Early Church Studies Quote of the Week – On Translation

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This week’s quote comes from Dave Black on translation (scroll to Jan 22nd 2011 at 8:50 AM), also found here:

No controversy has been more overworked these days than the one over modern Bible translations. It is thought a crowning virtue to be opinionated about what is the “best” translation. But no translation of the Bible is perfect. (This includes the ISV of course.) There is much artificial whipped-up enthusiasm among Christians today who have found the “perfect” translation that “finally gets it right.”. . .One of the distressing developments in our superficial church culture is a cheap familiarity with New Testament Greek. It is fashionable to give the impression that we (and we alone) know what the Greek really says. I have sometimes referred to this as “evangelical Greek” or, in my less sanctified moments, “philological voodoo.” There is no place in evangelical biblical scholarship for the frivolous approach by which we claim for ourselves an inerrant understanding of Scripture. None of us who has labored in the task of Bible translation is ever worthy to claim perfection for our product. That includes me, and it includes you.

I love reading Dave Black’s comments because he is speaking from a place of wisdom.

He is simply advocating humility in our approach as students of the scripture.

The goal is to strive to find the clearest and most approachable words while at the same time retaining faithfulness to the best originals we have.  As such, no one, not even the best trained experts (and it appears that is who Dave Black is speaking to), can claim ultimate precision when it comes to translation.

Language is always in flux, so any translation can miss the mark in any number of ways.  That is why we, as teachers, will always essentially be striving to explain the message of the Bible to our hearers in ways that they can readily hear, apprehend and live out among their peers.

At least, that is how I attempt to approach the task!


How did the church in China grow from 2 million to 120 million in 60 years?

Great new video posted on the Verge Network featuring Alan Hirsch giving a workshop on Organic Systems.

He attributes the growth to the lack of a centralized and defined leadership.  The exponential growth is a direct result of an organic system:

Everyone gets to play…everyone.  And we’ve locked all that up because we’ve professionalized the ministry.

He goes on to discuss the negative effects of ordination and the clergy/laity distinction:

If I were the Devil and I wanted to strike a real blow at the people movement (the exponential growth) one of the best ways to do it would be to create a clergy class and a laity class.

I couldn’t agree more!

On the positive side, he presses into the early church model of everyone serving as they are gifted as found in Ephesians 4:

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it[a] says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”[b]

9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

I agree with Hirsch that one cannot find a developed/centralized leadership expressed in the New Testament and that is why there was such success in the beginning years of the church.

Conversely, the church, especially in the West has become almost universally stagnant in its most recognized and accepted form.

It is certainly refreshing to see so many people interested in moving up and out of the current and ill-fated systems of programmatic church for the real life seen not only in the New Testament, but clearly in China, India and many other parts of the world.

Women And Ministry In The Early Church

I see this as one of the most pressing issues and also one of the most fruitless issues in the church today.  I typically don’t give much time or effort to it because I am settled in my stance – a fully inclusive approach – which I see as the practice of the early churches.

That said, here is an excellent video in which NT Wright briefly addresses the issue quite well.

He encapsulates my primary take on the issue at 4:20 into the video where he states that the only way one would have a problem with women involved in ministry is if they hold church tradition over the scripture itself.

That is exactly the crux of the issue, and the problem only gets worse the more tradition is added over the centuries leaving us with an exhausting, divisive and distracting debate among Christians these days, which Paul also warned about.  (1 Timothy 1, for “those who have ears”…)

The book Wright refers to at the end of the video is his Paul For Everyone: The Pastoral Epistles, a very approachable and well written commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus.  It reads much like a conversation yet also handles the issues quite well, so I highly recommend the series.  You can also see similar and more in depth info. on his site here.

We must keep in mind the original setting of 1 Timothy.

Paul is writing to Timothy, a young leader in Ephesus, who is asked by Paul to help keep the churches there focused on sound teaching and practice.

In Ephesus, was the Temple of Artemis, which NT Wright explains:

…was a massive structure which dominated the area.  As befitted worshippers of a female deity, the priests were all women.  They ruled the show and kept the men in their place.”  (Paul For Everyone: The Pastoral Letters pg. 25)

So, we see that the setting in which Timothy found himself was one in which women held a special and esteemed place in society in the popular religious cult of the community.  The church, in order to proceed among the Ephesians in sharing the gospel of Jesus must be careful to do at least two things:

  1. Maintain the beliefs and practices that Jesus had left and that his apostles passed on to the churches.
  2. Maintain a distinction from the popular cultural religious practices, especially since these practices directly challenged and would compromise the teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles.

In this light, it makes sense for Paul to ask Timothy to set standards that would ensure that the church would develop in a healthy manner in the midst of the popular pagan cult.  NT Wright states that Paul’s concern was that:

…men and women alike can develop whatever gifts of learning, teaching and leadership God is giving them.  (Paul For Everyone: The Pastoral Letters pg. 26)

The goal then, is not simply to put restrictions on women.  It is to challenge both men and women to leave behind the old stereotypes concerning men and women.  (1 Tim. 2:8-9)

  • Men should seek action in prayer as opposed to being loud, argumentative and factitious.
  • Women should seek beauty and significance in wisdom and good deeds as opposed to fancy dress and jewelry.

Primarily then, the church – men and women alike – should seek to represent Christ and his gospel above all – above culture, religion, and typical male/female distinction.  The goal is to ensure a “good testimony” as Jesus did.  (1 Tim. 6:13-14)

As we can see then, much of the argumentation on this topic simply misses the point.  In the process of reading and interpreting the Bible, it is imperative that we not impose our own cultural or traditional baggage onto the text, but let it inform and challenge us to re-interpret our culture and traditions in light of Jesus Christ and what he calls us to be and do as his church.

The Denomination of The Early Church

I don’t get the question too often, typically instead of asking what denomination I belong to people ask what church I go to.

But I have been kicking the idea around and realized that the earliest churches were “adenominational.”

Simply, without a denomination.

I like that…

What do you think?

Things That Make You Go, Hmmm – Romans 1:11-12

OK, so Paul is introducing himself to the church in Rome and he needs to gain their trust and respect.

How does he do it?

He writes:

“For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord.  When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.”

So, bringing a gift, that should help.  But more importantly a spiritual gift, something expressly given him by God to give away to the churches for their spiritual gain.

Then, he further expresses what will happen when they meet.  Encouragement between them – Paul to the church in Roma Rome (tip of the hat to my ancestors!) and the church in Rome to Paul.

Now, how does that happen?  What does it look like?

Paul knew that Christian ministry flows two directions.  The church, after all, is a body.  All the parts serve, nourish and enhance one another.

He shares and encourages others and the church shares and encourages him.

On Pastoral Ministry And Financial Stability – Part 1 of 2

I just stumbled across a well written article on Pastoral Ministry (via Dave Black’s site) and the question of salary or pay for this work.

Why reinvent the wheel when someone else has already done so!

The full article is here.

I particularly liked the following concluding thought:

“If our churches truly implemented New Testament patterns of ministry, one wonders whether there would be any real need to support one, full-time pastor? If the local church had a functioning priesthood (as opposed to the passive, spectator event that is the mark of most churches) and an equally shared eldership, there simply would not be the urgency or necessity to hire someone on a full-time basis. This is because (1) leadership responsibilities would be shared; (2) one man and his gifts would not become the focal-point of the meeting; (3) corporate teaching would be shared and not left to one sole pastor; and (4) each member would actively participate and contribute to the meeting.” (Darryl Erkel)

Consider what would happen to the church if such a model once again became the norm?  I can think of ten things right off the top of my head that would make the church stronger, yet I cannot think of one single thing that would make it weaker.

So, the question as I see it is this:

What was the reason for the change?

Fundamentally, the answer is found throughout the Bible as we read story after story.  This is nothing new to God.  He has seen this over and over for years, centuries, millenia!

The answer centers around one central idea – God is not enough.

Ponder that, and I’ll post more on this topic later…

The Body of Christ…Flabby???

From the folks over at Patrol Mag…go here to read the whole article.

This reminds me of something out of Modern Reformation…”those who have ears” will get my point!

While it is seemingly en vogue to “bash” traditional church these days, I often cringe at such articles…especially with titles such as this.  But this article does merit a close read.  The author, Stephen Simpson, a psychologist with Fuller Seminary, has some very legitimate issues.  The following begs for an answer:

We need to decide. We need to figure out, once again, what it means to follow Christ together. This is a plea, not a prescription…I want to be taught, but only if I can ask questions and participate in dialogue. Mostly, I just want to eat, drink, laugh, and enjoy other people. That’s where I find God.

As I see it, this is a cry for community that is interactive, and as such a call to the practices of the early churches.  Meetings that were inclusive, that looked forward to participation from all, that were dominated by the Spirit of Christ.

Seriously…read the article and see if you can relate. 

I did, and I hope you do, too.

The “One Anothers” Of The New Testament – Part 1 of 2

In a previous post, the “one anothers” of the New Testament were mentioned by Bill Mounce, so I thought it would be a good idea to post them up!  Part 2 will be my commentary.  As usual, feel free to post your thoughts!

One Another


. . . be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)

. . . wash one another’s feet (John 13:14)


. . . love one another (John 13:34)

. . . love one another (John 13:35)

. . . love one another (John 15:12)

. . . love one another (John 15:17)


. . . you are members of one another (Rom. 12:5)

. . . be devoted to one another in love (Rom. 12:10)

. . . honor one another above yourselves (Rom 12:10)

. . . live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16)


. . . love one another (Rom. 13:8)


. . . stop passing judgment on one another (Rom. 14:13)

. . . edify one another (Rom. 14:19)

. . . be like minded one toward another (Rom. 15:5)

. . . admonish one another (Rom. 15:14)

. . . greet one another with a holy kiss (Rom. 16:16)

. . . wait for one another (1Cor. 11:33)

. . . have the same care for one another (1Cor. 12:25)

. . . greet one another with a holy kiss (1Cor. 16:20)

. . . greet one another with a holy kiss (2Cor. 13:12)

. . . serve one another in love (Gal. 5:13)

. . . bear with one another in love (Eph. 4:2)

. . . speak truth for we are members of one another (Eph. 4:25)

. . . be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph. 4:32)

. . . submit to one another (Eph. 5:21)

. . . do not lie to one another (Col. 3:9)

. . . bear with one another (Col. 3:13)

. . . forgive one another (Col. 3:13)


. . . abound in love toward one another (1Th. 3:12)

. . . love one another (1Th. 4:9)


. . . comfort one another (1Th. 4:18)

. . . incite one another to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24)

. . . encourage one another (Heb. 10:25)

. . . do not speak evil of one another (Jas. 4:11)

. . . do not make complaints against one another (Jas. 5:9)

. . . confess your sins to one another (Jas. 5:16)

. . . pray for one another (Jas. 5:16)


. . . love one another deeply, from the heart (1Pet. 1:22)


. . . offer hospitality to one another (1Pet. 4:9)

. . . clothe yourselves with humility toward one another (1Pet. 5:5)

. . . greet one another with a kiss of love (1Pet. 5:14)

. . . have fellowship with one another (1Jn. 1:7)


. . . love one another (1Jn. 3:11)

. . . love one another (1Jn. 3:23)

. . . love one another (1Jn. 4:7)

. . . love one another (1Jn. 4:11)

. . . love one another (1Jn. 4:12)

. . . love one another (2Jn. 5)

On the Gift of Pastor

I see a flurry of interest of late on the blogosphere in Viola & Barna’s book Pagan Christianity, specifically the chapter on “the Pastor.”

Here is a quote:

THE PASTOR. He is the fundamental figure of the Protestant faith.  So prevailing is the pastor in the minds of most Christians that he is often better known, more highly praised, and more heavily relied upon than Jesus Christ Himself!

Remove the pastor and most Protestant churches would be thrown into a panic.  (pp. 105-6, Pagan Christianity, emphasis mine)

Now, I know that this book tends to shock some because it is so radically challenging to the system that most Christians are used to.  But one must understand that this book is one in a series that Viola has written on the subject, with Reimagining Church as the “positive” to the “negative” of Pagan Christianity.

That said, here are my comments on the subject…

If, as Eph 4 states, the church was given pastor(s) as a gift, then perhaps if a church were to remove the title/office of Pastor and seek out those in the body who are gifted as pastor, then the body would be well served by a multitude of pastors gifted by the Spirit of Christ.

I do believe this is the essence of Viola’s chapter…the positive to the negative of removing a Pastor.

You see, there are indeed alternatives to the common practices.

I have much more to write on this, and will do so in a future post.

Till then, any thoughts or comments???