Monday 28 September 2015

F. F. Bruce's Expanded Paraphrase of Paul

This is the third in a series on obscure Bible translations. I've restricted the candidates to those I've been able to personally acquire and examine.

F F. Bruce. An Expanded Paraphrase of the Epistles of Paul. Paternoster Press, 1965.

Paul's letters constitute the deepest and perhaps murkiest part of the New Testament, and the various conflicting reconstructions of Paul's gospel are legion. F. F. Bruce was perhaps the most gifted evangelical scholar of his generation, and this was his attempt to clear things up for the modern reader. He began the project in 1955, paraphrasing Galatians for a youth Bible conference. He completed the task around 1961.

Bruce's paraphrase isn't anything like the more modern paraphrases most of us are now used to - think The Message, The Living Bible or (if you're an Adventist) The Clear Word. Bruce is much more measured in his approach. Call me old fashioned, but I quite like that.

Alongside his own expanded translation Bruce reproduces the text of the Revised Version. Not the RSV of the 1950s, but the RV of 1881, the British predecessor to the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901. It's an interesting choice.
Of all English translations of the New Testament, the one which reproduces most accurately the nuances of Greek grammar and follows the idiom of the original as closely as possible without doing excessive violence to English literary usage - the translation which is therefore at the farthest remove from an extended paraphrase - is the Revised Version of 1881. (p.9)
I dare-say Bruce would shudder at the though of something like Eugene Peterson's The Message. I know I do!

Reading through the introduction I was pushed up the learning curve with a new term. What word would you use to describe someone who paraphrases? My guess would have been paraphraser, but Bruce's term of preference is paraphrast. It sounds as though it might be a ripe and seedy insult for someone of dubious affections, but according to Chambers Dictionary both are quite acceptable. Live and learn.

Given that this is an older work, and Bruce's popularity among conservative Christians (he was of the Plymouth Brethren persuasion) it's not surprising that he dates all of the epistles, including the Pastorals, to before 70 CE. Galatians is placed first at c.48, and the Pastorals between 62 - 65.

Likewise Bruce accepted the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus) - sort of.
Into the critical question of their origin and composition we need not enter here, save to say that those who find it difficult to accept all three in their present form as letters written or dictated directly by Paul might consider the suggestion that they represent the posthumous recension of several pieces of Pauline correspondence and other fragments, together possibly with notes on his oral instruction on church order. (p.286-287)
A sample from Philippians 3:17-19 under the subhead "Warning against Libertines".
Follow my example, one and all, my brothers and sisters. Pay heed to those who conduct themselves according to the pattern which we set you. I say this because, as I have often told you before and tell you now with tears, there are many who conduct themselves otherwise. They are enemies of the cross of Christ; their end is perdition; their god is material satisfaction; they boast about things of which they ought rather to be ashamed; their minds are set on earthly things.
The last time this volume saw the light was a 1981 reprint, so it's another search through the second hand stacks (which is where I located my copy). The benefit of this book is the insight it gives into how a sincere and cautious scholar made sense of the prickly apostle's writings. I'm not sure he managed the trick, but then I'm not sure anyone else has either.

I intend to resume this series in a week or two with the following obscurities.
  • William F. Beck. The New Testament in the Language of Today. Concordia, 1963.
  • Norman A. Beck. The New Testament: A New Translation and Redaction. Fairway Press, 2001.
  • Kleist & Lilly. The New Testament: Rendered from the Original Greek with Explanatory Notes. Bruce, 1954.
  • John Henson. Good as New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures. O Books, 2004.

The Translator's New Testament

This is the second in a series on obscure Bible translations. I've restricted the candidates to those I've been able to personally acquire and examine. 

The Translator's New Testament. British and Foreign Bible Society, 1973

This was never intended as a 'commercial' translation, but "to be a bridge between the original texts" and modern languages, useful "for theological students who are not studying Greek, but need to get as close to the original as possible." The English translation is supported by 140 additional pages of notes and a glossary, and it's the notes that make this unique. A British initiative, the best known scholar involved in the project was probably William Barclay, who produced his own NT translation in the late 1960s as well as the popular New Daily Study Bible series.

Here's the TNT's translation of Matthew 7:1-2.
Do not judge, that you may not be judged, for as you judge others you will yourself be judged, and the measure you use for others will be used for you also.
There is a 'translational note' for "that you may not be judged".
But the context does not tell us by whom. The verse is often understood to mean, 'do not be critical of other people or they will be critical of you', and the context seems to support this. But the NT often uses the passive where it is God's action that is implied. Most English translations retain the passive, but in languages where the passive is difficult or impossible a choice must be made...
While the most recent edition (1996) is still available from the Bible Society in the UK, there is not a lot in the way of information about or reviews for the TNT in any of its iterations. That may be because it is not widely known or used outside a fairly restricted circle, and has not had much of an impact in the American market. The language is, as you'd expect, clear, and the notes are helpful and practical for the intended purpose. At the very least this is a credible translation and largely free of sectarian agendas and bias.

More sample verses are available here.

Sunday 27 September 2015

The Cassirer New Testament

This is the first in a series on obscure Bible translations. I've restricted the candidates to those I've been able to personally acquire and examine. 

Heinz W. Cassirer. God's New Covenant: A New Testament Translation. Eerdmans, 1989.

Heinz Cassirer was the son of a famous German philosopher. But Heinz was no slouch himself, a Cambridge University lecturer (later Glasgow University) and like his father Ernst an authority on Immanuel Kant. Raised a secular Jew, he embraced Anglican Christianity after studying the letters of Paul. His obsessive interest in the New Testament resulted in a translation which was published posthumously in 1989 and was endorsed by both F. F. Bruce and Thomas F. Torrance.

Cassirer's translation aimed to bring a Jewish perspective to the New Testament using contemporary but formal English. Here's his translation of Matthew 7:15-20.
Be on your guard against false prophets, those who come to you dressed up as sheep while inwardly they are rapacious wolves. By the fruit which they bring forth you will be able to recognize them. Do people gather grapes from a thornbush, or figs from thistles? By no means. In the same way every healthy tree yields good fruit, while a decayed tree yields worthless fruit. It is impossible that a healthy tree should bear worthless fruit, just as it is impossible that a decayed tree should bear good fruit. Every tree failing to yield good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire. Well then, by the fruit which they bring forth you will be able to recognize them.
There are some further sample verses online. After Cassirer's death the manuscript was prepared for publication by his colleague Ronald Weitzman. In the introduction Weitzman wrote: "There is no denominational bias, no ulterior motive, to sway the integrity of this translation, which must be allowed to speak for itself. The classicist and philosopher approached these texts with fresh eyes and a sense of wonder, eager to find out for himself exactly what they were saying." Allowing for a certain fulsomeness that you expect in this kind of introduction, it still rings true. Remarkably, Cassirer only began reading the Bible at age 49.

For those interested in Bible trivia, a distinctive flaw occurs in Luke 11:32 which reads that the people of Nineveh "were not led to repentance". The word 'not' is of course an error that neither Cassirer nor Weitzman spotted in time.

I'd argue that this is a much more interesting choice than, say, N. T. Wright's recent NT offering. This version does what all good translations should do; roll off the tongue well when read aloud. Regrettably God's New Covenant apparently never went beyond its first edition, so securing a second hand copy is now the only option available.

Saturday 26 September 2015

Obscure Bible Versions and the Humbug Brigade

Coming up shortly on this blog is a series of indeterminate length on obscure Bible translations. Yes, I'm finding it hard to contain my enthusiasm too. Why on earth do that? Because what's on offer on the shelves of Christian retailers is, to be frank, overwhelmingly awful and hugely over-hyped. This series will explore some options - good, bad and middling - that move beyond the standard genetically modified alphabet soup stocked by uncritical evangelical retailers: ESV, NIV, NKJV, CEB, NLB, HCSB... you get the idea.

But even before setting out on the journey, I can hear the naysayers cranking up for the inevitable hallelujah-be-damned chorus: "Why bother? Reading the Bible is a waste of time. It's all nonsense. Bah, humbug."

So, interleaved with the series, there will be a discussion on just that question. Call it "Really bad reasons to read the Bible" if you will. And there are some really dumb ways to approach the Good Book. That said, maybe there are some really good reasons too... even if you're a burned-over ex-fundamentalist like myself who finds the constant misuse of the Bible near-nauseating.

The first three obscurities will be:
As you can see from those dates, these titles aren't exactly current and may only be procurable second hand. But, in the words of the famous philosopher Alfred E. Neuman, "What, Me Worry?" And to be perfectly clear, on offer here you'll find personal responses to these translations, not a scholarly review.

And the first humbug response - no. 1 in the "really bad reasons" - will be on the subject of (I'm feeling queasy already!) "devotional" reading. 

At least that's the plan.

Thursday 24 September 2015

The Naked Pastor on RFL

There's an interesting interview with David Hayward of Naked Pastor fame over on John Shuck's Religion for Life podcast.

Hayward, a radical ex-preacher and cartoonist, describes himself as a "graffiti artist on the walls of religion", and he has quite a back-story to tell. His insight on the moral issues behind being a minister (he was a clergyperson in the Presbyterian and Vineyard churches) are telling, especially so as he was a mainline pastor and not an outlier on the high-demand fringe.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

All Blacks Haka - Rugby World Cup game against Argentina

Most readers of this blog will be more familiar with that puzzling game played with shoulder pads and helmets than Rugby, so it's conceivable that in certain distant parts folk are blithely unaware that the Rugby World Cup is currently being decided on the fields of Blighty. Here's the haka performed before the clash between the All Blacks (NZ) and Argentina.

If I could think of something theological to add... well, I wouldn't.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Mormon Weirdness

There seems to have been an outbreak of End Times frenzy among fringe Mormons in Utah. Indeed, some of this stuff is worthy of a William Dankenbring. Blood moons, time cycles and - wait for it - Holy Days.
Thus, they believe, starting Sept. 13, the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, there will be another, even larger financial crisis, based on the United States’ “wickedness.” That will launch the “days of tribulation” — as described in the Bible.
Beginning on the thirteenth huh? And today is the 20th? Must be a slow start. Maybe we could fly in Bob Thiel to set 'em straight.

And Sheep shall safely graze

To be a well-heeled church-goer of whatever persuasion you have to embrace docility. At least that's the conclusion I'm increasingly coming to.

Which may explain why, despite an innovative half-century in the way churches structure their services, the decline in membership and attendance continues.

In my youth the pastor (consider the meaning of that word... shepherd) wore vestments. These days it's likely to be expensive smart casual. The music has been souped up to be far more contemporary and every second congregation has an attractive website.

Hasn't made much difference.

Successful pastors now tend to be effective motivational speakers. They use memorable phrases, tell amusing anecdotes, draw on scripture merely to illustrate their predetermined message.

But what the worshippers are doing - or not doing - is just as interesting. They're there to be reinforced, to have their faith enhanced. Their role in the service, and most especially in the sermon, is to be passive and receptive. They turn up the pre-selected Bible verses and murmur their assent occasionally. That's it. That's why metaphors like sheep and flock are still in vogue.


Which is all well and good if you're not the sort of person who likes to do a bit of your own thinking, who knows that you can only really grow through having your understanding challenged once in a while, who has a problem with off-the-shelf answers and handy proof texts.

Those people continue to quietly drop off the radar, and usually they're far from missed. Questioning is associated with doubt, and "he that doubts is damned". The consequence in many churches is anti-intellectualism, a suspicion of higher education and nasty, uncomfortable questions. Better to lie down in the green grass and zone out, if you must, on apologetic clover.

Those with get up and go have, unsurprisingly, got up and gone. Some may remain because of personal connections - friends, family, cultural identity; but hanging in around the margins is hardly a satisfying solution.

The irony is that when more progressive churches move away from this top-down, minister-knows-all model, they too tend to crash and burn. Docility and deference to authority are hard-wired into the structure of traditional church attendance. Move beyond it and, well, what's the point? Why bother to get up early on the weekend and drive somewhere to hear what you already know?

The solution? Whatever it might be, it doesn't seem to be on the horizon.

Perhaps it's as the Good Book says - in the inspired King James and stripped of bothersome context (which is pretty standard in much that passes for homiletics these days)...

"Think not..." (Matthew 5:17)

Friday 18 September 2015

Bob Price on Moses

I'm a long-time fan of Robert M. Price, a.k.a. the Bible Geek. The Bible is such a serious subject, and those who sagely commentate on it are overwhelmingly an earnest, myopic (and often boring) bunch who take themselves far too seriously. You can't accuse Bob of that. Moreover he has the necessary scholarly cred with two relevant doctorates.

Which isn't to say that I read Bob uncritically. But even when I disagree with what he writes, I invariably enjoy the way he writes. His love of word play and witticisms - clever allusions that are within reach of those of us still connected with popular culture rather than the rarefied intellectual ghetto of some of the more effete academics in the field.

So when Bob launches a book called Moses and Minimalism I'm interested. What follows are a few first impressions based on the introductory chapters and the publicity material. Alas (and I reserve the right to do an about face on this as I dig in deeper) I'm mildly disappointed.

The best endorsement - three words long - comes from Margaret Barker: "I love it!" Philip Davies provides a lengthy but lukewarm response ("I find most of it interesting and quite a bit of it plausible") while Thomas L. Thompson is near-scathing.

Part of this may be due to Bob's relaxed, back-porch style. How many other books on Moses make reference to Hogan's Heroes and The Beverly Hillbillies?

And exactly why Bob goes out of his way to glowingly endorse the work of Acharya S (D. M. Murdock) is totally beyond me.

While I love Bob's ability to bring clever humour to a usually humourless subject, it may be that he has overextended himself this time. At first glance Moses and Minimalism lacks the necessary rigour to be taken seriously. Yes, there are some great Mark Twain-ish one-liners. Yes, there's a solid core of scholarship underlying the book. But for a short book (150 pages) there's a lot of meandering, if the first chapters are any indication.

This isn't, obviously, a volume written for scholars. The intended demographic is intelligent laypeople who have been fascinated by the Good Book, but have since tossed away their rose-tinted glasses and now demand a bit of piety-free honesty. Asking Thomas Thompson, author of famously dense and impenetrable tomes (I've struggled through two of them!) to appreciate let alone review a whimsical and popular treatment of this kind was, to say the least, a dubious move.

But I'm going to persevere. Provided you are willing to get into the spirit of the thing, this promises to be a great read. But I'm not sure it will win too many fans beyond the existing base.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Big Bangs and Magic Wands

If the stuffy old Roman Catholic church can do it, how come the trendier, more rabid American fundamentalist sects don't catch on.
The theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real and God is not “a magician with a magic wand”, Pope Francis has declared. 
Speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope made comments which experts said put an end to the “pseudo theories” of creationism and intelligent design that some argue were encouraged by his predecessor, Benedict XVI.
Yup, the winds of change are blowing through Catholicism, hallelujah.

But those wacky Southern Baptists, Missouri Lutherans and assorted "bah-bull" sects just zip their fleece-lined wind-breakers all the way to the neck and pretend it's just a bit of a breeze that will pass quickly.
“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Francis said.
You likely won't hear misanthropic old Franklin Graham saying that.
Giovanni Bignami, a professor and president of Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics, told the Italian news agency Adnkronos: “The pope’s statement is significant. We are the direct descendents from the Big Bang that created the universe. Evolution came from creation.”
 Earth calling Vic Kubik and the gang at UCG; listen up dudes.

(Quoted passages from The Independent.)

Monday 14 September 2015

Tobey Maguire as Bobby Fisher

Bobby Fischer may have been the greatest chess champion of all time. Certainly he was in a category of his own among American players. He was also a recruit to the teachings of Herbert Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God.

His period of attachment wasn't to last, but there was little doubt that - at least for a while - he was a prize trophy for the one true church.

Tobey Maguire - a past embodiment of Spiderman - plays the chess grandmaster in an upcoming movie Pawn Sacrifice. The question many of us will be wondering about is if and how WCG's role will be portrayed. Surely they've gotta slip in at least a reference, huh? These comments from the LA Times.
Documentary footage is interspersed with the chess-playing dialogue-free scenes as [director Ed] Zwick aimed to shift between Fischer's private hell and the media circus he lived. The effect is "a fragmented portrait that wasn't dissimilar to what his life might have been," said Zwick. 
Fischer joined the apocalyptic cult Worldwide Church of God for a time, then ended up in Pasadena, consumed by paranoia and living under a pseudonym. In 1992, he replayed Spassky in war-torn Yugoslavia. But the match violated U.N. sanctions and the U.S. issued an arrest warrant for Fischer. The chess champ lived the rest of his life in exile, occasionally coming out of seclusion to issue venomous attacks, particularly aimed at Jews.
The trailer is up on YouTube.

And while we're at it, check out this article in the San Francisco Chronicle about pianist John Khouri, a Lebanese New Zealander living in the US who made his mark in the world of classical music. I'd no idea that he too spent time in the Herbal Empire.
Khouri went off to Switzerland as a teenager to study piano, but his music career was sidetracked when he joined the Worldwide Church of God, an international evangelical denomination. For four years, he stopped practicing at all as he was sent on ministerial missions to Canada, England and Hawaii.
An "international evangelical denomination"? Uh, well. That's an interesting, if not particularly accurate description of the church Khouri wisely left in 1974. (I'm unsure whether he's related to the well known New Zealand clarinettist Murray Khouri.)

Live and learn.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

I’m Christian, But I’m Not

Clearly none of these people are members of Rod Meredith's Living Church of God!

It's nice to hear Christian voices that stand out from the ugly evangelical stereotype. But is this enough? Hemant Mehta offers these comments.
If more Christians were like the people in this video, we’d be having a very different conversation about faith in this country... It’s obviously unfair to lump together all Christians as anti-gay, anti-women, anti-science bigots… but we’re not talking out of our ass when we say a whole bunch of them really do fit in that category. Forget the people on the fringes; Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, and Franklin Graham are no better on these issues. 
That raises another major problem with this video. While I appreciate the sentiments, the people speaking in it don’t actually distance themselves from the Christians who usually come to mind when we hear the C-word. 
They may not like the reputation they have, but until more of them speak out against the so-called leaders of the faith and tell the world why they’re wrong, it’s a reputation that’s not going anywhere.
I agree with him to this extent: so many Christians of the thoughtful and caring variety simply fail to call out the bigots and the brainless who strut and preen in the media, posturing as the genuine voice of Christianity. They don't want to offend people they think they have a shared identity with, and so they abdicate the opportunity - the responsibility - to contest the moral ground. The result: Warren, Osteen, Graham and their ilk win by default.

If they want to be taken seriously, surely it's time for progressively-minded Christians to ditch the sham solidarity with those cultural conservatives who use the same label to promote their own compassion-free agendas.

Frank Schaeffer on Billy Graham and Trump

I've got a lot of time for Frank Schaeffer, son of apologist Francis Schaeffer, now a born-again non-evangelical. His recent comments on the much ballyhooed Billy Graham are definitely worth reading, and his observations on Christianity Today (and yup, I too was once - in my immediate post-WCG years - a CT subscriber) are right on the mark. This is an op-ed piece that will probably raise hackles, but that doesn't make it any less pertinent.

Tuesday 8 September 2015

The Journal - Kobayashi Maru issue

The latest Journal has a few items other than the Sexton piece (see previous post) that might be worth noting. These include:

* A letter from James Bandy inviting Journal readers to experience the "exquisite delight" of visiting the Jehovah's Witness "offices, printery and education center" in New York! Cheeky bugger.

* An article by Robin Wansley with the intriguing title, Just What do you mean Kobayashi Maru? Star Trek fans will get the reference immediately. It turns out, though, that Mr Wansley ("a longtime member of the Church of God") simply wants to discuss the Hebrew calendar, postponements and suchlike. I cried bitter tears of disappointment.

* Ray Daly ("a longtime reader of the Journal") wants us all to know that the apostle John didn't write the book of Revelation. Well done Ray, it's about time you caught up. But then he spoils it by opining that the real author was John the Baptist. Don't give up your day job Ray.

* The list of upcoming 2015 Feast of Tabernacles sites now stands at 221, including those sponsored by the following alphabet soup: CGI. ICG, LCG, CCG, UCG, CGMI, CGWA and RCG. Not included above (but listed) are the single Feast site groups of which there are a surprising number.

* The Obedient Church of God is back with one of its tastefully written and designed full page ads, as is Willie Dankenbring with two pages promoting his latest $20 (plus postage) books - one on the Holy Days and another called America and Britain in Heraldry and PROPHECY! (the capitals and exclamation mark are his). Oh yeah, and Willie has his own Feast site in Omak, Washington and wants you to know that "It could be the final Feast before the Great Tribulation starts in earnest." Got to hand it to Dankenbring... he's never bothered by disconfirmation.

* There is also a lengthy follow-up interview worth reading with Patt McCarty regarding the pre-1974 Divorce and Remarriage doctrine - now there was a real Kobayashi Maru predicament.

Sunday 6 September 2015

The Journal - 176th issue

The latest issue of The Journal (August 31) is now out. A few things particularly caught my eye, foremost being the opinions of Leon Sexton of the Legacy Institute on tyranny and the suppression of freedom.

Legacy Institute operates a Church of God ministry in Thailand, having had a presence there for many years. It had its genesis in the jet-setting world tours of Herb Armstrong to glad-hand any world leaders that would give him a nice photo opportunity. In a remarkable set of circumstances Herb cultivated a relationship with the Wat Thai Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles, which helped then open doors for him in Nepal and Thailand. Herb later met Thailand's King Bhumibol and greased the wheels with fulsome praise and dollars. Legacy appears to now carry the baton for the former WCG charity Ambassador International Cultural Foundation. It claims not to be a church, but behaves very much like one, holding Sabbath services and sponsoring a Thai Feast of Tabernacles.

If you follow international news you'll know any criticism of Thai royalty can land citizens in very hot water. Here's the lead from a recent BBC report.
Two military courts in Thailand have sentenced a man to 30 years in prison and a woman to 28 years for insulting the monarchy. The sentences are the harshest ever given under Thailand's lese majeste law, which prevents criticism of the king, Bhumibol Adulyadej. The convictions relate to articles posted on Facebook. 
Prosecutions for lese majeste in Thailand have surged since last year's military coup. According to iLaw, a Thai rights group, there were only two ongoing prosecutions for the crime before the coup. That number is now at least 56, the group says.
Lese majeste?
Article 112 of Thailand's criminal code says anyone who "defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent" will be punished with up to 15 years in prison. This has remained virtually unchanged since the creation of the country's first criminal code in 1908.
The ruling has also been enshrined in all of Thailand's recent constitutions, which state: "The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action." (BBC report)
Journal editor Dixon Cartwright asked Sexton to comment. What emerged was an apologetic for oppression. Sexton noted that Armstrong "said the king and queen were the finest examples of righteous leadership in the world" (as if he knew anything about that subject), and reminded Dixon that - according to the particularly wooden reading of biblical eschatology favoured in the Armstrong churches - "the kingdom of God on the earth will be ruled by a King, and He will be an absolute monarch." (Perhaps we should be grateful he didn't add something about breaking kneecaps to ensure "every knee shall bow.")

So that's all right then!

And in a lengthy panegyric Leon mentioned that little matter of a military coup how many times?

Zero, zip, nada.

Now we can all probably understand that Legacy, in order to protect its interests, has to play a careful diplomatic game in order to stay in favour with the bully boys. But that hardly means this kind of obsequious endorsement of vicious injustice. It isn't good enough to say that "American ideals are the problem". Listen up carefully Leon, these aren't just American ideals, they underlie human rights across the world. Nor is it acceptable to babble on about "righteous leadership". The real leadership in Thailand isn't that of a sick old man who is regarded with idolatrous awe (literally worship) by the less educated people. The real power is in the hands of the military.

Sexton needs to think again.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Four Flags

Not that it matters greatly beyond the shores of Aotearoa, but the four contenders for the new national flag of New Zealand have been selected, the winner to be determined by referendum, then a final choice between the pretender and the current flag.

There's an irony in the much repeated complaint about our flag looking too much like Australia's. The Kiwi flag was in fact first off the block, with the Ockers - as they so often do - snatching it (with modifications) for their own. Pavlova, Phar Lap... it's a common thread in the relationship with that noisy, big island to our west. And of course the confusion cuts both ways. The Canadians once raised the NZ flag for former Aussie Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

Personally I'm fond of the original, but would have been happy to go with the original United Tribes flag which preceded British annexation and is still proudly displayed by Maori in Northland.

Out of the new designs I prefer - I think - the red, white and blue fern and stars design.