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This week, we will take a mini-break from Confessions and discuss the topic of the Virgin birth and Christology.
We will be going over an article from the November/December 2014 issue of Biblical Archeology Review titled “How Babies Were Made in Jesus’ Time” by Andrew Lincoln. A brief synopsis of the article can be found here; for the complete article you have to order from the website.
A friend sent me a link to this article about the Bible and biblical illiteracy among evangelicals today from the January 2015 issue of Newsweek.
The author makes the argument that modern American evangelicalism (aka the popular conservative portrayal of Christianity many have in mind in America) is quite at odds with what the Bible actually teaches, particularly when it comes to issues about the inerrancy of the Bible, issues on homosexuality, women’s roles in the church, the formation of the canon, and other issues. In fact, the Bible condemns the style of Christianity modern evangelicals are practicing now, the article states.
I was exposed to how prone to error the NIV translation of the Bible was in the past, but not to this extent!
(I myself prefer the NASB, NRSV, or the ESV versions of the Bible. The only times I read or encounter the NIV these days are Sundays at church.)
The NIV is arguably the most popular translation of the Bible in America, or at least one of the most popular throughout the world. Therefore, could millions of Christians over the years been misled in our understanding of the Bible by the NIV translators?
Lots of times, we want the Bible (or even God for that matter) to fit into our own image and conform to our view of the world or reality, and not the other way around. It seems as if those who came up with the NIV seem to have placed the conservative evangelical doctrine of the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture front and foremost, and let that be the driving motivation behind the translation, which then leads to gross misinterpretations and even erroneous belief systems.
The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition – “Controversy Lurks as Scholars Try to Work Out Bible’s Original Text”
As some may or may not know, the biblical text (including the New Testament, although this article focuses on the Old Testament) has gone through multiple edits and revisions over the centuries; therefore it has been subject to errors not only in terms of grammar but also content as well. The Bible that we read today is what it is in its “final form”.
For the past 14 years, a team of scholars have been trying to piece together what the very original Torah or Old Testament was like, but not without some controversy.
From the article:
The difficulties in the project stem from the Bible’s long history of transmission from scribe to scribe through the centuries. HBCE is trying to reverse engineer that process, to sift through the various extant texts of the Bible and — by analyzing grammatical glitches, stylistic hitches and contradictions of the texts — establish a reading closer to if not the original, then at least the archetype on which the subsequent copies were based.
The goal is to rewind the clock as far as possible toward the time when the various biblical texts attained their canonical form, around the start of the Common Era.
The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition will be published later this year.
To learn more, go to the project’s main website here.
Be very cautious of sensationalist claims and findings on biblical archeology reported by the media firsthand.
Whenever you read a Bible or a children’s Bible with illustrations, you’re bound to come across images of camels alongside Abraham, Issac, or Jacob. We take this for granted most of the time.
The New Bible Dictionary: 3rd Ed. states,
In Scripture, camels are first mentioned in the days of the Patriarchs (c. 1900 – 1700 BC) [a bit different from the caption above]. They formed part of the livestock wealth of Abraham and Jacob (Gen. 12:16; 24:35; 30:43; 32:7, 15) and also of Job (1:3, 17; 42:12). On only two notable occasions are the Patriarchs actually shown using camels as transport: when Abraham’s servant went to Mesopotamia to obtain a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24:10), and when Jacob fled from Laban (Gen. 31:17,34)- neither an everyday event. Otherwise, camels are attributed only to the Ishmaelites/Midianites, desert traders, at this time (Gen. 37:25). This very modest utilization of camels in the patriarchal age corresponds well with the known rather limited use of camels in the early 2nd millenium BC. (p. 160)
However, recent archaeological and scientific studies provide new evidence that suggests that camels were domesticated in the regions associated with the biblical Patriarchs centuries later than is portrayed in the biblical accounts.
This research and issues with the domestication of camels is not new news and has been known for some time now.
This research is interesting when trying to place a time-frame on when and where the Pentateuch was written and compiled.
How science and biblical studies converge – read the article here.
Dr. Irving Finkel, assistant keeper at the department of the Middle East at the British Museum, recently deciphered the “Ark Tablet” – an ancient Babylonian tablet that describes a flood and a building of an ark by a single person; however this one is unique in that this tablet provides specific instructions on how the ark was to look like and be built.
Some interesting facts:
- In this account, the ark was round, called a coracle– a shape that is still used today in the Middle East, with a diameter of around 230 ft; very different from our traditional picture of what the ark looked like from our Sunday school pictures
- It’s one of the first known depictions of the Akkadian (Semitic Babylonian) word “sana” which translates to “two each, two by two” when the Ark Tablet describes how the animals were rounded into the coracle. (Sound familiar?)
- It’s worthy to bear in mind that, as Finkel states, the Babylonian flood story in cuneiform is 1,000 years older than the book of Genesis in Hebrew.
He’s come out with a new book on his discoveries called The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood.
I personally had a chance to attend a lecture of Dr. Finkel in the summer last year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when they were exhibiting the Cyrus Cylinder; the Met used his English translation of the Cylinder. He’s quite an entertaining speaker, unlike most other academic lecturers in his field who tend to be quite dry and boring in my opinion.
It should be interesting to see how this may impact biblical and Old Testament studies in the future.
Click here for his complete article.
James D. G. Dunn is Lightfoot Professor Emeritus of Divinity at the University of Durham in England and a New Testament scholar. He is widely regarded as one of the foremost scholars in the world today on the thought and writings of St. Paul.
In this interview he talks about his latest book The Oral Gospel Tradition. When we read about the life of Jesus, we forget that the gospels were written down many decades after Jesus’ life and during that gap between his life and the written gospels there was a rich oral tradition about Jesus that the gospel writers were dependent upon.
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