Thursday, March 2, 2017

Clever, But No Cigar

(For those that have never heard the idiom “Clever, but no cigar,” it means to “fall just short of a successful outcome and get nothing for your efforts.”)

I use Flipboard to keep up on a number of subjects: The arts (including architecture, design, photography, and more), Mobile phone technology & general “geek-dom”, Science(s), humor and cartoons, and last, but certainly by no means least, “Theology” (which includes a number of subtopics). Within the Theology tile, I read this article from discussing a new Bible translation named the “Christian Standard Bible (CSB).” The actual Bible is found here. (Beware, load times and navigation are sometimes a challenge.) Information about the translation is here. Per the “about” info, the official launch of the translation is March 2017. It is an update to “The Holman Christian Standard Bible.” Although rooted in the Baptist religion, the info claims that “Ten biblical scholars from nine colleges and seminaries and a variety of denominations provide oversight for the Christian Standard Bible.” In further detail, these scholars were “from a variety of conservative, evangelical denominations, including Southern Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, conservative Anglican and non-denominational Bible churches.” As part of my research, I came across the name “LifeWay Christian Resources” as being a main sponsor to the translation.

Since I’ve collected numerous Bible versions over the years, I thought I’d browse specific verses. They rendered John 1:1 exactly as I expected. Another passage that I’ve written about before is Philippians chapter 2. The CSB (along with others) leads readers to believe Jesus had equality with God but willingly (humbly) surrendered it in order to fulfill a commission. The NWT, on the other hand, leads the reader to believe that Jesus never had equality with the Father. So which nuance is correct?

CSB: “Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant.”

NWT: “Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and became human.”

With the rendering of the CSB, I can see where some might think my original argument about humility has been negated. Indeed, the clever wording of the CSB seems to indicate that Jesus was very humble in that, although he was God, he chose not to be God and left that up to the Father, but Jesus, “assuming the form of a servant,” now didn’t look like whatever it is God looks like in his spirit form. (It seems even more “clever” that the phrasing actually leaves it open to the interpretation that Jesus remained God but in human form. The Holman Bible (the source for the CSB) implies that even more strongly when it says “He had come as a man in His external form.” If so, what really did Jesus give up?)

There are probably at least two key words in this. The first, in verse 6, is the Greek word “harpagmos.” So does that word mean “hold onto” or “seize”? Let’s ask an interlinear. It plainly says that it means “the act of seizing or the thing seized.” (See the transliteration “something to be grasped” here.) In agreement with this is the Kingdom Interlinear which renders it “not snatching.” The second key word I want to home in on is in verse 7, “emptied.” What did Jesus “empty”? Was it merely his appearance (as both the HCSB and the CSB would seem to imply), or was it more? Once more let’s turn to the interlinear. It uses words such as “void (to void), deprive of content, make unreal, empty out, render void; (passive) be emptied – hence, without recognition, perceived as valueless.

All things considered, it was not that Jesus merely graciously stepped aside from being God, but rather, unlike Satan who very much wanted to be worshipped, Jesus never even considered grasping, snatching, or seizing what exclusively belongs to Jehovah. He emptied himself of his position as second to God Almighty, he also emptied himself of his powerful spirit being to become a man. So to the CSB I say, “Clever, but no cigar.”

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