18 March 2009

further on reading

We are well into Lent. In a short time we will observe “Holy Week.” Which brings me to consider my post last week, how we read the Bible and a related topic. I refer to what 'everybody knows.'

“Everybody knows” that the events we proclaim in our 'holy week' celebration took place in a week. Except of course the Bible never says that. In fact, the early church took to celebrating Palm Sunday a week before Easter but never claimed that I can find that there was a one week period between the events of the palm procession, and what in the West we call “Easter.”

In fact, there is no Scriptural evidence that the procession took place on a Sunday. The text tells us that after Jesus drove the sacrificial animals out of the temple and ordered the money changers out, the temple authorities, Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians and other leaders joined in a conspiracy to get rid of him. Conspiracies take a while. And Jesus says at the garden that he taught there for day after day. It is likely that what we compress into a week took at least several, and perhaps months. A reader noted on another board that one can indeed read John to suggest a week. While I think that there is still some problem with the Day Of Week assumption (that is that either Easter or the Palm procession took place on Sunday, he has a point. Perhaps I should have used another example. As my primary point here is about Amos, this example was an apparent error.
19 April

I am reminded of the canard that most of what everyone knows is in the Constitution isn't. The same could be said of the Bible.

In Anglican terms of late, we see another example. This is a part of Amos (chapter 3 for those using chapter referenced texts:)

3Do two walk together if they have not met?
 4Roar doth a lion in a forest and prey he hath none? Give out doth a young lion his voice from his habitation, If he hath not caught?
 5Doth a bird fall into a snare of the earth, And there is no gin for it? Doth a snare go up from the ground, And prey it captureth not?
 6Is a trumpet blown in a city, And do people not tremble? Is there affliction in a city, And Jehovah hath not done [it]?
(Young's Literal Translation)

The King James version makes that first 'verse' “Do two men walk together except they be agreed?” (Implicitly that reads ' “Do two men walk together except they be agreed to do so?”)

And so the mischief begins. The authors of the “Windsor Report” who clearly should have known and written better used the idea of not agreeing to walk together rather casually. They observed that the communion was in danger of not agreeing to walk together. Ever since the schismatic and control oriented have been misusing the quotation to 'prove' that the Bible says we have to agree on doctrine. Of course, Amos said nothing of the sort. He merely used the idea of meeting and agreeing to walk together as a prerequisite to the act of walking together. Clearly we cannot walk if we do not meet!

Please note that I am not comfortable with 'verses,' and 'chapters.' In the much neglected history of the Bible, is the fact that the books were written without them. They were added in relativly modern times to make reference reading a bit simpler. Unfortunately, in my view at least the versification often was not well done and the result is choppy reading. Some 'chapters' in Isaiah actually cut through paragraphs!

Consider another case of misreading. The oldest Hebrew texts of what we call the '23rd psalm' are unintelligible to even the best scholars. What we now call the psalm appears to be the work of one of the earliest English scholars – Joseph Tyndale.

But(!) everyone knows that these things are in the Bible. They aren't.

Which brings me back to reading in context and reading with a knowledge of both the historical settings in which the books were written and an awareness of my favorite Latin proverb: Translator – Traitor. We do potentially serious damage to the text if we simply announce it is 'inerrant' (a silly idea) and fail to apply rigorous historical and literary efforts to reading it. As long as I am editing, it has recently come to my attention {others probably knew this for a while} that 'inerrancy' is a particularly silly, American and modern idea. It was first proposed about 200 years back and widely laughed at then.

I am sort of hung up on 'methodologies' of reading because all of this begins to matter when applied badly by people who should or in the case of some opportunists clearly do know better.

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