Sunday, August 30, 2009

God the Father

I have commented about The New Revised Standard Version of the "Bible" (NRSV) quite critically in previous essays: "In fact the first mistake is in combining the first two verses of Genesis into one sentence, making it seem as if the world may have existed before God’s creation [as follows:] 'In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was without form…' The Hebrew simply does not justify this 'translation.' The first two sentences are not joined in the original. The older 'And, the earth was without form and void...' is literally correct, and it cannot be used to suggest Pantheism." If I erred at all when writing this, it may be in using the word "mistake."

Wrong, yes. That so-called translation (which is in keeping with several new trendy Bibles) of the opening of Genesis is definitely just plain wrong. From years of reading Hebrew, having learned Sephardic Hebrew in the early 1980s in courses offered at a Jewish college in Baltimore, from an Israeli instructor, I can say, without fear of educated contradiction, that the perfect English rendering of the first two verses of Genesis is what we find in the Authorized (King James) Version: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void..." These cannot be combined into one sentence without taking unjustified and excessive liberties. That is because the only honest way to translate these first two verses is as separate sentences, recognizing where the first ends and where the second begins. Nonetheless, just because the trendy renderings are wrong does not mean they are a mistake. I think it more likely that an agenda has been behind this, something quite deliberate.

The ideology of "Inclusive Language" caused problems in the NRSV, most obviously in Malachi 4:6. The deeply meaningful line, "He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse," is drained of its force. For, the words rendered "fathers" (אָבוֹת ,אָבוֹא both are plural forms of the root, אֲב) are mistranslated as "parents." These forms of the word אֲב (Ab, from which comes Abba) are different only in so far as one is plural and pointing to something- in this case the hearts of the children (or sons, בָּנִים)- and the other is that to which something is directed, namely the hearts of the children. The correct word is "fathers" in both cases, not "parents." The fathers here are the elders, the patriarchs, the prophets, as the New Testament rendering reveals in the only place where we are treated to an angelic commentary on Scripture, "the wisdom of the just." (Luke 1:17) The Proverbs of Solomon speak as highly of a mother's instruction as they do that of a father, even so, respecting a difference in kind. But, in the NRSV, the words of the prophet Malachi lose their meaning because of a modern ideology.

It has never been enough for promoters of "Feminist Theology" to take Inclusive Language only as far as human beings are concerned (which is itself unnecessary and confusing at best). In ways subtle, or at times not subtle, the agenda has been to replace God the Father with a goddess (about which I written before). To teach Creatio Exnihilo, "creation out of nothing," is to teach that God made everything by his Word, that He willed everything that is not God, every nature that is not Divine Nature, into existence, being alone Uncreated and eternal. This is God the Father, by His Word and by His Spirit making all things and giving them life. Against this revelation of Scripture, Feminist Theology teaches a universe equally eternal with God, indeed a universe that is God, in which life comes forth. In many parts of scripture where the active word "made" is found ("without him was not anything made that was made"-John 1:3), newer versions say something passive, such as "came into being." If instead of God the Father we have a Mother Goddess, a universe that is itself one with Divinity, such passive language takes the ideology of Inclusive Language to that ultimate realm of Godhead. Even regeneration is no longer the work of a Father who has begotten His children, so that "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth," (James 1:18) is made passive: He "brought us forth." God the Father becomes a fossil, and a new Mother Goddess, a pagan deity, takes over.

This may be new to western people with a Christian background. But, it is very ancient and has precedents that are rooted in Pagan cultures as diverse as the worshipers of the Ashtaroth and of Kali. To one infant sacrifice was offered, and the other consumes and destroys with demonic violence. Whereas genuine motherhood, as God created it, is about life and even nourishment and care, this demonic sort of Mother Goddess worship has always been about destruction. There is no logic to this, but history proves it to be a kind of demonic theme. Our culture, at the same time in which God the Father has been rejected in favor of increasing tendencies towards Pantheism and a Mother Goddess, has become very much, as Pope John Paul II phrased it, the Culture of Death. With rejection of God the Father and his Laws, compassion, justice and love have been sacrificed with the innocents by abortion, just as young children were burned in the fire to the consort of Moloch, the Ashtaroth. A Divine universe that brings forth life passively, from the resources of its own properties, has no argument to make for the unique meaning and dignity of any individual's life. Ultimately, if there is no God the Father who arbitrarily gives life and creates as He wills, there is no love.

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life..."

Certainly, we must make no mistake about that.

24 comments:

poetreader said...

Really good analysis. This is no longer a Christian nation, but one committed to some form of Gnosticism. Even Evangelicals have come to make many assumptions more closely resembling Hinduism than orthodox Christianity. I recommend the article by Lisa Miller, "We are All Hindus Now" (Newsweek, Aug 24 & 31, 2009) making this observation from an apparently secular point of view. It seems high time that Christians forthrightly teach Christianity.

ed

Fr Odhran-Mary TFSC said...

I best review of the NRSV that I have seen was the simple statement, "A book with the word bible on its cover."

spaethacc said...

Thank you for the interesting read. I do have one question: while I have often heard (justified) criticisms of the NRSV, what are your thoughts on the RSV-CE, particularly the new second edition Ignatius Press is publishing? As someone who was never socialized on the Authorized Version and never used it before entering the Continuum (I'm 24), I do find the KJV at times to be an unnecessarily difficult read and, in some cases, barely approaching what truly can be called 'vernacular.' I don't mean to seem combative here (or to subtract from the dignity or history of the KJV); I'm just curious because I've never heard it discussed amongst Continuing clergy, though it is something that has come up a number of times when talking to other young ACC members.

Canon Tallis said...

The last time I had lunch with Peter Toon and his wife we discussed this very issue, i.e., the fact that many so called modern translations of the Bible are really deliberate re-writings of same intended to deceive the gullible with a new and false teaching. I was particularly reminded of that lunch the last time I was in Cokebury's in which finding an accurate translation of the Bible was an all but impossible task while the commentaries were all of the Marcus Borg - feminist variety.

It is my belief, probably more hope than actual belief that a majority of Americans intend to be and remain Christian as they were taught to understand the term when children, but the preachers and pastors of most mainline denominations have been led down some pansy bordered avenue where the Truth is not and never was to the great distress of those sitting in the pews. But they will continue to sit there because they don't know quite what to do or where to go while having been taught their own denomination's version of schism is worse than heresy. Plus, they don't know that we exist or where to find us.

Now if someone could get Father Hart to read this passionately in front of a video camera and then post it on youtube, we might have the beginnings of a true Anglican revival.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

spaethacc:

At this point, I cannot give an answer on a second edition of the RSV-CE, unless it is the old RSV. The old RSV is good, but would be better by far if they had not footnoted genuine Scripture by giving undue respect to that flawed Codex Sinaiticus (we are certain that it was a corrupt manuscript, older than the others only because it was not deemed to be worth copying). The same is true of much of the New English Bible, the New International Version, and many others where translators made the same mistake, giving weight to that one manuscript for no valid reason whatsoever, except that it was trendy, chique` and fashionable.

Comparing honest translations is an ongoing process for learning scripture,unless you really have a handle on Koine Greek and Hebrew. The New King James has a lot to offer also. But, becoming acquainted with the language of the KJV and the BCP is very, very much worth the effort. It pays off considerably.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Now if someone could get Father Hart to read this passionately in front of a video camera and then post it on youtube, we might have the beginnings of a true Anglican revival.

Are you sure? What if, like G. Gordon Liddy says of himself, I should prove to "have a face made for radio?"

William Tighe said...

Ed (and Canon Tallis, if I may),

Have you read Harold Bloom's *The American Religion: the Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation* (1991). Bloom is a Yale University literary critic and a self-described "atheist Jewish Gnostic," but his book is an attempt to show that American Christianity (and especially home-grown versions such as the Adventists, the Christian Scientists, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons and [wait for it] the Southern Baptists) is more Gnostic than traditionally orthodox. It is abit wild, but it scores some direct hits, and is well worth reading.

spaethacc said...

Fr. Hart,

As for Sinaiticus, you're the first person I've heard question it (despite studying in three seminaries, two of which were quite traditional even by continuum standards). Could you elaborate or perhaps post in the future on it? It's not that I necessarily disagree with you - I've just never heard another side to the story.

As for comparing translations, I have a working use of Greek, though my Hebrew is terrible. I was thinking more practically, however. I certainly am fine with the BCP and find the language majestic and entirely appropriate, but I guess for me the point of reading an English bible is precisely so that I don't have to learn another language. While the KJV is very accurate and is always a reference, in personal reading often I find it to be too grammatically awkward; I spend as much time re-reading a passage for comprehension as I do trying to absorb its meaning. In such cases, I can't help but think you're shooting yourself in the foot at Bible studies, when reading the lessons, or when exhorting parishioners to read Scripture.

Now, I do have a healthy respect for the KJV as a base translation and for it's literary greatness. That said, it seems we are inadvertently excluding less educated folks. Not that we should water down a translation as is the case with so many modern ones; I just don't think you can realistically say to a factory worker, "in order to read the bible or understand the lectionary read at Mass, you need to learn Jacobean English." I think our work is cut out for us just teaching theological terms in Scripture, without having to explain what a 'buckler' is. Perhaps I'm thick, but I just don't see what that brings to the table.

Perhaps this is a generational thing. I guess I just don't see our mission as propagating the finer points of high English culture. If the language is 'not understanded by the people' I just don't understand why it needs to be perpetuated, save some desire for repristination amongst those who, for many good reasons, find themselves very attached to the KJV. If my comments are off base, please help me to understand. This is something I've often wondered about.

Also, let me clarify something. In no way am I advocating the garbage that made it into the 1979 BCP or the pedestrian translations that clutter Christian bookstores. I do prefer traditional language prayers like those of the 1928 BCP, except when they become an undue barrier to comprehension.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

As for Sinaiticus, you're the first person I've heard question it...

OI VEY! Three seminaries and this has not come up? I don't blame you, but I see more and more that the problem is less one of discovery than of honesty. If only for ethical reasons, it should have come up. Let me quote "To the Reader" in the Third Millennium Bible:

"In evaluating the reliability of almost all contemporary versions one must take into account some little-known history of Bible translations. The principal Greek New Testament text from which almost all contemporary translators worked is known as the Codex Sinaiticus, discovered by archeologist Konstantin von Tischendorf at the foot of Mt. Sinai in 1844. This manuscript is shorter than the text used in translating the Authorized Version by almost three thousand words. This shorter Greek New Testament text was unused and ignored for more than fifteen hundred years in the life of the church, and was reflective of Gnostic and secular influences of the Alexandrian and Hellenistic cultures of antiquity. It was never used in any English Bible translation until 1881. It is worthwhile to note that the New Testament of the Authorized Version finds its support in over five thousand ancient Greek manuscripts, more than any writing in the entire history of literature. By contrast, contemporary versions are supported by a mere handful of ancient manuscripts.

"Contemporary Bible translators and publishers attempt to defend their use of the shorter text in their translations by arguing that theirs is more ancient than the manuscripts supporting the text used in the Authorized Version. But recent scientific examination of fragments of Greek manuscripts which are still more ancient casts much doubt on such claims."

poetreader said...

I have a lot of Bible translations on my shelves, most of which I've got some use out of. However, most of them are in pristine condition and will likely survive me by a good long tome. On the other hand, I have copies of the KJV, all of them in wretched shape from overuse. You see, I trust the KJV, and rather mistrust the others.

This is a good parable for ancient texts. Why would a manuscript survive longer than others? Might it not be evidence that it was little used? Would it not be logical that the best copies might have been used up and ultimately discarded, and that the most accurate copies of the used up ones be used in preference to the old inaccurate ones?

I believe the test of accuracy is in the recognition by the Church of God, to whom the sacred texts have been committed. That said, the KJV is taken from texts closer to continuously used versions than any other English translation.

Does this mean that newer versions are useless? Far from it. They ought to be used by those whose comprehension of Elizabethan is poor -- but they ought to be advertised as less than accurate, with KJV as the English-language standard. The senior pastor in an Evangelical church where I was once on staff, and where the main version used was the NIV, always used to refer to it as the "Nearly Inspired Version", and then would preach from it. Fair enough.

ed

Albion Land said...

However, most of them are in pristine condition and will likely survive me by a good long tome.

Well, Ed, what would you expect from a Bible but a good long tome?

poetreader said...

Ach! Mu tupong is terrible, ain't it?

ed

Anonymous said...

I have not read anyone mentioning the "New King James Version." I have it and enjoy it for home study.

It doesn't change the translation from the KJV, from what I can see, it only modernizes the grammar/usage somewhat to make it easier to understand in today's world.

I wonder what Fr. Hart thinks of the "New King James Version."

BCP Catholic

poetreader said...

I'll throw my two cents in, having made extensive use of the NKJV. It is based on the same Greek and Hebrew texts as the KJV itself, and it does make a valiant attempt to preserve the rhythms of the KJV. In many respects I like it a great deal for private study and devotional use, but it does have its drawbacks. While claiming to be a modern language version, it keeps certain words and phrases which were accurste according to the meaning those words held in Elizabeth's time, but which become innacurate when they are used with contemporary definitions.

For example, Proberbs 31:10, "Who can find a virtuous woman..." The word, which came from the Latin virtus, then meant full of strength -- i.e. '...a strong' woman...'. however, that is not what the word means today. a woman full of virtue in the modern sense of the word is a lovely thought, but it isn't what the Hebrew says.

There are a lot of such problems, possibly leading to a mishearing of the text. I also miss very much the distinction of singular ("thee") and plural ("you) on the modern version. Because the language no longer contains this distinction, there are a number of passages easy to misconstrue unless some locution is added in translation to point out how many people are being addressed.

Aside from these few fairly minor problems I do like the version. Fr. Hart, what's your opinion?

ed

PS, So far as I know, however, NKJV doesn't appear on the list of versions allowed for public worship, in which case it shouldn't be so used.

Anonymous said...

"The principal Greek New Testament text from which almost all contemporary translators worked is known as the Codex Sinaiticus."
This simply is not true. The choice is between accepting the Byzantine tradition (whatever group of revisers produced it on whatever basis) as "the" New Testament on the one hand, or using all the sources available on the other. Amongst the great early manuscripts, nobody would not also use Alexandrinus and Vaticanus, both of which were known some centuries before Sinaiticus. Nobody would ignore the large number of papyrus fragments. Nobody would ignore the early translations, particularly into Latin and Syriac, which are of similar age to the great early manuscripts. And nobody would ignore the large number of quotations in the Church Fathers. The Byzantine tradition is part of the evidence, but the mere number of quite modern manuscripts proves no more than that the Orthodox were a large jurisdiction when they were written.
Any text based on all the sources requires the exercise of judgement, the attempt to understand the process which led to the current state of the various sources. This is the discipline of textual criticism, and it is not different from what I first learnt as a classicist, though potentially more important when applied to the New Testament.
There are several reasons why Sinaiticus is somewhat short. For whatever reason, its compilers knew that St. John did not write the "Woman taken in Adultery" usually inserted at the start of chapter 8, and that St. Mark did not write the "longer ending" usually printed after 16.8. Nobody familiar with the Greek of these gospels would regard these tests as authentic parts of those gospels - it is a completely different question whether they should be included in the New Testament, which I do believe. Another factor is that manuscript copying tended to expand the text (so Sinaiticus has not had the version of the Lord's Prayer in St. Luke expanded completely to match St. Matthew, as happened in most later manuscripts).
Now one could decide that the Byzantine tradition has church authority (or indeed, in the West, that the Vulgate has church authority), but if so, the rational conclusion is that a church whose authority one respects for scripture should also be respected for all other purposes. This is hardly a tenable position for the Continuum.
Certainly, there have been bad translations. Usually, this is not because of the stance adopted in textual criticism, but because of other prejudices (such as inclusive language). The better response is not to give the Authorised Version a status which its translators never claimed and which cannot be sustained on the basis of our much greater knowledge both of the sources and of Greek, but to search for a better translation (or, ideally, get to grips with the languages).
Lit. Hum.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

"The principal Greek New Testament text from which almost all contemporary translators worked is known as the Codex Sinaiticus."
This simply is not true.


But, it was true for several decades, and the list includes the NEB,the RSV, the NIV, the JB, etc.

The choice is between accepting the Byzantine tradition (whatever group of revisers produced it on whatever basis) as "the" New Testament on the one hand, or using all the sources available on the other.

The Textus Receptus was universally recognized,not only in the East. And, what do you mean by "all the sources available on the other"? What sources, and what is "the other"? The Codex Sinaiticus is but one source, and it was never copied by anybody.

For whatever reason, its compilers knew that St. John did not write the "Woman taken in Adultery" usually inserted at the start of chapter 8, and that St. Mark did not write the "longer ending" usually printed after 16.8.

The larger issue is what the Church received as the Canon of Scripture.

Another factor is that manuscript copying tended to expand the text (so Sinaiticus has not had the version of the Lord's Prayer in St. Luke expanded completely to match St. Matthew, as happened in most later manuscripts).

I have never seen any Bible in which Luke's version of the prayer is as long as Matthew's.

The better response is not to give the Authorised Version a status which its translators never claimed and which cannot be sustained on the basis of our much greater knowledge both of the sources and of Greek, but to search for a better translation (or, ideally, get to grips with the languages).

The scholarship of today is better than what passed for the latest and best in the 1960s. That is why the Preface to the Third Millennium Bible is far more up to date than what we had when the RSV, or even the NRSV (et al), were being produced.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Have they yet added the rest of the Bible to the NKJV, i.e. the books called Apocrypha?

Ed's point is valid, that if they are going to update the choice of words to be modern they needed to do more for consistency. And, sadly, they replaced "begat us" with "brought us forth" in that verse from James that I mentioned.

Other than that, I give it a high rating.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

"Deliver us from evil"

That seems to be the "extra" line in Luke. But, the overwhelming majority of ancient texts place it there.

Fr_Rob said...

I highly recommend the NASB as an accurate, orthodox, and easy to understand modern translation. I use it a lot. Of course, each translation has its plusses and minuses.

spaethacc said...

NKJV doesn't appear on the list of versions allowed for public worship, in which case it shouldn't be so used

Very true, but perhaps someday that won't have to be the case. Granted, the NKJV doesn't include the Deuterocanonicals, which is a problem, though, to my knowledge the Orthodox study bible has translated them to fit with the NKJV New Testament which it used wholesale: http://orthodoxstudybible.com/features, so it has been done. Even if we could edit the NKJV with the permission of Thomas Nelson, I think it could be edifying for the church. Not to mention the fact that given the influence/market share of the NKJV is waning, they may be more open to new uses of it.

poetreader said...

NASB is probably the best scholarly translation of modern times, though it does have the problem of relying on such texts as Sinaiticus (at least I concur with Fr. Hart in considering that to be a problem), but, nonetheless, it is a more faithful (more literal) rendition of the original tongues into English than the more or less paraphrased ("dynamically equivalent") or even distorted "translations" that have been fobbed off upon us.

However, I find (and I know I sound subjective here) that I simply can't use it publicly because of the unpleasantly stiff English in which it is rendered. As a poet I find my tongue balking at reading it aloud, and I find that, when it is read in my hearing, I don't absorb what is said. I'm afraid that, while it is pretty good as an "eyes only" version, that "eyes only" reading is only a secondary use of the Scriptures, and that it isn't suitable for the primary, oral, presentation of the Word in the Church.

ed

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The problem is trying to use modern English for the Bible at all.

As I wrote a couple of years ago:

Language of contrived relevance and very modern usage, cannot be used for the Bible and liturgy without violence to the meaning and spirit. This new language, if used for prayer and scripture, is futile at best, and unavoidably deceptive in its effect. Feminism and Gender Inclusive Language combine into a tongue that defies interpretation. As Gandalf was hesitant to speak the language of Mordor in Rivendell, no one can proclaim the word of the Lord in “newspeak.” Saint Paul could speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but the new kind of socially acceptable language seems more like the tongue of demons; it has no word that is understood to mean agape or caritas, since “love,” is too general. Traditional believers are not comfortable praying in this new tongue, and do not want translations of the word of God into such dark and imprisoned language. For them it distorts truth and destroys beauty, muddles all true communication, and twists everything into a lie. It has no word for caritas, because it has no usage of “Father” as the One Who defines love by Himself.

http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2007/07/power-of-language.html

Canon Tallis said...

Father Hart I can appreciate your reticence about reading something on camera to be placed on youtube, but have you looked at some the faces singing Gregorian chant on same. And don't I recall something that you wrote of the looks of the person whom you provide your wife as a husband? And, yes, I know that was really very convoluted, but I do want you to recall the word which you used of yourself without writing it myself.

Actually, I firmly believe that we in the Continuum are not, as in 'NOT', making sufficient use on youtube in our evangelistic effort and would love to see that end almost immediately if not sooner. Indeed, I hope that if Archbishop Haverland is reading this he will take me up on this challenge. I think even a simple read Morning Prayer, Litany or Holy Communion service in conformity to the rubrics and the prayer book tradition beginning with 1559 might be the best possible advertisment for the ACC and all of the Continuum.

And whoever said that you or anyone else had to be pretty to be wise or holy?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Canon Tallis:

You win. But, really, my earlier comment was an example of my sense of humor getting the better of me. Yes, I suppose we really could use YouTube; but, we need someone out there who has the technology figured out. I don't.

On camera I could threaten to turn around and shine the back of my head at them, unless they repent (alas, I thought I could persuade some to believe it's a halo; but those who know me well aren't buying it). Did I ever tell you that, when I am at the altar, I give my congregation leave to wear sun-glasses if they need to?