Today's Readings: Judges 20 | Isaiah 42 | 1 John 5
Reading 1 - Jdg 20:10
"We'll take ten men out of every hundred from all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred from a thousand, and a thousand from ten thousand, to get provisions for the army. Then, when the army arrives at Gibeah in Benjamin, it can give them what they deserve for all this vileness done in Israel" (Jdg 20:10).
"It was anticipated that one tenth of the nation would suffice to bring home to the men of Benjamin, and Gibeah especially, the seriousness of their crime. This is the proper meaning of v 10 which should probably read: 'And we will take ten men of an hundred... for the pursuit on behalf of the people, they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel.'
"It is worthwhile, here, to observe the close connection between this narrative in Jdg 20 and Deu 13, the chapter which sets out the stringent measures to be taken against any Israelitish city encouraging idolatry. It is true that idolatry was not Gibeah's sin, but the difference in degree from such apostasy was negligible, for the Gibeathite practices were closely akin to Amorite religious customs (Deu 23:17,18). There can be little doubt that the leaders of Israel were consciously following the very policy prescribed in these words of Moses: 'If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the Lord thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying, Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known; then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you; thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword. And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the Lord thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again' (Deu 13:12-16).
"It is therefore hardly wise to make sweeping denunciations of the men of Israel here in what was, after all, a sincere attempt to apply the difficult and unpalatable (v 23) requirements of their divine law" (Harry Whittaker, "Judges and Ruth").
Reading 2 - Isa 42:3
"A smoldering wick he will not snuff out" (Isa 42:3).
Middle Easterners used a simple oil lamp to light their homes. It was a small clay vessel with the front end pinched together to form an opening. A piece of flax, serving as the wick, was inserted through the small hole until part of it was submerged in the oil. When the flax was saturated, it could be lighted. It would then burn with a soft, warm glow. But when the oil in the lamp was consumed, the flax would dry out. If it was ignited again, it would give off an acrid, dirty smoke, making the vessel offensive and useless. Now, one might think that the only thing to do would be to crush and discard the wick. But that would be too drastic, and it would accomplish nothing. If one simply refilled the lamp, the wick could burn brightly again.
Occasionally God's people temporarily "run out of oil". They become like the smoking flax -- they are ill-tempered and offensive, and of no particular use to anyone. But fellow believers should not abandon them or become angry and impatient with them. Rather, they should seek to restore them by being merciful and understanding. By supporting them with prayer and expressions of concern and practical help and support, they can help them to be filled again with the oil of God's spirit, His word of hope, and to burn once more with the soft, warm glow of Christian love.
Reading 3 - 1Jo 5:7
"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one" (1Jo 5:7).
The passage is absent from the manuscripts of all ancient versions (Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Arabic, Slavonic) except the Latin; and it is not found in the Old Latin in its early form (Tertullian Cyprian Augustine), or in the Vulgate as issued by Jerome and revised by Alcuin. The first reliable Latin text to contain it was written in AD 550. In the revised Greek text underlying the modern versions, 1Jo 5:7 (the Johannine "comma") and all reference to a trinity is obliterated.
The Greek NT (as compiled by modern scholars from the extant mss) omits 1Jo 5:7,8. Literal translation: "Then three [there are] which witness, the spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are the of one.") This verse is now universally recognized as being a later "insertion" of the Church and all recent versions of the Bible, such as the RSV, the NRSV, the NASB, the NEB, the JBP, etc have all unceremoniously expunged this verse from their pages. Why is this? Benjamin Wilson gives the following explanation for this action in his Emphatic Diaglott:
"This text concerning the heavenly witness is not contained in any Greek manuscript which was written earlier than the fifteenth century. It is not cited by any of the ecclesiastical writers; not by any of early Latin fathers even when the subjects upon which they treated would naturally have lead them to appeal to its authority. It is therefore evidently spurious.
"Edward Gibbon explained the reason for the removal of this verse from the pages of the Bible with the following words: 'Of all the manuscripts now extant, above fourscore in number, some of which are more than 1200 years old, the orthodox copies of the Vatican, of the Complutensian editors, of Robert Stephens are becoming invisible; and the two manuscripts of Dublin and Berlin are unworthy to form an exception... The three witnesses have been established in our Greek Testaments by the prudence of Erasmus; the honest bigotry of the Complutensian editors; the typographical fraud, or error, of Robert Stephens in the placing of a crotchet and the deliberate falsehood, or strange misapprehension, of Theodore Beza.'
Gibbon was defended in his findings by his contemporary, the brilliant British scholar Richard Porson who also proceeded to publish conclusive proof that the verse of 1Jo 5:7 was only first inserted by the Church into the Bible in the year AD 400. Regarding Porson's powerful evidence, Gibbon later said: "His structures are founded in argument, enriched with learning, and enlivened with wit, and his adversary neither deserves nor finds any quarter at his hands. The evidence of the three heavenly witnesses would now be rejected in any court of justice; but prejudice is blind, authority is deaf, and our vulgar Bibles will ever be polluted by this spurious text."
In fact, they are not. No modern Bible now contains the interpolation. However, just as Gibbon had predicted, the simple fact that the most learned scholars of Christianity now unanimously recognize this verse to be a later interpolation of the Church has not prevented the preservation of this fabricated text in our modern Bibles. To this day, the Bible in the hands of the majority of Christians -- the KJV -- still unhesitantly includes this verse as the "inspired" word of God without so much as a footnote to inform the reader that all scholars of Christianity of note unanimously recognize it as a later fabrication.
Peake's Commentary on the Bible says: "The famous interpolation after 'three witnesses' is not printed even in the RSV, and rightly... No respectable Greek ms contains it. Appearing first in a late 4th-century Latin text, it entered the Vulgate and finally the NT of Erasmus."
Consider what one of the world's leading authorities on the transmission of the NT text (and a staunch Trinitarian!) has to say regarding these verses. After quoting the reading of the KJV in 1Jo 5:7,8, Bruce Metzger, in his Textual Commentary on the New Testament, pages 715-717, says:
"That these words are spurious and have no right to stand in the NT is certain..."