Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament, by Phillip Wesley Comfort

A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament, by Philip Wesley Comfort is an interesting and a potentially helpful resource in studying the NT.  I appreciate that summaries are given about the various manuscripts that are referred to in the commentary, including their symbols, which are what Comfort uses to refer to the different manuscripts as he comments on the different readings of any particular verse. 

Most of the variants appear to be rather small and do not appear to change the meaning of a verse much, for instance some manuscripts saying 'Jesus Christ' in a certain variant and others reading simply "Christ",  whichever reading a Bible translator chooses to use doesn't make a major difference as either way we know to Whom it refers.   Comfort mentions a variant of Romans 8:28 which I found interesting, he translates the variant as, "God turns everything to good" which of course is different from "all things work together for good."  He says that "this is the original wording according to three early MSS….It is God who turns everything to good; it is not just that everything works out for the good."*  But I don't think that that concept is lost by using "all things work together for good" because God's being the One working all things together for good is evidenced by the verses that follow (and by realizing the sovereignty of God that is taught throughout the Bible).  It is an interesting variant though. 

Comfort's eschatological views are evidenced in his commentary on the number of the beast in Revelation, "A variant reading is 'his number is 616…Either reading could be original…whichever one John wrote, they both symbolize Caesar Nero…"  I take it that Mr. Comfort is not premillennial.  Also, I disagree with some of his commentary on the variants of 1 Cor. 14:33, " 'For God is not the  author of discord but of harmony, as in all the gatherings of the saints.'  This reflects the reading of the three earliest MSS…contra NA…which join this phrase with the beginning of 14:34.  The difference in meaning is significant:  harmony is the rule of God for all the gatherings of the believers…"…Paul was not saying that women should be silent in all the Christian gatherings, only in Corinth, which must have been experiencing problems with women speaking out of turn during the prophesying."  But even if the statement, "as in all the gatherings of the saints" doesn't connect with vs. 34 that doesn't imply that the command about women not speaking in the assembly only applied to the Corinthians church.  I don't see that implication at all.  Paul says, "It is shameful for a woman to speak in the Church."  That sounds like a very general statement that encompasses all church gatherings.  Besides, what about Paul's telling Timothy that women shouldn't teach or hold authority over men but should remain quiet while learning (1 Tim 2:11-15)?  Was he referring only to the women of the Corinthian church?  I think not.  

But,  I do like the book overall, and really appreciate Mr. Comfort's work in putting this book together enabling one to learn about the different variants of the NT even if one doesn't agree with all of Mr. Comfort's comments on them.

Many thanks to Kregel Academic for sending me a free copy of this book to review!

One of the places where this book may be purchased is at Amazon.com

*I omit certain parts of quotations as they are mostly symbols of various manuscripts referred to that I don't know how to replicate in type.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

An Epic Tragedy: Lusitania by Diana Preston

Perhaps this is odd, but I find the subject of the Sinking of the Lusitania fascinating.  Perhaps it is because so many people's lives were affected and lost at once, and it was interesting to see  their reactions under pressure and fear of death, some were brave, some were cowardly, some were selfish and some were selfless. 

 Like the first book I've read on the subject, Dead Wake by Eric Larson,  An Epic Tragedy: Lusitania by Diana Preston looks at many people as they travel on the Lusitania and experience her sinking (The Lusitania was a passenger liner torpedoed by the Germans during WW1 before America entered the war).  Preston seems to repeat the accounts of  more people than Larson did, which I appreciate, even though getting glimpses of so many people does make it a bit 'crowded' at times and hard to remember who's who (that's more realistic right?).  It makes it seem like one is getting a 'bigger picture' of the event. 

 As I was reading it seemed almost as if I could see the event happening.  It was made more 'real' by Preston's describing the normal life and daily events that were happening just before and when the torpedo hit.  Some people were eating lunch, others were taking walks on the deck, one man was trying to prove to another man how the Lusitania could not be torpedoed when the question was settled by the ship being hit during his explanation! 

 And then the accounts of thoughts and actions of people as the ship sunk and they entered the water (the huge ship sunk in only 18 minutes!)  made it eerily 'come to life'.  Some were inspirational in their bravery, some were pitiable in their cowardice and the behavior of others was shocking in their desperation to focus on saving their own lives.  One man found two babies left behind on deck, picked them up and jumped into a life boat with one under each arm.  Other men pushed terrified women into lifeboats while other men and women ignored those in need and greedily fought for the means to save themselves.   Some survivors remembered having odd thoughts pass through their minds while in the water.  I was touched and amused by the account of one man, Charles Hill who was "dismayed by the determined selfishness of his fellow passengers….As Hill thrashed in the water and began to go under again, he had the irrelevant thought that 'I hadn't paid the barber for my week's shaves.'  He almost laughed.  But moments later, as he tried to swim to the surface, he felt he was 'dragging something heavy.'" When he came up he found an old man holding one of his ankles while a woman with a child held his other leg, and he didn't kick them off (which one would think would be normal reaction as is proven by the accounts of the unloving actions of others)! He grabbed onto a lifeboat and they were all pulled in.  I found Third Officer Albert Bestic's thought, as he hung on to an upturned collapsible lifeboat, especially striking when he "shuddered" at the sounds around him, "like the despair, anguish and terror of hundreds of souls passing into eternity."

Diana Preston writes well and keeps the interest almost all of the way through.   Towards the end of the book she deals with conspiracy theories, questions, speculations and motives about the sinking of the Lusitania, and I found that a bit boring, though others may not. There were was some bad language used (quotations of various people at the time), and there was at least one detail given about someone's tatoo that I absolutely did not need to know….

It is an interesting account, a sobering look at the actions and thoughts of various people who are close to being summoned to stand before God.


Many thanks to the folks at Bloomsbury Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book! My review did not have to be favorable.
One of the places where this book may be purchased is Amazon.com

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

NIV Zondervan Study Bible

When first received my copy of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible in the mail, my first impression was amazement over its size and weight, it is HUGE!  It is quite impressive on the inside as well, the text of the  NIV is laid out in a one column format instead of the usual 2 columns.  The cross references are placed on the side of the column and study notes on the bottom.  I loved the charts throughout, especially in the OT which included charts summing up what was in certain sacrifices and offerings, and charts on the Lord's appointed festivals, census results, Levite Numbers and responsibilities…etc.  Very helpful.  There were many photographs of Biblical areas throughout, and also pictures of various archeological finds having to do with many biblical events and people.  Those are quite fascinating and interesting.  

Many of the study notes seem quite intricate and useful and exegetical.  Several of the pages are quite packed with notes.  There were various scholars writing the study notes for each individual book of the Bible and you can see the negatives and positives to that.  For instance, I was pleasantly surprised (shocked may be the better term) that the person who did the study notes in 1 Corinthians actually took the literal view of chapter 7, where Paul repeats, affirms and perhaps expounds upon, the Lord's command,  "To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord):  A wife must not separate from her husband.  But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.  And a husband must not divorce his wife." 1 Cor. 7:10-11  The writer of the study notes comments:   vs. 11"...There are only two options for a divorced woman: (1) remain unmarried or (2) reconcile with her husband.  a husband must not divorce his wife.  Just as a woman must not divorce her husband; again Paul formulates no exception." Vs. 15, 'Let it be so.'   when a non-Christian spouse divorces a Christian spouse, the Christian cannot do anything about it.  not bound in such circumstances.  it is often suggested that this allows a deserted Christian spouse to remarry since the Christian is not 'bound' to the marriage that has been dissolved.  This interpretation is not plausible:  (1) In v. 11 Paul prohibits remarriage in cases where divorce has taken place. (2) The Greek verb does not mean 'bound'; it means 'enslaved' or 'under bondage.' (3) The thrust of the context is maintaining marriage.  (4) Paul speaks of 'freedom' for a new marriage only in cases when the spouse has died (v. 39; Rom 7:1-3).  If a non-Christian spouse leaves the marriage, the Christian spouse is not responsible for the divorce.  Christian spouses may not initiate divorce from non-Christian  spouses on religious grounds..."  But then where you turn to Christ's comments on divorce and remarriage in Matthew 7 and 19 you find the usual view espoused  (dissolution of a marriage before God in the case of adultery)by whomever wrote the study notes. 

 But now I must talk about the negative aspects of this Bible.  One is not so bad, but some may find it quite inconvenient, and that is that the font is (or seems to me) quite small, and that is aggravated by the fact that it is difficult to lift the book closer to one's face to take a closer look  because it is so heavy.  But if they made the font any bigger the Bible's overall size would be impractical and it would probably end up having to be treated like some old gigantic Bibles of the past where would you just designate a place for it to be left open on its own stand as it would be difficult to transport.

The second negative was that the person(s) who wrote the study notes on Genesis did not come down firmly on a literal 24 hour day creation.  For instance in the introduction to Genesis it is stated that, "The question of the age of the earth is not automatically resolved with the use of the seven days in 1:1-2:3.  In 2:4, Moses uses the same Hebrew word for 'day' to summarize all the work of creation…Of course, this does not mean that the term 'day' cannot refer to a 24-hour day in the seven days of creation.  But it may also serve other purposes."    And therefore of course, they also do not firmly promote a global flood in Genesis 6-7 but leave it open to the possibility of its being a regional flood.


The third negative is that the Bible has at least a few engravings, paintings and other forms of art picturing unclothed people.  I'll mention three of them  here: First there was a picture of a naked Adam and Eve holding a few tiny conveniently placed leaves…I don't get why they don't at least depict them in the clothing of leaves they had tried to make, or why don't they picture them when God clothed them with animal skins?  Why depict the father and mother of all mankind in what is now their shame???  It is STILL their SHAME, why is it okay for their offspring to have pictures of them in that state???????I don't understand that at all.  And then there was an engraving or something  showing  circumcision being performed on men and it was completely unnecessary, I didn't need to see that.   And lastly there was a painting in the introduction to Psalms that showed unclothed and scantily clothed Egyptian women musicians, the only connection to the Psalms was that they were musicians.   Why? Why choose that one?  I don't care if they are ancient archaeological finds and are considered 'a work of art', I don't care how old it is,  there are bad/immoral works of art from history just as there are bad works of 'art' today!  I don't understand how a person can think that pictures depicting naked people are justified to have in a Bible, rather I see it as an affront and a contradiction to the teachings of the Bible itself.  Think of Christ's statement:  "Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. "(Mat 5:27-28 ASV).  What if a picture was placed beside it showing a lewdly dressed woman with the caption "ancient depiction of a prostitute", wouldn't that seem a little (sarcasm) contradictory? 

I'm sorry to have to be so negative but I simply had to say something.  I would have rated the study Bible higher if it hadn't been for the bad pictures. 


I received a free review copy of this book from the Booklook blogger program in exchange for my review which did not have to be favorable.