the most common and simple language of the day.

Our liturgy should be the same. When we retain archaic languages from old translations we are effectively telling people that the Bible isn’t timeless. We don’t have to make a new translation every year but at least every hundred years (and the KJV is now 400 years old!). The timelessness of Shakespeare is not his language, but his ideas. Second, the Bible existed 1500 to 4000 years before Shakespeare, so why are we holding to a translation from that era? It’s fine if you don’t want to update the Bard – he’s a product of Victorian England; but it isn’t fine if you don’t want to update the Bible (and the ligturgy that comes directly from it).

A Genealogical Conundrum: Rahab (1)

My Old Testament professor would say that if you don’t find curious things in the Bible, it means you aren’t paying attention. So, it is in Matthew’s genealogy that I ran across this, while reading Joshua (I originally was preparing for my Sunday School lesson). This was all triggered because of the song Matthew’s Begats by Andrew Peterson.

In Matt.1:5 we read that Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab. This Rahab is presumably the Rahab of Joshua, the prostitute who harbors the spies and is spared when Jericho falls. Otherwise, if it’s some unknown Rabah – why mention her? That seems plausible… right?

Problem 1. Neither the Old Testament or the Pseudepigrapha (to my reading) metions it (see the genealogies at Ruth 4:20-21; 1 Chr. 2:1-11) [1]. So where did it come from? How did Matthew know about it?

Problem 2. The other times Rahab is mentioned in the New Testament (Heb. 11:13 and James 2:25) it’s actually spelled differently in Greek (and still no mention of her being in the genelogy of David and thus Christ). In Heb. 11:13 and James 2:25 it’s spelled Ra’ab, which is what the Greek OT (LXX) does when it translates Rahab. In Matthew it’s spelled Rachab (with a Scottish “ch” there) which is actually how the Hebrew is spelt.

There is apparently some extra-biblical tradition that I haven’t been able to investigate in Talmudic Judaism about Rahab’s decendents. If I can ever get a hold of a book, I’ll let you know what I find.[2]

What does everyone think about this? Strange? No? No concern?

[1] See The Gospel According to Matthew in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series page 24. He notes the same strange absence of this tradition in Judaism.

[2] The book is Marshall Johnson’s The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies (see pp. 162-65), if you’d like to ship me the copy – let me know!