Amidst the books I’m reading, the Bible studies I’m participating in, and the research I’ve been doing for a future blog post, I have run across things in the Bible that make me stop and say, “Hmmm, I need to think about that.”
I’m discovering that some of the assumptions and conclusions I have from growing up in church are more of a cultural or translational understanding than a purely biblical one. I’m not offering resolutions here, just my thought processes.
Below are one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament in case you want to ponder them too.
In Genesis 9:15 God makes a covenant with Noah and _________ to never destroy all flesh, or all life, again with a flood. Whether it is all flesh or all life depends on the translation but those are, technically, two different things. Further, translations on who else the covenant is made with vary even more.
Many translations say “every living creature of all flesh” (KJV, etc.).
Others are “each soul living that nourisheth flesh” (WYC), “every living soul that beareth flesh” (DRA), “all living creatures” (HCSB & NLT), “all living creatures of every kind” (NIV), “every living thing” (NCV).
Obviously I’m focusing on semantics but I am fascinated by the nuance. There is a difference between flesh bearing souls and every living thing.
It would seem that since God declared that each part of creation was “good”, it is all important to Him. His intention seems to be to redeem everything. Think about the overly familiar John 3:16 –“For God so loved the world…” Doesn’t the world include everything? Otherwise, wouldn’t it say, for God so loved the people He created? I understand that “whosoever believeth in Him” comes next strengthening the idea that it refers only to people. However, in Luke 19:40 Jesus himself says “the stones will cry out”. So there’s that.
Did you know that the last verses in the Gospel of Mark are most likely not even written by him? While most translations make some notation about this, I hadn’t really thought much about it before. Two alternative endings have been found, neither of which is included in the oldest manuscripts. Mark’s actual writing seems to end with verse eight. From a literary perspective, it is fairly obvious that the last 12 verses of chapter 16 have a different “voice” that the rest of the book.
Within those verses, translational variations of Mark 16:15 can also mean significantly different things. The meaning of the beginning of the verse is virtually the same although different words are used. It is a directive to go to the whole world and tell, preach, announce, proclaim the Good News (Gospel). Who, exactly, to tell it to is a little less clear. Is it “everyone” (ISV, TLB, etc.), “every creature” (KJV, TLV, etc.), “all creation” (CSB, CJB, NASB, NIV, etc.) or “the whole creation” (ASV, ESV, NRSV, WEB, etc.)?
St. Francis of Assisi took this quite literally and preached to the animals. Maybe he was right in doing so.
For me choosing between these differences start with thinking through what the Good News really means. The Good News is not just the story of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. It is about the purpose of his life, of his sacrifice, so that we and the whole creation can be redeemed and restored to relationship with God.
It is another reminder that God’s intention is not an evacuation plan but one of restoring His creation, all of it, right here. That, however, is a whole other blog post…