Thursday, May 28, 2020

Blaze of Light by Marcus Brotherton

Blaze of Light is an account of Green Beret Medic Medal of Honor recipient Gary Beikirch. He earned his Medal of Honor in Vietnam.

I've honestly been dreading having to write this review because…well, I didn't like the book. And I feel horrible about saying that I don't like a book about a Medal of Honor recipient! It's not that it isn't interesting, it is. But it's depressing.

The book is written well in that , while following Mr. Beikirch through his  life you see, even feel along with him, his depression, lack of purpose in life.  Joining the Green Beret's gave him more of something to aim at.  That was actually the most interesting part of the book to me, it was fascinating to hear about the amazingly tough training they went through to become  Green Berets, and even tougher training to become a Green Beret Medic.  His time in Vietnam was intriguing as well.  Especially his actions that earned him the Medal of Honor, and they truly are admirable.

But there is sort of a despairing feeling throughout the book.  He was seeking for some sort of purpose, but the purpose he finds, at least as this book presents it, is lacking in… ironically, lacking in purpose.

Some of Mr. Beikirch's  relatives, who were professing Christians, lead him to God's Word.  He becomes a professing Christian, gets married and then ends up ordained as a chaplain. He still sounds depressed though and ends up having  arguments with his wife, has a big argument with her, goes back to visit Vietnam, meets a former enemy soldier who has found that he needs to forgive in order to heal from the war and Gary is amazing at this. While he's gone his wife leaves their home without telling him, he goes to find her and patches things up.

The book then ends with him having come to the conclusion that you need to die to yourself and live for others instead.  "The battles are fought in our hearts and minds.  The weapons are the values of love, sacrifice, integrity, and service.  Whenever we fight battles with those weapons, life takes on a meaning that others will never know." That falls far short of a message of true purpose.  Why? Why live for others? Because it satisfies ourselves? What if one finds that living for others really doesn't give them fulfillment? What if living a life of selfishness really does satisfy them?  Or what if living for others makes one feel like a good person?  These motives make the purpose of doing or not doing good works contingent on pleasing ourselves, and self is still the ultimate focus. It may take on new meaning by loving and serving others, but not the meaning God wants us to find.  He wants us to live for Him first of all. As Christ Himself said,  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment."(Mat 22:37-38)

Ultimately the book as a whole gives the impression that you don't really need God because some people do truly good works without God. The former enemy soldier had forgiveness towards his enemies, and the book never mentioned that that soldier was a Christian, it also gave other accounts of other, presumably non-Christian, people selflessly living for, dying for and forgiving others.

Any righteousness we come up with on our own isn't righteous enough and is actually offensive to God.  Without Christ's perfection being applied to our account, we will ultimately end up  experiencing God's wrath forever (See the books of Romans and Ephesians) . Only Christ's righteousness will get us into Heaven. This book, by it's 'living for others' is true living message, just seems to present believing in Jesus Christ for salvation as an optional thing with no consequences for not believing whereas the Bible never presents it that way.  As it says in John 3, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him."(Joh 3:36 ESV)  This isn't something that we can just take or leave.  It's serious. It's literally a matter of life or death.

I wouldn't be so critical if I didn't think that this book was supposed to be about a man who discovered that true living is living for God.  But it didn't, it made it seem as though anyone can have true living without Christ.   Understanding our position before God and His requirements of us, is the most important thing to realize, even more important than sacrificing oneself for others. 

The Bible doesn't say that we will find true life if we deny ourselves and sacrifice for others.  We will only find true life by denying ourselves for Christ's sake. And not just denying ourselves but taking up His cross and following Him:  "And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?"(Mar 8:34-36 ESV)  We WILL deny ourselves and sacrifice for others and consider them more important than ourselves if we are Christians (followers of Christ), but we do not do these things in order to GET and FIND true life, but because we already have true life:  "When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."(Joh 17:1-3 ESV)

Again, I feel compelled to say all of this because this book is intended as a potential means to introduce people to Christ but it offers a means to life fulfillment, true living (loving others) that falls short of the Christian/Biblical message of fulfillment.

Thanks for the folks at Waterbrook Multnomah  for sending me a free review copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable).

Friday, May 22, 2020

Quote of the Day

"…our society is strongly individualistic and 'me-centered.'  We have a tendency to 'look out for number one' and often have less regard for others.  Whereas in many of our organizations and structures individuality is encouraged, there is little place for it in the body of Christ.  Can you imagine an arm proclaiming its independence from the rest of the body?  Not only would the arm become gangrenous and rot away, but the body would be damaged by its absence.  While the world tends to teach us to be self-focused, as believers we must endeavor to be others-focused.  This is expressed in Jesus's command to deny ourselves....... Many believers today envision the Christian faith as more of a picnic or a walk in the park than a bloody sacrifice of the self, but the former is not the biblical portrait."

 Ten Things I Wish Jesus Never Said by Victor Kuligin

See more quotes on my quote collection blog:

Friday, May 1, 2020

The Lexham English Septuagint

I was quite excited when I saw that a new English translation of the Septuagint was coming out. I'm always interested in new Septuagint resources. 

The Septuagint is an old, Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. Some (or all?) of the manuscripts of the Septuagint that we have today are much older than the Hebrew manuscripts on which most of our English Old Testaments are based so it can be pretty useful in textual criticism and Bible study as well (Some quotations that the Apostles made, from the Septuagint, are significantly different than our current Hebrew Old Testament text).

 If an English speaking person says they're quoting from "the Bible", we don't associate "the Bible" as only referring to one particular translation (unless you're KJV only). When we talk about the "Septuagint", it's sort of like saying  "the Greek translation of the Old Testament", it's just a shorter way of saying it.  There were several old, Greek translations of the Bible and we don't know which one is the 'original' one that was around in the Apostles' time and that they would have utilized.  Also, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to think that there was only one Greek translation during the time of the Apostles, there may have been more than one, and good and bad translations, just like we have today with good and bad English translations. Since we don't know exactly which Greek Version(s) the Apostles used, it's good to have a variety of copies of the LXX, the English translation of the Greek translation in my case, since I don't really know Koine Greek.

 This  translation is a nice one to add to this list, it is particularly interesting because of the way they give more, unique translations that you may not have otherwise considered.  For instance, in the Psalms, one of the "headers" I'm used to seeing is usually something like,  "To the Chief Musician: A Psalm of David".  In one of the other English LXXs I have, the NETS Bible, it is translated, "Regarding Completion.  A Psalm.  Pertaining to Dauid."   Well, this new translation, has, "For the End: A Psalm of David". When I saw that it was a like a lightbulb turned on.  "For THE END?"  As in, the "End times", "last days", the end of the world? 

I mentioned it to one of my sisters (who loves studying and learning koine Greek), and she looked up the word for "end" and it was telos, which is used in some other places in the Bible to refer to the end times (For instance, Matt.  24:13-14).  That sort of put a whole new perspective on the Psalms, not that we didn't think any of them were prophetic before (obviously the Messianic ones were), it's just that, if this view is correct, many of these Psalms are directly said to be speaking about the end times.  Some of them certainly sound eschatological, for instance, "Our God is a place of refuge and strength, a helper when afflictions find us very much.  On account of this, we will not fear when the earth is troubled and the mountains are transferred in the hearts of the seas…Come, see the works of the Lord, which he set as wonders upon the earth.  Removing wars until the ends of the earth, he will crush bow and shatter weapon…." (Psalm 45: 1-10)

Another interesting nuance in translation is Amos 9:1. The ASV (Using the Masoretic text) reads:  "I saw the Lord standing beside the altar: and he said, Smite the capitals, that the thresholds may shake…"

Brenton's English LXX reads: "I saw the Lord standing on the altar: and he said, Smite the mercy-seat, and the porch shall be shaken"

The LEX reads, "I saw the Lord standing by the alter, and he said, 'Strike upon the lid of the Ark of the Covenant and the gateway will be shaken…"

That's interesting in that, if it is the Ark of the Covenant, then that would (If I remember correctly)be a later reference to it in the Old Testament, than in the current Hebrew Old Testament we use. I don't remember the Ark of the Covenant being mentioned again after the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar.  Just an interesting thing.

You'll notice some significant/interesting differences between this text and the Masoretic.  If you grab a Hebrew based Old Testament and turn to Daniel 11:1-2, I'll quote it from the ASV: "And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him. And now will I show thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and when he is waxed strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece."And then compare it to this English Septuagint:   "And in the first year of King Cyrus, he spoke to me to strengthen me and to make me act valiantly.  And now I have come to impart the truth to you.  Look, three kings have arisen in Persia, and a fourth will arise…."  That's a rather significant difference as it changes who the coming Kings are.  Are we supposed to count starting from Darius or Cyrus? Makes for some interesting eschatological problems. 

One of the main reasons the Septuagint is so interesting is that there are places in the New Testament where, when Christ and the Apostles quote certain texts from the Old Testament and their quotations line up significantly more with the LXX than with the Masoretic text.  And that's where I want to explain a part in this translation that I didn't particularly like. In Psalm 39 (Psalm 40 in a 'regular' Bible) vs 7 is translated, "You did not want sacrifice and offering, but you restored a body to me."  "Restored", instead of, "prepared" or "made" a body for me as English translators often render that word in translating the author of Hebrews' quotation of that verse in 10:5. Now some may point out that it's still better than the Masoretic text  (the Hebrew text recension pretty much all of our Old Testaments are based on now), which doesn't say anything similar. The problem I have is that, to me, "Restored" sounds as though a body was had, taken away or lost, and then given back.  It just seems to carry a different picture from how the author of Hebrews saw/read the text in Hebrews 10 (and the Greek word there seems to be the same as the one in Swete's Greek text for the Psalm).  The author of Hebrews seemed to view that verse as indicating that a body was prepared for Christ to offer it as a sacrifice.  Now I can see a way around it by saying, "well, look at it this way, 'restored' makes it seem as though He'd been given a body back that he'd had before, so maybe it could be referring to the resurrection of Christ."  Ehh…maybe? But again, that's not how the writer of Hebrews seemed to read it. 

Anyway, I felt like I had to get that out.  Moving on now.

Be sure to read the Introduction to this translation, it's very interesting, telling about the translators'/editors' goal of making your experience in reading this translation like the experience of those originally reading the Greek translation.  So instead of trying to bring the terminology to match today's culture, they "bring today's reader to the ancient culture", so if the language was originally not as gender inclusive as we would be today, they stick with the more gender exclusive language.  If the original Greek translation of the Hebrew was a bit awkward, the English will read awkwardly,   "The English translation should feel idiomatic where the Greek is idiomatic.  It should feel formal where the Greek is formal.  It should feel foreign where the Greek feels foreign.  In other words, it is not only acceptable, it is positively desirable for the LES to feel like a translation, to the extent that the Greek readers would have been aware that they were reading a translation.  Ideally, the translation should be as rough or as smooth as the Greek would have seemed to a Greek reader who knew no Hebrew…"  I really appreciate that.

I like the format of this book as well. I don't want to check right now, but I’m pretty sure that all of my other English translations of the LXX have the text laid out in two columns on each page.  This one only has one column of text, so it reads like a regular book.  The cover is very beautiful as well, I was quite impressed just by its looks when I opened up the box. 

I really like the LES overall. I own several English translations of the LXX, and I have never really found one that I prefer above the others, rather, I find all of them equally great study and reference resources to have around. This one is a great edition to any collection of Septuagints.

Many thanks to the folks at Lexham Press for sending me a free review copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable).

This book may be purchased at and at