Category Archives: Teaching

A Translation of Ephesians 3

RomansText1

“For surely you have heard of the provision of God’s grace that was given to me for you . . .” (Ephesians 3:2)

When I think of God’s provision, I often think of all that is necessary to keep body and soul together, as well as those items that are necessary to function in a given society. When I pray for provision, it is usually about that which is needed to keep the lights on, the bills paid, and food on the table. I believe that is where most of us live.

Obviously, there are other provisions of grace that God gives to his people. When Paul spoke of God’s provision, he spoke about his calling in such a way that highlights that he was God’s provision to the Ephesians. God called and equipped Paul as a form of spiritual provision to the people to whom Paul wrote. That, of course, includes every person who has ever read Paul’s letters. He is a part of God’s provision for us so that we better understand God’s mysteries in Christ.

I am rather in awe of the fact that the Lord made provision for me almost two thousand years ago when he called a man named Saul from a vindictive path to one of grace. In reality, the provision of grace far exceeds that which I am able to comprehend. Can we even imagine the amount of provision that God has poured out through the millennia on our behalf? Because of how far the gospel has travelled, many of us have had righteous ancestors whose sacrificial lives and effective prayers may have been used by God to establish our callings. We will not truly understand such things until we are with them before the Lord.

Verse two reminds me of something else. Every Christian teacher I have been privileged to have has received a provision of God’s grace so that he or she could touch my life with the calling God granted him or her. I don’t even remember the names of all these teachers, and yet God’s provision to them in their calling has also been God’s provision to me. I am thankful that they were faithful with their callings. I have been blessed and received spiritual provision through them. Like them, I also wish to use God’s provision of grace in my calling in the best possible way for those to whom I am a part of God’s provision. I believe we honor God when we do that, and express our thanks to all those who have been our provision.

Now, on to the translation of Ephesians 3.

Ephesians 3:1-21
A Translation by Randal Cutter

3:1  For this reason, I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of the Gentiles—*

3:2  For surely you have heard of the provision of God’s grace that was given to me for you,

3:3  that according to revelation the mystery was made known to me, just as I have written about previously in a brief fashion.

3:4  By reading about this, you can understand my knowledge of the mystery of Christ,

3:5  which was not made known in other generations to the sons of men* as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets.

3:6  That mystery is that through the good news the Gentiles are joint heirs, fellow members of one body, and share in the promises in Christ Jesus,*

3:7  of which I became a servant through the gift of the grace of God which was given to me, in accord with the working of his power.

3:8  This grace was given to me, the least of all the saints, to preach the good news of the incomprehensible riches of Christ to the Gentiles;

3:9  and to bring to light for everyone the details of this mystery which was hidden for ages in the God who created all things.

3:10  He did this in order that the manifold wisdom of God might be made known now to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places through the Church,

3:11  in accord with the eternal purpose which he performed in Christ Jesus our Lord,

3:12  in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in him.

3:13  On account of this, I ask you not to be discouraged over my tribulations on your behalf, which are your glory.

3:14  For this reason I bend my knees to the Father,

3:15  for whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,

3:16  asking, in accord with the riches of his glory, that he might grant that you be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner man,

3:17  so that Christ dwell in your hearts through faith; and having been rooted and established in love,

3:18  I also pray that you might be able to fully comprehend, along with all the saints, what is the breadth, length, height, and depth of it,

3:19  and that you know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge; and I also pray that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.*

3:20  Now to the one who is able to do abundantly above all things that we could ask or think, through his power at work in us,

3:21  to him be the glory in the Church, and in Christ Jesus, unto all the generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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3:1  The dash indicates a break in Paul’s thought process. He picks up his thought in verse 14. Verses 2-13 are an excursus about Paul’s calling.

3:5  sons of men: Many modern translations render this phrase as “men,” dropping the “sons of.” I have kept the entire phrase because it is a phrase that emphasizes the passage of multiple generations, rather than the more contemporary idea implied when just translated as “men.”

3:6  joint heirs/fellow members/share in the promises: Some add “with Israel” to flesh out Paul’s thought in this verse. While that is certainly Paul’s meaning, and an incredible truth, the original text doesn’t include “with Israel.” Paul left it up to his readers to figure out this obvious point. So I left it as Paul did.

3:19  all the fullness of God: Some translations insert the word “measure” here (filled to the measure of all the fullness of God). The word for “measure” does not appear in the Greek text, and in my opinion, confuses the thought. Paul’s prayer is that we be filled with all the fullness of God. Adding the word “measure,” a word that the Greek language does not supply, may limit the fullness of God to some unspecified unit of measure.

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A Translation of Ephesians 2

RomansText1

“Like everyone else we were, by nature, angry people.” (Eph. 2:3)

Road rage. We’ve all seen or heard examples of it. We’ve all seen or heard about its tragic results. Violent reactions to somtimes trivial events seem to be surging.

My daugher told me about an incident from a trip to visit someone in a neighboring city. As she and her husband drove through a neighborhood, they came to a stop sign and pulled up behind a car that had already been stopped at it. The person in the car was obviously distracted by something in the car, and did not move. So my daughter’s husband, after waiting an appropriate amount of time, tapped lightly on his horn to alert the driver that someone had pulled up behind him. The reaction of the person in the car demonstrated a fair amount of anger over this attempt to get his attention. As the two cars proceeded from the stop sign, the person in front began to weave between lanes so that my daughter and her husband could not safely pass. Since they recognized that the person had become erratic, they slowed their vehicle to avoid confrontation. Then the person who was driving erratically stopped his car, and quickly jumped out, apparently to confront them. The angry individual, however, had forgotten one thing. My daughter and her husband were in a two thousand pound vehicle with locked doors. He was now on foot. Only someone who is very foolish would have stopped to exchange words with the individual. So they simply pulled their car into the deserted lane of oncoming traffic, and powered around the individual, leaving him to work his anger out all by himself.

Anger can make us irrational. It is irrational to jump out of a car to confront someone in another car. People have died over such antics. But anger can move us towards stupid behaviors.

Unfortunately, we all know the taste of anger, even irrational anger. It is a part of our humanness. When the apostle Paul writes about it, he tells us that type of anger is bound up in the human heart. As a result, we need help. That is his point in Ephesians 2. God looked at angry humanity, and made a plan to deliver us from our own angry nature. God, in his great love, sent his Son to deliver us from the futility of our own anger. He not only forgave us for that anger, he put his Spirit in us to make it possible for us to overcome it. With the Spirit’s help we can not only overcome our propensity to irrational anger, we can be freed from its control in our lives. That is the incredible promise of the gospel, the good news found in the message of Jesus Christ. He can change us.

Now, on to the translation of Ephesians 2.

Ephesians 2:1-22
A Translation by Randal Cutter

2:1  Your history is that you also were dead in your offenses and your sins,

2:2  by which you once walked in accord with the supernatural forces of this world, in step with the ruler of the spiritual authorities in the second heaven,* the spiritual being who is now working in those distinguished by disobedience.

2:3  We all also once walked with them, subject to the desires of our flesh, following its will and impulses. Like everyone else we were, by nature, angry people.*

2:4  But God, because he is rich in mercy, and because of his great love with which he loved us,

2:5  and even though we were dead in our offenses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

2:6  he also raised us with him, and seated us in the heavenly realms with him in Christ Jesus.

2:7  He did this, so that in the ages to come, he might show the extraordinary wealth of his grace revealed in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

2:8  For by grace you have been saved, through faith; and you are not the source of this salvation,* it is a gift of God.

2:9  It is not derived from human effort so that no one can boast.

2:10  For we are his creative work,* crafted in Christ Jesus with a view to the good works which God prepared in advance so that we might walk in them.

2:11  Therefore, remember that you who are Gentiles physically, called “foreskins”* by those who are called “circumcised” (a procedure in the flesh by the human hand),

2:12  remember that once you were separate from Christ, cut off from citizenship in Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise. You did not have hope, and you had no understanding of God in this world.

2:13  But now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far away are now near through the blood of Christ.

2:14  For he himself is our peace, the one who made the two one, and destroyed in his flesh the barrier, the separating wall of human hostility.

2:15  He canceled the law of the commandments and regulations, in order that he, in himself, might make the two into one new man, and establish peace;

2:16  and that he might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, having put the hostility to death by it.

2:17  When he came, he preached peace to you who were far, and peace to those who were near;

2:18  for through him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

2:19  So then, you are no longer foreigners or resident aliens;* rather, you are fellow citizens with the saints, and belong to God’s household,

2:20  having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ being its most essential cornerstone.

2:21  In him the whole building is being fitted together, and is growing into a holy temple in the Lord.

2:22  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit.*

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2:2  in the second heaven: the Greek word often translated air refers to “the space above the earth inhabited by and under the control of certain supernatural powers” (Louw and Nida). This was also known as the second heaven, since the first heaven was the abode of humans, and the third heaven was the abode of God (see 2 Corinthians 12:2).

2:3  angry people: The expression which Paul uses is “children of anger.” The word I have translated “anger” is a word which is normally translated “anger” when it refers to our human emotion, and “wrath” when it refers to God’s anger toward sin. The context of the passage is clearly the negative impulses of our flesh. The phrase “children of anger” means those who are characterized by anger (see 1 Peter 1:14 where “children of obedience” means “obedient people”). Paul is letting us know that those without the Holy Spirit are people who have anger issues. The Holy Spirit desires to free us from those issues.

2:8  the source of this salvation: The preposition normally translated “of” or “from,” is a preposition that describes the source of something. I have translated it in a way that makes this more apparent.

2:10  his creative work: This is the Greek word, often translated “workmanship,” from which we get our word “poem.” When I taught this section, I entitled it, “Becoming God’s Poem.” The word describes the creative work of God. While “workmanship” or “craftsmanship” are good translations, I have preserved the creativity bound up in this word.

2:11  called foreskins: While many translations choose to render this word as “uncircumcision” in order to contrast it to “the circumcision,” the word actually refers to the foreskin, or even to the male sex organ. Those who were calling the Gentiles by this word were not being as polite as most modern translations. It was a graphic description of those who did not bear the sign of the Jewish covenant.

2:19  resident aliens: The Greek term referred to the legal status of those who lived somewhere, but were not citizens. I have translated it in a way to capture that legal status.

2:22  in spirit: Translations often render this phrase as “by his Spirit,” or “in the Spirit,” or “in his Spirit.” However, their is no article or pronoun connected to the phrase, which leads me to believe that the word “spirit” is a reference to the human spirit, or the spirit realm. We are being built together in spirit into a dwelling place of God.

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A Translation of Ephesians 1

RomansText1

“When you heard the word of truth, the good news of your rescue, and believed, you were also marked in him with a seal, the Holy Spirit of Promise.” (Ephesians 1:13)

The Holy Spirit of Promise, what a name! When modern translations render this verse, they often translate it “the promised Holy Spirit.” But when they do so, they obscure one of the important names that the apostle gives the Holy Spirit; he is the Holy Spirit of Promise.

Since he is the deposit that guarantees what is to come, this name is most appropriate. God has made many promises to his people. The Holy Spirit is the sign that the promises will be fulfilled. As a result, he is the Holy Spirit of Promise.

When Paul wrote this letter to the congregations in and around Ephesus, he emphasized God’s amazing promises, even praying in chapter three that our eyes would be opened to understand all those promises, especially since they are beyond our natural understanding. How appropriate that as Paul writes to people stuck in the mundane routines of life, he emphasizes the promises, and highlights the person of the Holy Spirit as a special carrier of the promise. Whenever we encounter the Holy Spirit, we encounter the reminder of God’s great promises, and know for certain they will be fulfilled.

Now, on to the translation of Ephesians 1.

Ephesians 1:1-23
A Translation by Randal Cutter

1:1  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints who live in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus.

1:2  Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1:3  The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of praise. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

1:4  since he chose us in him before the beginning of the cosmos* to be holy and without blemish in his sight, while walking in love.*

1:5  Through Jesus Christ he has predestined us to be adopted as his sons;* this was his delight and his desire,

1:6  for the praise of his wondrous grace, which he graciously bestowed on us in the One he loved.

1:7  In him we have been redeemed, we have been forgiven of our misdeeds through his blood, in harmony with the richness of his grace,

1:8  which he lavishly provided for us with all wisdom and understanding.

1:9  He made known to us the mystery of his will, in accord with his good pleasure displayed in Christ,

1:10  for managing the ending of the ages* and bringing all things together in Christ, things in the heavens, and things on the earth.

1:11  In Christ, we were also appointed as his inheritance,* having been predestined according to the purpose of the one working all things according to the focus of his will,

1:12  so that we, who were first to hope in Christ, might be the praise of his glory.

1:13  When you heard the word of truth, the good news of your rescue, and believed, you were also marked in him with a seal, the Holy Spirit of Promise.*

1:14  He is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the full redemption of the people God has acquired, to the praise of his glory.

1:15  On account of this, and because I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,

1:16  I have not stopped giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.

1:17  I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, might give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in your knowledge of him,

1:18  that he might enlighten the eyes of your heart so that you know what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

1:19  and what is his exceedingly great power in us who have believed.* That power is in accord with the divine energy of his mighty strength

1:20  which he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him on his right hand in the heavenly realms,

1:21   far above all, rule, authority, power, dominion, and every rank that can be named; not only in this age, but also in the age to come.

1:22  He also placed all things under his feet, and appointed him head over all things for the Church,

1:23  which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every respect.

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1:4  Cosmos: The Greek word (kosmos) can mean “universe” or “world.” Since Paul appears to have the creation of everything in mind, I kept the universal intent of the word by simply transliterating it to “cosmos.”

1:4  While walking in love: The question for translators is, “Where does the “in love” fit?” Some translators choose, as I did, to keep it with verse four, while others use it to start verse 5. I believe it fits much more naturally with verse four, as a reminder that when we walk in holiness without blemish, that also includes exuding love to those around, rather than the self-righteous, pharisaical attitude with which Paul was all too familiar.

1:5  Adopted as his sons: Paul is using a legal concept from the Roman empire to emphasize our rights as those who are now part of God’s family. Men and woman have been given this legal right. However, in the Roman empire it was known as an adoption to sonship, and thus we must translate in a way that captures that legal concept.

1:10  Managing the end of the ages: Paul uses a management word to speak of God’s plans in Christ. I translated the word a bit more literally to capture that flavor.

1:11  Appointed as his inheritance: The Greek word often translated “chosen,” speaks of being chosen by lot, or appointed as an inheritance. I chose to emphasize the biblical truth in this word that we are Christ’s inheritance since Paul again emphasizes that in verse 18 of this chapter.

1:13  The Holy Spirit of Promise: The Greek here is clear that Paul is giving the Holy Spirit a title. Translations handle this in different ways, but I have chosen to highlight Paul’s name for the Holy Spirit.

1:19  In us who have believed: Is his power “for us” who believe, or “in us” who believe? While most translations follow the lead of the KJV and translate this phrase as “for us who believe,” the Greek is more naturally translated “in us who believe.” The same grammar is used in Ephesians 3:16 where the NIV translates “in your inner being” rather than “for your inner being.” I also chose to break from tradition in this passage because Paul clearly highlights his focus on God’s power in us who believe in Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (NIV). We all know God’s power is at work “for us,” but it is important to remember that his power is also at work in us, especially when there are so many ways that everything around us attempts to steal this truth from us.

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A Translation of Mark Chapter 16

RomansText1It is a bit embarrassing when we miss the obvious, but the disciples had repeatedly done so on the Sunday after Jesus was crucified. Peter and John had seen the empty tomb, but only the women had seen the angels. The disciples had heard the reports of amazing things, but only the women had heard from Jesus. This made things difficult for the disciples. They didn’t know what to think, but they certainly did not think that Jesus had risen. Then the two disciples on the way to Emmaus had added their testimony, but even that was not enough. The eleven kept their blinders firmly on. They refused to believe in spite of all the evidence.

But Jesus is in the blinder removing business. He is very good at confronting our obstinate refusal to believe, and moving us in the right direction. The process isn’t always pretty, but he will get the job done. In the disciples’ case, it took a rebuke from the resurrected Lord himself. We are told in Mark 16, “Later, Jesus appeared to the eleven while they were eating and rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe the ones who had seen him after he had risen.” (Mark 16:14).

There are some heart-warming scenes that played out on the day of the resurrection. Jesus’ incredible care and concern for Mary Magdalene is revealed in his appearance to her, and his personal use of her name to reveal himself. We can imagine the gentle sound of his voice as he spoke her name, and we can imagine Mary’s tear-filled response when she realized that Jesus stood in front of her. We can also imagine the scene when Jesus revealed himself to the rest of the women as they returned from the tomb, and they clasped his feet in humble awe. These are scenes that warm our hearts during our resurrection celebration.

Then there is this scene with the disciples. It doesn’t feel warm. It doesn’t feel affirming. The disciples had refused to believe. The soft tone used with the women was replaced by the firmer tones of rebuke. Jesus not only needed to reveal himself to the disciples, he needed to remind them, and all Christians, that there is a point when healthy inquiry about a supernatural event crosses the line and becomes stubborn refusal to believe.

If such a malady could infect the remaining eleven who had walked with Jesus, how much more must we guard our hearts to defend against this spiritual sickness? There is a reason that Mark’s gospel ends with this warning to the disciples; the Church needed to be protected from those who refuse to believe the things that God is doing. That is why Jesus gave the Church signs, confirmations, to demonstrate what true belief would look like among his people.

As you read through the verses of Mark 16, check your heart. Are there signs of a stubborn refusal to believe? Or is faith growing? It is always appropriate to pray, “Lord, increase our faith.”

Now, on to the translation of Mark 16.

Mark 16:1-20
A Translation by Randal Cutter

16:1  After the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices that they might anoint Jesus’ body.

16:2  They came to the tomb very early on the first day of the week, as the sun began to rise.

16:3  They were discussing among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?”

16:4  When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away; for it was very large.

16:5  When they came to the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side; he was wearing a white robe. The women were startled.

16:6  But the man said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You are seeking Jesus the Nazarene who was crucified. He has been raised to life; he is not here. Look at the place where they placed him.”

16:7  But you go tell his disciples and Peter, “He will go ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there. It is just as he told you.”

16:8  They went out from the tomb and ran away; for they were overwhelmed by shaking and religious ecstasy;* so they said nothing to anyone because they were overcome with reverence and awe.*

16:9  *When Jesus had arisen early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.

16:10  She went and reported to those who had been with him. They were mourning and weeping.

16:11  But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it.

16:12  After these things, he appeared in a different guise to two of them while they were walking on their way to the country.

16:13  They also went and reported to the others, but they did not believe them either.

16:14  Later, he appeared to the eleven while they were eating and rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe the ones who had seen him after he had risen.

16:15  He said to them, “When you go into all the world, preach the good news to all the creation.

16:16  The one who has believed and has been baptized will be delivered, but the one who has refused to believe will be found guilty.*

16:17  These confirmations* will accompany those who have believed: In my name they will expel demons; they will speak with new languages;

16:18  they will take up snakes with their hands, and should they drink any deadly thing, it will by no means harm them; they will put their hands upon the sick, and they will be healthy.*

16:19  When the Lord Jesus had spoken with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat on the right hand of God.

16:20  Then they went out and preached everywhere. The Lord kept working with them and confirming the word through the signs that attended them.

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16:8  They were overwhelmed by shaking and religious ecstasy: The Greek words refer to shaking such that would accompany religious ecstasy. Since this is a relatively unknown phenomenon in the evangelical church, the translations struggle with the how to translate these words. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, a Greek word study, discusses the word translated ecstasy in this way: Ecstatic phenomena are found in the OT just as in the Gk. and Hel. worlds. In the early days of Israel there was the ecstasy of the elders in the wilderness (Num. 11:24-29) and the description of the trance condition of Balaam (Num. 24:4). The ecstatic character of the early Israelite prophetic bands is described in 1 Sam. 10:5 f., 10; 19:20-24. When occasionally prophets are said to be mad (2 Ki. 9:11; Hos. 9:7) or drunken (Isa. 28:7; Jer. 23:9), the passages point to the link between prophecy and ecstasy.

16:8  They were overcome with reverence and awe: Remember, they also ran into Jesus along the way (See Matthew 28:9-10). It is easy to understand why they didn’t say anything right away when you realize this. The encounter with the angels, the truth of the resurrection, and the encounter with Jesus had all overwhelmed them.

16:9 When Jesus had arisen early on the first day of the week: The NIV and other translations discount the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20, since it is such an obvious shift from Mark’s style, and doesn’t appear in some manuscripts. However, it is apparent not only that is appeared very early in church history, but also that it was received by the early followers of Christ as communicating a genuine report. It is not my purpose to get into a scholarly defense of these verses. Rather, I will simply point out that even though Moses was the author if Deuteronomy, he didn’t write the closing verses of Deuteronomy (those verses report Moses’ death). Even if Mark didn’t personally write these verses (and he certainly may have appended them at a later date after his initial copies), for most of two thousand years the church has received them as inspired, in just the same way we receive the closing words of the book of Deuteronomy even though it is obvious Moses did not write them.

16:16  The one who had refused to believe: The Greek here, often simply translated as unbelief, actually has a sharper point. It refers to one who refuses to believe, just like the disciples had refused to believe that Jesus was alive. Since the context is about the disciples’ refusal to believe the supernatural reports in spite of many witnesses, so we need to be careful not to take the focus away from that context. We have a responsibility to believe the supernatural reports about Jesus because it is so well-attested.

16:16  Will be found guilty: When we translate the Greek word “condemned,” we often conflate the verdict with the execution of the punishment. The Greek word means “to be found guilty,” without indicating the punishment.

16:17  These confirmations will accompany those who have believed: So what does “believing” look like? Jesus details the signs to look for among those who walk in true faith. These are signs that are intended to confirm that those wielding them are walking in belief. Notice the collective nature of this verse. It isn’t that every individual in the group will do these things, but that one can expect these types of confirmations among churches and groups that “believe.”

16:18  They will take up snakes with their hands: In essence, the five confirmations that God will intermittently release in groups in order to verify that they are a group that is not refusing to believe: 1). Freeing people from bondages and addictions; 2). Manifesting unlearned languages in contexts that require it; 3.) Having a level of authority over negative environmental factors; 4.) Having a level of authority over murderous intent; 5.) Growing in supernatural authority over sickness and disease. Please note that these are not listed as acts of worship, or required of each individual, since the pronouns used are collective in nature. Please also note that putting someone’s life in danger as a test of faith is a clear violation of Jesus’ words, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (see Matthew 4:7 NIV).

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A Translation of Mark Chapter 15

RomansText1“There was one man named Barabbas in prison with the rebels who had committed murder in the rebellion. The crowd came before him and began to ask that he do what he normally did for them during the feast.” (Mark 15:7-8)

One of the great questions that hovers around the story of Jesus’ trial before Pilate, is how the crowds could so easily have turned away from Jesus toward Barabbas. We often picture these crowds as consisting of the same folks who welcomed Jesus just a few days earlier waving palm fronds and shouting, “Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!”

That common understanding about the crowd is wrong. It is certainly not the picture that Mark gives us as he describes events. The two verses above tell us much about the crowd. Remember that Jesus was arrested in secret late in the evening, and that his trial took place while most everyone else was sleeping. His followers were also in the midst of their Passover observances, and did not know that Jesus was in need. Jesus’ disciples had fled in fear. They were in hiding, and were not rallying the troops on Jesus’ behalf.

So whence the crowds? Mark reveals that particular detail to us. Barabbas, a prisoner who had committed murder during a riot against Rome, was scheduled to be executed with two other insurrectionists. However, his followers knew of Pilate’s normal custom of releasing one prisoner during the Passover observances. They had come together in the early morning to intervene on Barabbas’ behalf. That was the crowd which had gathered on that morning.

You can imagine their surprise to find out that Jesus the Nazarene was also on trial for his life. For many of these people, Jesus would most certainly have been a curiosity, but he would not have drawn their attention. Those who support political insurrection aren’t usually drawn to someone who preaches, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” That doesn’t mean they were antagonistic to Jesus, but they probably didn’t “get” him. Of course, they would not have been there on Barabbas’ behalf if they did not “get” Barabbas. They had come out early to call for the release of someone they supported, and probably admired.

When we understand these details, details that Mark so helpfully provides, it makes the events in front of Pilate much more accessible. The crowd had come to call for Barabbas’ release. Those who wanted Jesus crucified only had to support the crowd in their original intent. While the crowds may have initially felt as if they were on the horns of a difficult dilemma when confronted with the choice Pilate presented, those who wanted Jesus dead only needed to support the crowd in their original quest, and provide justification for the crowd to carry through with its original desire. They easily did that.

Mark’s background detail clarifies one of the questions surrounding Jesus’ trial. The crowds who supported Jesus at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem had not suddenly become murderously fickle. Those who gathered before Pilate would not have been among their number.

Now, on to the translation of Mark 15.

Mark 15:1-47
A Translation by Randal Cutter

15:1  Shortly after that in the early morning, the chief priests, in consultation with the elders, scribal scholars, and the whole Sanhedrin, made a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.

15:2  Pilate questioned him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” In response, Jesus said to him, “Are you yourself asking this?”

15:3  For the chief priests were bringing many accusations against him.

15:4  But Pilate again questioned him asking, “Won’t you respond to anything? Pay attention to the many charges they are bringing against you.”

15:5  But Jesus no longer responded to anything. This amazed Pilate.

15:6  Now during the feast, Pilate customarily released to them one prisoner whom they requested.

15:7  There was one man named Barabbas in prison with the rebels who had committed murder in the rebellion.

15:8  The crowd came before him* and began to ask that he do what he normally did for them during the feast.

15:9  So Pilate responded to them asking, “Do you want me to release the King of the Jews?”

15:10  For he knew that the chief priests had handed him over because they were jealous.

15:11  But the chief priests stirred up the crowd that he might instead release Barabbas to them.

15:12  Pilate again responded to them asking, “What do you wish that I do with the one you call King of the Jews?”

15:13  They again shouted, “Crucify him!”

15:14  But Pilate asked them, “For what? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!”

15:15  Because Pilate wished to pacify the crowd, he released Barabbas to them, and after he scourged Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

15:16  The soldiers led him away out of the governor’s residence, that is the Praetorium, and they called together the entire Roman cohort.

15:17  They dressed him in a purple cape, and wove a crown made of thorny branches, and put it on him.

15:18  They began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews.”

15:19  They repeatedly struck his head with a reed staff, and kept spitting on him. They also knelt before him and bowed to him.

15:20  When they had finished mocking him, they took the purple cape off of him, and put his own clothing back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

15:21  They pressed a man into service* who had come from the countryside and was passing by; Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. They made him carry Jesus’ cross.

15:22  They brought him to the place called Golgotha, which means, “Place of the skull.”

15:23  They gave him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

15:24  They crucified him, and distributed his garments, throwing dice* to decide what each soldier would get.

15:25  It was the third hour when they crucified him.

15:26  There was a notice of the charge against him. It was inscribed, “King of the Jews.”

15:27  Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

15:28  The scripture was fulfilled that said, “He was counted with the lawbreakers.”

15:29  Those who walked by ridiculed him shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! This is the one who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days.”

15:30 “Come down from the cross and save yourself.”

15:31  Likewise the chief priests and the scribal scholars were also mocking him among themselves saying, “He saved others. He does not have the power to save himself.”

15:32  “The Messiah! The King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross so that we might see and believe.” Even those who were crucified with him heaped scorn on him.

15:33  At the sixth hour, darkness fell across the whole land until the ninth hour.

15:34  At the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a thundering voice, “Eloi, Eloi! Lama sabachthani?” When it is translated, it means, “My God, my God! Why have you abandoned me?”

15:35  Some who were standing nearby said, “Look, he is calling Elijah.”

15:36  Then someone ran and filled a sponge with cheap wine. He put it on a reed stick and gave him a drink saying, “Allow me to do this! Let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.”*

15:37  After Jesus released a piercing cry, he breathed out his last breath.

15:38  Then the curtain of the temple was split into two from top to bottom.

15:39  When the centurion who was standing facing Jesus, saw the way that he had breathed his last breath, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”

15:40  There were also women who were observing events from a distance. The group included Mary Magdalene; Mary the mother of the less prominent James,* and Joseph; and Salome.

15:41  When Jesus was in Galilee, they followed him and served him. There were also many other women who traveled with him to Jerusalem.

15:42  Since evening was already upon them and it was the preparation day—the day before the Sabbath—

15:43  Joseph from Aramathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who was also waiting for the Kingdom of God, acted with courage; he approached Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus.

15:44  But Pilate was amazed that he had already died. He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died.

15:45  When he learned the details from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

15:46  Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Jesus down, wrapped him in the linen, and placed him in a tomb that had been hewn out of rock. He also rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.

15:47  Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Joseph were watching where they laid placed him.

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15:8  The crowd came before him: Since Jesus’ arrest had been secret, and was still not common knowledge, this crowd consisted of Barabbas’ fellow zealots, or sympathizers, who were seeking his release. Pilate attempted to get Jesus released in front of the wrong crowd.

15:21  They pressed a man into service: The Roman soldiers had the legal right to force any citizen to carry a burden one mile for them. Jesus had spoken about this in the beatitudes when he had mentioned going an extra mile when so impressed. When Jesus could no longer bear the burden, the soldiers took advantage of this law.

15:24  Throwing dice: The more traditional translation is “casting lots.” However, we know this particular method of gambling among the Romans as throwing dice. In ancient times, people cast lots in many different ways. However, among the Romans, dice was the standard method among the soldiers.

15:36  Allow me to do this: Most translations drop this phrase because they miss the wider context, and do not understand what is being said. When a crucifixion was taking place, a centurion was in charge (see verse 44). The man who gave Jesus the cheap wine needed permission to do this, or he would not have been able to approach Jesus. When Matthew describes this scene, he uses the same verb, but changes the verb to the plural in order to show that all of the soldiers were asking the centurion to allow this action on Jesus’ behalf. The soldiers were far from disinterested observers at this time. They were enthralled by the spectacle, and what to see how it would be carried out.

15:40  The less prominent James: The Greek phrase I have translated here is often translated “James the Less” (NASB) or “James the Younger (NIV).” I agree with the NASB that it refers to his prominence among the disciples, not his age. However, I have translated in a way that brings out what “James the Less” means. It simply means that James, the Son of Thunder, was far more prominent and well known than this James.

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Image credit: Randal Cutter/iPhone 6s/Photoshop Oil Paint Filter