Only Enough Grace for Today

Sunrise over rocksGod promises, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” ( 2 Cor 12:9 ESV). God will give you all the grace you need for today. However, Jesus also told his disciples, “Do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt 6:34 NASB).

God will give you all the grace you need to do what must be done today. The weaker you become, the more God will increase your grace. We can say with Paul, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).

When we are weak, however, we still feel weak. Our problems stretch on throughout the foreseeable future with no end in sight. We must remember that God’s mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:22-23), but we only have enough for today. Don’t worry about tomorrow; you have enough to do today. Trust God even when you’re falling apart, and your spirit will be renewed day by day (2 Cor 4:16).

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“Root of Bitterness” in Hebrews 12:15

My wife and I are using Rand Hummel’s Five Smooth Stones Scripture Memory Plan in our family devotions. The plan proceeds alphabetically through common sin problems and includes five verses for each topic. The first verse on the subject of bitterness was Hebrews 12:15.

“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15 KJV)

This verse is a very popular text for sermons about bitterness, and I’m not surprised to see it topping Hummel’s memorization list on this issue. Unfortunately, this verse is not talking about an emotional state of bitterness at all. The “root of bitterness” here is an allusion to Deuteronomy 29:18.

“Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (Deuteronomy 29:18 ESV)

Hebrews 12:15 is a warning passage to professing Christians that one’s salvation is not a product of the company one keeps. In any Christian assembly, it is possible for there to be some present who have not genuinely believed the gospel. Professing Christians should examine themselves and exhort one another lest anyone fail to benefit from grace of God. While Christians should not be bitter, the “bitter root” in Hebrews 12:15 is an OT allusion supporting the warning against falling away, not a warning about emotional bitterness.

To Rand Hummel’s credit, his second verse on bitterness is dead on. Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.” The inclusion of Hebrews 12:15 exposes a slight problem in Hummel’s approach. The Bible simply doesn’t give us 5+ commands on every important issue for us to obey. Hummel seems a bit stretched on the issue of bitterness. The other three verses are Eph 4:32, Eph 4:26 (which was included in the previous topic of anger), and 1 Peter 2:1-2. When “bitterness” appears as an emotional state in the Bible, the term is usually employed in descriptions of unbelievers. However, the verses Hummel selects are all worthy of memorization (including Hebrews 12:15), and we will continue using this helpful resource despite this minor hiccup.

New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room

The University of Münster Institute for New Testament Textual Research hosts one of the best online resources for New Testament scholars. Their Virtual Manuscript Room has an amazing digital image collection of New Testament Manuscripts. Not only are the images well cataloged, they have also been transcribed to facilitate reading/comparison.

While you can find slightly higher resolution scans of several manuscripts elsewhere (e.g. APIS for P46), the VMR is the place to go if you want them all in one place and accessible in a user-friendly format.

Free Monthly Magazine

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) publishes a free monthly magazine called Acts and Facts. Each issue is full-color and contains scholarly yet accessible articles about science and the Bible.

ICR has been a long-time advocate for taking the Genesis 1-2 creation account to mean that God created the world in six literal twenty-four hour days and the Genesis 6-8 narrative as referring to a worldwide flood.

Reading the Mosaic Law with the Faith of Abraham

Modern-day readers are often shocked by the brutality of the Mosaic Law. We read of stonings and sacrifices coupled with regulations that even dictated clothing and hair styles. If God became president of the United States, we would quickly vote Him out of office unless congress managed to impeach Him first. Were we present during Israel’s rebellions, we would certainly be among the rioters. Aside from a few crazies, nobody today seriously wants to live under the Mosaic Law in its entirety. Even Orthodox Jews would presumably take issue with a government that stoned their unruly children to death for disobedience.

When Christians read the Mosaic Law, they tend to skim and smirk. They skim so they can check the chapters off their reading plan and smirk at the distasteful commands thankfully now expired. While many Christians attest to the value of every word of Scripture, few find more than marginal worth in the Mosaic Law. Even the most conservative branches of Christendom tend to approach the Law with unspoken disdain, usually expressed in joyful relief concerning our very different covenant or dispensation. Although Jesus Christ came to fulfill (not destroy) the Mosaic Law, our take-home truths tend to center around our joy over the fact that it is no longer in effect.

Christians can easily foster a spirit of rebelliousness in their approach to the Mosaic Law. Believers cannot afford to approach any portion of Scripture being unwilling to obey. No, I’m not arguing that we should try to re-institute the theocracy of the Old Testament. However, we must not read the Old Testament thinking, “I’m glad this stuff no longer applies because I would rather be stoned.” Although Christians today need not obey the Mosaic Law, they still must submit to every word with the faith of Abraham.

Abraham submitted to the ultimate abhorrent command: Go and sacrifice your only child. As Abraham lifted the knife contemplating how to give Isaac a clean death, Abraham proved his faith in his willingness to do whatever God required. In this instance, God required submission rather than obedience, and Isaac (and Abraham) was spared.

Like Abraham, Christians today have page after page of commands that God does not expect us to obey, but this is not to say that we can be unwilling to obey those commands. The Mosaic Law was once the only way for people to approach God, and God was wonderfully gracious for providing His people a means for pleasing Him. Christians now enjoy much more freedom under the law of liberty. However, Christians must approach the Mosaic Law in Abrahamic faith, being willing to obey had the Messiah not yet come. Christians today must submit to the Mosaic Law in spirit even though they are not bound to obey it in action.

Do You Really Know Greek?

I’ve been having some fun reading papyri lately. I started reading Ephesians in P46 but got distracted in verse 14 on the second page with ἀρραβὼν. I didn’t know this word because it occurs only once in the New Testament. Knowing the verse in English, I thought up a non-Elizabethan sounding gloss and was ready to move on. However, the verse came up in a message I heard on Sunday. Interested, I ran down the extra-biblical sources that BDAG listed and learned a lot.

One of the resources I used was Grenfell and Hunt’s The Oxyrhynchus Papyri. The first fifteen volumes are available for free download at Google Books and the Internet Archive. I found many of these printed Greek texts surprisingly difficult to read despite having spent years studying Greek and making good grades throughout. I can do a tolerably decent job sight reading the NT. What was my problem with these Koine Greek texts?

I can’t fake knowing Greek when reading things I haven’t memorized.

Perhaps “fake” is too strong a term, but it’s not far off. I really wonder if I can truly say I am literate in Greek. It seems my Greek level is somewhere between true literacy and how my daughter pretends to read books. My daughter can identify the meaning of words on the pages of her favorite books, but hand her a new book and you’ll quickly discover that she doesn’t know how to read.

I am occasionally asked in missions questionnaires how many times I have read the entire Bible. Honestly, I’ve lost count. I usually say “seven” because I’m pretty sure there have only been seven or eight times that I have actually read every word of Leviticus. However, like many Christians, I’ve read the New Testament literally hundreds of times. When I “read” my Greek NT, vocabulary gaps and unfamiliar syntax are usually filled by my knowledge of the English Bible.

Greek classes in seminary tend to reinforce dependency on English translations. Virtually every translation assignment Greek students receive comes from the New Testament, a text that most of the students have almost memorized already. Rather than teaching a true literacy of Greek, seminary Greek classes tend to create a hybrid literacy that relies upon established translations for meaning then supplements that knowledge with enough Greek proficiency so that students won’t miss anything important. However, an unintentional side effect of this hybrid literacy seems to be that students catch and emphasize details that the text does not.

Think about it. I just used an imperative. I wonder if the NT writers were really jumping up and down, waving their arms, and shouting “get this” every time they used an imperative. I wonder if obscure lexical connections sprung to the original recipients’ minds as they read Paul’s letters. I wonder if we really know Greek as well as we would like others to think.

Between the LXX, extra biblical papryi, and Greek fathers, Greek students could be assigned more unfamiliar texts to translate. Students would miss out on some of the exegetical practice that translating NT texts afford. However, they might also learn to read Greek better. Perhaps students could then begin treating NT Greek more like a real language and less like a code.

Reading Ephesians in P46 (Eph 1:1-11)

I plan to read Ephesians in P46 over the next few weeks. P46 is one of the oldest and most important copies of Paul’s epistles in existence. The University of Michigan houses 60 of the 172 extant pages, and digital images of those pages are available for free download at the APIS database.

Why read P46? Two reasons. First, I want to read P46 because it’s there. After spending thousands of dollars and countless hours learning Greek in seminary, why not read P46? It’s cool, free, and really not that hard to read. Second, I’m developing some Bible classes and hope to find some examples that can be easily converted into visual aids.

Why post my notes here? Again two reasons. First, I think this stuff is interesting, and that’s ultimately the reason anyone blogs about anything. Second, even if you don’t know Greek, I hope to provide an inside look at textual criticism and demystify the process a bit. Feel free to skim down to the end where I boil things down into a few observations.

Ephesians begins on page 146. This is marked at the top center of the page with the letters ρμς. Ancient manuscripts often used letters to mark page numbers. You can read more about this numbering system from the University of Michigan.

Since this is a third-century manuscript, P46 is written in uncials, a style that uses only capital letters without spaces between words. The writing style can take some getting used to, but P46 was copied by a professional scribe and is very readable. If you need help reading the script, check out this page on reading 3rd century book hand.

Reading Notes

Ephesians 1:1 (1st line, 1st letter). The scribe uses three different abbreviations in this verse: ΧΡΥ/ΧΡΩ for Χριστοῦ/Χριστῷ, ΙΗΥ for Ίησοῦ, and ΘΥ for θεοῦ. Each abbreviation is marked with a line above the text. P46 omits the article “τοῖς” preceding οὖσιν and “ἐν Ἐφέσω” found in UBS4. The text reads, ΠΑΥΛΟΣ ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΟΣ ΧΡΥ ΙΗΥ ΔΙΑ ΘΕΛΗΜΑΤΣ ΘΥ ΤΟΙΣ ΑΓΙΟΙΣ ΟΥΣΙΝ ΚΑΙ ΠΙΣΤΟΙΣ ΕΝ ΧΡΩ ΙΗΥ. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, according to the will of God, to those who are holy and believe in Christ Jesus.”

1:2 (3rd line, 4th letter) The scribe introduces two new abbreviations: ΠΡΣ for πατρὸς and ΚΥ for κυρίου. There is a slight variation in the spelling of the second word in this verse. P46 reads “υμειν” rather than the “υμιν” found in UBS4. No change in meaning. The text reads, ΧΑΡΙΣ ΥΜΕΙΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΙΡΗΝΗ ΑΠΟ ΘΥ ΠΡΣ ΗΜΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΚΥ ΙΗΥ ΧΡΥ. “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

1:3 (4th line, 16th letter) The scribe accidentally omitted the first ten words of this verse. UBS4 reads, “Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.” The MS the scribe was copying probably read, ΕΥΛΟΓΗΤΟΣ Ο ΘΣ ΚΑΙ ΠΡΣ ΤΟΥ ΚΥ ΗΜΩΝ ΙΗΥ ΧΡΥ. However, when the scribe looked back to begin verse three, he probably looked for the five abbreviations he had just copied to find his place. Unfortunately, verse three begins with the same five abbreviations in the same order, and the scribe accidentally skipped over ten words. “Homoioteleuton” is the technical name for this copying error (To better understand how this happens, imagine copying lines 7 and 8, both of which begin with the same word. A scribe could write the first word of line 7 and pick up copying on line 8). The text reads, Ο ΕΥΛΟΓΥΣΑΣ ΗΜΑΣ ΕΝ ΠΑΣΗ ΕΥΛΟΓΙΑ ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚΗ ΕΝ ΤΟΙΣ ΕΠΟΥΡΑΝΙΟΙΣ ΕΝ ΧΡΩ. “[Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,] who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”

1:4 (6th line, 17th letter) In this verse the scribe slightly changes his style. The scribe usually ends lines at word divisions (or breaks in compound words). However, ΚΑΤΕΝΩΠΙΟΝ, appearing at the end of line eight, is wrapped across the line break with its last two letters beginning line nine. This is curious because it doesn’t appear that the scribe ran out of room. The text reads, ΚΑΘΩΣ ΕΖΕΛΕΖΑΤΟ ΗΜΑΣ ΕΝ ΑΥΤΩ ΠΡΟ ΚΑΤΑΒΟΛΗΣ ΚΟΣΜΟΥ ΕΙΝΑΙ ΗΜΑΣ ΑΓΙΟΥΣ ΚΑΙ ΑΜΩΜΟΥΣ ΚΑΤΕΝΩΠΙΟΝ ΑΥΤΟΥ ΕΝ ΑΓΑΠΗ. “Just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love”

1:5 (9th line, 15th letter) P46 omits the preposition “διὰ” preceding “Jesus Christ” as is found in UBS4. This appears to be simply an oversight. The text reads, ΠΡΟΟΡΙΣΑΣ ΗΜΑΣ ΕΙΣ ΥΙΟΘΕΣΙΑΝ ΙΗΥ ΧΡΥ ΕΙΣ ΑΥΤΟΝ ΚΑΤΑ ΤΥΝ ΕΥΔΟΚΙΑΝ ΤΟΥ ΘΕΛΗΜΑΤΟΣ ΑΥΤΟΥ. “He predestined us for adoption as sons [through] Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will”

1:6 (11th line, last seven letters) The scribe splits ΕΠΑΙΝΟΝ between lines 11 and 12 and ΕΧΑΡΙΣΤΩΣΕΝ between lines 12 and 13. These splits were obviously caused by space issues. The scribe misspells ἐχαρίτωσεν by adding a sigma before the tau. This misspelling is understandable because the verb is χαριτόω formed from the noun χάρις. It is worth noting that P46 reads “ἧς” as is found in UBS4, not “ἐν ᾗ” as is found in the TR. This reading is better due to weight of external support and the fact that copyists would more likely mistakenly produce the TR’s reading than vice versa. Either way the meaning is basically the same. P46 also agrees with UBS4 and lacks the phrase “υἱῷ αὐτοῦ” after “ἠγαπημένῳ.” This phrase was almost certainly an explanatory note that worked its way into several texts of the Western tradition. The text reads, ΕΙΣ ΕΠΑΙΝΟΝ ΔΟΖΗΣ ΤΗΣ ΧΑΡΙΤΟΣ ΑΥΤΟΥ ΗΣ ΕΧΑΡΙΣΤΩΣΕΝ ΗΜΑΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΗΓΑΠΗΜΕΝΩ. “to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the Beloved.”

1:7 (13th line, last three letters) The reading matches the UBS4 exactly. The TR renders τὸ πλοῦτος as masculine rather than neuter, a very minor error. P46 reads, ΕΝ Ω ΕΧΟΜΕΝ ΤΗΝ ΑΠΟΛΥΤΡΩΣΙΝ ΔΙΑ ΤΟΥ ΑΙΜΑΤΟΣ ΑΥΤΟΥ ΤΗΝ ΑΦΕΣΙΝ ΤΩΝ ΠΑΡΑΠΤΩΜΑΤΩΝ ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟ ΠΛΟΥΤΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΧΑΡΙΤΟΣ ΑΥΤΟΥ. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

1:8 (16th line, last five letters) No anomalies; no variants. The text reads, ΗΣ ΕΠΕΡΙΣΣΕΥΣΕΝ ΕΙΣ ΗΜΑΣ ΕΝ ΠΑΣΗ ΣΟΦΙΑ ΚΑΙ ΦΡΟΝΗΣΕΙ. “which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and intelligence”

1:9 (18th line, 9th letter) This is the last verse on this page that can be read clearly. As in Eph 1:2, P46 spells the first person pronoun “υμειν” rather than “υμιν.” P46 also omits αὐτοῦ after θελήματος (UBS4 includes the pronoun). This is probably another case of homoioteleuton since the ending of θελήματος has a close resemblance to αὐτοῦ. The text reads, ΓΝΩΡΙΣΑΣ ΗΜΕΙΝ ΤΟ ΜΥΣΤΗΤΙΟΝ ΤΟΥ ΘΕΛΗΜΑΤΟΣ ΚΑΤΑ ΤΗΝ ΕΥΔΟΚΙΑΝ ΑΥΤΟΥ ΗΝ ΠΡΟΕΘΕΤΟ ΕΝ ΑΥΤΩ. “making know to us the mystery of [his] will, according to his purpose which he planned in him”

1:10 (20th line, 17th letter) The text becomes difficult to read here at the bottom of the page. The missing text is supplied in brackets based upon the spacing of the letters and the reading of other MSS. The text reads, ΕΙΣ ΟΙΚΟΝΟΜΙΑΝ ΤΟΥ ΠΛΗΡΩΜΑΤΟΣ ΤΩΝ ΚΑΙΡΩΝ ΑΝΑΚΕΦ[ΑΛΑΙΩ]ΣΑΣΘΑΙ ΤΑ ΠΑΝΤΑ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΧΡΩ ΤΑ ΕΠΙ [ΤΟΙΣ ΟΥ]ΡΑΝΟΙΣ ΚΑΙ ΤΑ ΕΠ[Ι ΤΗΣ ΥΗΣ] ΕΝ [ΑΥΤΩ]. “to be enacted in the fullness of time, the summing up of all things in Christ, [things] in heaven and things on [the earth] in [him].

1:11 (last line) this page contains only two words from this verse. The text reads, [ΕΝ Ω] ΚΑΙ ΕΚΛΗΡΩΘ[ΗΜΕΝ]…. [In whom] we have also obtained an inheritance….

Observations

The absence of “in Ephesus” in verse one could be evidence that Ephesians was a letter sent to many churches, with the church at Ephesus being the primary recipient. Perhaps this letter was also called the epistle to the Laodiceans in Colossians 4:16.

In verses 2, 6, and 9, the text contains misspellings. These sorts of errors account for the vast majority of textual variants. When you hear someone say that their are thousands of errors in the ancient biblical manuscripts, remember that most are minor mistakes such as misspellings or are easily explainable like the scribal errors in verses 3, 5, and 9.

By my count, this page contains at least six errors. Before you start calling for this scribe’s resignation, remember three things. First, this text is a copy of a copy. Our scribe might be innocently recording the mistakes of another. Second, lowercase letters and spaces between words had not yet been invented. Make a handwritten copy of this text yourself and see how many mistakes you make. I bet it will be more than six. Third, this copy was made before Christianity was legalized in A.D. 313. The scribe was probably working under a little bit of pressure as he wrote. Have you worried about being fed to a lion today?

Proponents of the Majority Text forget these factors. They argue that we should ignore manuscripts like P46 because later manuscripts are in a larger abundance and were more accurately copied. However, this position wrongly values quantity over quality. If I printed out my scanned copy of P46 a couple thousand times, I will have created a similar larger abundance of more accurate copies. The issue is the quality of the text, not the quantity.

The value of P46 resides in its age. Unlike the much later Majority Text manuscripts, P46 was copied relatively soon after Paul’s original letters were written. Thus there were fewer opportunities for scribes to make mistakes while they made copies of copies of copies. True, scribes in the 10th century and later copied more accurately due to increased safety in monasteries and better tools including lowercase letters and spaces between words. However, these factors only ensured that the copies available to 10th century scribes would be passed on with relatively few errors. The 10th century scribes had to copy from something that was a copy of a copy of a copy. Having a scanned copy of a third-century manuscript allows one to skip seven centuries of scribal errors. In today’s digital age, you can make as many perfect copies of texts like P46 as you want. Of course, they won’t do you any good unless you read them.