Monthly Archives: February 2007

A Missing Sentence in the NAB Version of Gen 35:4

I was looking up instances of the proper noun, “Shechem,” yesterday and came across a hole in the NAB. Yep, a hole. The NAB (New American Bible) omits a whole sentence in Genesis 35:4! Take a look for yourself:

Gen 35:4 ESV (my fav): “So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.”

Gen 35:4 NAB: “They therefore handed over to Jacob all the foreign gods in their possession and also the rings they had in their ears.”

There is no footnote indicating the omission in the NAB. I looked it up in the Hebrew MT and the Greek LXX. Both have the second sentence. The LXX version is a little longer in fact, adding a piece about Jacob destroying the idols. Every other translation I could find included the sentence. There are no notes in the critical edition of the Hebrew that indicate some manuscripts omit the sentence. Either, the scholar translating the verse was using an Hebrew edition which did not contain the sentence, or more likely, he simply missed it. Oops!

Cain, Sin and Eve

In Mass this morning I noticed a very interesting repetition in the early chapters of Genesis. (The reading was from Genesis 4.) Look at these two verses:

“…Your urge shall be for your husband,
and he shall be your master.” (Gen 3:16 NAB)

“So the LORD said to Cain: “Why are you so resentful and crestfallen? (7)If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not sin is a demon lurking at the door:
His urge is toward you,
yet you can be his master.” (Gen 4:6-7 NAB)

The Hebrew is very similar in these two verses. Obviously, there is a lot of controversy over the first passage–but my interest is in the second. God tells Cain that he can rule over sin–he can be its master! But what does it mean that sin’s “urge is toward” him?
The LORD makes this statement right after he rejects Cain’s offering, but before Cain kills Abel. God is encouraging Cain. I would really like to know what “doing well” means in this context. But the idea that sin desires to be enslaved is interesting. I wonder if the author intended a sort of reversal. That is, maybe the woman’s desire for the man draws her into subordination to him but sin’s urge is toward Cain in that it desires to enslave him, yet he can enslave it and master it. I’ve never noticed this parallel before and I think it deserves good attention and could be the centerpiece of a very fruitful Bible study on sin.

Hospitality in 2 and 3 John

I discovered something about the New Testament world this week. I had always known hospitality was really important in the ancient Greco-Roman world, but I never seemed to realize how big it was in the early Christian community. Take a look at 2 John 10-11 where St. John commands his readers not to play host for or even greet heretical teachers. It seems extreme to us, but these teacher relied on the good will of Christian communities to find a place to stay and food to eat when they were traveling. By not hosting them, communities could prevent the spread of false teachings.

In 3 John 8, the apostle commends the reception–which implies food and shelter–of the letter carriers. Not only that, but one of John’s specific charges against the heretical Diotrephes is that he will not “welcome,” i.e. give food and shelter to, the brothers.

The giving of hospitality was essential for the early evangelists. The witholding of hospitality could be used by various leaders–good and bad–as a tool to prevent certain teachers from spreading their doctrines. A very interesting economic fact about the early Church…

If I were going to sum up 1 John for a teenager, I would say…

1 John is all about abiding in God. Jesus used the same phrase in his prayer in the Garden. He wants us to abide in him just as he abides in the Father. So if we abide in God, we become his sons, we are begotten of God. As sons, we inherit eternal life, we walk in the light, we are no longer blinded by the darkness. Through our sonship we conquer the world–that is, the fleshly desires of concupiscence and the temptations that surround us. As sons, we have fellowship with God and with his other sons–the brothers, the Christians. Now the only way that this amazing sonship, this awesome “abiding” is available is through Jesus. John defines love as laying down your life. That’s exactly what Jesus did for us. Now, we haven’t personally seen his life, but John did. We have heard his testimony by reading his Gospel, so we have heard God’s promises to us. And God’s promises are always good. So because of Jesus, we have received eternal life, fellowship with God, sonship as God’s sons, fellowship with each other.

Since we have received all of these amazing gifts, our behavior patterns must change. That is, we must stop sinning, because we are no longer children of the devil. We are now children of the light. Darkness and light don’t mix. Our very nature has been uprooted and replaced with a “son of God” nature. It is no longer natural for us to sin. It doesn’t make sense because it contradicts our very own nature as sons of God. So, we know we are sons of God if we stop sinning and start loving our brothers in Christ. These behavior changes are evidence of our conversion. You might not be convinced that you’re a son of God, but God is! He has died for you so you could be his son. He has welcomed you into the family.

Now, if we still sin and hate our brothers then our conversion is not complete. John compares someone who hates his Christian brother to Cain who was the first murderer ever. John equates hatred and murder, just like Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount. John also advises his readers on how to “test spirits.” That is, sometimes we think we are hearing God, but it really is a demon trying to mess with us. If you’re not sure whose voice you’re hearing, simply ask it if Jesus came in the flesh, died and rose again for the whole human race. If the voice acknowledges Jesus, then it’s from God. If not, it’s from the devil or the flesh. You see, demons can speak to us, but we can also produce “voices” with our own mind and desires. It’s simple psychological projection. For example, if you really want something, you could start telling yourself that God wants you to have it, when really it’s just something you want.

In sum, God has freed us from sin and death by the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. We have received this great grace through faith and baptism, so now we are sons of God, begotten of God. We abide with him and we are no longer blinded by the darkness of sin. We walk in the light because we have heard the promises he gave to us. We are now ready to conquer the world and inherit eternal life.