The Gloves Come Off – David Bentley Hart vs. NT Wright

Translations of the New Testament, and the Bible as a whole, are a dime a dozen. In most United Methodist Churches you’re likely to find copies of the New Revised Standard Version in the backs of the pews. In other denominations you might find the New International Version, or the New Kings James Version, or the Common English Bible, etc. And every once in a while a theologian will undertake creating his/her own translation based on the original Greek/Hebrew.

Whenever someone produces a translation it is important to remember that a translation is also always an interpretation. The translator makes important choices on how a particular word or phrase should be rendered in contemporary English, and because this has been done again and again, there are certain verses in certain translations that are very different from one another.

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Back in October (2017) the well known theologian David Bentley Hart released his translation of the New Testament. Unique to his translation is a willingness to keep the strange (and sometimes confusing) nature of the original Greek in an English form. Comparing it to something like the NRSV results in a difficult endeavor, however what Dr. Hart accomplished is rather remarkable when one considers how the original Greek actually reads.

And, of course, other theologians began to weigh their opinion over the recent addition to the fray. Some said that Dr. Hart revolutionized the way we will read the Bible for years to come, while others dismissed it as yet another unnecessary addition to the great pantheon of translations.

But one particular review stood out regarding its negative tone and all around language: NT Wright’s.

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For months Dr. Hart has remained silent regarding his colleague’s review… until now. My friend and podcast partner Jason Micheli was fortunate to have a conversation with Dr. Hart regarding his translation and his thoughts about NT Wright’s negative review. The following episode covers a range of topics including lots of stained glass language, the Easter story, biblical grammar, spirits and souls, the worst translation of the New Testament, and an ax to grind in Revelation. If you would like to listen to the episode, or subscribe to the podcast, you can do so here: The Gloves Come Off

 

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Faith and Politics From The West Wing

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A few months ago my friend Jason Micheli recorded a conversation for our podcast Crackers & Grape Juice with the former White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry about what it was (and is) like to balance faith and politics while working in the West Wing. McCurry served as the Press Secretary during the Clinton years and enrolled at Wesley Theological Seminary following his time working in the administration. The conversation offers a lens into the inner workings of the most powerful office in the land while also addressing the deep challenge of being a political Christian. If you would like to listen to the episode or subscribe to the podcast you can do so here: From West Wing To Wesley 

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Devotional – John 15.1-2

Devotional:

John 15.1-2

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 

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Sometimes I speak before thinking. The Bishop had come into town to address a gathering of clergy about upcoming initiatives and events in the life of our Annual Conference. We spent a significant amount of time addressing the metrics that all United Methodist Churches are required to measure and report on a weekly basis including: Worship Attendance, Weekly Offering, Professions of Faith, Christian Formation Groups, Mission Giving/Persons in Mission. When the presentation came to a conclusion, the Bishop opened the floor for questions. A few timid hands rose from the pews with standard questions about particular theological issues that the church is still wrestling with, and before I knew it I had my hand sticking straight up in the air and the bishop asked for my question.

I thanked the bishop for taking time to speak with us and then I launched right into my question. It went something like this: “I can appreciate the need to log our metric data every week as we seek to be better stewards of our churches and continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. However, what are we doing about the churches that are no longer fruitful? Are we addressing their negative data? Because I seem to remember a time when Jesus said ‘I am the vine, and my Father in the vinegrower, and he removes the branches that no longer bear fruit.’” At that moment a number of the clergy in the room began to laugh nervously and I continued on, “I’m not kidding around. If we’re serious about living into God’s kingdom here and now, then are we willing to cut off the branches that are no longer bearing fruit?”

The silence that followed was palpable.

The Bishop took his time to address my question and explained that we need to mourn the loss of any church, but the coming reality is that some churches are no longer bearing fruit and we will have to do something about it eventually. I recognize now that I could’ve articulated my question in a gentler fashion, but I still stand by Christ’s words.

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In our faith journeys, and in our churches, we tend to desire change by addition while Christ articulated an alternative. If something is not bearing fruit in our churches or in our lives, what would it look like for us to cut them away? The future of our faith and church is largely dependent on our willingness to sacrifice the branches that have continued to wither away while other branches are bearing fruit in other places.

This week, let us take a good look at our lives to see whether or not we are bearing fruit. Let us pray to the Lord for guidance about how we can be better stewards of our churches and bear fruit for God’s kingdom.