Faith - IV and Ye Olde Testament

"THUS IT IS WRITTEN”

“Human language is local and changeable, it is therefore incapable of being used as the means of unchangeable and universal information.”

- Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

This phrase is frequently bandied about by greedy, brain-wash+rinse preachers every Sunday as they ask for more donations. But, is it really, now? Written, that is. When and where was it written, and by whom, exactly? And, more importantly, in what language? Who came up with the ideas originally?

To be able to properly study the current version of the christian instruction manual, you have to understand that only two basic principles guide almost every bit of christian history and activity, those two being greed and fear. If you fail to grasp these simple truths, it will be easy to get confused by all the begetting, killing, back-stabbing and pointless political arguments about who will and who will not be permitted to fly to that sky castle at the time of the Rapture.

“Greed” is defined as excessive or reprehensible acquisitiveness and avarice. In order fully understand the full extent of christianity’s greed, get ready to see a history bloodier and more evil than any biblical portrayal of Satan. The development of christianity’s current organizations and practices has been guided almost solely by incredible examples of greed and avarice. This is obvious by the number of attacks christianity has made on those cults it felt were not greedy enough.

“Greed” was the eventual cause of the Catholic prohibition against priests marrying. It was a major component in the start of the Crusades. It led to the persecution and utter destruction of entire American Indian tribes. Mexican gold, it seems, was far more important than acting like a christian.

“Fear” is defined as an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of immediate danger. Interestingly, most dictionaries also mention a “profound reverence and awe, especially toward god” in their definition. Almost always, this emotion is connected with an obvious reason for that alarm. Usually, that reason means that danger lurks in one’s future.

Synonyms for fear are dread, fright, alarm, panic, terror, and trepidation. What on earth can be the cause of such strong emotions? Simple answer: Christianity at work. You will see how christians work hard to create fear in later chapters. By studying how their current bible came to be, you will see how Greed and Fear have become so useful, not only to christian leaders, but even to entire US administrations, especially the previous "W" based one. Both Greed and Fear played a huge role in how the modern bible came to be. If you keep these two points in the back of your mind, the whole bible issue becomes more clear.

Today’s most popular versions of this christian instruction manual consist of two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. Most parts of the Old Testament came from ancient times, perhaps even a thousand years before god pulled his JC trick on earth. The Egyptians, Hittites, Canaanites and several other ancient civilizations provided much of the fodder and basis for it. In fact, there is very little original writing contained in it. Every memorable story had an identical or almost identical predecessor from a nearby cult, often exterminated by the time the the OT was first compiled as god's dictation.

The New Testament also had an incredibly bloody and violent birth. Given much of the subject matter, that is only fitting. This birthing process, for both parts of their bible, is not quite over. More ancient Greek texts are constantly being found and the Dead Sea Scrolls are still being analyzed. There is little doubt that even more archeological findings will be made in the future.

As we have stated earlier, there is a common misconception supported by strictest christian leaders (and neocon politicians for their own evil purposes) that every single word contained in their bible is immutable, as though it were set in stone. “Inerrant” is the term they like to use. Every word, in every translation, in every version of the bible, is the word of their god, having never changed throughout history.

Clearly, that is not the case. Let’s start at the very beginning, with the Old Testament.

Old Testament
The first problem the honest translator faced was that ancient alphabets contained letters that were written, or graphed, in similar ways, especially when dealing with paleo-Hebrew or Aramaic characters. Unfortunately, they can have very different meanings. For example, the prepositions kaf (“like”) and bet (“in”) are interchanged in the Masoretic and Dead Sea Scroll versions of Isaiah.

Another serious problem was the lack of punctuation in Aramaic. Take the words, “I copulate with women hating cats at night.” Simply placing periods or commas in different places radically changes the meaning. Did I mean to write that I am committing sexual abuse on innocent cats, women, or that I dislike excess felines after the sun sets? Or worse, is this group of words supposed to go with other words in front and behind this grouping and not with each other? Did they alternate right to left and left to right, as the Egyptian hieroglyphs sometimes do?

Translation between any languages is no easy business. Personal bias and misunderstanding play a huge role in the final product. To make matters worse, there were no copy machines, typewriters, or computers in these early days. Dictionaries were unheard of and dialects varied almost as much as languages themselves. Everything had to be hand copied, causing even greater errors. We won’t even get into the different rules of grammar that existed in different languages.

A more serious problem is that not all languages contain identical words. Some words simply do not exist in other languages. This was particularly true when moving from Hebrew to Aramaic, and then to Attic Greek and Latin.

Lastly, Aramaic’s own rudimentary beginnings created other problems. It consisted of 22 consonants, and contained no vowels. In Aramaic, Dick Cheney’s famous suggestion that an opposing Senator beget himself, would read “gfkrslf.” It is easy to see how differences and errors arose when translating anything from Aramaic to more modern languages.

The Aramaic Targums were pieced together, revised and edited from around 900 BCE. Scholars today admit that these contained major errors.
The Septuagint consists of several efforts to translate the Aramaic text into old Greek, dating back to about 300 BCE. In 130 BCE, the Aquila version was an effort to translate the Jewish Torah, what we know as the Old Testament, from Hebrew into Greek. Theodotion’s Greek version came some 300 years later. Although much effort was made to be more accurate than the prior translations, problems cropped up and transliteration was required because of so many missing or nonexistent words.

Still another Greek translation by Symmachus relied on various older works. Although not many Greeks seem to have read his version, Saint Jerome later relied on it for his famous Vulgate bible. (The Vulgate, with all its widely divergent versions and serious flaws, would later become the gold standard of bible translations until the 1500s.)

Because the many different versions were sowing confusion and causing serious dispute among members and leaders of the christian cult, Origen of Alexandria tried to fix the problem with his Hexapla. He created a novel approach by placing the Hebrew and Greek texts, and the Septuagint, Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion versions in parallel columns. Missing texts, interpretation issues and changed meanings became obvious. Origen also created marks to highlight words that existed in the Greek but not in the Hebrew and vice versa. With the help of this Religious Rosetta stone, translations improved somewhat.

The Coptic version of the bible was translated from both Old Latin and Old Greek into the Coptic language. By this time, many parts of their bible were at least 3 languages away from the original Aramaic text.
The Armenian version (400 CE) was translated only partly from Syriac, (a counterpart in time to Aramaic). It also required the invention of a whole new alphabet. Missing words were still a problem. Some decades later, the Georgians came out with their version, based partly on the Armenian and even older Greek versions.

In the early and mid 400s, the Gothic and Old Latin versions came to be before we finally get to the famous Vulgate text created by Saint Jerome.

Despite his hard labors, his work solved nothing. Old Latin and Vulgate texts were soon mixed, matched and often contradicted one another.

Because more than 8,000 versions of the Vulgate and Old Latin eventually came into existence and have lasted through the ages, their differences, writing and translation errors are easy to spot. Still, because of his Faith, reputation, and probably more than just a bit of successful self-promotion, various parts of Jerome’s Vulgate had an impact for over a thousand years.

Unfortunately, its existing errors were compounded over time with even more changes as many unnamed scholars did their own revising. Some of these changes were based on scholarship; many others were based on politics. Think back to Greed and Fear.

After the 11th century, even the top Christian leaders were forced to admit that they had a serious version and text-based problem on their hands. In 1546, they gathered together in the Council of Trent so they could finally decide which texts and versions they would follow. Other versions were drafted in 1590. More on this important meeting shortly.

Pope Clement’s own effort came out in 1592. The Roman Catholic Church eventually adopted the 1592 instruction manual as its official book. It didn’t hurt to have one of your top leaders as the key author and transcriber.

English Translations
The English version of the bible also underwent a variety of changes and interpretations. The Oxford scholar Aelfric created summaries of his interpretations at around 1000 CE.

The Anglo-Normans had most of the book translated by 1361. The next English translation, known as Wycliffe version, was intended for general public. This otherwise popular step caused god’s robed, self-proclaimed leaders and literary agents to get quite irate. How dare the public read and discuss what should be left only to the ecclesiastical authority? The priests went bonkers, petrified by what a more educated public might do.

How dare the common man own his own bible?

To deal with this potential attack on the power of the exalted preacher class, in 1408, Archbishop Arundel tried to bar the use of the English bible within England. Despite a persistent and deep Church hostility and repeated threats of prison, death, or worse, excommunication, the English continued being English. This version remained a hit with the masses, at least those few who had learned how to read.

A hundred years later, Tyndale’s Old Testament was so successful that it was considered to have set the benchmark all the way to modern times. In 1535, Coverdale came up with his own very popular, but very faulty version. Later editions contained even greater numbers of errors, until 1539, when he published either his 3d or 4th correction alongside Jerome’s Vulgate. (No one knows on what basis he selected this particular Vulgate version from the thousands of Vulgates that existed even that time.)
King Henry VIII’s own Great Bible also underwent a number of changes each time it was reprinted. (Much like the king, it was mostly famous for its corpulent size, not its accuracy. Also like the fat king, its content led to the deaths of innocent women.)

In the early 1600s, a group of Christian leaders told King James that all previous books were “corrupted.” He hired scores of scholars to work in Cambridge and Oxford and paid them to come up with a new and improved version. In 1611, they published the first King James version.

Unfortunately, many of the more accurate Greek works were totally unknown to these scholars. Their ability to translate Aramaic or ancient Hebrew was pretty pathetic. Not one Hebrew or Aramaic scholar existed in Cambridge or Oxford at the time.

In 1870, scholars started a major revision on King James I. Eleven years later, they had made over 30,000 corrections to the New Testament alone.

The Old Testament also underwent significant changes. This revision was published in the US, after undergoing even more serious revisions to “Americanize” the language.

Because the Roman Catholic Church refused to soil its pristine, jewel encrusted, greedy fingers on any of the James’ “filthy” efforts, in 1907, even they admitted that their old translations were fatally flawed. They assigned their own rewriting tasks to their Benedictine cult. By 1969, only the Prophets was still unfinished. Even after 62 years of rewriting, there were still problems and major issues.

Some of these problems are potentially explosive and are not limited to any particular Christian cult. Recent gains in translation, computer analysis and newly found materials continue to change scholars’ views and understanding. For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls continue to create major waves inside most Christian cults. In some cases, the very foundations of their cults are at risk.

It should be clear by now, to even the densest, closed-minded, willfully ignorant, religious, christian bigot, that any resemblance that today’s Americanized Old Testament text has to the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts is accidental, not intentional. And it should also be clear why all human activities are viewed with contempt, especially when those activities may conflict with their very existence. When one considers just how much political wrangling went into many of the translations, today’s most popular texts have very little to do with the original Old Testament.

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detroitmechworks's picture

They at least have the best comeback to Christians who say that their god is the greatest and we must all bow down in worshipful reverence or else burn in everlasting fires of Hel. (Wait, that's from the Norse... I mean the Greeks just had punishments for those who really pissed off the gods...)

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

Hades was hot. If one is Norse it's easy to see how they feared perpetual Winter.

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

Meteor Man's picture

The Covenant of Moses was updated by The New Covenant. There is also The Covenant of Abraham and The Covenant of Moses.

Then there was the whole Abraham/Isaiah schism. God did the best He could to clearly express His/Her wishes.

The usual defects of character that makes God's Will For Us so confusing are Pride, Anger, Envy, Greed, Lust, Sloth and Gluttony.

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"They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war." Howard Zinn