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Old 09-26-2005, 06:32 AM   #1 (permalink)
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The "Good Book" thread

I have pondered this for years , and would like to hear opinion from our members on a somewhat sticky issue....Please do not get offended by this, or take it as anything more than curiosity on my part.
There are numerous interpretations of scripture, and very few define the "Words of God" in the same way, though there are similarities found in each, the message seems to differ depending on which version you read. I have asked many friends who are Christian, and a few Catholic aquaintances...as well as a Jehovah or two that came to my door. None had any answer to the following question other than, to claim the others as corrupted (only one actually used this word)..So, Here Goes:

If each Bible differs from the others, How can ANY of them be the unabridged word of God?

And secondly, If indeed one cannot claim to know the words of this God, What makes one devote such energy to defining their lives by these books?
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Old 09-26-2005, 06:54 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Personally, I don't think the Bible is the absolute Word of God; rather, I think that the Word of God exists in places of the Bible--for instance, when Jesus speaks in the Gospels.

Beyond that, all Christians must realize that what they are reading is a translation, and every translation is different. In this, there is enormous room for error. There are also some interesting linguistic quirks: for instance, the word for "sin" in the original Greek actually means "to miss the mark." It was a term used in archery that subsequently popped up in the Bible. Also, we're reading translations of translations in some cases, which makes it even more complicated. Unless a Christian is ready to become scholarly and do the research themselves, they too are missing the mark by accepting a work absolutely that has so many shades of gray.

Therefore, no Bible is the unabridged Word of God, yet He does exist in its pages, and thus Christians continue to follow that path--though they all should do so cautiously, and aware of who is speaking.
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Old 09-26-2005, 07:01 AM   #3 (permalink)
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As I told you when we talked together of this ... Growing up, I was taught that King James was the "hard" version, full of words from the more strict english period, and the Living bible and other versions to be the "current" or real versions. In most cases, the verbage and wording were often very similar, but there are the occasions where the omittance or addition of a word changed the entire context of the meaning. I am coming to the conclusion myself after years of blind belief, that something is amiss.

I am hard put to call one version better than the other ... or one the original and the others interpretations of that original because somewhere, someone calling themselves Christian is going by the words in THEIR bible as The Word. Is it really for someone else to say they are less of a Christian because they interpret what God means to them differently based on the context of the supposedly universal bible. So to answer your question ... I'm starting to form the opinion you cannot ... each man is ultimately left to make his own individual interpretation of God as he sees fit. What bible form he chooses and the ultimate manifestation of that choice transforms God into his personal combination. This possibility of this happening then raises the debate of whether this undermine's God's status as supreme and eternal.
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Old 09-26-2005, 09:16 AM   #4 (permalink)
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The original Bible was actually held in the oral tradition and as such was subject to change from time to time.

Later when the words were written down (in Hebrew) they were collected in scrolls. Different scholars at the time would change the text to suit the politics or culture of the day. If you read the bible now, you can find these different "voices" littered throughout the OT. For example, in the story of Moses parting the Red Sea... there are two versions of the story side by side. In one he takes them through the sea of weeds (ie a shallow area) in the other he parts the sea. There are many more examples of this sort of thing.

Much, much later a group of Jewish scholars got together and decided what would be the definiative OT. They dropped a few books that were found in one group of scrolls but not others.

Something similar occured with the NT. Some books were dropped while others became the word of God.


Ultimately, the nearest to God these texts can be is that they were inspired by God.


Then we have the various translations of the Greek and Hebrew texts out there... King James, Good News, New International... etc. They all translate to the best of their ability the original text.

The problem there is that something gets lost in translation.
Mary, a young woman turns into Mary, a virgin.
Paul's letter saying, Don't let the women who've been talking to false prophets teach. Turns into Don't let women teach (i.e. preach).
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Old 09-26-2005, 10:06 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tecoyah

If each Bible differs from the others, How can ANY of them be the unabridged word of God?

And secondly, If indeed one cannot claim to know the words of this God, What makes one devote such energy to defining their lives by these books?
Because of the different translations and such of the Bible, skeptics and naysayers feel that they have all sorts of ammunition with which to discredit every single word of the Holy Bible. They use the 'rabbit chewing cud' argument from Genesis, and other small, insignificant examples to try and prove that therefore, the entire document is a farce, a lie, and it is wholly and entirely false. Not a word of it is true.

The Bible as a whole remains intact. Yes there have been a few words here and there that have been added/omitted etc. but as a whole the document has not changed much over 5000 years.

The point I'm trying to make is as follows: If you actually read the Bible (which most of you theologist wannabe's have not) you will see that the major themes, message, and point of the Bible has not changed. The message of the good news of God's plan of salvation for mankind is still there. God created us, we sinned, God devised a plan of salvation whereby He could restore us to Himself, and we have the choice to either accept the sacrifice of God's Son or reject it. Whether or not some words in the Bible have changed over 5000 years or not, this is the message. Jesus was a real person, the Bible is proven to be a historically, geographically, politically accurate document. You either believe that or you do not.

Here's the thing --> If you're a skeptic, an agnostic, a hater of Christians, there probably isn't much that is going to change your mind. You're going to accept every word that someone says that attacks the truth of the Bible. Myself, I don't even listen to any John Q. Public who attacks the Bible who a) has not read it, b) does not see the possibility of it being true c) has been offended, disillusioned, or turned off Christianity because of a church practice or clergy member.

On the other hand, if you believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God, you should follow it. You should accept it as wholly true. One should devote their life's energy into following its precepts because you believe it to be true. That includes honestly seeking out answers for yourself, establishing and building a faith between yourself and God, and not resting on a church, a family members faith or some other crutch.
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Old 09-26-2005, 10:32 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Just to be clear... I am not a hater of the Bible or Christians on the whole. I see the Bible as a historical document handed down through history. I don't take issue with the fact that there are contradicting voices, etc. in the text. In fact, I find it a facinating part of history.

There is a great collection of stories and universal truths to be found in the OT. As well some powerful and moving poetry.

I have read the Bible a few times and some passages many times. I have studied the OT and NT in University as well as during Sunday School as a kid. Just because I am an aetheist doesn't mean I can appreciate the place the bible has in our culture. I may not see it as the word of God but I do recognize the importance of the Bible as one of the foundations of our laws, customs and mores...
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Old 09-26-2005, 03:50 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Daoust, I think you have made some incorrect and unfounded statements.

First of all, you assume that people who criticize the bible as the literal word of God have not read it and are merely "theologist wannabes." Like Charlatan, I have read my bible* from OT through NT twice, and the NT a few more times. I continue to read it for reference purposes. I suspect there are many TFP members who can say the same.
I do not claim to be a theologist, but I have a passion for reading their published findings in the study of the bible.

Quote:
The Bible as a whole remains intact. Yes there have been a few words here and there that have been added/omitted etc. but as a whole the document has not changed much over 5000 years.
This is simply not true, as anyone remotely interested in the history of the bible can tell you. I recommend that you look into the books of the apocrypha and how they came to be removed from the bible.

My direct answer to Tacoyah's questions is that: 1) the bible has been altered in so many ways by mankind that I do not believe it is the literal word of God, and in some cases I do not believe it was inspired by God; and 2) I choose the words attributed to Jesus in the NT to guide my life decisions, because they serve me in the type of person I wish to be.


* The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, copyright 1962. The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is an authorized revision of the American Standard Version, published in 1901, which was a revision of the King James Version, published in 1611.

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Old 09-26-2005, 09:18 PM   #8 (permalink)
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i think the question from the beginning isn't the first question that tecoyah puts out. the idea that the bible is "inerrant" is a late development in western Christendom. it can only really come after the Enlightenment, when people start developing the modern idea of history. asking that question, in my mind, is a theological mistake.

the real question is number two. why listen to this text? i believe the power of the bible, and especially the Gospel, is to de-mythologize us. I don't think of it as an ethical guidebook, or a warning sign. it is the story of God's upside down love, one that surprises and confounds. Tertullian's classic quip, "i believe because it is absurd" captures some of what i'm trying to say. we tell lots of stories about ourselves, how good we are, that we're powerful, we're nice, that people do us wrong....

and in the face of the story of One who loves the least, who saves the sinner, who makes the last the first...that all falls apart. And that's why i spend time, and keep coming back to the Jesus stories of the Gospel and later traditions. At their best, they have the power to take apart the lies of the world.
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Old 09-27-2005, 12:44 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onesnowyowl
There are also some interesting linguistic quirks: for instance, the word for "sin" in the original Greek actually means "to miss the mark."
That places a new light on "he who has never sinned, cast the first stone."

Jesus was asking for people who could kill the sinner humanely -- with one stone! That would explain the strange support of capital punishment amoung many nominal followers of Jesus...
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Old 09-27-2005, 01:42 PM   #10 (permalink)
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As a personal belief I read the Torah, well a direct Hebrew to English translation. I try to do my best to live by the 10 commandments and find that everything else is a teaching of history and how the 10 commandments apply to life.
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Old 09-27-2005, 02:15 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Allow me to enter a state of being a true believer.....................................

Of course the bible is the word of God, but man is fallible in his translations. That being said the wisdom in these words is such that the truth is self evident. Such differences may slightly change the tone but the message remains clear.
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Old 09-27-2005, 02:44 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ustwo
Allow me to enter a state of being a true believer.....................................

Of course the bible is the word of God, but man is fallible in his translations. That being said the wisdom in these words is such that the truth is self evident. Such differences may slightly change the tone but the message remains clear.
True believer has nothing to do with it. The Southern Baptist Convention used to have the best language about what scripture is: "Perfect for it's purpose." For teaching, church governance, imagination, exhortation, and reflection...the scripture is God's word, and we need not doubt it.

The most well meaning of people have pushed scriptural innerrancy, but they've caused the bible to be put under more stress than anyone. there's nothing erstaz about not being a biblical innerantist. A solid wing of the SBC is not, nor is it a requirement of being evangelic.

Why feel the need to supply this viewpoint, and label it as truth, when you don't subscribe?
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Old 09-28-2005, 02:36 PM   #13 (permalink)
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As the ever lovely Onesnowyowl mentioned... translation!

If you are reading it in English, you are DEFINITELY reading a translation of a translation (at LEAST two times removed from the original language, likely more). Even amongst English language versions of the bibles, the same thing is said with different wording. And different wording can, in fact, slightly change the meaning, intensity or use of what's being said.

Personally, being a non-Christian spiritualist, I believe that the Bible is a book designed by man to help one lead a good life. In the end, that's the bulk of what religion is all about anyhow. Faith should not be placed in the words, but rather in the ideals.
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Old 09-28-2005, 04:27 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xepherys
If you are reading it in English, you are DEFINITELY reading a translation of a translation (at LEAST two times removed from the original language, likely more).
I don't know where people get this number. What versions are y'all reading?

NRSV is from the Greek and Hebrew, and is the most up to date and scholarly version in general use. The RSV is perfectly passable for most use.

The NIV, even though i think it contains several errors due to wishful translation, is still from the Greek and Hebrew, and is basically accurate for most uses.

What bibles do people read? This is kind of a serious question....i assumed it was usually KJV or derivatives (which do have some somewhat serious issues) or the NRSV or NIV which are more or less reliable.

But this myth of the unreliable text and translations of translations idea gets passed around a lot...but i just don't see the basis for it.
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Old 09-28-2005, 06:29 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I'd say the basis is a simple matter of linguistics. Even in the modern world, our best scholars and liguists do not always translate items 100% correctly (especially with conveyance of meaning or colloquial language). It can be posited, then, that centuries ago the same could be said. Therefore translations from greek and hebrew would not be 100% correct. Also, extremely old sections of the old testament were likely to have been written in a language other than those two. Potential additional translation. Also, most modern English bibles are written in English that either does not have the same meanings as it may have hundreds of years ago, or has been rewritten in modern English, again offering the possibilty of changes in meaning.
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Old 09-28-2005, 06:54 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xepherys
I'd say the basis is a simple matter of linguistics. Even in the modern world, our best scholars and liguists do not always translate items 100% correctly (especially with conveyance of meaning or colloquial language). It can be posited, then, that centuries ago the same could be said. Therefore translations from greek and hebrew would not be 100% correct. Also, extremely old sections of the old testament were likely to have been written in a language other than those two. Potential additional translation. Also, most modern English bibles are written in English that either does not have the same meanings as it may have hundreds of years ago, or has been rewritten in modern English, again offering the possibilty of changes in meaning.
Not really.

The OT is written in Hebrew. Now, if older versions of the material were in oral traditions before being written...maybe. But they *are* written in Hebrew. I don't know what other language they might even possibly be composed with.

The NT is even clearer. Exclusively written in Greek, with short quotes in Aramaic, we pretty much can fix the original text, with many available copies of the cannonized writings. The contemporary literature gives us a pretty clear fix on vocabulary and usage in most circumstances. I study Paul for instance...and there are only a handful of words that we have any serious problems with.

Now, translation does incur some level of misrepresentation, but we're not talking wholesale problems. Interpretation is still an open game, but this idea that the text is completely uncertain just isn't true.
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Old 09-29-2005, 06:36 AM   #17 (permalink)
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I guess you ust need to know that there should be one message through whatever ersion it is you enjoy reading. I have heard a few diiferant versions used during one sermon. Summary of the bible should be something like this (i Think) Jesus came down, did some miracles, diedn and three days later rose from the dead. Through his perfect life he provided the ultimate sacriface. To realize you are a sinner and accept his grace and atonement in your life. Realize we are all sinners and nobody can be perfect EVER. Sin is Sin is sin. It is having faith in christ and believing htat he died for your sins and loves you no matter what that saves you. Again I may have left a few holes in there but I think I got it. TWO commandments Love your neighbor as yourself and love the lord your god with all your strenght and mind and everythign else. I paraphrased and i think I have the order reversed. If you want to know the answer to such touhg questions you may want to ask an expert in the matter. Shoot an e-mail to a well known pastor and see what they say.
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Old 09-29-2005, 02:08 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Martin, I was under the impression that there isn't a pre-1 CE agreed upon text for the Torah -- heck, Jewish faiths and Christian faiths often disagree which books to include in the OT?

The NT, similarly, was put together from lots of different accounts, selected a few centuries after 1 CE.
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Old 09-29-2005, 05:50 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yakk
Martin, I was under the impression that there isn't a pre-1 CE agreed upon text for the Torah -- heck, Jewish faiths and Christian faiths often disagree which books to include in the OT?

The NT, similarly, was put together from lots of different accounts, selected a few centuries after 1 CE.
Hebrew scriptures are much harder to fix. The older date of composition means that copies just aren't as available.

For a long time, the closest Hebrew copies we had were older than the NT, in midival times. This is known as the Masoretic texts. But when we find the dead sea scrolls (circa 100 BCE), despite some changes...they do affirm both the cannon (which writings are in) and the basic texts of those writings. Today, Protestants and Jews agree on what should be in the OT/Tanak, and the only additions are some greek compositions that the Catholics and E. Orthodox add. The headline isn't the uncertainty, but the relative reliability of the text over time. Now, this doesn't say anything about interpretation...and that's an open game. But the basic text seems to be fairly agreed upon in most circumstances.

With the NT. The cannon appears to start setting with various compendiums around 2nd century to 3rd century. Certainly by Nicea, there is an accepted list of writings. For the Gospels, we have multiple copies, dating back as old as 125 CE. A few changes here and there, and the basic text is again agreed upon. The most common textual disagreement is brief add ons. Mark gets a new ending to round out what is otherwise a bit of a cliff hanger. John has a story from Mark stuck in to it. But by and large, manuscript copiers were remarkably faithful with important texts, such as scriptures. Paul's letters generally have somewhat fewer copies, but seem to have circulated in a fairly set form.

I don't mean to come off as saying that there aren't ANY problems with fixing the text of the Bible. But a few scholars have gotten quite a lot of attention for claiming to have changed the whole meaning, by finding a different text. yes, we have multiple attestations of what these texts should be. Sometimes it's hard to figure out, sometimes it's pretty obvious that the copier made a mistake (line skips, syllable repeats, things of that nature.) But in the end, the primary challenge of Biblical studies is to understand the writings in their context...not some wild goose chase for what the Bible "really" said. I'm sure more than one PhD has been given out for such work...and some of it is important. But for the layperson's understanding of our field, i think those cases get very much overblown.
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Old 09-29-2005, 07:50 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by martinguerre
I don't know where people get this number. What versions are y'all reading?

NRSV is from the Greek and Hebrew, and is the most up to date and scholarly version in general use. The RSV is perfectly passable for most use.

The NIV, even though i think it contains several errors due to wishful translation, is still from the Greek and Hebrew, and is basically accurate for most uses.

What bibles do people read? This is kind of a serious question....i assumed it was usually KJV or derivatives (which do have some somewhat serious issues) or the NRSV or NIV which are more or less reliable.

But this myth of the unreliable text and translations of translations idea gets passed around a lot...but i just don't see the basis for it.
This is the bible that I read, as I posted earlier:

Quote:
* The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, copyright 1962. The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is an authorized revision of the American Standard Version, published in 1901, which was a revision of the King James Version, published in 1611.
Martin, I believe that you are a biblical scholar? If this is true, I would love to know more about the historical development of the bible, and I have a million questions. Perhaps you would consider a new thread in Tilted Knowledge or Philosophy?

Edit: I looked up the biblical reference in your signature and wonder if it reads word for word in your bible:

Romans 8:24: "For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."

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Old 09-29-2005, 08:28 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Indeed...i'm not a PhD, but i am a student at Yale Divinity, getting my masters. My focus has been on Paul's letters, mostly the analysis of Romans and 2 Corinthians. In the end, i don't think i'll get my PhD in that field...the way to contribute is to learn a whole lot of Greek and to pick apart one bit of text. I'm much more interested in the conjuction of Biblical studies and idenity theory and history. I like watching to see how our understanding of society and personhood shapes the composition and transmission of scripture, how it moves from culture to culture and through time. I'll probably end up in Biblical theology or something like that as a result.

I'm more than willing to start a new thread if this is deemed a side conversation...but for the time being, i'll reply here. and certainly, if you have questions, ask away. i can't promise answers on everything, but i will reply to the best of my knowledge. My Hebrew bible isn't quite as good as my NT, but i know my way around both.

The RSV is really quite a fine translation, marked in difference from it's newer cousin the NRSV by gendered language and some textual issues brought to light by the dead sea scrolls. I always commend the NRSV, especially the Harper Collins or Oxford Annotated study versions, but you have in your hands a careful and thoughtful translation...

And yes, my sig line is a slightly adapted version of 8:24a (letters after a verse indicate a division, which is just as arbitrary as the verse number to begin with. Paul's manuscript doesn't have numbers, so i feel free to chop his sentences pretty much as i like). The verb tense (sozo) there suggests "being saved" as opposed to completed action. And that's my only major disagreement with the RSV/NRSV. It's not a huge error, but combined with traditional Protestant theology, i think it really does change the meaning of the text. Their reading is justified...they didn't invent it whole cloth. But i think a reading of Paul generally would support the "being saved" more. What is translated there as "For in" is the word gar in Greek. it's a catchall (an affirmative conjunction), and can mean by, and, or for... the phrase is: gar sozo elipis (we are being saved for/by hope). If you had to cut Paul down to three words...i think these might be it.
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Old 09-29-2005, 09:07 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Thank you, Martin. I have immense curiosity about the dropping of the books of the bible called the apocrypha, which I believe happened in 1210 AD. King James' version of the bible is dated 1600 AD. There certainly must have been an oratory communication of many of the NT letters, whereas the OT (torah) had long before been inscribed.

Anything your scholarship can tell me about these questions would be appreciated. It might be well within Tecoyah's original questions, as well.
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Old 09-30-2005, 02:08 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Indeed I was truly hopeful to gain insight into the ommission of the apocrypha, though I have found asking this outright gets me no where...(and often has lead to vieled hostility). Any insight from our local scholar would be appreciated.
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Old 09-30-2005, 06:12 AM   #24 (permalink)
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ahh.. tec, i think what you might be referring to with the vague hostility is that there are some negative reactions from people who are invested in the bible when apocrypha comes up. One thing that's frustrated me is the number of authors who write sensationalistic accounts of non-cannonical works, and hype it up beyond recognition. people read this, and feel that traditional religion and or biblical studies has let them down by not telling them about it. people who are really invested in the bible can get frustrated with trying to debunk some of these claims. there's a similar phenomeon around the Da Vinci code.

And i think there's a yes and a no to that enthusiasm for the alternate story. Yes, non-cannonical writings are important in our reading of scripture, and they have been left out of how the story and study of scripture gets told to most people. but in many cases there's a reason certain books were not included...they aren't as good, the theology is geared to a very specific group, etc... By and large, non-cannonical writings are not a treasure trove that changes everything or stands religion on it's head. They do help tell the story of the development of religion, since it is the losers of the great fights of the church that have their books taken out or not included in the first place. The question isn't if something is scripture. The question is "who is it scripture for?"

There are two major groupings of non-cannonical writings. the title apocrypha by the way starts out as derogatory, even if modern parlance uses it freely, i still refer to them as non-cannonical.

The first grouping is works that circulate in the community that practices Torah. I don't say Judiasm...as what we modernly refer to as the Jewish faith doesn't develop until well after the desctruction of the temple. Often written in greek for use by the many diapora Judeans (There were more abroad than in Palestine even before the Roman sack of the temple), they are somewhat sidelined when major compilations of writings are being assembled. This might include Maccabbees (tells the story of the revolt that leads to the Hannukah legend) or additions to the book of daniel. other works are in semetic languages, even hebrew, but are far off enough in character to be commonly excluded. the book of Jubilees is a good example. Mystic in tone, it did not circulate widely. Apoclyptic books are exceedingly common-books were written and ascribed to past heros giving instruction to communities facing pressure to adapt to Greek culture.

Later Augustine favors Greek translations (including of works originally in Hebrew) and the Greek version of the Tanak, the Septuagint (LXX). Jerome on the other hand thinks that the Hebrew is best (giving rise to the phrase Hebraica Veritas or the Hebrew Truth) and translates those works in to Latin from the Hebrew. Despite his hack job of a translation (his Latin Vulgate Bible is one of the worst, as far as accuracy, in history) this catches on in many circles and is picked up by the Reform. Luther and others take his lead, and exclude works not originally in Hebrew. This pretty much leaves the standard OT cannon as you know it today. Jewish and Xtn scholars will disagree on order, but not content. Xtns bascially rearanged it to make it more of a "history book" to prefigure Christ.

i need to get to class...so i'll write about new testament associated non-cannonical writings when i'm done. thanks y'all for the soapbox...
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Old 10-01-2005, 05:23 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Much of what you wrote here I have noted in my own research, Finding quite a bit of the so called "apocrypha" rather difficult to place into the context of most Bibles, and so it makes sense to me that they were not used in most versions....this does however , lead to my real question hinted at in the title post:

What is it , or Who is it that decides what is the word of God, and what is the word of Man? I ask this because many devout people I have met either cannot, or will not delve into the fundamental issue I see in Biblical scholarship. I could be wrong but, it seems clear that Humankind decides what this entity said in these books, and picks and chooses, manipulates and changes these scriptures depending on the politics of the society that attempts to decipher the texts. So....if we have in effect, rewritten these words to reflect our own understanding of the message, and revised the script as we see fit over thousands of years.....How can anyone possibly accept this as the word of God?
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Old 10-01-2005, 05:56 AM   #26 (permalink)
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To answer that question, the traditional Christian teaching is that the council which selected the canon did so through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
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Old 10-02-2005, 02:40 AM   #27 (permalink)
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Well they would say that wouldn't they
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Old 10-02-2005, 09:52 AM   #28 (permalink)
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okay...back from the camping trip, rested and refreshed. At least alledgely. Anyhow.

NT non-cannonical material, and concluding with Tecoyah's comment.

As soon as Christian communites began forming, they brought with them a commitment to the idea of scripture. And so as multiple Christian communities develop, so do multiple Christian scriptures. I think Mark, Matthew and John are clearly aimed at three ideologically distinct communities...and we can trace fissures in Christian community much farther. Galatians records a massive fight between the James branch of the church, Peter caught in the middle, and Paul on the other side. Now, i should caution...Paul does not record the event without bias. But it does clearly indicate that *something* happened. The importance of all this is that along with those factions that become mainstream, there are those which lose out. Declared heretical, dying off due to lack of support, whatever...these communities often die without record. But some of them do leave texts. Basically, the definition of a non-cannonical text is one which is not used continously, for whatever reason.

By Nicea, we start seeing fixed lists...with reccomended readings flying around much earlier. Many are in response to Marcion, who wants to trim the cannon down to Paul's letters, a chopped version of Luke/Acts, and no OT material. He of course loses, but this major fight provides great impetus to get a settled and sealed cannon. The preference tends to writings that are in use in a majority of churches at the time, attributed to Paul or Peter, or otherwise validated. Aphoristic material (Gospels of Thomas or Mary) tends to be quickly rejected. Narratives and letters are preferred.

Much gets made of the Gnostic writings, and so i'll address them separately. First, i think Gnostic is an empty term. I doubt that this is a self-imposed label or one that's very descriptive. A whole set of Platonist influenced Christianities existed in Hellenized regions...and the differences can be as compelling as the similarities.

In sum, i think the process of producing a cannon is a political one as well as spiritual. I don't feel completly bound to it by the letter. For instance, i rarely preach Timothy or the other duetero-Pauline letters. In form and message, they are not nearly as rich as Paul's own writings. Nor will you often find me in Revelation. But the reason i keep it is the binding of tradition. Millenia of Christians have struggled to find meaning with these books, and i can interact with their voices as i do the same. I can't do that with most of the non-cannonical material...and it feels like talking to myself in an empty room. I think of cannon as process, and not event. Material comes and goes...think of how influential Luther or Calvin's works are...they are now practically cannonized in mainstream protestant thought. Calvin for instance, wanted Revelation out, and for the Presbyterian Church and other strict calvinists...he pretty much got his wish.

Viewed as such, it becomes less imprortant if there were political or other arbitrary choices made...i trust that God is still speaking, drawing our eyes to texts we have known for a long time, to bring out new light, and also to texts just now being written for what they shed on long standing words.
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Old 10-02-2005, 01:59 PM   #29 (permalink)
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Martin, I really appreciate the time you took in sharing this information. It has done much in answering what were the deciding factors for inclusion or exclusion that resulted in the apocrypha.

Would you be willing to discuss the Gospels of Mary and Deborah in another thread? I would love to know more about their content and whether there was anything specific about them that led to their exclusion from the bible. Fingers crossed.
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Old 10-02-2005, 06:40 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Elphaba: let me get some re-reading done first. i know i've got some stuff on them up on my shelves, but it's been long enough that i don't want to be responsble for mis-statements made due to the passage of time.
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Old 10-03-2005, 09:51 AM   #31 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by martinguerre
Elphaba: let me get some re-reading done first. i know i've got some stuff on them up on my shelves, but it's been long enough that i don't want to be responsble for mis-statements made due to the passage of time.

Thanks!
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Old 10-11-2005, 06:44 PM   #32 (permalink)
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Martinguerre:

You seem to know your stuff.....do you have any reading material you could suggest on the subject?
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Old 10-12-2005, 03:30 AM   #33 (permalink)
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Quote:
The original Bible was actually held in the oral tradition and as such was subject to change from time to time.
Check out the dead sea scrolls, and other copies of the Torah found in that time, compared to current time. There have been no changes. Jews always held that the Torah was written down, the first 5 books, the prophets etc.. There was a separate part called the oral law, which is the Talmud, which was not initially written down. But the oral law, was the law of the rabbi's expounding and explaining the Torah, not the word of G-d.
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Old 10-12-2005, 05:41 AM   #34 (permalink)
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arch...what specifically are you looking for? Background works, or something in particular?

Xazy...i am aware of differences between Qumran texts and Masoretic texts, so i'm not sure that that's a responsible claim. The overall texts do support both the cannon and the receieved text generally, but there are some differences between them (often in support of the Septuagint). as well, the fact that textual copies began to be kept doesn't preclude an oral history for at least some portions of the text.
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Old 10-12-2005, 05:54 AM   #35 (permalink)
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<b>martinguerre</b> fascinating. Much more complete than my classes in OT and NT in college.

I'd like to recommend for those wishing to study the apocrypha and not be overwhelmed by the politics and reasons behind its exclusions - The Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha.

What I was taught, and this could be as inaccurate as any interpretation of the bible is that some of the books are a bit dodgy due to what was happening in the church at the time of canonization. I think martin has cleared that up a bit for me, although my prof was heavy on the hand Luther played. Which is odd, because I went to a Methodist college.

Now I'll cringe even more when I see the "HE wrote it, I believe it, that settles it" bumper stickers.
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Old 10-13-2005, 01:47 PM   #36 (permalink)
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Perhaps something in early church history, or a history of the canonization of the Bible, or anything relating to the material you've spoken about here.
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Old 10-13-2005, 03:21 PM   #37 (permalink)
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Elphaba...i was not able to find good info on the Gospel of Deborah. This puzzles me a bit...and i'm going to look some more.

Gospel of Mary fits in with some of what i was talking about. It's traditionally identified as a Gnostic text. As i said, i don't know what that means. The extant text is somewhat world denying but lacks clear connections to a known group that we would identify as Gnostic. Other than being found at Nag Hammadi, i don't know that there's a case to be made that it is closely related to or derivative of the Gospel of Thomas or other such classically "Gnostic" texts. It's not a narrative Gospel as far as we can tell...it's mostly wisdom sayings and debates. This is the kind of material that doesn't make the cut. John makes it in, but just barely. If i had to speculate, it was because in these cases, people were self-consciously putting words in Jesus' mouth to make a theological point. And as long as that point seemed too Hellenistic, it tended to get sliced in the cannonization process. John again, is somewhat the exception..and had significant trouble staying in the recognized cannon.

Finally...the Gospel of Mary clearly authorizes women's ministry and place in the emerging Church. For this reason, i would speculate that it reflects a traditon working back at least to the late first century, and was put to text no later than mid second century. Paul's letters reflect this same transition back in to patriarchy, where his writing in 50-60 CE reflects women's leadership in the church, but a later writer taking Paul's name in the 2nd century wrote injuctions against a woman teaching. Now, some say that 1 and 2 Timothy mark the end of women's leadership, but i think that if you have to write about something, it means that it's still happening. Sadly, it wasn't for another two millenia that a significant number in the Christian community would call a woman a pastor or elder.

Poppinjay-thanks. I'm glad that this has been helpful. One note about the Oxford Annotated, is that it includes only some additional writings from the Intertestamental period. but not Non-Cannonical NT material.

archpaladin-i'll do a quick annotated biblography for what i've written here when i get back home to my books.
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Old 10-13-2005, 04:31 PM   #38 (permalink)
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Martin, thank you again. I wondered if the books of Deborah and Mary presented a conflict to the melding of Roman pagan religion and Christianity. The Roman tradition of celibate male priests would be in conflict with any leadership role of women in the church. I have also long wondered if the requirement of celibacy created the necessity of the "virgin" birth that is the son (sun) of god.

My apologies if my ignorance in my next question causes your head to explode. Is it explicit in the Gospel of Mary which *Mary* is attributed to the text?
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Old 10-13-2005, 05:31 PM   #39 (permalink)
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okay...first things first. The celibacy rule is waay late. So that's not the conflict. I think it had more to do with perceived hellenism and some of the gender neutral language possible in that culture. Note, most cultural Greeks were still raging patriarchal types, but there is a strand of thought that talks about the spiritual being beyond gender, and knowledge or education as a way to change one's idenity, even gender. Best guess, that's why it got cut. I haven't studied Patristics yet (that's the awfully gendered title for early church history and theology) and so i'm a little hazy after the 2nd century, when most of these cannons are being proposed and debated. But judging from trends in other scripture, such as the Pastoral letters that i talked about, it seems like 2nd century was a time of a wider crackdown on gender roles in the church. Also, judging by the lack of extant sources, my best conjecture is that this document was never all that popular. Original composition is in Greek, best copy is in Coptic. That it doesn't stay in Greek points to a more regional influence... Also, and this is just my judgment, it doesn't appear very polished. Editing greek in to Coptic isn't very easy, and the flow of the text doesn't suggest a whole lot of redaction after that transition. Texts in broad use are pressured in to more polished forms as more people use them, and round off the edges so to speak. Mark for instance, ends without a ressurection but instead just has the empty tomb. A hundred years later, two endings have popped up to fill in the details that Mark was trying to leave as suspense.

which mary? Seems to be Magdala. Some of the secondary sources i read said that is is totally clear...re-reading the text, i'm not as sure. but it certainly corresponds better with Mary Magdala than any other possible match.
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Old 10-13-2005, 06:38 PM   #40 (permalink)
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Quote:
That it doesn't stay in Greek points to a more regional influence...
Is this where the division between Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox began? Only recently has there been a reapproachment by the last and current pope.

Tecoyah, I may have gone well beyond your original question, but I am enthalled by meeting someone with biblical scholarship. If a new topic is proper, I respect that.
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