Yes, folks, the story of Noah’s Ark is still believed by millions of fundamentalist Christians right here in the good ‘ol USA. Amazing isn’t it? The fact that grown men and women believe this silly fairy tale says something about the intellect of the religious masses in America! TGO
Check out the interview below and be amazed, as I was, at the utter ignorance of a grown man! He literally believes the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament in the Bible. What a “scientific” volume that was! No doubt it was written by evolutionary biologists, theoretical physicists, anthropologists, geneticists, astrophysicists and the like. Oh no, wait, it was written by men but inspired by God, that’s where the “knowledge” comes from. How idiotic!
The best part of the interview is the question that pertains to urinating. Brilliant! TGO
This is funny… TGO
But forget all those images of a long vessel with a pointy bow — the original Noah’s Ark, new research suggests, was round.
A recently deciphered 4,000-year-old clay tablet from ancient Mesopotamia — modern-day Iraq — reveals striking new details about the roots of the Old Testament tale of Noah. It tells a similar story, complete with detailed instructions for building a giant round vessel known as a coracle — as well as the key instruction that animals should enter “two by two.”
The tablet went on display at the British Museum on Friday, and soon engineers will follow the ancient instructions to see whether the vessel could actually have sailed.
It’s also the subject of a new book, “The Ark Before Noah,” by Irving Finkel, the museum’s assistant keeper of the Middle East and the man who translated the tablet.
Finkel got hold of it a few years ago, when a man brought in a damaged tablet his father had acquired in the Middle East after World War II. It was light brown, about the size of a mobile phone and covered in the jagged cuneiform script of the ancient Mesopotamians.
It turned out, Finkel said Friday, to be “one of the most important human documents ever discovered.”
“It was really a heart-stopping moment — the discovery that the boat was to be a round boat,” said Finkel, who sports a long gray beard, a ponytail and boundless enthusiasm for his subject. “That was a real surprise.”
And yet, Finkel said, a round boat makes sense. Coracles were widely used as river taxis in ancient Iraq and are perfectly designed to bob along on raging floodwaters.
“It’s a perfect thing,” Finkel said. “It never sinks, it’s light to carry.”
Other experts said Finkel wasn’t simply indulging in book-promotion hype. David Owen, professor of ancient Near Eastern studies at Cornell University, said the British Museum curator had made “an extraordinary discovery.”
Elizabeth Stone, an expert on the antiquities of ancient Mesopotamia at New York’s Stony Brook University, said it made sense that ancient Mesopotamians would depict their mythological ark as round.
“People are going to envision the boat however people envision boats where they are,” she said. “Coracles are not unusual things to have had in Mesopotamia.”
The tablet records a Mesopotamian god’s instructions for building a giant vessel — two-thirds the size of a soccer field in area — made of rope, reinforced with wooden ribs and coated in bitumen.
Finkel said that on paper (or stone) the boat-building orders appear sound, but he doesn’t yet know whether it would have floated. A television documentary due to be broadcast later this year will follow attempts to build the ark according to the ancient manual.
The flood story recurs in later Mesopotamian writings including the “Epic of Gilgamesh.” These versions lack the technical instructions — cut out, Finkel believes, because they got in the way of the storytelling.
“It would be like a Bond movie where instead of having this great sexy red car that comes on, somebody starts to tell you about how many horsepower it’s got and the pressure of the tires and the capacity of the boot (trunk),” he said. “No one cares about that. They want the car chase.”
Finkel is aware his discovery may cause consternation among believers in the Biblical story. When 19th-century British Museum scholars first learned from cuneiform tablets that the Babylonians had a flood myth, they were disturbed by its striking similarities to the story of Noah.
“Already in 1872 people were writing about it in a worried way — What does it mean that Holy Writ appears on this piece of Weetabix?” he joked, referring to a cereal similar in shape to the tablet.
Finkel has no doubts.
“I’m sure the story of the flood and a boat to rescue life is a Babylonian invention,” he said.
He believes the tale was likely passed on to the Jews during their exile in Babylon in the 6th century B.C. And he doesn’t think the tablet provides evidence the ark described in the Bible existed. He said it’s more likely that a devastating real flood made its way into folk memory, and has remained there ever since.
“I don’t think the ark existed — but a lot of people do,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter. The Biblical version is a thing of itself and it has a vitality forever.
“The idea that floods are caused by sin is happily still alive among us,” he added, pointing out a local councilor in England who made headlines recently for saying Britain’s recent storms were caused by the legalization of gay marriage.
“Had I known it, it would have gone in the preface of the book,” Finkel said.
Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless
Excellent article! TGO
Source: FMT, Erik M Gan
FMT LETTER: From Erik M Gan, via e-mail
While I don’t set out to belittle or ridicule the faith beliefs of others, particularly in conservative, hypersensitive Malaysia, I do realise that any form of commentary that denounces religion invariably opens itself (and its writer) to a fair amount of backlash. Having said that, I do hope that this article will stimulate healthy discussion and allow the concept of religion to be discussed and analysed within the public sphere just as we would discuss and examine any other topic.
I would like to direct your attention to my first point, that religion doesn’t teach us anything about good or evil that we do not already know. “How could this be when religion teaches us the fundamentals about what is right and what is wrong?” You may already be murmuring to yourselves to which I would say give yourselves a bit more credit. I doubt even the most devout Christians or Muslims or Hindus would argue that without continual reference to their respective religious texts, they would be incapable of differentiating between what is morally right and what is morally wrong.
We evolved from collectivist cultures at the expense of individualistic ones and along the way we also internalised basic notions of morality and co-dependence that helped our ancestors survive long before any of them had even heard of self-proclaiming prophets. Indeed it was the Nobel-laureate Steven Weinberg who said in a speech from 1999 in Washington DC that “with or without religion you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for a good person to do evil things, that takes religion.”
A bold statement no doubt, but also a common sense one the more you think about it. After all, it must be down to more than just coincidence when you consider that the major religions of the world, particularly those that trace their roots to Abraham, explicate the same universal values (kindness, patience, compassion for your fellow human being) at the heart of their religious texts, be it the Quran or the Bible or the Torah. Would it then be so fallacious to assume that the values in these texts are not exclusively religious but rather universal and humanist in nature? What we are then left with are the discrepancies between religions – not the core human values a great number of them seem to reciprocally extol but the differences in the religious texts which make quite clear that passage into heaven is dependent more on personal worship than on wholesomeness of deed.
To elucidate my point I’d like to present to the reader the same question that the late journalist Christopher Hitchens often posed to his audience during his “crusade” against religion. Are you sufficiently prepared? This is how it goes: “Name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer.” Ponder the question for a moment, let it sink in fully and then consider the alternative: Think of an evil or horrible act that could only be performed by a religious person. I doubt you’d have to hesitate for long before coming up with an example for the latter. The crux of the argument is that religion is man-made and because of this fact, human beings do not derive morality from religion but rather it is religion that appropriates these moral values from human beings.
Expounding upon my first point that religion does not have anything new to teach us about right and wrong, I would venture even further and suggest that apart from having no exclusive moral insight to offer, religion also brings along with it the institutionalisation of archaic and inexcusable beliefs that have no relevance whatsoever in the 21st century. It is here where I must step in and inform the reader that I am going to move away from a macroscopic criticism of religion to a more culturally grounded and geographically localised one.
I say without a hint of irony that I was indoctrinated into the Catholic faith and remained passably devout for a number of years before, for the lack of a better phrase, “I saw the light.” For me personally, the first warning bells began going off when my religious teachers would exhibit signs of discomfort when continually posed with the question “Why does God, who is so omnipotent and powerful, allow such evil to exist in the world?” The common regurgitated answer that those of you familiar with the basic notion of the Christ God would hear is “God works in mysterious ways.”
Now I cannot speak for everyone, but to my knowledge that statement is meant to comfort or at least put people at ease but I could not help but be outraged by the recreant explanations of my religious superiors. When I poked the beast further and began questioning the legitimacy of religion and even God himself (religion is after all patriarchal) my educators would often respond in a defensive and sometimes standoffish manner.
This has largely been the case when I question the religious beliefs of others and it led me to a rather startling realisation – the only other time I’d encountered such hostility in a discussion was when people generally had something to hide or had done something wrong and were reluctant to own up to it. If the religious are so secure about their beliefs and convictions shouldn’t they be more than willing to entertain perfectly legitimate questions from the rest of us uninformed, naïve folk?
The problem with religion is that it makes such outlandish truth claims without the requisite amount of rationality to back those claims up. The astrophysicist Carl Sagan condenses my circumspections towards religion in a rather punchy quote when he states: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” The evidence in question has to be even more extraordinary if it wants to justify religion’s blatantly homophobic and misogynist proclivities.
To pluck an example from personal experience, there was once an activity during my Sunday school class at my then church in Subang Jaya (I should really name drop because the church in question should be ashamed of itself but I refrain from calling it out because I doubt that it is the only church which holds this particular view) in which my peers and I were divided into groups and asked to come up with a list of what was sinful in the eyes of God, and what was not. Now during the discussion segment of the class it was revealed that almost every group had listed homosexuality as an affront towards the creator.
Herein lies my main grouse with religion: It is all fine and well when someone tells me that they subscribe to a particular religion because it gives them comfort and a purpose in life. After all who am I to tell them that what they believe in makes no sense to me if it gives them a reassuring sense of comfort and hope as they try to navigate through life? Indeed I have the privilege of knowing a great number of devoutly religious friends and I can testify to the fact that our discussions, which were sometimes rather heated, often served to solidify our friendships and imbued us with a newfound respect for each others beliefs and non-beliefs.
I do however have a monumental problem with religion when it infringes upon the rights and liberties of otherwise innocent people. To be told that the act of loving a person of the same sex is a sin punishable by eternal damnation is something I simply cannot tolerate no matter how gently or nicely this ridiculous understanding is put across. It is not just persons of differing sexual orientations that religion marginalises but also persons who happen to be born female. I’ll discount the Old Testament for it has proven time and time again to be so morally backward that even those of the faith squirm when asked to defend it. I feel jumping on the bandwagon to condemn it would be shiftless to the point of being unethical. I will however direct your attention to the book of Ephesians, chapter five, verses 22-23, which calls for the servitude of a woman to her husband because he is the head of the family just like Christ is the head of the church.
Which sensible person would actually believe that being born male due to sheer coincidence of birth automatically gives you greater dominion over those born female? I can already sense the religious apologists constructing their counter arguments, almost invariably revolving around the issue of contextually misquoting their holy book but I’d like to ask them the following question: If you accuse those opposed to your brand of theology of misquoting scripture, then why do you teach scripture to children in the most literal sense and force unto them such reprehensible understandings about the world they live in? Leading on from that point, why would you base your understandings of the world and those who populate it on a text so open to misinterpretation, internally inconsistent and self-contradicting that it is oftentimes misquoted and misunderstood?
I am aware that the past few hundred words have been devoted to a broadside against Christianity but this is merely because I can only speak from the socio-cultural factors that have shaped my personal experience. That being said, I am perfectly aware that there is a trend of intolerance that manifests itself in the scriptures of Abrahamic faith. When applied to the broader context of Malaysian society, I challenge my Muslim readers (and those who believe in a similarly Abrahamic God) to illustrate an example where the topic of homosexuality was not condemned but rather treated with acceptance and respect during one of their religious classes.
This goes to show that these religions, irrespective of name or denomination, perpetuate the same antiquated prejudices within the societies that embrace it. Take a moment to deliberate if the religious justification of female subordination and homophobic intolerance has any place in the first world society we consider ourselves a part of and then tell me again that a case against religion is not worth making.
You may be wondering where I’m going with this thinly veiled, sacrilegious rhetoric. After all, if you buy into the glossy public image of this country you won’t hesitate to believe that we are living harmoniously in spite of our various races and religions. You will also believe that we are a concordant, secular democracy that favors intellectual debate over direct confrontation. I do agree with the notion that we are a democracy, but a fledgling one at best and certainly not secular at all. In this country where nation and religion are so intrinsically tied to our understandings of self and others, I feel it is essential to point out the problems that come along with theological beliefs.
One of the ways to elevate democratic expression is to be open to the concept of a public sphere where topics such as religion can be discussed without being diluted or toned down. Are we really going to sacrifice our democratic right to reasonable inquiry just because we’re told that the subject of religion is “sensitive” and likely to offend? In fact we should be ashamed if our ostensibly progressive society is not mature enough to disagree about such matters in a constructive and level headed way. Religion has occupied a privileged position in public discourse for far too long and it is this writer’s view that not only is its elevated position unwarranted, but that it should also be subject to the same degree of scrutiny as any other topic.
To surmise I must accentuate that I do not claim to hate religion. I must however confess to a fervent hatred of totalitarianism in all its ways, shapes, and forms. Therefore, it is religious totalitarianism that I cannot help but speak out against. If there are those who claim to be religious solely for the purpose of personal and spiritual well-being then I would be the first to submit humbly that I find nothing wrong or malicious with their point of view. However, I would suggest that they keep their beliefs to themselves, refrain from teaching hatred to children too young to form independent, informed opinions of their societies, and perhaps most of all, to stop using their doctrine to justify homophobic, misogynistic and bigoted understandings of the world. If they can agree to all that then more power to them and – excuse me for borrowing the term – surely goodness and mercy will follow them all the days of their lives.
Dave Allen, in a few short moments, makes a mockery of the Bible, Adam and Eve, and the entire basis for Christianity. TGO
Right you are again… TGO
What a dummy! Wasting his time on this book of fairy tales known as the Bible. He might as well spend his time “fixing” nursery rhymes…
I’m not going to sit here and dictate this or that to someone who probably considers himself to be a scholar; that’s what religious people live for – telling others how to run their lives, and that’s not me. However, I do have a right to my own opinion, and if that means criticizing someone for their silliness then by all means I am within my rights to express this.
Again, in my view, this guy is a dummy for trying to validate stories made up by ignorant desert dwellers (barbarians) several thousand years ago! TGO
Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press
RAMAT GAN, Israel (AP) — For the past 30 years, Israeli Judaic scholar Menachem Cohen has been on a mission of biblical proportions: Correcting all known textual errors in Jewish scripture to produce a truly definitive edition of the Old Testament.
His edits, focusing primarily on grammatical blemishes and an intricate set of biblical symbols, mark the first major overhaul of the Hebrew Bible in nearly 500 years.
Poring over thousands of medieval manuscripts, the 84-year-old Cohen identified 1,500 inaccuracies in the Hebrew language texts that have been corrected in his completed 21-volume set. The final chapter is set to be published next year.
The massive project highlights how Judaism venerates each tiny biblical calligraphic notation as a way of ensuring that communities around the world use precisely the same version of the holy book.
According to Jewish law, a Torah scroll is considered void if even a single letter is incorrect or misplaced. Cohen does not call for changes in the writing of the sacred Torah scrolls used in Jewish rites, which would likely set off a firestorm of objection and criticism. Instead, he is aiming for accuracy in versions used for study by the Hebrew-reading masses.
For the people of the book, Cohen said, there was no higher calling.
“The people of Israel took upon themselves, at least in theory, one version of the Bible, down to its last letter,” Cohen said, in his office at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv.
The last man to undertake the challenge was Jacob Ben-Hayim, who published the Mikraot Gedolot, or Great Scriptures, in Venice in 1525. His version, which unified the religion’s varying texts and commentaries under a single umbrella, has remained the standard for generations, appearing to this day on bookshelves of observant Jews the world over.
Since Ben-Hayim had to rely on inferior manuscripts and commentaries, numerous inaccuracies crept in and were magnified in subsequent editions.
The errors have no bearing on the Bible’s stories and alter nothing in its meaning. Instead, for example, in some places the markers used to denote vowels in Hebrew are incorrect; or a letter in a word may be wrong, often the result of a centuries old transcription error. Some of the fixes are in the notations used for cantillation, the text’s ritual chants.
Most of the errors Cohen found were in the final two thirds of the Hebrew Bible and not in the sacred Torah scrolls, since they do not include vowel markings or cantillation notations.
Cohen said unity and accuracy were of particular importance to distinguish the sacred Jewish text from that used by those sects that broke away from Judaism, namely Christians and Samaritans.
To achieve his goal, Cohen relied primarily on the Aleppo Codex, the 1,000-year-old parchment text considered to be the most accurate copy of the Bible. For centuries it was guarded in a grotto in the great synagogue of Aleppo, Syria, out of reach of most scholars like Ben-Hayim. In 1947, a Syrian mob burned the synagogue, and the Codex briefly disappeared before most of it was smuggled into Israel a decade later.
Now digitized, the Codex, also known as the Crown, provided Cohen with a template from which to work. But because about a third of the Codex — nearly 200 pages — remains missing, Cohen had to recreate the five books of Moses based on trends he observed in the Codex as well as from other sources, such as the 11th-century Leningrad Codex, considered the second-most authoritative version of the Jewish Bible.
Cohen also included the most comprehensive commentaries available, most notably that of 11th-century Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, known as Rashi.
The result is the completion of Ben-Hayim’s work.
“It was amazing to me that for 500 years, people didn’t sense the errors,” said Cohen, who wears a knitted skullcap and a gray goatee. “They just assumed that everything was fine, but in practice everything was not fine.”
He’s not the only scholar to devote decades to the task. In 1976, Rabbi Mordechai Breuer published a version of the Torah based mainly on the Aleppo Codex. The Hebrew University Bible Project in Jerusalem has also been working on a scientific edition of the Hebrew Bible, but theirs is directed toward scholars, while Cohen’s output is aimed at wider consumption.
Rafael Zer, the project’s editorial coordinator, called Cohen’s work “quasi-scientific” because it presents a final product and does not provide the reader a way of seeing how it was reached. He credits Cohen for bringing an exact biblical text to the general public but said it “comes at the expense of absolute accuracy and an absolute scientific edition.”
With the assistance of his son Shmuel, a computer programmer, Cohen launched a digital version he hopes will become a benchmark of the Israeli education system. He said his ultimate goal was to “correct the past and prepare for the future.”
As a former teacher, Cohen said he took particular pride in a sophisticated search engine that allows even novices to explore his work with ease. He called computers a “third revolution” to affect Jewish scripture, following the shift from scrolls to bound books and the advent of the printing press.
“I want the Bible to be user-friendly,” said Cohen, a grandfather of eight. “Today, we can create sources of information and searches that allow you to get an answer to everything you are wondering.”
Follow Aron Heller at http://www.twitter.com/aronhellerap
Following are a few thought-provoking quotes on religion by someone little known today, but one of the most fascinating men in the history of the United States: TGO
“If the Bible and my brain are both the work of the same infinite God, whose fault is it that the book and my brain do not agree?”
“Who can overestimate the progress of the world if all the money wasted in superstition could be used to enlighten, elevate and civilize mankind” ?
“It may be that ministers really think that their prayers do good and it may be that frogs imagine that their croaking brings spring.”
“Strange but true; those who have loved God most have loved man least.”
“They knew no better, but I do not propose to follow the example of a barbarian because he was honestly a barbarian.”
“Why should I allow that same God to tell me how to raise my kids who had to drown his own” ?
“If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would follow strictly the teachings of the New, he would be insane.”
“Take from the Church the miraculous, the supernatural, the incomprehensible, the unreasonable, the impossible, the absurd and nothing but a vacuum remains.”
“I have little confidence in any enterprise or business or investment that promises dividends only after the death of the stockholders.”
“Ministers say that they teach charity. That is natural. They live on hand-outs. All beggars teach that others should give.”
“Science built the Academy, superstition the Inquisition.”
“If Christ, in fact, said: I came not to bring peace but a sword, it is the only prophecy in the New Testament that has been literally fulfilled.”
“I cannot see why we should expect an infinite God to do better in another world than he does in this.”
“Hands that help are far better than lips that pray.”
“I have always noticed that the people who have the smallest souls make the most fuss about getting them saved.”
“All the professors in all the religious colleges in this country rolled into one, would not equal Charles Darwin.”
“…If all the bones of all the victims of the Catholic Church could be gathered together, a monument higher than all the pyramids would rise…”
“A miracle is the badge and brand of fraud… No intelligent, honest man ever pretended to perform a miracle, and never will.”
“Do away with the miracles, and the superhuman character of Christ is destroyed. He becomes what he truly was, a man.”
“Either God should have written a book to fit my brain, or he should have made my brain to fit his book.”
“To succeed the theologian invades the cradle. In the minds of the innocent they plant the seeds of superstition. Save children from the pollution of this horror.”
“With soap, baptism is a good thing.”
“If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would follow strictly the teachings of the New, he would be insane.”
“Give the Church a place in the Constitution, let her touch once more the sword of power, and the priceless fruit of all ages will turn to ashes on the lips of men.”
“Should I not give the real transcript of my mind? Or should I turn hypocrite and pretend what I do not feel, and hate myself forever after for being a cringing coward.”
“We do not want creeds; we do not want idols; we want knowledge; we want happiness.”
“Reason, observation, and experience; the Holy Trinity of science.”
“Religion can never reform mankind because religion is slavery.”
“If Christ was good enough to die for me, he certainly will not be bad enough to damn me for honestly failing to believe in his divinity.”
I’ll start with this, written by Robert G. Ingersoll:
“Christ, according to the faith, is the second person in the Trinity, the Father being the first and the Holy Ghost third.
Each of these persons is God. Christ is his own father and his own son. The Holy Ghost is neither father nor son, but both.
The son was begotten by the father, but existed before he was begotten – just the same before as after. Christ is just as old as his father, and the father is just as young as his son.
The Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father and Son, but was equal to the Father and Son before he proceeded, that is to say, before he existed, but he is of the same age as the other two.
So it is declared that the Father is God, and the Son and the Holy Ghost God, and these three Gods make one God. According to the celestial multiplication table, once one is three, and three times one is one, and according to heavenly subtraction if we take two from three, three are left. The addition is equally peculiar: if we add two to one we have but one. Each one equal to himself and to the other two. Nothing ever was, nothing ever can be more perfectly idiotic and absurd than the dogma of the Trinity.”
I’ll end with this, written by yours truly:
Anyone alive today who truly believes in the “Holy” Trinity is delusional. There isn’t an intelligent, logical person with even the slightest amount of common sense who can believe such an absurdity. In fact, anyone who believes anything written in the Bible is nuts, to put it kindly. The people who wrote the Bible were ignorant barbarians who barely wandered beyond the limits of the desert. They knew nothing of geology, astronomy, physics, archeology, chemistry, anatomy or any of the other sciences, and as such, they attributed everything to God; the invisible man in the sky.
The Old and New Testament alike is full of superstitious myths, myths that any sensible, un-indoctrinated 10 year-old child would have trouble believing, just as that same child today would have trouble believing in Santa Claus.
The fact that grown men and women in the 21st century are still contemplating thoughts of the “Holy” Trinity is a testament to just how mindless and gullible human beings can be. Sad, but true… TGO
Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press
One of the largest Bible translators in the world is undergoing an independent review after critics claimed language in some of their translations intended for Muslim countries misses the essential Christian idea of Trinity: the father, son and the holy spirit or ghost.
Critics argue that using words like “Messiah” instead of “Son” and “Lord” instead of “Father” badly distorts the doctrine, in which God is said to be one being in three persons.
“If you remove ‘son,’ you have to remove ‘father,’ and if you remove those, the whole thread of the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation is unraveled,” said the Rev. Georges Houssney, the president of Horizons International, a Christian organization that works extensively with Muslims and himself a translator of the Bible into Arabic.
Orlando, Fla.-based Wycliffe Bible Translators argues the translations have never been about avoiding controversy, but choosing words that most accurately reflect the Gospels: Some concepts relating God to family members don’t make sense in some cultures, so the language needs to reflect that.
“People are saying we’re trying to do translation work that’s not offensive to Muslims, and that’s just not true,” Wycliffe CEO Bob Creson said. “We are committed to the accurate translation of God’s word. That is our highest value.”
Translating the collection of ancient documents assembled together as the Bible has never been easy. Disputes over biblical language date from the early centuries of Christianity when the original Hebrew and Greek texts were brought to new countries, to making the Shakespearean language of the King James Version more understandable to modern readers.
Last month, Wycliffe agreed to an independent review of its policies by the World Evangelical Alliance, which plans to appoint a panel of experts to determine whether Wycliffe and affiliated groups are improperly replacing the terms “Son of God” and “God the Father.”
The decision comes after a growing number of critics decried the materials as attempts to avoid controversy that fundamentally altered Christian theology. The dispute moved from Internet forums and online petitions to concern from large Christian bodies. The Assemblies of God — one of the largest Pentecostal fellowships, with more than 60 million members in affiliated churches worldwide — announced it would review its longstanding relationship with Wycliffe.
Wycliffe, an interdenominational group that works with a wide variety of churches and missionaries, says it won’t publish any disputed materials until after the WEA panel issues its findings.
Creson said that in some cases, what are known to scholars as the “divine familial terms” — God the Father and the Son of God — don’t make sense in translation in some cultures. Islamic teaching, for example, rejects the notion that God could be involved in a relationship similar to a human family, and Creson argues that people in such cultures might be immediately put off by those terms.
“Translation is a very laborious process, because you have to understand the culture of the community, and you don’t understand that overnight,” he said.
Houssney, along with other critics on the Biblical Missiology website, helped launch a petition online calling on Wycliffe to drop the disputed translations.
The Most Rev. John Harrower, Anglican bishop of Tasmania, was an early signatory of the petition. He argues the inaccurate translations make missionary work more difficult in the very communities where they’re used.
“Changing fundamental words of Scripture such as ‘father’ and ‘son’ will also fuel the Muslim claim that the Bible is corrupted, full of errors and has been abrogated by the Quran and example of Muhammad,” he wrote in an email.
For critics like Houssney, the changes aren’t simply a matter of word choice, but theological choice.
“God says, ‘This is my Son,’ and we can’t put other words in his mouth,” he said.
The issue is at least partly philosophical, something that’s long been an issue when it comes to presenting the Bible in new languages.
Wycliffe, which is involved in more than 1,500 Bible translation programs in roughly 90 countries, generally prefers a method known as “dynamic equivalent translation,” Creson said, in which a literal, word-for-word approach is less important than conveying the essential meaning of a text.
“If you’ve got a culture that doesn’t have sheep, and you want to translate the word ‘sheep,’ you either explain sheep or you find an equivalent term,” Creson said.
The other major approach is generally known as “formal equivalent translation,” said Timothy Beal, a professor of religion at Case Western Reserve University. That approach that strives for as close to a literal match as possible.
The importance of translation springs from the early centuries of Christianity, when the books of the New Testament, originally written in Greek, were translated by believers in places where that language wasn’t spoken, said Ray Van Neste, director of the R.C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University.
“In some of those languages, it’s the first written literature,” he said. “It’s part of the missionary impulse of Christianity that this is the very word of God, and that all people need the opportunity to hear it and read it.”
The rendering of the Bible into languages other than Latin was one of the major disputes of the Protestant Reformation; John Wycliffe, the 14th century scholar the Orlando organization is named for, was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church for producing an English version of Scripture. At times, even particular translations can become so entrenched that believers reject the possibility of improvement, Beal said, noting that some American churches advertise themselves as “King James Only,” referring to the Shakespeare-era English translation.
“Translation is probably the most contentious topic in the history of the Bible,” he said.
Wycliffe is now waiting for the WEA panel to convene. Creson said there will be 14 members of the group, and he expects some to be sympathetic to Wycliffe’s approach and others to be critical. Messages seeking comment from the WEA were not returned.
“We’re submitting ourselves to a global consultation that will look at our translation practices and we’ll abide by the recommendations,” Creson said. “If they make a recommendation to do something we’ve not done in the past, we’ll go back and look at what we’re doing.”
It definitely won’t end the larger discussion in Christianity about the best way to bring the word of God to believers.
“Translation is theology,” Beal said. “You cannot translate without doing theology. Any time we translate a text, we’re really creating something new.”
Wycliffe Bible Translators: http://www.wycliffe.org/
Biblical Missiology: http://biblicalmissiology.org/