Wednesday, 7 August 2013

But it says here...

So, Religious Texts, what do we think about those?

There are a lot of them about, probably more of them than there are actual religions.  And most of them purport to be the word of whatever god, God or Goddess favoured by that actual religion, whether directly dictated or 'translated' by a selection of scholars and prophets.

I'm going to put the next bit in big letters, so there's no confusion as to what follows.


You could argue that the people who wrote these things were directed by a god, you might be right, I don't pretend to know, but my opinion is up there, in the big letters.

But they exist... The books that is.  We're stuck with them now, so what do we do with them?  Well, as I understand it they were provided initially as a set of stories to teach things like morals and laws, rules for handling certain situations, and ways that you could prove that you were a follower of that particular religion.  In Christianity (I chose this one because it's the one I know slightly more about, but I'm reliably informed that the others are pretty much the same.) You've got your commandments and suchlike and your abominations, things you should do, things you shouldn't do. Fish you can eat, neighbour's asses that you can't covet.

And then there's the contradictions, a detailed book, written by a committee, is bound to have a few contradictions - Even if it was dictated directly by a deity - the entire history of space-time is a lot to remember, even for the omnipotent.

Although you'd think that they'd manage to get his Corporeal Son's last words right at least..

MAT 27:46,50: "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?" that is to say, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" ...Jesus, when he cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost."

LUK 23:46: "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, "Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit:" and having said thus, he gave up the ghost."

JOH 19:30: "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished:" and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost."

OK, you're right, I'm being petty - It was probably an emotional time.

And there's the whole 'Who told David to start the census in Israel?' question - There's some confusion, but the two 'suspects' couldn't be more different:

II SAMUEL 24: And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

I CHRONICLES 21: And SATAN stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

No... I got nothing on this one - You'll have to make your own minds up.

Maybe, just maybe, it's a mistranslation.  I mean, the texts that form the Christian Bible were written in a mixture of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek with a smattering of Chaldean thrown in to make things interesting, over a period of a thousand years or so. The the bits that were in hebrew got translated into Greek so that the Jews could read them (Most 'modern' Jews didn't speak a lot of Hebrew at the time - from about 100AD onwards) Over the next thousand years it got translated into Gothic (Germanic) Olde Englishe and Latin and didn't get a Modern English translation until the sixteenth century.

Is it any wonder that a lot of it doesn't really make sense, you can imagine scribes translating from a Gothic version, into Latin, for the English market, hitting a word that the previous translator didn't really get right, scratching his head with the end of his goose-quill and saying something like 'Whateth I thinketh he meaneth thereth is-eth...' and having a wild stab at it.  No guarantee that he gets it right either of course.

There are a lot of parts that various people (usually those people who are directly effected by them) claim to be mistranslations.  A popular one is 'Abomination' as I've used above, this was originally translated from the Hebrew words 'Sheketz' and 'toevah' which is a bit difficult to explain really... It kind of means 'Things that THEY (pointing to Johnny Foreigner) do, but WE don't think are right.'  Many things are described a toevah through an awful lot of the Bible, including Child sacrifice, Idolatry (Very big on idolatry being toevah they are), fortune telling, haughtiness (Really, if you feel like doing a bit of reading, try tho Book of Ezekiel, it's a laugh riot - there are flying saucers and everything), eating with Shepherds (which brings up a whole bunch of questions on its own), women wearing trousers, remarriage and... Wait for it... Sodomy - A man lying with a man, as he would with a woman.

Which brings me to the trigger for today's Blog.  My good friend Nathan, shared a piece on Facebook about the Dr Laura letter - Which for those who haven't read it, is included below.

As a note, this is a real letter, written to a real person, but not by James Kauffman, He has a web-page about it and everything.


On her radio show, Dr. Laura said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Schlesinger, written by a US man, and posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as quite informative:

It also shows that once you've read The Book of Ezekiel, take the Book of Leviticus out for a spin - But have a dry pair of trousers ready to change into afterwards if you have a weak bladder.

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

James M. Kauffman,

Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,

Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia


Note: To the Religionites who may or may not be reading this, I don't mean to offend, I mean to entertain.  I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't make me the subject of a... Erm... Whatever the Christian version of a Jihad is... Possibly a crusade I suppose, or perhaps inviting me to a bake-sale and then not letting me eat anything with Jam or Cream in it.

Only a bit of fun - Yeah? So no stoning to death for me please, if at all possible.

1 comment:

  1. I suppose you could be accused of being picky about what was said. Fortunately there are a few non trivial examples to illustrate your point. All four gospels are not consistent on some fairly major points like:

    Where was Jesus born?
    Was he born of a virgin?
    What day did he die?
    How many women visited the tomb?
    Was the tomb already opened when the women arrived?
    How many beings were in the tomb waiting for her/them?
    Were the women given a message for the apostles, and if so was it to stay in Jerusalem or catch the next bus to Nazareth.

    Or, my very favourite, was Jesus the only one resururected on that day, or did the entire dead population of Jerusalem get up and wander about, greet relatives, and generally pop down the tavern for some wine and olives, as it says in John.

    There is, of course, a slight syllogistic problem

    P1. The messiah is born "of the line of David"
    P2. Jesus got his relation to David through Joseph
    P3. Josephs role at Jesus conception was an observational one.

    My favourite Bible story though regards Erasmus, I'm sure your aware:

    Erasmus decides the bible is too inaccessible in Latin, and decides to offer a modern Greek translation, for which he goes back to the original Greek source material that is available.

    The Church don't like the idea of any old Tom Dick and Erasmus telling people what the Bible actually says [obviously, that's their job] and worse than that.........

    It also appears Erasmus has missed a bit out!

    The whole bit about the Trinity, three into one, Christ actually being God as well as the Son of God etc..... gone!

    Now the Church ever reasonable are taking a large quantity of grief over the translation and give Erasmus the nudge that they will get off his case [a little] if he just puts the bit of John in about the trinity.

    Erasmus says he'd love to, but he can't find a reliable bit of documentation, in the original Greek, to justify it.

    The local Bishop looks under his mattress and guess what he finds [you are way ahead of me]

    Just the original source documentation Erasmus has been unable to locate in his lifelong search,including the bit about the Trinity. Lucky, or what

    Everybody is happy

    Erasmus keeps his book [and gets to keep breathing]
    The Church gets away with another one
    The newly minted KJV gets produced, based on Erasmus translation, complete with the old "3 = 1, take our word for it"