Starting at the beginning

Hello, and welcome to Commentingonthebible.wordpress.com

Please allow me to introduce myself, and explain why I’m here, and what I’m trying to accomplish.

The purpose is to provide a translation of the New Testament,  and then comment on the content.  Each of these, I hope, will fill a particular need.

There have been so many accretions to Christianity over the past two millennia. We all ‘know’ so much about Christianity: the Trinity, the Son of God, Jesus was divine….The problem is, what we ‘know’ often gets in the way of what the New Testament is actually saying. The purpose here is to look at the NT as a text, as any other text that has come down to us from antiquity. We’re going to strip away what we ‘know’ to look at what is actually said.

As such, this is obviously not a “Christian” blog. I will not be approaching this as if the Bible is inerrant. Christians are more than welcome; I would especially value their comments on theology and religious doctrine, but we will be approaching this from an historical, rather than a doctrinal point of view. How did what became Christianity start, how did its sacred texts evolve, how did the message change.

I studied Classics while at the University of Toronto, and I have a BA in Greek and Roman History.  This course required 4 years of Greek language, and 4 years of Latin language.  Mostly, I read historians, such as Herodotus, Thucydides, Tacitus, and Livy, but I managed to squeeze in a bit of Plato too.  However, after many years,  my skill had atrophied considerably, so I wanted to get myself back up to speed.

I also have an MA in History, from Providence College.  I spent as much time as possible studying the late Middle Ages through the Reformation. Providence is run by Dominican priests; as such, it seemed reasonable to go with the College’s strength, and specialize in the history of theology.  Religion has long been an area of interest.

About the turn of the millennium, my wife and I became Episcopalians.  We had both grown up in as members of  the Roman tradition, but we had drifted away, largely because we didn’t agree with the Roman Church’s exclusionary practices.  This new perspective as a Protestant made me curious about what the Bible actually said.  I had read about the controversies, the theological problems, but came to realize just how little I knew about the actual text of the bible itself.

And, since the New Testament was originally written in Greek, and I wanted to (re)learn Greek and learn about the NT, the two intentions merged. I decided to read the NT in Greek.  It seemed the thing to do at the time.

So, what I am doing is providing my translation of the text. I should explain: this translation does not read well in English; the intent was to make a serious attempt to maintain as much of the sense of the original as possible. I want to give a flavor of how the Greek actually reads. I believe this is important, because it’s important to realize that, in some cases, what you are reading in English may not always retain much of what the original Greek said.  There are passages that have obviously evolved a great deal as they have been translated over the course of the past 500 years, since the Protestants decided to put the words into vernacular language.

The other reason was, in case anyone is trying to learn Greek, I’m hoping that those people might find this crib-sheet translation useful to help figure out the exact syntax of the sentence being read. Trust me, this is not always easy. And, very often. the more fluid the English, the less relation it bears to the original, and the less help it is to understand what the Greek actually says.

Second, I’ve decided to start with some of the letters of  St Paul. We are so accustomed to giving priority to the gospels, that I’m not sure that a lot of people realize that most of the gospels were written after Paul had written his letters.  As such, the earliest extant Christian documents are the letters of St Paul.  Probably Matthew and Luke. and certainly John were not written till 30-50 years after Paul wrote.

In particular, I’ll be starting with 1 Thessalonians; the consensus seems to be that this is the first one written that still survives.  From there we’ll move to Galatians and Phillippians.  After that, I’ll start into Mark.

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About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on April 7, 2012, in General / Overview. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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