Jesus was not a Jew – according to the Gospels (1)

Now I have got your attention with this title, I must start by dissociating myself completely from the anti-Semitic rubbish which you can easily find by googling “Jesus was not a Jew”. My point here is not at all negative about the Jewish people. It is abundantly clear from all of the accounts that we have of his life that Jesus of Nazareth was in every way a member of the people of Israel: biologically, racially, culturally and by religious upbringing.

My point is in fact not really about Jesus. Rather I am asking this question: Who are the people referred to in the New Testament, and especially in the four Gospels, as the Jews? Are they the same people as we now refer to as Jews? Does the group include Jesus?

CrossPerhaps more to the point on this Good Friday, are the people responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus in any way to be identified with today’s Jews?

Thanks to J.K.Gayle for a post at BLT Odd Gospel Greek: Jesus as a Jew – ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων, which prompted me to study this issue.

In most Bible translations the Greek word Ioudaios is translated consistently as “Jew”. Some more recent translations, such as TNIV and the NIV 2011 update, render the term in other ways, such as “Jewish leader”, in some places especially in the gospel of John. On this point, see Joel Hoffmann’s post Which Jews Opposed Jesus? – although I don’t agree with all of Hoffmann’s conclusions.

The Greek Ioudaios corresponds to the Hebrew Yehudi, used in the Hebrew Bible but almost exclusively in the post-exilic books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Zechariah. This Hebrew word refers to the people of the southern kingdom of Judah, Yehuda, to people exiled from that kingdom, or to the people of the restored post-exilic state of Judah. People from the northern parts of Israel, i.e. from Samaria or Galilee, are never referred to as Yehudi.

By New Testament times this southern part of the land of Israel, the area surrounding Jerusalem and to the south, was known in Greek as Ioudaia, “Judea” or “Judaea”. Ioudaios is, at least in its form, the adjective derived from Ioudaia, and so can be expected to mean “Judean”. It is indeed used as an adjective in this way in, for example John 3:22, “Judean land” = “Judea”. But the word is used more commonly as a noun, referring to people, and it is these references which are generally translated “Jew”.

In fact the word Ioudaios is rather rare in the first three Gospels. Matthew (27:11,29,37), Mark (15:2,9,12,18,26) and Luke (23:3,37,38) use it mainly concerning the title “King of the Ioudaioi“, given to Jesus at his trial before Pilate – this title will be discussed again in the next part of this series. Matthew also refers to Jesus as “King of the Ioudaioi” in his infancy narrative (2:2). In Luke 23:51 Arimathaea, in Judea, is described as a city of the Ioudaioi.

Only in Matthew 28:15, Mark 7:3 and Luke 7:3 do we meet characters in the story called Ioudaioi. The first two of these references may well be to people from Judea (compare Mark 7:1) rather than to Jewish people in general. In Luke 7:3, however, we have the only example in the synoptic Gospels where Ioudaios is most likely used in a religious sense, to distinguish these religious Jewish elders from the Gentile centurion who sent them.

However, it is in the Gospel of John that the great majority of the Gospel references to Ioudaios are found. I look at these references in part 2 of this series., and then conclude my discussion in part 3.

The Truth New Testament by Colin Urquhart

The Truth New Testament, study editionI just discovered a new version of the New Testament (actually from 2009) translated by one of the UK’s most respected Charismatic leaders, and a long time hero of mine, Colin Urquhart.

I have posted twice about this version at Better Bibles Blog: The Truth New Testament by Colin Urquhart and The Truth New Testament: A Review. Please follow the links to read what I wrote.

I am pleased that Colin Urquhart has taken the effort to produce this translation. He has thus given the lie to the old charge that Charismatics aren’t interested in serious study of the Bible. But I cannot recommend this as a general purpose Bible.

David Cameron writes like the KJV

David CameronPrime Minister David Cameron in effect writes “Like the KJV”, but he also writes like the KJV. Not that he uses old-fashioned language, thee’s and thou’s etc (see what David Ker wrote about how these are misunderstood today), but that like KJV (in most editions), the written record of his words, from his speech in Oxford yesterday about that Bible version, is chopped up into short lines, often only part sentences, typeset as separate paragraphs.

I thank Eddie Arthur and Archdruid Eileen for pointing me to the full text of Cameron’s speech, which meant that they were able to comment more fully and intelligently than I did last night. As I already wrote in a comment on that post, I agree with Eddie’s conclusion, in line with my earlier post, that the PM has missed the main point of the Bible. Perhaps, as leader of a multi-cultural and multi-religious nation, he was politically obliged to skirt around it. But his self-description as a “vaguely practising” Christian suggests that there is more to this than political expediency.

Nevertheless, there are some parts of Cameron’s speech which I greatly appreciate, such as this:

I have never really understood the argument some people make about the church not getting involved in politics.

To me, Christianity, faith, religion, the Church and the Bible are all inherently involved in politics because so many political questions are moral questions.
So I don’t think we should be shy or frightened of this.

I certainly don’t object to the Archbishop of Canterbury expressing his views on politics.
Religion has a moral basis and if he doesn’t agree with something he’s right to say so.

But just as it is legitimate for religious leaders to make political comments, he shouldn’t be surprised when I respond.
Also it’s legitimate for political leaders to say something about religious institutions as they see them affecting our society, not least in the vital areas of equality and tolerance.

I have copied this extract from the official website without reformatting (unlike the extracts I quoted yesterday from the BBC report) to show something of how it is divided into very short paragraphs. Indeed in some places they are even shorter, as here:

I think these arguments are profoundly wrong.

And being clear on this is absolutely fundamental to who we are as a people…

…what we stand for…

…and the kind of society we want to build.
First, those who say being a Christian country is doing down other faiths…

…simply don’t understand that it is easier for people to believe and practise other faiths when Britain has confidence in its Christian identity.

Why is the text divided up like this? Is it so that each phrase can fit on to a teleprompter screen? Is it to help Cameron with phrasing and intonation as he speaks? In any case, it is a reminder to us that Cameron’s text, like the KJV in his own words, was “intended to be read aloud”. He makes a good point in criticising other versions (he mentions NIV and the Good News Bible):

They feel not just a bit less special but dry and cold, and don’t quite have the same magic and meaning.

As Eddie points out, understanding of the Bible text has to be primary, and so it should not be presented in mysterious or obscure language, as over the centuries much of KJV has become to many English speakers. A translation should be as clear to its readers as the original text was to its intended audience. But just as the Bible was written primarily to be read aloud, and to sound good as such, it is right for translators to produce versions which when read aloud sound good, warm and meaningful.

Wright's NT for Everyone: Not the Kingdom in the UK

In May I wrote about The Kingdom New Testament, the new title for N.T. Wright’s new version. As I noted in an update two days ago, the former Bishop of Durham’s translation is now scheduled for publication on 25th October, by HarperOne (a Murdoch company) and can be ordered from – but not from

The New Testament for EveryoneI thank Theophrastus for the information, at the new BLT blog, that apparently the same version has been published in the UK under a different title, The New Testament for Everyone. This is presumably why the American title is not on offer in the UK. The UK version, published by SPCK (nothing to do with the Murdochs), is already available – it was published in July. I presume that US readers can order the UK version from, as Theophrastus, at least, has a copy.

I wonder why yet another title has been chosen for this UK edition, after “The King’s Version” and “The Kingdom New Testament” were both rejected. It seems perverse that a title including “Kingdom” is acceptable in the anti-monarchist United States but not here in the United Kingdom.

But how suitable is this version “for everyone”? As I haven’t seen the text I cannot judge it. But in the past (the link is to a 2005 comment which I found from Google, but my criticism dates back to a 2002 paper) I have been critical of the claims made that ESV is “one Bible for all of life”, and of similar claims for other versions. I don’t agree that any Bible version is suitable “for everyone”, even for all English speakers, as different people need different kinds of translation. For this reason Wright and SPCK would have done better to stick with the title “The Kingdom New Testament”.

Theophrastus also discusses this version’s interesting rendering of 1 Timothy 2:11-12. I intend to discuss that in a further post.

Online Greek, Hebrew texts from German Bible Society

Two years ago I was very critical of the German Bible Society for their “ridiculous” copyright claims on the original language Greek and Hebrew Bible texts.

BHSI am now pleased to report that these texts are now available online from the same Bible Society, at its English language Academic Bibles website, although the copyright claims have not been dropped. Specifically, the texts available are BHS Hebrew Bible, the NA27 and UBS Greek New Testament, and the Rahlfs Septuagint, as well as the Latin Vulgate.

NA27These online editions do not include the critical apparatus. Also when I looked at a Bible passage I read the following in a sidebar:

Currently you are using this website as a guest. This allows you to read the Bible text, but you cannot run searches and look up linked information. In order to use the additional features, please log in or sign up free of charge.

Thanks to Jim West for the link.

Dan Wallace concludes by strongly endorsing NIV 2011

Dan Wallace contra mundaneDan Wallace has now completed his four part review of NIV 2011.

Last week I posted here about part 1 of the series. I now regret describing it as “excellent”, as I later discovered some serious issues with Wallace’s history of Bible translation, most noticeably the way in which he silently ignored all dynamic equivalence translation.

Then I posted at Better Bibles Blog about part 2. Since Wallace says that literal translations “will inevitably be uneven and inaccurate” and ignores dynamic equivalence translations, it is not surprising that he expresses a quite a strong preference for the mediating style of translation of NIV.

Nevertheless, given Wallace’s reputation as a strong complementarian, I expected part 3 of the review to start with a big “but” concerning gender language. I would not have been surprised to see something like Denny Burk’s condemnation. But the matter of gender was ignored, apart from the following:

At bottom, I think the gender issue has been overblown by people who have reacted to what they thought the TNIV would say, long before it was published, and the same attitude has carried over to the NIV 2011—even though for both translations it is difficult to find passages where they are at fault.

The serious issues I do have with part 3 relate to the way in which Wallace appears to commend translation into odd English. As I wrote in a comment at BBB, he practically identifies strange syntax, memorability and elegance:

the language [of NIV 2011] is so much closer to the way people speak today than just about any other bona fide translation that it is not memorable. … The KJV reigned supreme on memorability (or elegance) …

Well, as foreign hotel signs often demonstrate, any fool with a dictionary can write translated sentences which are so odd that they are memorable, but does that imply that they are elegant?

Then part 4 Wallace concludes that NIV 2011, while not being perfect, is one of the “gems” among translations:

for readability, the NIV 2011 has no peers. … As with the handful of other exceptional translations, the NIV 2011 definitely should be one that the well-equipped English-speaking Christian has on his or her shelf, and one that they consult often for spiritual nourishment.

I would not describe what Wallace wrote as a gem of a review. But I am encouraged by his conclusions. Here is a major complementarian leader not just being lukewarm about NIV 2011 but giving it a strong endorsement. I hope this will help many people to stop fighting the battles of the 1990s, as Denny Burk is still doing, and to unite around this generally excellent new edition of NIV.

@ESVDaily Bible verse: abusing Scripture with Twitter

ESVMy Twitter home page invites me to join 22,583 followers of ESV Daily Verse. No, thank you. This service would send me just one Bible verse each day, out of context. It jumps around the Bible – recently in Proverbs, Deuteronomy, Lamentations and Mark in four successive days – with no sign of day to day coherence. This abuse of Scripture encourages the worst kind of proof texting, the basis of all kinds of theological errors. Crossway, publishers of the ESV Bible and apparently also of this Twitter feed, ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Twitter encourages us all to reduce our thoughts to 140 character soundbites. It is a useful service for distributing titles and links – this is how I use the account @Gentle_Wisdom. But content snipped to the length of a tweet tends to be as meaningless as a bird’s tweet.

Long term readers of Gentle Wisdom will remember that I have various issues with ESV, as with other literal Bible versions. Some of these issues relate to the way in which its translation choices are justified by proof texting. But my point here is not against ESV as a translation. Other versions could be presented in just the same way on Twitter. Indeed very likely they already are. But my objections would be the same.

Dan Wallace on NIV 2011 and English Bible history

Dan Wallace contra mundaneAt Reclaiming the Mind Dan Wallace offers part 1 of a review of NIV 2011. This first part is in fact a review of the history of English Bible translations, mostly from 1885 to the present day. In general this is the kind of excellent work one would expect from Wallace. See also my brief post at Better Bibles Blog.

There are, however, some small points which I could take issue with. Specifically, concerning the NRSV rendering of 1 Timothy 3:2, Wallace writes:

The text now sounds like Paul would allow women to be elders/bishops, but that seems to be a case of historical revisionism.

I realise that this is a very brief statement of what many scholars including Wallace have argued elsewhere in great detail. Indeed I discussed this same phrase in detail in a six part series here at Gentle Wisdom, five years ago. But I don’t think Wallace’s passing comment should be allowed to pass without comment from me. Firstly, there is no real evidence that Paul would not allow women to be church leaders, as a general rule rather than in the specific situation of this letter (2:11-12). Secondly, if, as Wallace concedes might be true, the Greek phrase here means simply “married only once” without specifying gender, then it would be wrong to translate it with a phrase which does specify gender.

I look forward to the other three parts of the review, which will presumably appear soon at the same place. I expect that Wallace will have something to say about gender language in NIV 2011, and I will very likely respond to that.

Politics in the Bible, Wayne Grudem, and NIV 2011

Long term readers of Gentle Wisdom will know that I am no admirer of Wayne Grudem. I have not always been negative about him. But I have been critical of his complementarian position restricting women in ministry. I have pointed out how he has persistently made errors of fact in his biblical arguments for that position. I have rejected his doctrine of functional subordination within the Trinity. And I have had especially strong words to say, mostly elsewhere, about the intemperate and unscholarly way in which Grudem led the condemnation of the TNIV Bible.

So I am happy that Grudem has kept quiet about the NIV 2011 update. I haven’t found any mention of it by him since its publication. Very likely he shares the concerns so strongly expressed by Denny Burk, who has taken his place as the chief spokesman of CBMW on such matters. But he has not put the authority of his name and reputation behind a destructive campaign in the way that he did with TNIV. Rod Decker is wrong to suggest that he has done, while making a good point about Grudem’s hypocrisy over singular “they”. One consequence of Grudem’s silence is that very likely NIV 2011 will become widely accepted, as TNIV was not, as the successor of the 1984 NIV.

Wayne Grudem: Politics according to the BibleBut I wonder if there is something other than a change of heart behind Grudem’s reticence on NIV 2011. This could be related to his book Politics According to the Bible. As this book is published by Zondervan, and promoted on their Koinonia blog, there could be contract conditions preventing Grudem from publicly condemning NIV 2011, another Zondervan product. And Grudem would certainly be wise not to cross the lawyers for News Corporation, owners of Zondervan. Yes, Zondervan is part of Rupert Murdoch’s controversial empire, which goes to show that even the worst egg can be good in parts.

The Koinonia post is an extract from an interview with Grudem by the Acton Institute, about his book – which is actually not as new as I thought at first, as it was published in September last year. Now this is another book that I am mentioning without having read it, so please don’t take this as a review (whatever post categories this might be in). I am responding only to what is in the Acton Institute interview. But I must say I was more favourably impressed than I have been with other things I have seen from Grudem. He has a number of excellent things to say in the interview, including this:

I found that in the Bible there were many examples of God’s people influencing secular governments. I am arguing in the book that it is a spiritually good thing and it is pleasing to God when Christians can influence government for good.

In view of his position on women’s rights in the church and family, this is somewhat ironic:

Christian influence led to granting property rights and other protections to women at various times through history.

But Christian political activity needs to be put in the right context:

My book seeks to warn Christians away from the temptation of thinking if we just elect the right leaders and pass the right laws, we will have a good nation. That fails to understand that a genuine transformation of a nation will not come about unless peoples’ hearts are changed so that they have a desire to do what is right and live in obedience to good laws.

I am somewhat ambivalent on what Grudem says about unemployment benefit, but he is asking the right questions:

… we are to care for the poor and those in need, and the Bible frequently talks about the need to care for the poor. I think government has a legitimate role in providing a safety net for those who are in genuine need of food, clothing and shelter.

There is also a strong strand of biblical teaching that emphasizes the importance of work to earn a living. … The longer that unemployment benefits are continued, the more we contribute to the idea that some people should not have to work in order to earn a living, but we should just continue to have government support them. That creates a culture of dependency, which is unhealthy for the nation and unhealthy for the people who are dependent, year after year, on government handouts.

Indeed. But this needs to be balanced by a realisation that, within our modern economic system, there are many people who genuinely want to earn their own living but are unable to do so, for personal reasons or because no work is available. In our society these are the poor that the Bible calls us to support, for the long term at least in the case of needy widows (1 Timothy 5:9). There is no place in Christian teaching for benefits being cut off after a fixed period.

Grudem finishes as follows:

It is important for Christians to settle in their hearts that God is in control over history, and His purposes will be accomplished.

The last chapter of my book has to do with combining work to bring good influence to government, coupled with faith in God and prayer that God’s good purposes will reign in earthly governments. I think we have to do both things, because God hears prayers, and He also works through the efforts and actions of human beings who are seeking to influence government for good.


NIV 2011: Denny Burk condemns it, most are lukewarm

Suzanne writes that her prophecy here at Gentle Wisdom has come true. I’m not so sure, especially as she has denied referring to John Hobbins. This is what she wrote here, in a comment on my post NIV 2011 Update: first impressions:

I predict that complementarians will completely reject the new NIV because of 1 Tim. 2:12, 1 Cor. 11:10, the paragraphing of Eph. 5:21-22, and Romans 16:7. John Piper has already spoken vociferously against the NIV 1984, perhaps to pave the way for a full rejetion of the NIV 2011.

But as far as I can tell John Piper and the other well known complementarians who intemperately rejected TNIV, such as Wayne Grudem, have had little or nothing to say about the NIV 2011 update. Vern Poythress has written a review, but he seems less concerned by its gender-related language than that

Overall, the NIV 2011 translation appears inconsistent or uneven

– a concern that I share. Even World Magazine, which led the condemnation of NIV Inclusive Language Edition by calling it the “Stealth Bible”, has offered only mild disapproval of the 2011 update.

It has been in the news recently that the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution against the NIV 2011 update and calling on its LifeWay bookshops to boycott it. But this was a last minute motion from the floor of the house, not supported by the convention organisers, which was voted on without the case in favour of the update even being presented. I expect that when LifeWay realises the financial implications of withdrawing one of its best selling Bible versions they will quietly ignore the resolution.

By contrast, as I reported at Better Bibles Blog, another very conservative group, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, looks likely to accept the NIV 2011 update. A WELS committee has considered the update very carefully and issued a long and detailed report recommending the Synod to formally accept the it.

Denny BurkThe only significant strong negative reaction to the NIV 2011 that I have seen has come from Denny Burk. But Suzanne cannot claim to be a prophet about this, as I had already linked to Burk’s initial complaint in my post. Since then he has written quite a lot more, including a paper in JBMW. In this he comes to similar conclusions to mine in that same post, that NIV 2011 has retained most of the gender-related language of TNIV but about 25% of what some people objected to has been revised.

Predictably Burk singles out for comment in this JBMW paper 1 Timothy 2:12, which he calls “The Most Contested Verse in the Gender Debate”. He bases his argument on Köstenberger’s highly dubious argument (which I discussed here in 2006) that the disputed Greek word here, authentein, cannot have negative connotations. He then completely ruins his case, in the eyes of scholars rather than of blind followers of “Reformed” heroes, by quoting and relying on an error of fact by Wayne Grudem. Grudem wrote that the TNIV and NIV 2011 rendering “assume authority” is “a highly suspect and novel translation”, when in fact, as Suzanne had shown (originally in 2009) and tried to point out to Burk, it comes straight from Calvin’s commentary, as translated by Pringle in the 19th century – and is clearly less negative in its connotations than “usurp authority” in KJV.

The autobiographical notes at the start of Burk’s paper recount how at the age of 17 he acquired an NIV Bible and started to read it avidly. He calls himself

one whose testimony has been inexorably shaped by the NIV translation.

So it is not surprising that he is attached to the 1984 version of NIV and has strong negative reactions to any changes to it. This kind of conservatism is a natural human reaction to change. But it is not the way of our God who makes all things new.

In the USA there is a strong KJV-only movement, which idolises this 400-year-old versions and will accept no Bible. I wonder, does Denny Burk want to lead an NIV-1984-only movement? I think he will find this much harder than his skateboarding tricks.