Monday, December 24, 2007

Bible Stuff

Friday night at dinner, a friend of mine was talking about Bible-related conflict at his job. I won't go into detail, but Bibles play a part in the business they conduct at this workplace. So this guy, Ervin, picked up one of the office Bibles and used it as a flat surface on which to write a note, and somebody got pissed. He shouldn't do that, he was told, because it's desecrating the Bible.

Ervin furrowed his brow and thought. How do you know it's desecrating the Bible? He asked. How do you know this Bible's not conferring special righteousness to this note I'm writing?

Later on he got yelled at for putting his coffee cup on a Bible, and his response was pretty much the same. The Bible is a holy document, he said. Maybe it's having a beneficial influence upon my coffee instead of being corrupted by it.

I was interested in his reasoning because of a speaker at a local church service I went to a few weeks ago. This speaker, Dr. Rocco Errico, has spent his life studying the language and culture of Jesus. He's done some translation from Biblical writings in Aramaic into English. Now, I'm not saying that I think Dr. Errico would think it's okay to use Bibles as coasters, but I think he does believe that the Bible as we know it is distorted from its original meaning.

Assuming that the Bibles in Ervin's office are the King James Version, can you really say they're the word of God? The folks who originally told those Biblical stories did not speak the Shakespearian English featured in the KJV. Jesus' people (none of whom were blond or blue-eyed) spoke Aramaic, and sometimes the act of translation is clumsy work. From Aramaic, Biblical writings were translated into Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, and the KJV was translated from those languages. Think of it like this - if you photocopy a page and make a photocopy of that and photocopy the last one again, each time you wind up with a slightly more distorted reproduction of the original.

Take into account that the meaning of Biblical writings may have been distorted to begin with, then think about how hard it has become for speakers of English to understand the kind of English used in the KJV. When's the last time you heard somebody say, "My brother knew his wife and begat a son?"

I admire people who say they've read the Bible cover to cover, but at the same time I feel sorry for them because they spent so much time reading something they probably don't understand. Because it's so hard to understand, people wind up fabricating ideas about what's right and wrong according to the Bible. Like, they replace the commandment about "Thou Shalt Not Kill" with "Thou shalt not put cups of coffee on the Bible."
Photo: There's still some flowery color outside Deep Roots Market, even though we're well into hothouse poinsettia season.

1 comment:

kelly said...

from my experience what you say is so true. most fundamentally religious people i've encountered who are easily offended have not been allowed, or rather they are discouraged from questioning religious text, authority, traditions, etc. b/c they can only believe what they've been told to believe and have not had the opportunity to truly search their hearts and minds they must ardently defend their religious fragility.