The Holy Bible in 21st century English

A literal, spoken-language bible, and some reflections on the Christian faith

A window into faith

I have a pet cat. A lot of people think that’s not really true: the cat has a pet Felix. But I entirely disagree. The cat knows its place in the hierarchy: beneath everyone else stands the cat. It does seem to be demanding, but really it simply asks for permission for almost everything.

For instance, if I’ve opened the back door for my benefit, and the cat wants to go inside or outside, it’ll wait until I’ve paid attention to it, and given it permission to walk through. Or before it eats, even if there’s food in the bowl, it wants to be given very explicit permission to eat the food: Often it’ll come upstairs to where I am, wait for me to pay attention to it, then follow me downstairs—it won’t follow if I haven’t paid it attention—then it wants me to pour food into its bowl so it knows it can eat it.

Now she ask’ll for permission differently according to the context. If I’m alone, she will meow at me: but if I’m talking to someone, she’ll only brush up against my legs, so that she prays for her daily needs without interrupting my will.

The cat knows that it’s dependent on our family for its food and shelter and health and wellbeing. It also knows that we, the human beings, are absolutely her superior and that she hasn’t earned her place in this Kingdom of Felix, and never can and never will. But she’s absolutely loyal to us, and will submit herself to unpleasantness when we require her to.

Sometimes the cat puts a foot wrong, and does something we don’t want her to do, and I will be angry with her. She might jump up on my bed when I never let her, or she might refuse to get off a couch I want to sit on. Or maybe she’ll just ask for permission to go somewhere I won’t let her go. She accepts the limitations on her will and the consequences of her actions, because she knows she’s better off subordinating her will to mine, than trying to go it alone. She accepts that it’s better to trust me, than to get whatever she wants whenever she wants it.

The cat, it seems to me, is an excellent model of the faith all Christians should be showing towards God.


An interlude

Robert had a heart attack one day, and died. A week later, his friends and family and workmates and colleagues went to the local funeral parlor, and his wife Jan, his sister Aloïse and Mark his best friend since childhood spoke: They reflected on his life and his achievements, his concern for his friends and family, and how we was such a great and kind guy. Aloïse said “… and I know you’re in a better place now, and we’ll see each other again”. He would’ve hated that, but everyone sympathised.

After a while, Robert woke up. Aloïse was right: they did see each other again, because she’d just woken up too. They were confused. Neither knew where they were, or how they’d got here. Aloïse, in particular, remembered well the sixteen years after her brother’s heart attack and death, and how lonely she’d been. She’d missed her big brother. They agreed it was odd. Aloïse was thirsty, and Robert needed the loo, so they went off to fulfil their needs.

Sixteen years later, they saw each other again. The government had collapsed. The Queen and the Governor-General and the Prime Minister were gone—simply missing, there wasn’t even a trace of them—but dozens of people were calling themselves such, or the King too. So they’d decided to just have an election. But there’d been dozens of Electoral Commission heads too, and more besides who thought there was some other process.

Meanwhile, the police had been confused into inaction too, and petty thieves became gang leaders while concerned citizens became vigilantes. Both became warlords and the constitution stopped mattering anyway.

They were walking through the sewers, because they were safe from warlord henchmen. They saw each other, but she wanted to spew, and he was hungry, so they kept going their separate ways.

They saw each other again after another—well, who knows. It could’ve been sixteen trillion years for all the difference it made to anyone. Aloïse had been so depressed she could hardly move. But then, one day, she could. So she jumped off a twenty-storey building: death had to better than this. But she didn’t die when she hit the ground. Her bones shattered and she just became some sort of jelly-person at the bottom of the building. People trampled over her. One of them was Robert.

That wasn’t the last time they saw each other, either. Aloïse’s body healed enough she could move around again, but the pain hadn’t left her. She crawled into a pub. Robert was there, drinking away his sorrows till the booze ran out again. Everyone was. This place was some sort of hell-on-earth.

The Good News according to Matthew

I just re-read Matthew’s account of the Good News. I dunno: A lot of people say that the synoptics and John’s account contradict each other, or at least differ. But I think Matthew’s account only really makes sense in light of John’s. It’s subtler, certainly, but what’s in John’s that you can’t see in Matthew’s? With only Matthew’s account, I think the Christian Assembly would have known that Jesus is the incarnate Word and God. Even Matthew seems to know that the Last Supper was the day before the Passover, but he wants to stress the intrinsic and supremely important relationship between the Passover, the Last Supper and Good Friday.

But what do I know? Next to nothing about first century Palestinian Judaism or biblical scholarship or anything else that would help me to understand. I just trust that the living God would have given us faithful accounts of Who He Is, so maybe I’m even biased.

The Acts of the Apostles, ch. 9

{9:1} But Saul, still breathing threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, {9:2} and asked for letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. {9:3} As he travelled, it happened that he got close to Damascus, and suddenly a light from the sky shone around him. {9:4} He fell on the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

{9:5} He said, “Who are you, Lord?”

The Lord said, “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting. {9:6} But rise up, and enter into the city, and you’re gonna be told what you have to do.”

{9:7} The men who travelled with him stood speechless, hearing the sound, but seeing no-one. {9:8} Saul got up from the ground, and when his eyes were opened, he saw no-one. They led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. {9:9} He was without sight for three days, and neither ate nor drank.

{9:10} Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias!”

He said, “Look, it’s me, Lord.”

{9:11} The Lord said to him, “Get up, and go to the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judah for one named Saul, a man of Tarsus. Cos y’see, he’s praying, {9:12} and in a vision he’s seen a man named Ananias coming in, and laying his hands on him, that he might receive his sight.”

{9:13} But Ananias answered, “Lord, I’ve heard from many about this man, how much evil he did to your saints at Jerusalem. {9:14} Here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”

{9:15} But the Lord said to him, “Go your way, cos he’s my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel. {9:16} Cos I’m gonna show him how many things he’s got to suffer for my name’s sake.”

{9:17} Ananias departed, and entered into the house. Laying his hands on him, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord, who appeared to you on the road you came by, has sent me, that you can receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” {9:18} Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he received his sight. He got up and was baptised. {9:19} He took food and was strengthened. Saul stayed several days with the disciples who were at Damascus. {9:20} Immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed the Christ, that he’s the Son of God. {9:21} All who heard him were amazed, and said, “Isn’t this he who in Jerusalem made havoc of those who called on this name? And he’d come here intending to bring em bound before the chief priests!”

{9:22} But Saul increased more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ. {9:23} When many days were fulfilled, the Jews conspired together to kill him, {9:24} but their plot became known to Saul. They watched the gates both day and night that they might kill him, {9:25} but his disciples took him by night, and let him down through the wall, lowering him in a basket. {9:26} When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. {9:27} But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to em how he’d seen the Lord in the way, and that he’d spoken to him, and how at Damascus he’d preached boldly in the name of Jesus. {9:28} He was with them entering into Jerusalem, {9:29} preaching boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus. He spoke and disputed against the Hellenists, but they were seeking to kill him. {9:30} When the brothers knew it, they brought him down to Cæsarea, and sent him off to Tarsus. {9:31} So the assemblies throughout all Judæa and Galilee and Samaria had peace, and were built up. They were multiplied, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

{9:32} It happened, as Peter went throughout all those parts, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. {9:33} There he found a certain man named Æneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, because he was paralysed. {9:34} Peter said to him, “Æneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed!” Immediately he got up. {9:35} All who lived at Lydda and in Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

{9:36} Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which when translated, means Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and acts of mercy which she did. {9:37} It happened in those days that she fell sick, and died. When they’d washed her, they laid her in an upper room. {9:38} As Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. {9:39} Peter got up and went with them. When he’d come, they brought him into the upper room. All the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. {9:40} Peter put em all out, and knelt down and prayed. Turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, get up!” She opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. {9:41} He gave her his hand, and raised her up. Calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. {9:42} And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. {9:43} It happened, that he stayed many days in Joppa with one Simon, a tanner.

The Acts of the Apostles, ch 8

{8:1} Saul was consenting to his death. A great persecution arose against the assembly which was in Jerusalem in that day. They were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except for the apostles. {8:2} Devout men buried Stephen, and lamented greatly over him. {8:3} But Saul ravaged the assembly, entering into every house, and dragged both men and women off to prison. {8:4} So those who were scattered abroad went around preaching the word. {8:5} Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed to em the Christ. {8:6} The multitudes listened with one accord to the things that were spoken by Philip, when they heard and saw the signs he did. {8:7} Cos unclean spirits came out of many of those who had em. They came out, crying with a loud voice. Many who had been paralysed and lame were healed. {8:8} There was great joy in that city.

Simon the Sorcery converts and sins again

{8:9} But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who used to practice sorcery in the city, and amazed the people of Samaria, making himself out to be some great one, {8:10} who they all listened to, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is that great power of God”. {8:11} They listened to him, because for a long time he had amazed them with his sorceries. {8:12} But when they believed Philip preaching good news about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptised, both men and women. {8:13} Simon himself also believed. Being baptised, he continued with Philip. Seeing signs and great miracles occurring, he was amazed.

{8:14} Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to em, {8:15} who, when they’d come down, prayed for em, that they might receive the Holy Spirit; {8:16} cos as yet he’d fallen on none of em. They’d only been baptised in the name of Christ Jesus. {8:17} Then they laid their hands on em, and they received the Holy Spirit. {8:18} Now when Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, {8:19} saying, “Give me this power to, so that whmever I lay my hands on may receive the Holy Spirit.” {8:20} But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could get the gift of God with money! {8:21} You have neither part nor lot in this matter, cos your heart isn’t right before God. {8:22} So repent of this, your wickedness, and ask God if perhaps the thought of your heart might be forgiven you. {8:23} Cos I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.”

{8:24} Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that none of the things which you have spoken happen to me.”

{8:25} So they, when they’d testified and spoken the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the Good News to many villages of the Samaritans. {8:26} But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise, and go towards the south to the way that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is a desert.”

The Ethiopian Eunuch converts

{8:27} He arose and went; and y’see, there was an Ethiopian man, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had come to Jerusalem to worship. {8:28} He was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.

{8:29} The Spirit said to Philip, “Go near, and join yourself to this chariot.”

{8:30} Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

{8:31} He said, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” He begged Philip to come up and sit with him. {8:32} Now the passage of the Scripture which he was reading was this:

“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter.
As a lamb before his shearer is silent,
so he doesn’t open his mouth.
{8:33} In his humiliation, his judgement was taken away.
Who’s gonna declare His generation?
Cos his life is taken from the earth.”

{8:34} The eunuch answered Philip, “Who is the prophet talking about? About himself, or about someone else?”

{8:35} Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, preached to him Jesus. {8:36} As they went on the way, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water. What is keeping me from being baptised?” {8:37} (Omitted: Not part of the original) {8:38} He commanded the chariot to stand still, and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

{8:39} When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, and the eunuch didn’t see him any more, cos he went on his way rejoicing. {8:40} But Philip was found at Azotus. Passing through, he preached the Good News to all the cities, until he came to Cæsarea.

The Acts of the Apostles, ch 7

Stephen preaches to the council and is martyred

{7:1} The high priest said, “Are these things so?”

{7:2} He said, “Brothers and fathers, listen. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Hār-an, {7:3} and said to him, ‘Get out of your land, and from your relatives, and come into a land which I will show you.’ {7:4} Then he came out of the land of the Chalˈdae-ans, and lived in Haran. From there, when his father was dead, God moved him into this land, where you are now living. {7:5} He gave him no inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on. He promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when he still had no child. {7:6} God spoke in this way: that his seed would live as aliens in a strange land, and that they’d be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years. {7:7} ‘I will judge the nation which they’ll be in bondage to’, said God, ‘and after that they’ll come out, and serve me in this place.’ {7:8} He gave him the covenant of circumcision. So Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day. Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.

{7:9} “The patriarchs, moved with jealousy against Joseph, sold him into Egypt. God was with him, {7:10} and delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. He made him governor over Egypt and all his house. {7:11} Now a famine came over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction. Our fathers found no food. {7:12} But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers the first time. {7:13} On the second time Joseph was made known to his brothers, and Joseph’s race was revealed to Pharaoh. {7:14} Joseph sent and summoned Jacob, his father, and all his relatives, seventy-five souls. {7:15} Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, himself and our fathers, {7:16} and they were brought back to Shē-chem, and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a price in silver from the children of Hā-mor of Shechem.

{7:17} “But as the time of the promise came close which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, {7:18} until there arose a different king, who didn’t know Joseph. {7:19} The same took advantage of our race, and mistreated our fathers, and forced em to throw out their babies, so that they wouldn’t stay alive. {7:20} At that time Moses was born, and was exceedingly handsome. He was nourished three months in his father’s house. {7:21} When he was thrown out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and reared him
as her own son. {7:22} Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He was mighty in his words and works. {7:23} But when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. {7:24} Seeing one of em suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him who was oppressed, striking the Egyptian. {7:25} He supposed that his brothers understood that God, by his hand, was giving em deliverance; but they didn’t understand.

{7:26} “The day following, he appeared to them as they fought, and urged em to be at peace again, saying, ‘Sirs, you are brothers. Why do you wrong one another?’ {7:27} But he who did his neighbor wrong pushed him away, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? {7:28} Do you want to kill me, as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ {7:29} Moses fled at this saying, and became a stranger in the land of Mĭd-ian, where he became the father of two sons.

{7:30} “When forty years were fulfilled, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. {7:31} When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight. As he came close to see, a voice of the Lord came to him, {7:32} ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Moses trembled, and didn’t dare look. {7:33} The Lord said to him, ‘Take your sandals off your feet, cos the place you’re standing on is holy ground. {7:34} I have surely seen the affliction of my people that’s in Egypt, and have heard their groaning. I’ve come down to deliver them. Now come, I’m gonna send you into Egypt.’

{7:35} “This Moses, who they refused, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—God’s sent him as both a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. {7:36} This man led em out, having worked wonders and signs in Egypt, in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. {7:37} This is that Moses, who said to the children of Israel, ‘The Lord our God is gonna raise up a prophet for you from among your brothers, like me.’ {7:38} This is he who was in the assembly in the wilderness with the angel that spoke to him on Mt Sinai, and with our fathers, who received living oracles to give to us, {7:39} who our fathers wouldn’t be obedient to, but rejected him, and turned back in their hearts to Egypt, {7:40} saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods that’ll go before us, cos as for this Moses, who led us out of the land of Egypt, we don’t know what has become of him.’ {7:41} They made a calf in those days, and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their hands. {7:42} But God turned, and gave em up to serve the army of the sky, as it’s written in the book of the prophets,

‘Did you guys offer me slain animals and sacrifices

forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?

{7:43} You took up the tabernacle of Mō-loch,

the star of your god Rē-phan,

the figures you made to worship.

I’m gonna carry you away beyond Babylon.’

{7:44} “Our fathers had the tabernacle of the testimony in the wilderness, even as he who spoke to Moses commanded him to make it according to the pattern that he’d seen; {7:45} which our fathers also, in their turn, brought in with Joshua when they entered into the possession of the nations, who God drove out before the face of our fathers, to the days of David, {7:46} who found favor in the sight of God, and asked to find a habitation for the God of Jacob. {7:47} But Solomon built him a house. {7:48} However, the Most High doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says,

{7:49} ‘heaven is my throne,

and the earth a footstool for my feet.

What kind of house will you build me?’ says the Lord;

‘or what is the place of my rest?

{7:50} Didn’t my hand make all these things?’

{7:51} “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, yos always resist the Holy Spirit! As your fathers did, so you do. {7:52} Which of the prophets didn’t your fathers persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, who you’ve now become betrayers and murderers of. {7:53} You received the law as it was ordained by angels, and didn’t keep it!”

{7:54} Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. {7:55} But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, {7:56} and said, “Look, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

{7:57} But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed at him with one accord. {7:58} They threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. {7:59} They stoned Stephen as he called out, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” {7:60} He kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against em!” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

God’s covenants with people and peoples

I haven’t been able to read the Bible as most people do, seeing a new start at the New Testament. It’s my natural tendency to read and understand things in harmony, whenever possible. And in any case: the Old Testament contains information about people like Abel and Noah and probably Job and his friends who weren’t covered by the old covenant. How were they saved, by works or by faith? or were they damned, because they were neither Israelites nor post-Christ?

The covenant made with the Israelites was a separate and parallel covenant to the eternal covenant made by Christ in the Pascal sacrifice in his blood. The Israelite covenant made in the flesh Abraham and his house was eternal: “My covenant will be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant” (Gen. 17:13b). Has it been abrogated? Will we make the Lord into a liar? Will we say his ends failed to meet their goal?

No-one has ever been saved by works. Works are the fruit of faith—of trust in God (James 2:14-18 and the whole letter). This was the major point of contention between Jesus and the legalistic Jews of his time. Jesus followed the Mosaic Law completely: but not because he thought it was necessary to his salvation, but because he loved God with all his heart and all his soul and all his mind and all his strength, and because he trusted God. And a person who completely loves God keeps God’s commandments completely.

The legalistic Jews did not practice the Israelite religion, and did not fulfil the Law (Luke 18:9-14). They were carnally minded, following the rules not out of their love of God, but to look righteous to other people, and to let them feel superior to the lepers and the tax collectors and the Greeks.

The Israelites were given the true religion and a special bonus covenant: that they might protect the knowledge of God, that his Scripture might be written by them, that they might collectively, as a nation, be a prophecy and a sign of the incarnate Lord. But just like previous generations had found idols in foreign gods to worship, the self-proclaimed righteous Jews in Jesus’ time had found idols in the works of the law and a corrupted notion of righteousness to worship. The forgot the truth which permeated their Scripture.

The Law was not meant to be their ticket to heaven, despite the common Christian understanding. But it was a gift and a blessing to them, and sees to their salvation through the embodiment of Jesus Christ, the Lord’s salvation.

Now, do I say, a good Gentile Christian has to follow the Law which came to the Israelites?—do we follow the Mosaic Law? No. That Law hasn’t come to us: we are not part of that covenant. It was made with a specific nation. Paul’s letter to the Romans makes that clear.

No. But I shall approve to myself of what the Lord approves of, and condemn from myself the things which the Lord condemns. The whole Bible is my law, and I eagerly study it to know what the Lord wants me to know.

Still don’t believe me? Read the Book of Job, and tell me it isn’t a “covenant of grace through faith” document. Read the Acts of the Apostles, and tell me Paul doesn’t keep being Jewish after he becomes Christian.

The Acts of the Apostles, ch 6

Selection of the seven servants

1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, a complaint arose from the Hellenists against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily service. 2 The twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It isn’t appropriate for us to forsake the word of God and serve tables. 3 So select from amongst yas, brothers, seven men of good report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, who we can appoint over this business. 4 But we’ll continue steadfastly in prayer and in the ministry of the word.”

5 These words pleased the whole multitude. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, Philip, ˈPrŏch-o-rus, ˈNī-ca-nor, ˈTī-mon, ˈPar-me-nas, and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch; 6 who they set before the apostles. When they’d prayed, they laid their hands on em. 7 The word of God increased and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly. A great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Slanders against the Servant Stephen

8 Stephen, full of faith and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 But some of those who were of the synagogue called “the Libertines”, and of the Cyˈrē-nians, of the Alexandrians, and of those of Ciˈlĭ-cia and Asia arose, disputing with Stephen. 10 They weren’t able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit he spoke by. 11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We’ve heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes, and came against him and seized him, and brought him in to the council, 13 and set up false witnesses who said, “This man never stops speaking blasphemous words against this holy place and the law. 14 Cos we’ve heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” 15 All who sat in the council, fastening their eyes on him, saw his face like it was the face of an angel.

Why I love God’s law as a Gentile Christian

Bill Muehlenberg, a Christian writer based in Melbourne, wrote about the love of God’s law on his blog today. It inspired me to write the following comment, which I include here in edited form.

I have struggled to understand what “faith” is since I first started to investigate the Christian claims.

If you ask atheists, they’ll tell you that “faith is believing things without any evidence at all—just because someone told you so”. Well, should I trust an atheist?

If you ask a Christian, they’ll tell you that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for”. But that doesn’t tell me anything. If I have faith in God, does that mean that God hopes that I have faith in him, and I assure him of that by having faith in him? Or what?

So I looked up the Greek word for “faith” while I was reading through the psalms. And I saw that the word is “pistis” and it also means “trust”. And I also saw in the psalms how much the psalmists love God’s law—and Paul also calls the Law a blessing to those it’s come to.

And I realised: If I trust God, and if God created the whole universe for us, and he’s talked to us, then surely when he’s said that something’s wrong, he isn’t just arbitrarily forbidding something: He knows it’s best if we don’t do that.

I don’t have to know why looking lustfully after a girl is just as bad as adultery—a crime so bad it warranted death in the Israelite theocracy, and a frame of mind so distorted that you can’t be an adulterer and still inherit the kingdom of God. But God told me that “a man who lustfully looks at a women has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28), and told the Israelites that they must not “covet [their] neighbor’s wife” (Ex. 20:17), and caused Job’s “covenant with [his] eyes not to look lustfully at a girl” to be recorded in the Scripture (Job 31:1).

So I trust God on that. God designed the universe, he said it’s wrong, surely it’s wrong. Time would more fruitfully be spent trying to uncover why it’s wrong, than the more common practice of trying to prove so many of the moral commandments are wrong because apparently it’s natural for this or that person to do this or that. If I were a moral philosopher, I’d love to spend my time finding out why God’s law is best.

Now, I struggle continuously to obey the Lord. It doesn’t come naturally to me yet. But I also try not to justify my sinfulness, but admit it to myself and to God and—when I can control my pride—to others. I make no claim to being perfect, but I trust that God knows what’s best: going through the research that’s already been done, weighing it and analysing it, and even starting new research programs.

So of course I’ll follow God’s law if I love him. I’m not better than him; I don’t come close to equalling him. I wasn’t there when he laid the earth on its foundations, and I don’t understand its whole breadth. But I love him, and I trust him, and I love that he’s told me the best way to live my life, and given me so many lessons to learn in a collection of books so full of wisdom.

A bible to be read aloud

The Holy Bible in 21st century English, this variant of the WEB, is meant to be spoken aloud as easily and as literally as possible. This means that it has more contractions than written English usually does, even when quoting people’s speech.

In particular, the pronoun “them” is usually transcribed as “em” instead, to speed up the text to more natural and relaxed pace. It’s my opinion that this will help you understand the text like you understand spoken text.

But more importantly, the first use of “unusual names” in each chapter will have accents and other diacritics to help you work out the traditional pronunciation. This is especially important in a modern Bible, because the normal way to guess the pronunciation of names has changed, so if you’ve never seen a word before you might guess the pronunciation wrongly. My source for as many of the pronunciations of these words as possible is my sixty-year-old copy of King James’ Authorised Version of the Bible, published by Collins Cleartype Press in Great Britain. This copy of the bible attributes them to Mr H. A. Redpath, MA. But I’ve altered the transcription to make it easier to digitise, while (as he did) avoiding any “respelling”.

How syllables are broken up in words

An apostrophe is used before a stressed syllable. A hyphen is used before an unstressed syllable. If there’s two vowels within one syllable, they’re usually a “digraph” (if they’re together), like the “ai” in ˈrain or the “eu” in ˈeu-caˈly̆p-tus. Alternatively, if they’re separated by a consonant, the second one is silent, like the “e” in rāce or the first “a” and the second “e” in the adjective ˈsĕpa-rate.

How vowel length is marked

A vowel without an accent is an unstressed vowel. Just relax when you pronounce it.

But stressed vowels are always marked (except for digraphs). A macron makes a long vowel—the letter “says its name”—but a breve makes a short vowel: “băt bĕt bĭt bŏt bŭt”.

When y is a vowel, it should be treated like an i.