This past Sunday I began the first of a yearlong series of classes on the Old Testament. My intent is to teach doctrine (biblical theology) alongside a daily devotional reading of the text. We’re using the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible (NIVZSB); and while I’ve already detailed here why I specifically chose this Bible for 2017, I thought it would be good to share two observations (one positive and one negative) from my recent reading in Genesis.
In Gen 15:6 I had noticed that the NIVZSB went with the phrase “and he credited it to him as righteousness” (emphasis mine). This is a good choice, as the Hebrew construction and context (vv. 1-5) allow for either the words “counted” or “credited” to be used. God counts it for righteousness. God credits this as merit. Makes sense!
With that said, I do appreciate many of the core translations (e.g., ESV, NKJV, HCSB), but for the sake of full disclosure—I’m an NASB guy. Yes, I know-I know, sometimes the word-for-word translation is a bit stiff and wooden in its reading. However, for the most part, I find its renderings on target.
Here I prefer the NIVZSB’s “credit.” (The NASB uses the word “reckon.”) Perhaps it is because the doctrine behind this text, known as justification (cf. Rom 3:21-26; 5:18-19), is an accounting term in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) translated as impute, number, compute.
Abraham was not made practically righteous. No, if anything it could be said that he was self-righteous because of his sin. Instead, he was imputed Christ’s righteousness. It was credited to his account. He didn’t earn it, but it was counted as his. God had legally declared Abraham righteous based upon his faith. What a glorious truth! All Abraham had to do was believe to have his sins forgiven and the righteousness of Christ applied.
We have this same accounting with God when we place our faith—our trust in the finished work of Christ. For example, when believers pray, it’s as if God is seeing them as His Son Jesus Christ! As if He is making the request on their behalf. Why? Because it is His righteousness that now covers them. It is His Name that we pray in. Only He can be our mediator.
That was a positive example—now here’s a negative one. Gen 1:6, “And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water,” (emphasis mine). What a surprise to see the Hebrew word raqiya‘ translated in this edition as “vault.”
However, to the NIVZSB’s credit, they do take time in their study notes to explain the reasoning and also cite two variant texts:1
My concern with “vault” (or even the KJV’s “firmament”) is that it’s usage has fed a number of erroneous claims—typically an attack against the reliability of the Bible; an accusation that it is full of scientific error. In this instance, the argument would be that Scripture denotes a literal, solid dome having existed over the entire earth. All based on the word “vault.” This is not what Scripture teaches.
Suffice it to say, while I do appreciate the NIVZSB’s notation that there are other options—I believe they could have chosen what most translators have settled upon, something other than “vault.” My preference would be the word “expanse.” After all, that is exactly what we are told it was in the Bible: open air.
A thorough study of this cosmological and morphological issue in Gen 1:6 was published by the Creation Journal back in 1999; and the article can be read in its entirety here.
How’s your daily Bible reading going? Nineteen days in to the new year, I’m enjoying my journey through this book of beginnings via the NIVZSB and would welcome any observations you may had on either passage. More to come!