Już (prawie) wszystko działa ;-)

No i stało się coś, czego się autentycznie nigdy nie spodziewałem – ten blog stał się obiektem… ataku hakerskiego!

Teraz już jestem lepiej zabezpieczony przed podobnymi historiami w przyszłości więc mam nadzieję że to się nie powtórzy. Stronka nie działa jeszcze w  100% , m.in. spis treści się wywala, ale jeszcze kilka dzionków, i będzie fruwała jak gęś która pomyliła rybę z papryczą Jalapeño  🙂

Biblical terms we thought we knew (3/5) – Salvation

If we were able to write down and count every word spoken at a Christian church during one Sunday, I’m pretty sure in most cases the absolute top words would be „salvation” and „save

floppy.

Most Christians think it is also one of the most common words in the Bible. Wrong. Not even close. The 5 most common words (except for prepositions, pronouns, conjunctions etc.) are: Lord (about 7400 times), God (4300), man (2700), Israel (2500) and people (2300). Several hundred positions down are save (241) and salvation (171).

Could this be a hint indicating that the Bible does not necessarily focus on what Christianity likes to focus today?

Regardless number count in the Bible, the subject of salvation is probably the most commonly spoken about in Christendom.

„Once you believe, you’re saved.”

„There is no salvation apart from Jesus.”

„All people in the world are either saved or not saved.”

Salvation is by faith.”

„How can people get saved?”

Now if we ask Christians what it means to be saved, close to 100% of them will say it’s about going to heaven rather than hell after death. Does the Bible say that, too?

Let’s look.

Salvation in the Old Testament

These are the first 5 occurrences of the Hebrew word „Yeshua” (sounds familiar?) in the Old Testament.

I look for your deliverance, LORD (Genesis 49:18)

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. (Exodus 14:13)

The Lord is my strength and my defense he has become my salvation.(Exodus 15:2 a)

Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food, they became heavy and sleek. They abandoned the God who made them and rejected the Rock their Savior. (Deuteronomy 32:15 a)

Then Hannah prayed and said: „My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.(1 Samuel 2:1)

We can see that New International Version prefers the word „deliverance” rather than „salvation” (which we find in almost all older translations), and we may discover soon why they did this. For now let’s have a closer look at the verses.

The first one, from Genesis 49:18, it’s a kind of interlude spoken by Jacob in his last moments as he blesses his children and prophesies about the future of the tribes. We actually can’t tell for sure what kind of deliverance Jacob was talking about there. Probably from enemies like other nations, tribes.

jacob-dying

The next two verses are only a page away from each other and we have no doubts what they are about – Egypt is oppressing Israel and salvation or deliverance means getting free from it.

In the fourth verse, from Deuteronomy, the discussed word is a part of the title given to God and is pretty general.

In 2 Samuel, Hannah praised the Lord for giving her a son after a long period of barrenness. The salvation she is talking about is then her restored fertility.

These are just 5 first examples of the term „salvation” in the Old Testament but I did check many more. The phrase salvation (literally „saving”) cannot be bound to a single meaning; it has a wide range of meanings, similar to English. A doctor can save someone’s life. I can save someone’s problem by fixing their mistake. Signing a peace treaty can save millions of people from distress or death that follow a war.

There is not one verse in the Old Testament that suggests salvation has anything to do with afterlife, but it shouldn’t be surprising as only New Testament talks about it. Let’s look there then. We’ll be looking at the first 5 occurrences of the word „sozo” – save.

Salvation in the New Testament

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

The disciples went and woke him, saying, „Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” (Matthew 8:25)

She said to herself, „If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” (Matthew 9:21)

(the same word is used in the following Matthew 9:22, so I’ll skip it)

You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)

 

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, „Lord, save me! (Matthew 14:30)

„Save” and „salvation” are very popular words in the New Testament, so there should be no surprise that the first 5 occurrences are in one book! Regardless, the context the word is used in is very different in almost all of the 5 cases.

In the beginning I suggested the Hebrew word „Yeshuah” should sound familiar… You may have heard it from a messianic Jew  as this is how they often call Jesus. His Hebrew name would actually be „Yahushua” and means „Yahweh saves”, and this explains the word „because” from Matthew 1:21 (by the way, it would be nice if translators found a way to let us know about it).

jezus

The verse says that Jesus is going to save people from their sins – but what exactly does that mean? People will sin no more? There will be no punishment for sins? Nothing will be considered as sin? The verse and its immediate context don’t conclude that. Let’s look at the place sin is mentioned the first time in the Bible:

but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die (Genesis 2:17)

The idea that the sin is punished with death is repeated through the whole Bible, and is summarized by Paul in Romans (famous „wages of sin is death” – 6:23″). What kind of death is it about? Lots of Christians see eternal condemnation in hell – but you won’t find one verse that says that. It’s not a physical death, either – Adam did not physically die when he ate the forbidden fruit. Adam got separated from God – and this is the kind of death that explains both Genesis and Romans, and this is I believe what Jesus saves people from.

The second and fifth verse talk about saving from drowning. When we see a drowning person screaming, „Save me”, I don’t think anyone would start telling that person how one can go to heaven when they die. Clearly – the context says nothing about afterlife.

In Matthew 9:21 the context is very clear – „sozo” means heal, and „heal” is the word most of current translations use. No afterlife, either.

Now, let’s stop for a moment longer with 10:22.

Who stands firm to the end will be saved” is a Biblical phrase which is pretty popular among theologians, mostly in context of the question whether a saved person can lose their salvation or not. There is a doctrine called „OSAS” – once saved, always saved – and Matthew 10:22 is one of the key arguments against it. You need to stand firm in your faith/deeds (depending on theological option), or you will go to hell.

Let’s read the context of Matthew 10, what is Jesus talking about?

Chapter 10 starts with giving the 12 apostles powers of healing and driving out demons, then Jesus tells to preach the message of the Kingdom of Heaven.

apostles

Beginning with verse 16, Jesus starts warning the apostles about persecutions they can meet – flogging, imprisonment, even death – this all can happen to them for proclaiming the Gospel. Let’s look at the verse with its immediate context:

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.  You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes (Matthew 10:21-23)

Is this paragraph giving you any hint Jesus speaks about afterlife?

I know, this is what’s preached in the very most churches and what the very most Christians believe. But who cares about majority? Just because billions of flies enjoy licking feces, does it mean that we should do it as well? Truth counts, not what others believe or do.

Before we understand any part of the Bible, we have to abandon our previous beliefs and notice exactly what the text says, reading it as if we never read it before. Otherwise, we won’t be reading the Bible. We’ll be reading our beliefs into the Bible. And that is the main reason for the existence of so many Christians denominations.

The most common way to understand Matthew 10:22 is „who stands firm in their deeds/belief system till they die will be saved from eternal punishment in hell” but note, such words are not there. Note the context! No one is asking, „Lord, what will happen when we die? Shall we fry when we die? Is there a way out from the eternal suffering after we die?” Jesus is sending the apostles for a mission, here, on earth; He is talking about persecutions, here, on earth.

It should be clear by now that the words „save” or „saving/salvation” do not have one specific meaning, as in Greek, as in English. If I say to you, „Save me!” it may mean lots of things, depending on situation – lending money, feeding me, clothing, talking to someone about my situation, giving me a ride – I can go on and on. To tell what „saving” means, we always need to see the context!

And the context applies to a very specific time, place and people. In Matthew 10 it’s quite simple: the time – first half of first century; place – Near East (we could be a more specific, but it is in the Near East for sure); people – Jews. Neither applies to us.

One of the interpreting rules of the Bible (and not only the Bible) is that we do not read more than the text says. The largest part of the Bible is the stories – and while from them we can always draw conclusions and lessons for us, we can’t apply all words directly to us. Matthew 10:22 is exactly the case. Jesus was talking about fleeing death and persecution, not hellish fire!

Many theologians (like J.W. McGarvey, Albert Barnes, F.F. Bruce, D.A. Carson or Theodor Zahn) believe Jesus is talking about the First Jewish-Roman war, with its culminating point – destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Francesco-Hayez-siege-jerusalem

I can’t find a better explanation. There are many hints in Matthew 10 – and other parallel passages like – Matthew 23-25, Luke 17) indicating beyond doubts that all the warnings and threats Jesus told indeed regarded situations that were supposed to happen within some years – not millenniums – from then. Let’s read this verse:

Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation. (Matthew 23:36)

Christian theologians show an amazing amount of imagination by trying to explain to us how „this generation” can still apply today. They say it can mean Israel as nation… people in general… Look then at Matthew 16:38:

Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom (Matthew 16:38)

Could it be said any clearer? I don’ think so. And if you read whole chapters 10, 16 ans 23, you will see they all contain very similar warnings to the followers of Jesus and woes to enemies of the Gospel.

The conclusion is simple – in Matthew 10:22 the word „saved” again has nothing to do with something that will happen after we die. It is about being rescued from what is going to happen in about 40 years.

Please, take some time to look up the word „save” in Concordance or on a website like „Biblehub.com” or „Biblegateway.com”. Look in the whole Bible and find one – just one – reference – where beyond doubts it means salvation from suffering after death. Just one!

You won’t.

What then does the term „save” mean?

There isn’t just 1 answer. There are many. In the Old Testament, salvation usually meant a physical rescue from an enemy, In Gospels – saving from the deadly siege of Jerusalem, in some of the Epistles – restoring a love relationship between people and God. In the whole Bible, „save” and „salvation” lots of times refer to healing from a sickness.

siege_of_jerusalem_by_supafly

If you were taught to believe the common Christian theology, it will definitely take some time until you stop seeing „salvation” as saving from hellfire. It took me years.But it’s definitely worth it. The Bible should make much more sense then.

If I were to name the most helpful thing that ever happened to me, I would say – it was when I realized that the Bible was much more focused on its direct listeners, not us.

Have you ever seen the acronym „BIBLE  = Basic Instructions Before Leaving earth?” It does mention earth… but in the sense of leaving it. Most of Christians like to see afterlife as the „real” world and life on earth as a prelude, introduction, something we should not focus on. The main focus is, as the acronym points out, what it’s going to be when we leave earth. Shall we be saved or not? Salvation – that’s what it’s all about.

The numbers I gave in the beginning – about the most common words in the Bible in comparison to the words „save” and „salvation” bear an important message. Even if salvation was about afterlife, we can’t see much focus the Bible gives to it. History and narration make 60% of the Bible – all about this life! End times prophecy is only about 2%, and there is a growing number of theologians who believe this number is actually close to zero.

Let’s face the facts! The Bible has instructions how to live on earth and make this life meaningful, hardly mentioning the obvious fact we need to leave one day. One more time – no one in the entire Bible worries about afterlife!

Most of Christians do not have a problem calling „irrelevant to us” the passage that tells us to stone to death for adultery (Leviticus 20:10) but they are quick to call me „misled” when I say that the mission of Jesus was directed only to Israel even though Jesus Himself said it (Matthew 15:24).

I do believe the Bible is absolutely trustworthy but the very, very most of it is not directed to us and only after a thorough exegesis and interpretation we can formulate lessons for our lives. Do you agree that the commandments of stoning for adultery is not directed at us? Good! The same with the warnings Jesus gave about upcoming destruction! The same about the 7 letters to Churches at the beginning of Revelation! The same about threats from Hebrews (which will be analyzed in the next chapter)!

Today millions of devoted Christians have problems falling asleep, thinking, „Am I saved?”. Please, sit down for one minute and carefully note this simple fact – no one in the Bible asks this question. No one worries. And many verses indicate today no one can answer, „No” to this question anyway. Jesus is called the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14)!

(last modified – 2016-02-15)

Biblical terms we thought we knew (2/5) – Soul

Everybody knows what “soul” is, right? The common definition says, “the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal”. Christians delete the animal thing and – that’s it!

soul3

Or maybe that’s not it?

Let’s see what the Old and New Testament say about soul and how different translations deal with the issue.

The word “soul” in the Bible can be easily researched (good news!) as there is only one Hebrew and one Greek word which translate for it. The Hebrew one is “nephesh” – and it appears about 750 times in the Old Testament; while the Greek “psyche” can be found about 100 times in the New Testament.

The problem is that various editions of the Bible translate it in different ways. Actually it is hard to find 2 Bibles that would translate these words everywhere the same way. Why is it so?

This is a million dollars question. I will try to answer it, and I’ll try to do it without reaching to theology. Just from lingual and logical point of view. The theological point of view is too complicated to be considered here as there are countless ideas and human imagination has no boundaries. I believe, though, we don’t really need to reach to theology to prove my point.

Years ago I really enjoyed taking part in never ending theologian discussions about the nature of soul and… nobody ever really convinced anyone else. One of the most common subjects was whether human soul is immortal. Most Christians believe it is, but a growing number believe that unsaved souls will be eventually killed (annihilated) or that they die together with body and then get resurrected and are given immortality.

My goal here, however, is not to answer what happens to people after they die. It is solely to research what the term „soul” means in the Bible. What I want to prove is that even though it’s a very common biblical term it is not understood correctly by the entire mainstream theology. First of all, it’s not even translated well in vast majority of Bible translations.

Let’s start with comparing the definition I already quoted – „spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal” – with the Bible.

If the word “soul” means an immortal part of human being – what will we say to this verse?

The soul that sinneth, it shall die (Ezekiel 18:4, KJV)

Well… how is that possible? An immortal soul can die? According to the verse, it can.

Let’s a look at a more modern translation now:

The one who sins is the one who will die (Ezekiel 18:4, NIV)

Oh, now it looks better, doesn’t it? The problem is that NIV doesn’t really translate this verse. NIV interprets it. Literally – word by word – Ezekiel 18:4 ends with „the soul – that sins – it will die”. NIV does translaste used here „nephesh” as „soul” in other places, here they choose to use the word „the one”.

Would the word “soul” ruin the NIV translators’ theology so bad that they decided to delete it from this passage?

Some theologians try to convince us that nephesh/psyche can mean different things in the same way many other words in Hebrew and Greek languages have a lot of meanings. English has lots of ambiguous words, too. I remember when I started learning English I was amazed at how many pages were dedicated to the word „get” in my dictionary. The Oxford English Dictionary gives 289 meanings of „get” but today I know this result is actually far from best – there are also 464 definitions of „set”, 396 of „run” and 368 or „go” and somehow we still are able to communicate using these words without any problems. The rule is multiple meanings usually concern common, simple words and must always be made clear by context. And if the Bible doesn’t really define nepehesh/soul, there must be no doubt about what these words meant.

There is a Bible verse we could almost think of as the definition. Look here:

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7, NIV)

Oh, where’s the word “soul”? I forgot the creators of NIV don’t really like that word. Let’s look at good’ol King James Version:

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesus 2:7, KJV)

Yes, the Hebrew word here is “nephesh”. And even though it’s in the very beginning of the Bible, it’s not the first occurrence of it. “Nephesh” is also used 4 times in Genesis 1, in verses 20, 21, 24 and 30 and . NIV translates the word as “creature” in the first three times and “breath” in the last one, and – surprisingly – KJV does almost the same thing, only putting “life” instead of “breath”.

Please pay attention – the very fact that the word „nephesh” in Genesis 1 regards animals denies at least one common belief – that only humans have a soul. I am not saying by no means that humans are no different than animals. I am saying that whatever the word „soul” means, concerns both people and animals.

Let’s make a little experiment and see how we would react to see these verses if the word “nephesh” would consistently be translated as “soul”:

And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living souls, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.”  So God created the great souls of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.  God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.’  And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

And God said, ‘Let the land produce living souls according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the living soul in it—I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so. (parts of Genesis 1:20-30)

 

Does it look weird? Of course, it says that animals have souls! Everyone knows that only people have souls, right?!

soul2

Everyone? But did everyone read it in the Bible? Where does the Bible say that?

Show me. I can’t see.

Oh, is this getting uncomfortable to you? Great!

I remember myself about 20 years ago, when I was reading a book by Jehovah’s Witnesses quoting Ecclesiastes 3:19 saying that animals and people die in the same way, implying that neither people have any special „souls” or that they are immortal. I was thinking bad things about the authors putting it like this, and it took me many years to realize that all they actually did was quoting the Bible; it was just in conflict with my belief that was already set – I simply believed that people have souls and animals don’t, even though there is no Bible verse saying that.

The problem with most of people is that after we have an opinion for a really long time – then, when we see a different one, we mark it as wrong without any thinking at all.

Imagine if I told you you’re supposed to wear gloves on your feet, not hands.

That’s ridiculous – you’d say – and you wouldn’t even bother to waste a second thinking if I might be right. Your intuition – or let’s call it common sense – would tell you that you know well how to wear stuff.

The really good question is – is this intuition of yours infallible?

Nope. What it „knows” is based on your experiences and your interpretation of them. I think the most important reason we argue is that people tend to confuse intuition with facts. If you were raised in a religious family and most of your friends are religious, and if they all believe almost the same things, your intuition tells you, „It’s the only truth in the world. Let’s don’t waste time for thinking about it.”

Please, do „waste” some time and think!

I encourage you to take concordance and find the word „nephesh” in the Bible – maybe not all 754 occurrences – but let’s say 50 – to see how inconsistently it’s translated in today’s translations. You can find a list of all occurrences of „nephesh” here: http://predi.us/pewnosc-zbawienia/filez/nephesh.pdf . No matter what vast majority of Christianity says, soul does not mean an immortal part of a person!

But what does it mean then?

Before we answer, let’s also have a look at the New Testament „soul.”

Psyche ψυχή – is the word that translates „nephesh” in Septuagint (translation of Old Testament into Greek from the 3rd century BC) and also is the only word that English Bibles translate as „soul„. It occurs over 100 times throughout the whole New Testament. Let’s see how New American Standard Bible translates it:

soul, souls (47 times)
life, lives (43 times)
persons (3 times)
heart (1 time)

We have a very similar situation to the Old Testament – terrible inconsistency! English readers usually understand the word „soul” as the ghostly part of us, which after death leaves the body and flies somewhere (to God, or for judgement, or to heaven/hell), while „life” is something that ends when we die. One definition aims for afterlife, the other – only for the earthly one. How can the same word mean two completely different things?

Let’s look at this verse:

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39, NIV)

Here „psyche” got translated into „life„. Now tell me, what would happen if we put the word „soul” here? „Losing soul” could mean nothing other than either going to hell or total death… in either case we would not suspect Jesus to want it to happen to us. Actually, I checked all popular translations, and I couldn’t find one which would translate „psyche” here as „soul„.

Now let’s look at another verse. More translations use the word „soul” here, but some use ‘life’.

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:36)

Take a moment to think how the meaning of this verse changes depending on whether psyche is translated as „soul” or as „life„.

The first meaning is ascetic – don’t try to gain wealth because when you lose your soul (in hell?) it won’t make you happy.

The second way of translation would keep the focus in this world – what would money help you when you die?

The same idea can be found in Luke 12 where we have a story about a rich man whose harvest was so great one year that he couldn’t fit his barns. He was planning on a happy and lazy future for himself until God showed up and told him, using the beautiful ancient English language, „You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?”.

Actually we don’t know which language God used – New Testament is written in Greek, Jesus spoke Aramaic, and the rich man could actually speak neither one of these languages – but if what we have is Greek, it has to suffice. Greek says „psyche„. English used to say „soul” (KJV) which made you worry about your eternity, but now it says „life” (NIV) which makes you way less worried as it only concerns life on earth.

Don’t you see a repeating pattern here?
Older translations say „soul„, newer ones say „life„.
I checked how many times the words „soul” and „life” appear in both KJV and NIV. Here’s the result:

KJV – soul: 55, life: 172
NIV – soul: 23, life: 229

So from about 100 uses of „psyche” King James Version translates it as „soul” in about 50% cases, while New International Version only about 25% cases. Clearly translators learned over years that Bible spends definitely less time on „the other world” than previously expected.

And I believe it makes great summary of the main subject of this article.

The Bible obviously does speak about what happens after we die. But not too often. In most of Old Testament it’s almost nonexistent. The New Testament is much better, but it doesn’t seem that verses referring to afterlife would make even 1%.

I know! It’s very hard to believe in the beginning. The vast majority of Christians who often go to church, or at least often read the Bible, believe this life only focuses on working for heaven or hell, and that this is what the Bible mostly talk about.

Religion takes God’s warnings to Israel about coming military problems, and – just because it uses the word „judgement” a lot, it applies them to us as a threat and warning from the judgement that will happen after we die… even though there isn’t a single verse describing someone’s worrying about that.

Religion takes multiple warnings from Jesus and apostles about the terrible war that will strike Jews, and… in the same way, we are told that we should worry.

Religion teaches us that Jesus came to this world to give people a chance to avoid hell… even if again there isn’t a single verse about that.  Instead, what I do find in the Bible is this:

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 b)

Religion will add „eternal life” here but…  religion is just good at adding stuff. Jesus shows lots of times how important this life is. He heals, He feeds, He teaches how to live this life the best way that is possible.

Let me say one more time – just because I conclude „soul” means „life” or „person” in the Bible, and thus it turns out the Bible emphasizes this life much more than the other, it doesn’t mean I reject actual eternal life! The Bible is still clear we all will raise from the dead and physical death is more the beginning, rather than the end. In Philippians 1:23nn Paul doesn’t have any doubts that dying means being with the Lord, and that is far better than this life.I also believe that most of „near death experiences” are real glimpses at the spiritual world, so – shortly speaking – no, I do not claim people have no soul.

soul1
I only claim that „soul” in the Bible has nothing to do with the soul we usually mean.
I still use the word „soul” when I discuss things about afterlife with people and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it, as long as we remember what that term really means when we read the Bible. There, we should rather look for the word „spirit” (greek „pneuma”), as this word actually referring to „person minus body”. Look here:

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (Matthew 27:50)

May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

There’s only a few references to this meaning of „spirit” in the New Testament though, most of the times it speaks about Holy Spirit or evil spirits. Again, this shows how little the Bible talks about afterlife.

Should it upset us? On the contrary! First of all, if authors of the Bible don’t spend much answering the question what will happen to us after we die, they clearly also do not worry about it. Neither should we worry then. This fact alone should improve the quality of our lives tremendously!

Please, try reading all the verses, especially in the New Testament, where you see „soul”, this time remembering it has nothing to do with heaven or hell. You will learn lots of new things. The Bible will start to make a lot of more sense. And I am pretty sure you will often feel like you’ve never seen these verses before!
jesus_hugging