More Bible translations

The Washington Post has an article about two new Bible translations.  We’ve already blogged about the new gender-adjusted NIV that will take the place of the NIV beloved by many evangelicals.  There is also a new translation of the New American Bible, the version approved for Roman Catholics.

The new Catholic Bible retools only the Old Testament. The first new version since 1970, it is meant to sound more poetic and more contemporary, with “spoils” replacing “booty” and “burnt offering” supplanting “Holocaust.”

It could stir controversy, however, with decisions such as the one meant to be truer to the Hebrew – translating Isaiah 7:14 to say a “young woman” shall conceive, and bear a son, instead of a “virgin,” which is how the previous Catholic Old Testament and most evangelical Bibles read. …

Some experts predict that the radical fragmentation in the marketplace will kill the contemporary notion that the Bible is a fixed text meant to be read literally.

Timothy Beal, a religion professor at Case Western University who just came out with a book called “The Rise and Fall of the Bible,” compared the flurry of versions to “a distressed crop. When a tree is about to die and puts out tons of seeds.”

The Bible, Beal said, “is not a book of answers but a library of questions. It doesn’t speak in one voice. It doesn’t take one perspective. This frantic, desperate effort to resolve contradictions is going against the grain of the Bible, which seems to embrace contradictions.”

via Sign of the times: Updated Bible.

One problem with today’s Roman Catholicism is its embrace of liberal Protestantism!  Liberal Bible critics have been pushing for the “young woman” translation of Isaiah’s prophecy ever since the RSV.  Never mind that when the New Testament quotes the passage it cites the Septuagint, which is clearly “virgin,” a prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ.  Scripture is not allowed to interpret Scripture, as in classical Protestant hermeneutics. But now Roman Catholics are going down that line.  Will they now pray to the Young Woman Mary?

And what do you think of the Bible scholar’s comments?

Do you agree that so many translations is diluting the sense that the Bible has a fixed authoritative meaning?

Newt explains his affair to Christians

Newt Gingrich is gearing up for a presidential run, so he is courting social conservatives.  That requires him to account for his three marriages, including the one that grew out of his affair with a young staff member even as he was lambasting President Clinton for his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.  What do you think of his explanation?

Newt Gingrich says his passionate hard work for his country contributed to his marital infidelity. In an interview posted Wednesday by The Christian Broadcasting Network, Gingrich – who recently converted to Catholicism – said he had sought God’s forgiveness for mistakes in his past.

“There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” Gingrich said.

“What I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them,” he said. “I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness. Not God’s understanding, but God’s forgiveness.”

Gingrich went on to say that he and his third wife, Callista, now have a great marriage.

“Forget about all this political stuff. As a person, I’ve had the opportunity to have a wonderful life, to find myself now, truly enjoying the depths of my life in ways that I never dreamed it was possible to have a life that was that nice,” he said.

The twice-divorced former U.S. House speaker has said he had an affair with Callista, a former congressional aide, while married to his second wife. It happened at the same time he was attacking President Bill Clinton for his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

via News from The Associated Press.

So would you support him for president?

Procedural ploy lets Wisconsin finesse union

We have been following Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s effort to stop the state employee union from being able to engage in collective bargaining for benefits.  We have also discussed the Democratic legislators who have been on the lam to prevent a quorum to take up the measure.  Here is the latest development:  Some slick parliamentary procedure let Republicans pass the bill without a quorum.

The Wisconsin Senate succeeded in voting Wednesday to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers, after Republicans discovered a way to bypass the chamber’s missing Democrats and approve an explosive proposal that has rocked the state and unions nationwide.

“You are cowards!” spectators in the Senate gallery screamed as lawmakers voted. Within hours, a crowd of a few hundred protesters inside the Capitol had grown to several thousand, more than had been in the building at any point during weeks of protests.

“The whole world is watching!” they shouted as they pressed up against the heavily guarded entrance to the Senate chamber.

All 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to consider Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget-repair bill” — a proposal introduced to plug a $137 million budget shortfall.

The Senate requires a quorum to take up any measures that spends money. But Republicans on Wednesday took all the spending measures out of the legislation and a special committee of lawmakers from both the Senate and Assembly approved the revised bill a short time later.

The unexpected yet surprisingly simple procedural move ended a stalemate that had threatened to drag on indefinitely. Until Wednesday’s stunning vote, it appeared the standoff would persist until Democrats returned to Madison from their self-imposed exile.

via Wis. GOP bypasses Dems, cuts collective bargaining | General Headlines |

Lent catches on

The Washington Post has a weekend religious services directory that prints notices and advertisements from local churches.  I was surprised to see how many churches besides the usual liturgical denominations (Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran) are holding Ash Wednesday services, in a number of cases complete with the imposition of ashes.

The same issue included a wire article on how Protestants are increasingly adopting Lenten fasts:  via Lent Gets a 21st-Century Update – Religiontoday – News –

It cites evangelicals who are taking on Facebook fasts and online fasts.  Methodists are asking their members to abstain from alcoholic beverages.  (I thought Methodists do that anyway!)  A number of liberal mainline Protestants are joining in an “Ecumenical Lenten Carbon” fast, in which members will mortify their flesh by lowering their carbon footprint.  The article mentions Catholics who are obliged to give up meat on Fridays and also the really rigorous Orthodox fast, which cuts out all meat and dairy every day for the entire season. (Does that include Sundays, which are feast days not counted in the 40 days?  If any of you are Orthodox, please let us know.)   In effect, this is a Vegan diet, and vegetarians in England are urging Christians to adopt the Eastern Orthodox fast this year.

Why do you think, in this age of constant indulgence, the Lenten disciplines are being taken up, to a certain extent, even by those traditions that normally haven’t practiced them?  What’s the attraction?

The oldest church in the world

Lent is a good time for contemporary Christians to contemplate their solidarity with the Church as the Body of Christ, which extends around the world and back through time.

Here are the remains of the oldest church building that has been found.  It’s called the  Dura-Europas, from a town by that name, in Syria.  It has been dated from 235 A.D.

It’s a house church,in that it’s an ordinary house to which was attached a separate long hall that was used for worship.  Remains of a baptistry were found, as well as fragments of parchment that have been identified as scraps of a Communion liturgy.  Also, around the baptistry are frescoes of scenes from the Bible.  Here is Christ healing the paralytic:

Christ healing the paralytic, from Dura-Europas Church, 235 A.D.

For more of these paintings, which must be some of the very earliest examples of Christian art, go to the Wikipedia article linked below.  I love their extreme simplicity, but also the intense piety that they express.

Think of the people who made these and who worshiped here.  In 235 A.D., the books of the Bible would have been available for about a century.  Christians were being killed for their faith and would be for another hundred years.  Based on mentions of the pre-Easter fasts in texts that date even earlier, these folks probably observed Lent.

The 10 Oldest Churches in the World | Weird Pictures, Wonderful Things.

Dura-Europas church

Let’s pray the litany for Lent

LCMS president Matthew Harrison challenges everyone to join him in a Lenten project that is not giving something up, that is doing something very positive for others, and that will benefit your spiritual life:  Praying the Litany every day.

The Litany is an ancient structure for prayer that builds on Biblical texts and that covers EVERYTHING we are to pray for, in vivid and piercing language.   Yes, Catholics have a version, but it goes back before the rise of what we would recognize as Roman Catholicism, all the way to the early church of the 6th century.  The Reformation made good use of it.  (We Lutherans and hangers on at Patrick Henry College had been getting together to pray the Litany every week, though this semester we’ve been doing Vespers.)  Here are President Harrison’s comments on why the Litany is so helpful:

Left to ourselves, bereft of texts as the foundation of our prayers, we are often left praying “Dear God, give me a mini-bike,” as I was wont to pray as a 12 year old – and am prone to pray even today!!!!!! Texts of the scriptures Lords Prayer, Ten Commandments and scriptural texts Creed, Litany! lay down Gods thoughts as the foundation of prayer, the tarmac if you will, from which our meditations may gently or quickly rise, aided by the Holy Spirit. The fulsome petitions of the Litany take us out of ourselves, to pray for the church, pastors and teachers, our enemies, women with children, the poor, the imprisoned and much much more. And all for mercy, growing out of the great petitions of the blind, the lame and the ill who comes to Jesus in the New Testament, “Lord have mercy!” “Kyrie eleison!” The Lord loves to have mercy. The Lord came to have mercy. The Lord continues to have mercy.

You’ll find the litany in any standard Lutheran hymnal worth its salt. Pray it daily with me for Lent won’t you?

via Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison: Lets Pray the Litany Daily: Kyrie Eleison!.

Here it is.  (Other versions going around have what must be an accidental omission, the grounding of the prayer in Christ — “by the mystery of your holy incarnation. . . .by your agony and bloody sweat.”  The version in the Lutheran Service Book is even better to use because it adds the Lord’s Prayer and closes with a collect, which can be a time for individual petitions.  Also, the format is really good and easy to use,whether with a group, your family, or individually.)

P: O Lord,
C: Have mercy.

P: O Christ,
C: Have mercy.

P: O Lord,
C: Have mercy.

P: O Christ,
C: Hear us.

P: God the Father, in heaven,
C: have mercy.

P: God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
C: Have mercy.

P: God the Holy Spirit.
C: Have mercy.

P: Be gracious to us.
C: Spare us, good Lord.

P: Be gracious to us.
C: Help us, good Lord.

P: From all sin, from all error, from all evil; from the crafts and assaults of the devil; from sudden and evil death; from pestilence and famine; from war and bloodshed; from sedition and from rebellion; from lightning and tempest; from all calamity by fire and water; and from everlasting death;
C: Good Lord, deliver us.

P: By the mystery of Your holy incarnation; by Your holy nativity; by Your baptism, fasting, and temptation; by Your agony and bloody sweat; by Your cross and Passion; by Your precious death and burial; by Your glorious resurrection and ascension; and by the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter;
C: Help us, good Lord.

P: In all time of our tribulation, in all time of our prosperity, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,
C: Help us, good Lord.

P: We poor sinners implore You
C: To hear us, O Lord.

P: To rule and govern Your holy Christian Church, to preserve all pastors and ministers of Your Church in the true knowledge and understanding of Your wholesome Word and to sustain them in holy living, to put an end to all schisms and causes of offense, to bring into the way of truth all who have erred and are deceived, to bless the Church’s life-giving message that Jesus is Lord, to bring comfort to the sorrowing and hope to those living in fear, to beat down Satan under our feet, to send faithful laborers into Your harvest, and to accompany Your Word with Your grace and Spirit,
C: We implore You to hear us, good Lord.

P: To raise those that fall and to strengthen those that stand, and to comfort and help the weakhearted and the distressed,
C: We implore You to hear us, good Lord.

P: To give to all peoples concord and peace, to preserve our land from discord and strife, to give our country Your protection in every time of need, to direct and defend our president and all in authority, to bless and protect our magistrates and all our people, to keep in safety the members of our armed forces and to give wisdom to those in command,
C: We implore You to hear us, good Lord.

P: To forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers and to turn their hearts; to give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth; and graciously to hear our prayers;
C: We implore You to hear us, good Lord.

P: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
C: We implore You to hear us.

P: Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,
C: Have mercy.

P: Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,
C: Have mercy.

P: Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,
C: Grant us Your peace.

P: O Christ,
C: Hear us.

P: O Lord,
C: Have mercy.

P: O Christ,
C: Have mercy.

P: O Lord,
C: Have mercy. Amen

Praying the Litany would be a good activity for our blog community.  Do it every day, but if you forget or miss a day, don’t worry.  We aren’t being legalistic about this.  Just start again when you can.  The point is, it will benefit us all and those we pray for.  Knowing that we are joining in prayer with other people, who perhaps we know only as commenters on this blog, will be especially meaningful.  So I’m going to do this.  Who’s with me?