Friday, February 24, 2006

Biblically Correct

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/local/article/0,1299,DRMN_15_4476836,00.html

Oh my gosh, can't people realize that we are looking at the Bible through the filter of how many thousands of years and that some things are not literal??????? please?????

The different books of the Bible were not compiled into one whole work until the Council of Nice in 325 AD, and no one can truly know how many translations and interpretations they have suffered since they were written. An ignoratio elenchi comment that any error in the Scriptures is intolerable cannot riposte the problem of the corruption of meaning inherent in any translation. The various Christian sects, including Protestants, rarely have questioned the veracity of the inspiration behind the different parts of the Bible, certainly least the synoptic Gospels of the New Testament. The Catholic Church believes that the current selections were made under the influence of the Holy Ghost, while Protestants accept it as a true book all the while attacking the Catholic Church and accusing it of having lost the power of the priesthood and the right to receive divine inspiration. My problem with the assumed infallibility of the Scriptures depends not on dogma but on the problem of signifier / meaning. The obstacles in front of any translator cause him to constantly doubt his decisions; personal opinion and style are other traps that frustrate the translator. Unless we believe that each and every translator of the Scriptures was transfigured by the Holy Ghost while he or she worked—which seems implausible given the schisms in Christianity—then we simply must admit that there will be errors in them. Languages do not all describe and explain things with the same words and there is an ingenerate loss of meaning in any translation. Norman Thomas de Giovanni and Jorge Luis Borges famously would expend an entire day translating a single paragraph or a single line of Borges's own poetry to make sure that they had captured as many of the nuances of the original text as possible. Those are just the problems of translation, to say nothing of scripture interpretation.

Interpretation of the written page must decide to serve either the god of authorial intention or that of the actual text independent of authorial meddling. In the case of exegesis, the interpretation of divinely attributed or divinely inspired writings, this debate is especially fierce because understanding of the scriptures to the believer is crucial to their salvation/progress and to understanding the will of god. The libraries of the world contain countless tomes dedicated to trying to explain and clarify scripture via various methods: literal, hermeneutic, Midrash, grammatical-historical, folklore, and rational amongst others. Jesus chided the Pharisees for their interpretation of the Law of Moses and their strict adherence to the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law in Matthew 23:32, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin [sic], and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” Luke (4:9-10) writes that the devil himself quoted scripture for his own purposes when Jesus was fasting in the desert in an attempt to convince him to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple (thus committing suicide). If the Christian adversary interprets scripture for evil purposes then countless other mortal interpretations will differ, blaspheme, and engage some. The heteroglossia of Judeo-Christian religious exegesis complicates the preoccupation with errors in the scriptures (which surely exist according to C.S. Lewis). This assertion, when faced with the polyglot of translations and interpretations of the scriptures, appears unfounded and misguided. A belief in the infallibility of the scriptures puts far too much faith in the ability of man to carry out god's wishes. The main problem with claiming to speak for god, is if you change your mind, does that mean that god does too?

1 comment:

Karie said...

Mac,

Ok, I have to admit that I laughed out loud when reading the article. They must have a different bible from mine. I looked any mention of dinosaurs in mine. I guess it was part of the animal creation day.

This isn't the first time that I have had a completely different bible text taught to me. My human sexualily professor in Boise used to be a preacher. It was so strange to hear him talking about masterbation in one sentence and then switching to the bible to prove his point in the next sentence. By the way, he wasn't against it.

Anyway, the dinosaur story reminded me of an epidemiologist I know back home. Her sister-in-law is one of the "literal" readers. Her bible must be different from the other groups, because according to her bible there never were any dinosaurs, and to teach that there were is blasphemy. (I, personally, find that train of thought very interesting since I come from a part of the Idaho that has ice caves and fossils have been discovered there.) Anyhow, the sister-in-law went through all of her children's books and threw away any with fictious creatures: dinosaurs, elves, etc. She is trying to get the Harry Potter series banned from public school libraries - though she is not alone on that one. So I wonder, is Jack and the Beanstalk ok to read? It does have a fictional creature and magic. Though I guess the bible had a giant (Goliath) and with the right spin on it, the beanstalk could be seen as a miracle rather than cursed vegatation. What about talking rabbits (Velveteen Rabbit), possessed teddybears (Pooh), or little girls that steal (Goldielocks)? Maybe it's a good thing that I'm not a parent, because I'm not ready to make these decisions yet.