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Author Topic: consistency among bibles
timeskimo
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This thread came out of the homosexuality thread. That gave me an idea. The strongest reason why logic is unable to triumph over many Christians (and have them admit it) seems to be because they disagree on what Christianity is. In my personal experience, it's fairly common for me to point out a passage that preaches hatred, or hypocrisy, or anything bad and have people then look it up in their bibles and tell me it's not really in there. My particular source is usually a circa 1930s? bible that's mostly unidentifiable, although I strongly suspect it to be a Catholic one. Anyway, I pose my question: How often are bibles consistent? In the experiences of the brilliant minds gathered here, are all bibles the same? Are they all different? How often do they omit the more gruesome parts? How often do they leave them in? Basically, I'm asking about whether Christians can ever agree as to what their religion means.

ps: If all bibles are different, then how can anyone trust one in particular? Couldn't any one be wrong just as easily as any other one?

pps: For a prime example of inconsistency, look up Psalm 137. The baby-smashing psalm. I've seen it as 137, 136, 138, 141, and phrased completely differently in all of them. Most seem to agree on the baby-smashing part. And also, could anyone tell me where it is in the bible where it talks about "ripping apart their women with child"? I'd like to be able to quote that for biblical barbarism, and I heard about it in a Heinlein book. He's usually pretty accurate.

-Timesk


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LetterRip
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Timeskimo,

Most Bibles, are translations of ancient Hebrew, Greek and Aramic texts.

This link complains vehemently about different texts used for the New King James Version vesus those used for the King James.
http://www.chick.com/ask/articles/nkjvtext.asp

The original texts are fairly consistent (although certain minor differences exists, and there are occassional passages that appear to have been added at later dates, etc.) Due to changes in language and culture over time, it is difficult to know the exact correct translation of a passage. Words from different languages can have either broader or narrower meanings than the words be translated from. Additionally, many authors try to maintain the flow of the original, thus words or phrases that are closer in meaning to the original Greek or Hebrew, may be substituted for slightly less accurate words that flow better.

An additional problem is that different sects of Christianity accept different books to be canonical. Thus a Catholic Bible and a King James Bible will not contain all of the same books.

A further problem is that different world views and beliefs of the individual doing the translation can lead to different interpretations of phrases and words. Often these world views are informed by the sect of Christianity in which the translator belongs (if any)..

There are also copyright issues, each orginal translation has to differ significantly enough from other translations to get an original copyright.

LetterRip

[This message has been edited by LetterRip (edited September 01, 2002).]


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seagull
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The Jewish bible (in the original Hebrew and Aramaic) is amazingly consistent for a document that old.

The Torah (first 5 books of the bible) is especially consistent because it has been meticulously maintains by religious rituals since the time of Ezra the scribe. As a participant in those rituals I can tell you that every orthodox synagogue reads a portion of the Torah every week in Hebrew directly from a scroll (printed books don’t satisfy the religious requirement) and goes through all five books every year. Every once in a while, the reader encounters a letter or word where the ink has deteriorated to the point where the calligraphy can no longer be read. In those cases the reading stops and we put the scroll away to be corrected later by a trained scribe. IIRC, at least two other (valid) scrolls must be consulted in the process of fixing a scroll.

There are thousands of scrolls out there, some are from various traditions that diverged centuries ago (long before the invention of the printing press), and yet AFAIK none of them disagree on any of the words and the number of discrepancies for individual letters can be counted on your fingers. This is true even for things that may seem like typos, the so-called typos are reproduced identically in all scrolls. Modern Jewish printings of the bible (in the original Hebrew and Aramaic), often have notations and commentaries on the side of the page that indicate traditions about how to read/pronounce some words differently from the printed words (especially for the seeming typos) and interpretations of what they mean. But the text itself is the same and must be copied as is.

There is a BIG difference in the accuracy of the Torah and the rest of the prophets and writings in the Jewish bible. This is probably related to the fact that while the Torah is read in its entirety once a year; only portions of the bible are read in synagogues as part of the religious service. Moreover, the traditions for Torah reading are more strict. For example, Torah scrolls do not include the Hebrew diacritical marks (equivalent to reading English without the vowels) so it is common for the reader to make mistakes in pronunciation of some words. In those cases, other people who follow the reading must point out the correction and the reading cannot continue until it is said correctly. For non-Torah readings, there is no requirement to correct the reader and mistakes are sometimes overlooked to avoid embarrassment.

Still, in spite of the less strict standards used for the other books of the Bible, the original Hebrew is one of the best preserved ancient texts. A comparison with the Qumran scrolls that have been sealed in caves for more than 1500 years (exact dates anyone?) shows very few differences for those passages that were found.

[This message has been edited by seagull (edited September 02, 2002).]


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seagull
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As to the baby-smashing psalm I assume you refer to Psalm 137 Verse 9. Transliterated into English it says:

quote:
Bat-Bavel hashedudah, ashrey sheyokhaz venipetz et olalayikh el ha-selaa

The stone edition Artscroll series translation is:
quote:
Oh, violated daughter of Babylon, praiseworthy is he who will clutch and dash your infants against the rock

There are possible alternate translations. For example the root of word “ashrey” is the same as the root for happy, so praiseworthy may not be an exact translation. Also I think that the word “olal” (olalayikh) refers to toddlers rather than infants (at least in modern Hebrew). Finally the word “selaa” refers to rocks the size of boulders rather than smaller rocks.

However you translate it and even for native Hebrew speakers who are familiar with the biblical variations of the language, the gist of the sentence is clear and it is disturbing.

One thing should be mentioned about the context. The word “yours” refers specifically to Babylon as mentioned in the verse. When Babylon destroyed Jerusalem, they smashed the infants of Zion to the rock (exactly the same wording). This is a reference to divine revenge (through the Persians) against Babylon rather than a commandment to anyone to perform these acts.

It is still very disturbing quote. To me it reflects the fact that we live in a very disturbing world.


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seagull
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quote:
I've seen it as 137, 136, 138, 141

I was not aware that this numbering system was so fraught with inconsistency. I have never seen such discrepancies before although I must admit that I usually refer to Jewish bibles with the original Hebrew rather than (or in addition to) the translations.

AFAIK, the numbering system used in modern Jewish bibles was first introduced by Christians. Earlier Jewish sources use quotes that seem to assume that the reader knows the whole bible by heart (which many did then and still do now). IIRC, Jews only started using the Christian numbering system when they were forced to debate theology in countries dominated by Christians and had to be able to refer to the same verses. Once they picked it up though, the system seems to have propagated even to other countries as a convenient form of reference.

Jewish tradition makes a point of the fact that the numbering system and chapters are foreign and have no religious significance. This is especially relevant in some cases where the division into chapters seems to make no logical sense.

[This message has been edited by seagull (edited September 02, 2002).]


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seagull
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quote:
ripping apart their women with child

Another one of those disturbing quotes …

IIRC, Shows up several times, I don’t remember exactly where. At least one of them is in the book of Judges and refers to the Moabites doing it to Israel at Gilaad. Considering that the word “har” means mountain and “hara” means a pregnant woman, the word "harot" (plural female) could also be literally translated as a metaphor saying ”ripping apart the mountains of Gilaad”.

I any case, I doubt that any of the people mentioned as doing it were considered righteous by the bible.

[This message has been edited by seagull (edited September 02, 2002).]


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timeskimo
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Thanks to everyone for enlightening me here. As to our disappearing psalm 137, I did fail to mention, although it probably doesn't need mentioning, that I've found a majority among the bibles I've checked that omit that psalm entirely. I find this especially among student bibles and flashy modern translation ones (i.e., flashy meaning colorful, appealing to younger Christians maybe?). Disturbing trend, teaching young believers that the bloodthirsty parts never existed.
-Timesk

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LetterRip
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Here is one discussion of the passage from a Christian perspective
http://www.brfwitness.org/Articles/1986v21n4.htm

Do you happen to recall which Bible(s) excluded the passage?

(I actually hadn't read your entire posting before I had answered the first half of it, and thus overlooked your second set of questions...)

LetterRip


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Zixar
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Some quick data:

In the KJV, the passage is numbered Psalm 137, verse 9.

Chapter numbers were added to the Bible circa 1250 AD, verse numbers added later, probably in the mid 1500s. They weren't very well assigned in some cases...in one place, a chapter is broken in the middle of a sentence. (See John 7:53 and 8:1)

The King James version dates from 1611, if memory serves.


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seagull
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quote:
in one place, a chapter is broken in the middle of a sentence.

Interesting, I know of several examples where chapters break the flow of a story, but I doubt you'll see chapters broken in the middle of a sentence in the Jewish bible. The Torah scrolls are copied according specific instructions for two types of "paragraph" markings (open and closed). In addition, the same traditions that provide diacritical marks and reading vs. text instructions also have "troffs" which are musical instructions that serve as punctuation. The Jewish tradition therefore maintained a consistent version for sentences and paragraphs that is independent of the Christian numbering system.

On the other hand I think ancient Hebrew did not use spaces to separate words as they are today (on the modern scrolls). So in some cases, it is theoretically possible to have ambiguity as to where to break words that are not explicitly proscribed by the use of final letters. The word boundaries are specified by the same traditions that provide diacritical marks, troffs and reading instructions. Since we do not have any of the original scrolls of Moses that makes the distinction rather theoretical.


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seagull
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quote:
I've found a majority among the bibles I've checked that omit that psalm entirely.

You mean they actually omit the verses:

quote:
On the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and we wept when we remembered Zion

and
quote:
If I forgot thee Jerusalem ...

Wow! Talk about censorship.

BTW, Psalm 137 in its entirety is part of the Jewish grace after meals for weekdays. On Shabbat, holidays and celebrations we say a different Psalm:

quote:
A song of praises (or stairs), when G-d returned the return of Zion, we were as dreaming.
...
he will come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves


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Zixar
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seagull: Yes, thankfully, the Jews' attention to detail in copying the Torah makes Christian biblical scholars a lot more comfortable with the surviving texts than the NT.

The earliest surviving Greek manuscripts of the New Testament date from the 4th century, or thereabouts. The Textus Receptus was compiled from texts that were written around the 6th century. (I think, don't quote me on that.) We also have writings of the early Church leaders that go back as far as the 2nd century. The problem is that these writers quote from (obviously) earlier versions of the NT that we no longer have, and they don't agree with what has made it into the current versions of the Bible.

Case in point, the record from Matthew 28:19:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (King James Version)

This is one of the last things recorded in Matthew of Jesus speaking to his disciples before he ascended back to Heaven. Unfortunately, Eusebius, a Christian writer, quotes this verse in his works 18 times as ending "in my name" instead of the now-familiar "trinitarian" version. After the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, he changes his tune and starts quoting it as above. (Nicaea is where it was decreed that Jesus was actually divine, or "God the Son". Odd that it took over 200 years for the Church fathers to come up with this dogma...) Guess they forgot about this bit:

2Pe:1:21: For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

We know that the NT has been edited by men for content at least once, so it's hard to approach it critically without looking through two millennia of interpretations of convenience.

Of course, that's just my opinion, and it's rather heretical to Christian Orthodoxy, but I believe that any God who could create an entire Universe would make true worship a lot easier and logical than what the mainstream churches espouse.

In other words, the truth is *in* there, we just have to be REALLY diligent to separate the wheat from the chaff.

If you're inclined to be a Christian, that is...


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timeskimo
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I mispoke, I apologize. I did not mean psalm, I cannot recall specifically if the whole psalm was censored in any one, I have a nagging feeling like it might have been, but I can't back that up. The specific parts espousing revenge and baby-smashing, yes I have seen edited. The bible that stands most to mind as having that edited out is, if I'm remembering right, the Serendipity student bible.
-Timesk
btw: if anyone would like to know my perspective in this, I'm convinced that if there is a god, it's a god of noninterference with mortal affairs, or a sadistic god, or one so completely unfathomable there's no point in believing anyway. IF there is a god. I align myself with atheism since that's got a much better organization than the other three. Psalm 137 goes a long way towards my abandoning my Christianity of earlier years.

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Zixar
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I checked my New American Standard Bible (NASB) this morning, and Ps 137:9 is virtually unchanged in that version, too.

Same in NKJV, NLT, RSV, Webster's, Young's, Darby's, ASV, and HNV. I don't read Latin, so I couldn't check the Vulgate, but the last two words are ad petram, so something's going up against a rock... (Source: www.blueletterbible.org)


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seagull
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Timeskimo:
quote:
one so completely unfathomable there's no point in believing anyway

Most monotheistic religious doctrines I know about (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) postulate that God is "completely unfathomable". Believing in some fathomable good (like the one in the clouds with the long beard) or arguing whether she is black or white is NOT what monotheism is about. What you abandoned is not the religion but your simplified concept of it. The universe and its laws are more complicated than we mortals can ever hope to understand. However, in order to make sense out of it, we have to believe in SOMETHING.

Some people choose to believe in God even if he is unfathomable. Other people choose to believe in other things (mysticism, astrology, "laws of physics", etc…). There are very few people who actually do not believe in some form of ordering principle to the world. What surprises me most, is that there are many people these days who profess to hate science and math and yet choose to believe in scientism - the blind faith that unfathomable science can explain everything better than an unfathomable God.


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