Sunday, November 25, 2012

Daniel and the Translator's Den

On this Christ the King Sunday we had a chance to visit the NRSV's version of Daniel's vision.
Daniel 7:9-10,13-14
9 As I watched,
thrones were set in place,
and an Ancient One took his throne;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames,
and its wheels were burning fire.
10 A stream of fire issued
and flowed out from his presence.
A thousand thousand served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him.
The court sat in judgement,
and the books were opened.
*****(Verses 11-12 were expurgated)*****
13 As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a human being
coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
14 To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed.
Besides the fact that parts of vision were not heard by the congregation, and that our preacher chose to politely castigate other Christians for focusing on the Day of Judgment, the NRSV in its attenpt to be more gender neutral chose to translate verse 13 as,
"..,I saw one like a human being
coming with the clouds of heaven."
rather than the more commonly used
"I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him."
Alas, another generation will miss the connection with the "Son of Man" phrase in the New Testament. There is an abundance of commentary on the connection available, but to be brief, I will give you the Scofield Reference Notes:

This scene is identical with that of Rev 5:6-10. There the ascription of praise of the "kings and priests" (cf. Dan 7:18, 18, ref. a) ends with the words, "and we shall reign on the earth." Rev. 6. opens the "vexing" of Ps 2:5 introductory to setting the king on Zion Ps 2:6 Rev 20:4. The vision Dan 7:9-14 reverses the order of events as they will be fulfilled. Verse 13 describes the scene in heaven (cf) Rev 5:6-10 which, in fulfilment, precedes the events which Daniel sees in vision in Dan 7:9-12. The historic order will be:

(1) The investiture of the Son of Man with the kingdom Dan 7:13,14 Rev 5:6-10

(2) the "vexing" of Psa 2.5, fully described in Mt 24:21,22 Rev 6.-18.

(3) The return of the Son of Man in glory to deliver the "smiting" blow of Dan 2:45 7:9-11 Rev 19:11-21.

(4) The judgement of the nations and the setting up of the kingdom Dan 7:10,26,27 Mt 25:31-46 Rev 20:1-6.
Okay, so the NRSV stripped Daniel's prophecy of some of its power, but what did the lectionary editors do in removing verses 11-12?
11 I watched then because of the noise of the arrogant words that the horn was speaking. And as I watched, the beast was put to death, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire.
12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
Of course, they pulled out the graphic language of judgment!

We are all under the sentence of judgment, and to gloss it over, or edit it out of the readings for the unsuspecting minds of the pewsitters, is to lead them into the error of the comfortable false sense of security of a feel-good Sunday service; a steady dose of which can be just as deadly as a steady dose of sin and judgement, or fire and brimestone preaching.

People have to hear about both judgment and salvation. After all, if there is no judgement, who needs a Saviour?

We can feel good about the Day of Judgment while at the same time fearing it because of that very same Son of Man who will put the beast to death and who will give its body over to the fire.

And Daniel knew a thing or two about those beasts.

Reverend Fun - Dances with Lions


  1. Please, Pewster, we are a religion of peace, equality, diversity, and good feelings. All this hateful talk of "judgment" only divides us.

    "The NNSRV will soon read: "I saw one not unlike a woman of color
    coming with the clouds of heaven, bringing cookies."

  2. Fradgan,

    I'll meet you at the Church of the Queen of the Heavenly Kitchen for that.

  3. Pewster,
    I share your pain!

    Back in July our lectionary (the Australian one) had readings from Ephesians. I was thrilled to discover that starting on the 15th July, (Seventh Sunday After Pentecost) the reading from the Epistle was Ephesians 1:1-14. So naturally one would expect the next reading the following week to be Ephesians 1:15?
    Well apparently not! The reading was Ephesians 2:11-22. For some reason the powers at be thought it problematic to include 1:15-2:10 to include Ephesians 2:1-10. Of all the passages in Ephesians this passage clearly articulates the gospel! It talks about:
    1. Our Spiritual condition (vv.1-3)
    2. What God has done to rescue us (vv.4-6)
    3. The future of those God has saved (v.7)
    4. Salvation is a gift that we cannot earn (vv.8-10)
    In other words Ephesians 2:1-10 explains the gospel this way:
    1. Rebellion (vv.1-3)
    2. Rescue (vv.4-5)
    3. Resurrection (vv:6-7)
    4. Response (vv.8-10)

    But this is not all! The lectionary then moves from Ephesians 2:11-22 to Ephesians 3.14-21; So conveniently it omits Ephesians 3:1-13 which is about the mystery of God has been revealed in the gospel – where through the Gospel God is making a new humanity.
    The week after, the reading then goes to Ephesians 4:16 as it should but then the following week there is more Marcionism! The reading is Ephesians 4:25-5:2 with vv.17-24 being optional. I wonder how the Lectionary dealt with chapter 5?
    Well predictably the reading Ephesians 5:11-21 and it omits Ephesians 5:3-10 which talks about how God’s people are not to have a hint of sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, filthiness, vulgarity, and how those practice the like will not enter the Kingdom of God and makes vv.22-31 optional.

    Finally we come to the last week on Ephesians (26th August – 13th Sunday after Pentecost), the reading Ephesians 6.10-20. So assuming that parishes opted out of vv.22-31 in the previous week, we have 5:22-6:9 omitted.

    The lectionary reminds me of Marcion...come to think of it, so does the NRSV

  4. Joshua,

    Lectionary problems are important to note in this day and age when the average pewsitter is only exposed to what is read on Sunday mornings, and when that content is controlled by a committee, well, you get what you would expect to get when you try to deliver the Word of God by committee.