Monday, January 9, 2012

My father's bibles

Many years ago, my mother gave me the bible she originally gave to my father when he attended seminary.  It is a simple bible made more useful by my father's hand written notes in the margins and end pages.  Additionally, he had marked up the book in various places with colored lines or letters.  Most of his shorthand notes eluded my understanding of what he was trying to note.  I figured out some of them:  P stood for "priestly code", E for "Elohist", etc.  However, the one thing I could not decipher of his shorthand was his color-coded underlines and margin lines.  Until today.

Several times over the past year, my mother has mentioned one of my father's bibles she has been reluctant to give away.  It is a parallel bible my father acquired.  That, along with the fact it was very old, is all I knew about it.  Hoping it would be more of a polyglot, as asked my mother if I could borrow it for a short period of time.  Sometimes a physical book in front of you is better than electronic text.  She consented and I drove over to her house to pick it up.

It is a large book, many inches thick.  There is a note typed onto a card and taped a couple pages in.  The book was found in the attic of the superintendent's home at Eldridge when Dr. and Mrs. Fred O. Butler retired January 30, 1949.  It is presumed that this bible was moved from Santa Clara to Eldridge when the "HOME" was moved on November 24, 1891.  The card may have been typed up before 1953 because the place was originally called "California Home for the Care and Training of Feeble Minded Children".  In 1909, it changed its name to the "Sonoma State Home".  In 1953, it changed its name again to "Sonoma State Hospital".  As an interesting side note, my research included a quick romp through Wikipedia.  A search there for "Sonoma Development Center" brings up identical information as what is found on the card (names and dates).  It also includes the following line:  "More than 5,000 patients were involuntarily sterilized at this facility during the period 1918 to 1949. The medical director at that time was Frederick Otis Butler, MD."

But I digress.

The book in not a polyglot, but simply a parallel bible between two English bibles.  The title page states it is The Peerless edition of the Holy Bible containing the authorized and revised versions of the old and new testaments arranged in parallel columns; the text conformable to that of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.  It contains a complete concordance and was published by the Historical Publishing Company.  The two bible version it parallels are the Authorized version and the Revised version.  This, to me, is not that impressive.  I suppose, back in 1885 when the book was printed, it was important to show the variations between these two versions.  Personally, today, I'm not that impressed.

The book is not entirely useless.  Before the parallel portion, there is some extensive information.  The materials in this section are diverse and detailed.  Sections include:

  • Introductory History of the Holy Bible
  • The Earliest Editions of the Bible published in America
  • A table of contents of each book of the bible, broken down to title of the story/narrative
  • Revisers' Preface with a detailed description of why/how the Bible version was revised.
  • Religious Denominations, their history and creeds (including heretical denominations)
  • Science and Revelation; or the triumph of the Bible over criticism
  • Scripture Difficulties
  • List of special prayers
  • Valuable Chronological and Miscellaneous Tables (such as empires of biblical times with their kings/rulers)
  • Modern chronology from A.D. 102 to 1877.
  • Prophetic warnings and promises of our Lord and Saviour
  • Analytical Table and Harmony of the Mosaic Law
  • Harmony of the four Gospels (identifying each story/event and where they are found in each Gospel)
  • Biographical sketches of the translators and reformers and other eminent biblical scholars describing the fate of these learned men who rendered the Bible into the English Language (with woodcuts of each)

The list goes on and on.  There is even a section where the book contains reprints of the first page of each book of the bible: reprinted from an beautifully illustrated Bible.  There are even maps of the holy land and other places of interest.

The "extra" material in this book is beyond extensive.  But the real prize was not printed in this Bible.  Just inside the front cover were some mimeographed pages from my father's June 23 1963 bulletin with the day's order of worship.  Right behind it were four typed pages.  The four stapled pages was my father's syllabus for his six week class on the "Life of Christ: Fiction, Fantasy and Fact".   On the fourth page, at the very bottom was his "Using Gospel Synopsis for Class" where he described his use of color coding and underlining to address specific Gospel issues.

With this description, I finally understand the meaning of the final mystery of my father's shorthand.  I cannot wait to start using my new understanding of my father's research and study.  It is the greatest find I have discovered in many years.  For now, I can clearly understand what my father saw and learned.  I have repeatedly learned how brilliant his mind was.  Now I have the final key to understanding his thoughts.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Lord's Prayer

After listening to the Lord's prayer the other day (and the normal confusion over debt/transgression) and it got me thinking: What is the original words?

The difficulty lies in two areas: translation and time.  Translating any language involves a certain degree of error. There is no one-to-one relationship between words in different languages.  In Europe, the Sami people have hundreds of words that mean snow, each with their own distinct meaning.  English has, in essence, one.  Translating from Sami to English loses meaning in the translation.  The reverse requires the translator to add more to the message than was originally intended.

Time is the other obstacle.  Translators tend to pick words that appeals to their issues of the day.  Translations of translations are like photocopies of photocopies.  Once a translator moves on from the original and translates a translation, the errors increase.  Time allows for translators to add phrases, like the doxology, to the original message.

Jesus, being Jewish, (gasp) relied on Hebrew texts for many of the things he is claimed to have said.  Consequently, I went looking for Hebrew and Aramaic versions of the prayer, in addition to the traditional Greek and Latin.  Based on my findings, and understandings of the languages, as they were used at the time, I think I have an interesting translation which more accurately represents the prayer than most of what I have seen in English.

Oh Thou, from whom the breath of life comes, who fills all realms of sound, light and vibration.
May Your light be experienced in my utmost holiest.
Your Heavenly Domain approaches both within and without.
Let Your will come true - in the universe of all, just as on this material world.
Give us the understanding and assistance for our daily need.  Detach the fetters of faults that bind us, like we let go the guilt of others.
Let us not be lost in materialism or common temptations, but let us be freed from that what keeps us from our true purpose.

Mind you, in all of the examples of prayer in the Bible, the above prayer is not used.  It is simply used once to teach people how to pray.  This makes me wonder if the exact words are important, or if this is simply a guideline for how to create a prayer (like a template).

My research into the Lord's prayer, included wandering into the Didache again.  In it, I found another example of where time and translation changed early text into something more desired by the translator.  The Didache includes the phrases used in the Eucharist.  The Didache states the phrases as:

Concerning the Eucharist (communion) give thanks like this:
First for the cup:
We give thanks to You, our Father, for Your holy vine of David, Your servant, which You made known to us through Jesus, Your Servant. Glory to You forever.

Concerning the broken bread:
We give thanks to You, our Father, for the life and knowledge that You made known to us through Jesus, Your Servant. Glory to You forever. As this broken bread was scattered over the hills and was brought together becoming one, so gather Your Church from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom, for You have all power and glory forever through Jesus Christ.

Do not let anyone eat or drink of your Eucharist meal except the ones who have been baptized into the name of the Lord. For the Lord said concerning this: "do not give that which is holy to the dogs."

I'm intrigued that the breaking of the bread is more in line with the feeding of the five thousand than it does with the cannibalistic eating of Jesus' flesh.  I know, my comment about the five thousand is as accurate as "This is my body broken for you."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Original Sin

Here's a topic that confused me for many years.  The thought is pretty straight forward.  We are taught that man is born with original sin.  Consequently, we are born sinners.  In essence, we are paying the debt for the sins of our forefathers.  Naturally, others have argued this point and the concept was modified to imply that we are born "unsaved".  Since we are devoid of God's grace at the time of our birth, we are sinners.  (My twist on the current justification.)

Leave it to the apostle Paul and later church leaders to add this idea into the collective belief system.

If we were to accept that we are paying for the sins of Adam, then I would simply argue that Jesus claims to have washed away that, and all other, sins.  So, anyone born after the death of Jesus would be cleansed of the original sin.

If we take the more modern definition of original sin being the absence of holiness, I have to ask: Did God create me?  Am I not a son of God?  Are we not all children of God?  What holiness, then, do I lack from my birth/creation?  We are taught that when we are born, God breathed life into us.  How imbued with holiness do I have to have to avoid the state of the "absence of holiness"?

The absence of holiness implies that human nature, in its natural state, is undesirable or somehow deficient.  Man is not a being God gave free will to, but rather something God allowed to be created imperfectly.  This seems illogical to me.  A loving god, filled with compassion, creates an object and withholds God's love and compassion?  This borders on contradiction.

Perhaps "original sin" is something created by Paul to scare people into a moral alignment.  If Paul's implications were insufficient, then Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, pushed this invalid doctrine along further.  Calvin's total depravity caused us all to be condemned to hell before we have a chance of redemption.  What could motivate a person (other than riches and fame) to propose an idea where God places man in hell and expects man to struggle out of it?

Original sin presupposes man is a failure with a chance of redemption.  In the inquiry: Is man inherently good or evil, the proponents of original sin must stand on the side of evil.  I cannot agree with this.  If anything, man's nature is neutral and loved by God.