Author Archives: jonathancaldwell85

Closing shop…

I have not been able to post as regularly as I would like. In fact, it has become more of a burden than a pleasure. Therefore, I am going to shut down for a while. I will still have the website but I will not be posting anymore. Who knows? Maybe one of the days I will get a few extra minutes.

We have our second child on the way. I am working on various projects. And as far as Biblical studies (outside of my preaching, Bible classes, and personal study), relearning Greek has to be priority number one right now! We’ll see how it goes.

Thanks for reading.

Jonathan G Caldwell

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Posted by on November 16, 2010 in Uncategorized


Catching up

I have not posted in quite some time. We have been very busy! We had a nice trip to Dallas a couple of weeks ago. I needed the break! We got back into town and I spent the next day painting – from 9am to 9pm. If you know me, you know that was a miserable day! But, I did an ok job. Luckily Tiffany was able to clean up any messes. That was a Tuesday, I was in the office on Wednesday preparing for Bible Study and Thursday preparing for Sunday. That Friday I proctored a test for my father at UNA. Friday night we had a Halloween party and Saturday we moved pews at the church building (you would think that I had killed members of people’s families). Last week we (hopefully) got back into our normal routine. We are also working on potty training our son – yay!

In the world of Biblical studies – well, as far as I am concerned…

The NAC commentary on Mark by Brooks is an excellent commentary. I am currently reading through it and loving it. The Gospel of Mark is an amazing yet under-appreciated book.

I recently posted a book review for How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth. I also read A User’s Guide to Bible Translations by Dewey. If I were recommending one of these two books, it would definitely be Dewey’s! It is easier to read with less bias.

Hopefully I can begin posting regularly again!

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Posted by on November 8, 2010 in Odds and Ends


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Book Review – Choosing a Translation for All Its Worth

How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Mark L. Strauss

This book is a helpful introduction to the subject of Bible Translation, the difficulties involved in translating 2,000 year old manuscripts into understandable English, and the philosophies behind various translations. While this is technically a reference book, it is clear that the authors favor a “dynamic equivalent” translation philosophy. The authors remind the reader, throughout the book, that all translation is interpretation. This fact will have some bearing on the translation one chooses.

The authors of this book do an excellent job explaining the concepts behind translation – whether formal or functional (dynamic). Formal equivalent translations focus on retaining the form of the original language. As the authors say, when the Greek uses a prepositional phrase, so will the English. Formal equivalent versions also try to translate words as consistently as possible. The result is a word-for-word (or “literal”) translation that may not always be the most readable.

Function equivalent (or dynamic equivalent) versions focus on the meaning of the original text. Such versions are freer with wording and grammar in order to convey the meaning of the text. The result is a very readable translation that is highly dependent on the interpretation of the translators.*

The book spends a great deal of time discussing the difficulties in translation such as translating idioms, metaphors, and euphemisms. The writers cover these difficulties in various chapters. Extensive examples are provided for each. These issues alone could explain the need for multiple translations. Some of the examples provided to support the authors’ preference for functional versions are a bit inflated – they try to make a bigger issue than is there. Many such examples would be classified under “clarity”. However, for most English speaking, Bible readers these examples would be non-issues. But to the authors’ credit, they do address the issue of reading levels and the fact that some Bibles might be better suited for children or for those who is English is a second language. It just seems that in certain cases, the authors prefer versions that simply “dumb down” the text.

The book is an appropriate length and covers the needed subjects with quality examples. One negative might be the amount of examples, but one could simply move to the next section. As stated earlier, the authors are clear supporters of dynamic equivalent versions and this plays into their comments of formal equivalent versions. As with my stated biases, this got old.

For those who have never considered the differences between various translations, this book would be very helpful. There is also a chapter that deals with textual criticism. Textual criticism plays a part in the discussion of the KJV/NKJV versus other translations. The book ends with a short history of the English Bible. This history does a good job of showing the relationship between various translations and the impact of the King James Version.

*To be clear about my biases, I am a proponent of formal equivalent versions. I understand the need for and use of functional equivalent versions, but for Bible study, one will do better with a formal equivalent translation. In my opinion, dynamic equivalent versions rely too much on the interpretation of the translators. For the student, it seems more beneficial to stay as close to the words, grammar, and form of the original text. This enables readers/students to work out the meaning for themselves.

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Posted by on October 11, 2010 in Book Review


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The Large Numbers in the Book of Numbers

We began our study of the book of Numbers at church last night and I spent a little bit of time talking about the HUGE numbers in the book. If you have done much reading on the book of Numbers, then you know that this is a subject that every commentary addresses and for good reasons. Below is a summary of the issue. This summary was adapted from  Dennis Cole’s commentary on Numbers in the New American Commentary series, pages 78-82. Timothy Ashley (NICOT) and Gordon Wenham (TOTC) also have helpful information on this subject in their commentaries on Numbers. My concluding thoughts will follow the summary.

  • Problems with taking the large numbers of Numbers literally – If the number of males who can go to war (1:3) is 603,550 (between 2 and 2.5 million total)
    • 2 – 2.5 million people could not have fit into the land of Goshen
    • The Israelites only had two midwives (Exodus 1:15)
    • Why did God have to intervene to deliver them from Egypt, at the Red Sea, at Jericho, and in the conquest of Canaan?
      • The best historical evidence suggests that Pharaoh’s army at the time of the Exodus was between 20,000 and 25,000
      • The Israelites would have had no problem leaving Egypt with or without weapons and the sight of the Egyptian army closing in at the Red Sea would have been comical
      • The battle stories in the books of Numbers and Joshua show the Israelites to be outnumbered (God was the one doing the fighting)
    • The Old Testament suggest that the Israelites were not large enough to fill the Promised Land – with recent migration, today, the land of Israel is inhabited by just over 1 million people (and it is crowded)
    • The number of firstborn males was 22,273 (3:43) – this means that one out of every 27 men was the firstborn. So every male had, on average 26 brothers plus sisters! Rampant polygamy could not even account for this.
    • While no doubt God could have sustained 2.5 million people in the desert, the simple act of marching 2.5 million people through the mountainous desert would have been a challenge for everyone involved! For Moses to have spoken to the entire population would have been a “logistical nightmare!”
  • Possible Solutions:
    • The numbers are literal and accurate
      • The people were not fully restricted to the land of Goshen
      • The midwives mentioned were not the only two, but representative of all midwives (or possibly the “head midwives”)
      • The Israelites were not trained to fight like the Egyptians – when you tie a baby elephant to a tree it learns that it cannot break away, so even a full grown elephant can be tied to a tree by a little rope (I learned that in 1st grade!)
      • The number of firstborn are those born since coming out of Egypt
      • There are quite a few issues that have to be addressed
    • These numbers come from the Davidic kingdom and a later editor added it into the text of Numbers
      • There is nothing in Samuel/Kings/Chronicles to support this position
      • Most argue that this total number is still too large for the time of the United Kingdom
    • The numbers represent a form of gematria
      • Each letter is given a numerical value
      • “sons of Israel” = 603
      • “every head” = 551, rounded to 550
      • This does not explain the tribal numbers and is very subjective!
    • The Hebrew term for “thousands” for be read as “group” or “clan”
      • Therefore, the tribe of Judah was made up of 74 clans, 600 people
      • This brings us to a total of 598 clans with 5,550 fighting men
      • However, this creates a problem with the census totals
      • This leaves the tribe of Levi with 22 clans of 0 men
      • There are variations of this idea and all of them have similar problems
    • The numbers are symbolic
      • God told Abraham to look at the stars of the sky, the number of stars were symbolic of Abraham’s future decedents
      • These numbers are in accordance with Mesopotamian mathematics and astronomy
      • But would the Israelites been familiar with this type of thought and astronomy?
      • A problem still remains for the tribe of Levi
      • Timothy Ashley said it best, “[it] seems more clever than convincing”
    • The numbers are deliberate hyperbole
      • The numbers of this census are purposefully exaggerated to bring glory to God, fear to the enemy, and point to the future fulfillment of God’s promises
      • One proponent of this position argues that the numbers were inflated by 10
      • This would give us an army of 60,355 with an approximate population of 250,000
      • This does away with the problem of the firstborn – 22,270 firstborn for 60,355 makes for about 2.5 – 3 males per household which is about what we see in the OT
      • These numbers are still large but would still require the hand of God to provide for and protect them – we still have miracles “but miracles that fit the geography, topography, and the times” – R. B. Allen
      • This solution yields some inconsistencies in redeeming the firstborn (this is the biggest problem with this position – if there were 22,270 firstborn but only about 2,200 Levites, then the redemption section of chapter 3 has to be reworked)
      • Would such exaggeration have been confusing to the original readers? Absolutely not! They would have known whether these numbers were accurate or whether they had been inflated and they would have understood why!

In my humble opinion, only the first or last solution work. I do not have a problem with the last solution, other than the inconsistencies it produces. And let me be clear, the argument is that Moses did it on purpose (with inspiration from the Holy Spirit) – no one is saying Moses was just wrong.

At this point in time, I still believe that these are the exact numbers – they are literal and accurate (though I would argue that they have been rounded). I know that such large numbers create some questions here and there, but these large numbers also seem to fit the rest of the numbers we read in the Pentateuch.

And one final comment – just so no one thinks otherwise – God can provide for and protect a group of any size in the wilderness! The main issue here is not God’s ability to provide for 2.5 million people in the Sinai desert. The main issue is whether or not such numbers fit all the details of the exodus story – and I think they can!

Official statement: This is really just a collection of thoughts. This is not meant to be some official position or statement – just me working through the issues, details, options, problems, and potential solutions. I hope you will work through them with me!


Posted by on September 30, 2010 in Bible Study


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Odds and Ends

I stumbled across a blog that led to another blog that led to another blog which had a strange “picture” on it. The picture was a word cloud. For those of you who may not know a “word cloud” is a collection of the main words in a piece of literature or the categories of website (or blog) and the size of these words depends on the frequency of the word. I have a “category cloud” on the side of this blog. The category that I blog under the most is the biggest (though I often fail to categorize all of my posts). So I went to the website that this picture came from and I saw the most amazing posters! The artist/designer had created word clouds for each book of the Bible. I am fascinated by these things and I plan on purchasing some in the near future. Take a look – – This link will take you to the home page and you can select from the Old or New Testaments. Then you can either select the book you want to look at or just scroll through all of them. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

I have been reading How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth by Mark L Strauss and A User’s Guide to Bible Translations by David Dewey. I will post reviews for both books soon. I have been doing a Sunday night series on Bible Translations. So many people use a specific translation and don’t even know why. So we have been looking at translation philosophy (formal equivalence or dynamic equivalence), difficulties in translations, and we will finish up by looking at the subject of manuscripts and a brief introduction to the main versions that people are using today (i.e. KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, NIV, etc.).

I stay pretty busy. I just finished my MBA and as soon as I was done with that I began to relearn Greek and to work on two articles for DeWard Publishing. This is all in addition to my normal teaching/preaching schedule. Not to mention my most important duties to God, my wife, and my son! Sometimes I wear this busy schedule as a “badge of honor” of sorts. And then Gary Henry tells me to slow down – Thanks Brother Henry! You always say just the right thing!

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Posted by on September 23, 2010 in Odds and Ends


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Re-learning Greek

Oh how I wish for the days of first year Greek when I was trying to memorize paradigms AND be a husband, daddy, and preacher!!!

Deep breath…and…

Os – ou – w – ov      oi – wv – ois – ous

n – ns – n – av         ai – wv – ais – av

Ov – ou – w – ov     a – wv – ois – a

I have approximately 10 months to relearn all the Greek I learned in three years at FC. Wish me luck!


Posted by on September 22, 2010 in Greek


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RePost: “If I Were On An Island, And I Just Read This Book…”

I saw this video over at Jason Hardin’s blog –

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Posted by on September 14, 2010 in Uncategorized