Posts Tagged “greek”

Pope Francis Philadelphia 2015 (cropped)This is one story I couldn’t resist commenting on. Not just because it’s about the relatively-unconventional Pope Francis, but also because it concerns Bible translation … which has been an interest of mine since I first learned Biblical Greek during the early 1980s (while I was a Protestant fundamentalist). As the New York Times (among many other outlets) reports, the Pope proposed that the common translations of a portion of the Lord’s Prayer may not reflect the original text (Archive.Is cached article):

It has been a question of theological debate and liturgical interpretation for years, and now Pope Francis has joined the discussion: Does the Lord’s Prayer, Christendom’s resonant petition to the Almighty, need an update?

In a new television interview, Pope Francis said the common rendering of one line in the prayer — “lead us not into temptation” — was “not a good translation” from ancient texts. “Do not let us fall into temptation,” he suggested, might be better because God does not lead people into temptation; Satan does.

“A father doesn’t do that,” the pope said. “He helps you get up right away. What induces into temptation is Satan.”

In essence, the pope said, the prayer, from the Book of Matthew, is asking God, “When Satan leads us into temptation, You please, give me a hand.”

The text of the Lord’s Prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13, with a much briefer version in Luke 11:2-4. Here is the passage the Pope is talking about, from the (Catholic) New American Bible, and in the original Greek:

and do not subject us to the final test (Mt 6:13a)

και μη εισενευκης ημας εις πειρασμον (Mt 6:13a)

The language from Luke, for this particular passage (i.e. Lk 11:4c), is exactly the same, so I didn’t bother quoting it here.

It’s true there’s been some discussion over how best to translate this, and there’s been some dissatisfaction with most of the translations that have been offered.

Even so, the original Greek text does not agree with what the Pope proposes. Nowhere in this is it even implied — much less stated outright — that the supplicant is asking for God’s help when tempted. The original Greek definitely presumes God is instigating the “test.” εισενευκης (eiseneukés) is a form of the verb εισφερω (eisferó), meaning “to lead in, to carry in, to bring in.” Thus, “lead us not into temptation” is an entirely valid translation.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it when Pope Francis bucks Christian and Catholic convention. Few things in this world are in more desperate need of a stern challenge, than Christianity! But I just I can’t get on board with this.

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Signorelli-Antichrist and the devilAt times I’ve mentioned the phenomenon of Christian Zionism, a philosophy held by a lot of evangelical Christians. These people militantly support the state of Israel, but not out of any love for that country, its people, or Jews generally. Rather, they’re agitating for the Battle of Armageddon, which they believe will usher in Jesus’ return and the End of the World. Evangelicals encourage Israel’s belligerence; the idea is to instigate an attack by “the kings from the east” as described in Revelation:

The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east. And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.”) And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon. (Revelation 16:12-16)

My position has always been that, while Christian Zionists profess respect for Jews and their place in God’s cosmic plan, the truth is that they’re actually anti-Semitic. But evidence for this can be hard to come by, and disappointingly so.

Recently, however, a prominent Christian Zionist exposed the anti-Semitism that lurks deep inside that philosophy. As Right Wing Watch reports, Pastor John Hagee let the cat out of the bag (WebCite cached article):

Trinity Broadcasting Network hosted a Praise The Lord prophecy special this month, featuring a number of speakers including televangelist John Hagee. The right-wing pastor explained that during the End Times, the Jewish people will not accept Jesus as the Messiah until he returns “because they have just — three-and-a-half years or seven-years before — made a deal with the Antichrist, who is the false messiah, and they are extremely skeptical of that.”

Here’s video of Hagee saying this, courtesy of RWW, via Youtube:

Hagee’s claim that Jews will collaborate with the Antichrist is offensive, revealing the villainy to which he thinks Jews will be willing to stoop. He’s saying Jews are going to betray humanity to the Antichrist. If that’s not distasteful, I don’t know what is!

Hagee goes on to say that Jews will only be convinced that Jesus is the Messiah once he returns and they’ve seen “the riven side.” I find his stated reasoning for this interesting; he claims the original Greek of Romans 11 states that Jews have been “judicially blinded” to the identity of the Messiah. He doesn’t say it, but the specific verse he’s referring to is Rom 11:7:

What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened …

In Greek, this is:

τι ουν επιζητει ισραηλ τουτο ουκ επετυχεν η δε εκλογη επετυχεν οι δε λοιποι επωρωθησαν

The verb in question is the final word in that verse, a form of the Greek verb πωροω (póroó), which doesn’t mean “judicially blinded” at all: Hagee just made that up. It actually means “to be made stubborn” or “to be made unfeeling.” Semantically, this isn’t too far off from what Hagee is saying, however, his claim is rather specific, and as such, clearly false; as someone who presents himself as an expert in Biblical languages, he has no excuse for this. He thus betrays his ignorance of Greek and his lack of expertise.

The RWW article adds Hagee’s claim September 11, 2001 attacks were an act of divine judgement against the U.S. because it had fallen away from him. This is pretty much the same sentiment as had been expressed by the late Jerry Falwell and his friend Marion “Pat” Robertson, just a few days after the attacks. Yeah, folks, this is the Religion of Love in action.

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His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim (Mentzelopoulos) of PiraeusI blogged several times on the Catholic bishop Richard Williamson, who was readmitted to the Roman Catholic world some time ago without anyone in the Vatican realizing that he was an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Or perhaps they knew, but just didn’t care, because they were eager to get all of the formerly-schismatic Society of St Pius X back. At any rate, anti-Semitism among Christians is hardly just a Catholic problem. Recently a Greek Orthodox bishop made his anti-Semitism public, during a television interview. The New York Times Lede blog reports on his remarks (WebCite cached article):

Leaders of Greece’s small Jewish community objected on Wednesday to televised remarks by a Greek Orthodox bishop who blamed the country’s financial problems on a conspiracy of Jewish bankers and claimed that the Holocaust was orchestrated by Zionists.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece complained to church authorities about the anti-Semitic remarks made by the Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus during an interview on Greek television on Monday, according to a statement (in Greek) on the group’s Web site.*

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported [cached] that the bishop “said that there is a conspiracy to enslave Greece and Christian Orthodoxy. He also accused international Zionism of trying to destroy the family unit by promoting one-parent families and same-sex marriages.”

According to the news agency, when the bishop was then asked, “Why do you disagree with Hitler’s policies? If they are doing all this, wasn’t he right in burning them?” he replied: “Adolf Hitler was an instrument of world Zionism and was financed from the renowned Rothschild family with the sole purpose of convincing the Jews to leave the shores of Europe and go to Israel to establish the new Empire.” He added that Jewish bankers like “Rockefeller, Rothschild and Soros control the international banking system that controls globalization.”

Video of the Metropolitan’s interview is available (in Greek) from the Mega TV Web site.

The idea that Hitler was himself a Jew, is not really unique to the Metropolitan Seraphim. Others have said something close to it, before … and I assume they will again. I’m not sure how much sense it makes, though; if one is contriving to grant a boon to a group of people, massacring them by the million is hardly the way to accomplish that.

Of course, the Metropolitan Seraphim has since “apologized” for his comments, and tried to “clarify” them, as the Lede blog subsequently reported (cached):

A Greek Orthodox bishop who was criticized by Jewish groups, the Greek government and some coreligionists for blaming Greece’s financial problems on a conspiracy of Jewish bankers and claiming that the Holocaust was orchestrated by Zionists issued a statement on Thursday in which he denied that he was anti-Semitic but also equated Zionism to “Satanism.”

His non-apology apology is basically a protest that he loves the Jewish people, it’s just Zionism specifically that he objects to. This too is a variant on an old dodge that anti-Semites frequently use. In the Metropolitan’s case, though, it fails … because many of his initial complaints were about “Jews,” and “Jewish bankers,” not about “Zionists.” His claim that Zionism is Satanism is, likewise, his own variation on a common theme among Christian anti-Semites; they consider it a profane and anti-Christian movement, an attempt to control or subvert Christianity. (It was the aforementioned Bishop Williamson who revealed the reason why so many Christians are anti-Semitic, as I blogged some time ago.)

The only thing missing from Seraphim’s otherwise-typical non-apology apology is the claim that some of his best friends are Jewish. (If that had been included, I would not for one moment believe it to be true.)

At any rate, the idea that Jews are somehow the tools of Satan, working with him against Christians and God’s righteous Church, is a complaint that goes back almost to the very beginning of Christianity. That it persists even now, in light of the horrors of World War II and the Third Reich — not to mention their willing accomplices in territories they occupied — shows how very hard it will be for Christianity to purge itself of the poison of anti-Semitism that runs in its metaphorical veins. Some Christians have disavowed the Metropolitan and his anti-Semitic comments, to be sure, but I’ll be interested in what his defenders may say, and how they say it. My guess is that they will adopt the same sort of tactic he did … i.e. to say that he was misunderstood, or “taken out of context,” or that it’s just Zionism he dislikes and not Jews as a whole, etc.

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The Dead Sea Scrolls - Psalms ScrollA lot of ink has been spilt over the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of texts initially found in caves near the Dead Sea in 1947 (with more being found in subsequent years as nearby caves were scoured). While some of the texts were published soon after scholars got their hands on them, not all were; in fact, there was some outright stalling, and even scholarly turf-wars being played out over access to some of them. It took decades for them all to finally be published … and really, there was no good reason for it to have taken that long.

But how things have changed! The Scrolls’ guardians, the Israel Antiquities Authority, will partner with Google to create high-resolution scans of them, and to host their content on the World Wide Web, as the CBC reports (WebCite cached article):

Biblical scholars, students and anyone with an internet connection will be soon able to peruse any of the Dead Sea Scrolls online for free.

The Israel Antiquities Authority, which has been engaged in a project to scan the ancient, fragile artifacts, announced this week that is teaming up with internet giant Google to put the digitized images online.

The high-resolution images will be accessible for free in a searchable database. They will also be translated into English.

“The images will be equal in quality to the actual physical viewing of the scrolls, thus eliminating the need for re-exposure of the scrolls and allowing their preservation for future generations,” the IAA said in a statement.

The scanning techniques may actually make visible some writings which are currently not legible, which will be to everyone’s benefit. The Dead Sea Scrolls are significant for the study of religion, particularly Second Temple Judaism:

The 2,000-year-old scrolls are a collection of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts that shed light on Jewish history as well as the origins of Christianity. They include early texts from the Bible.

From the Old Testament portion of it, to be exact. At the time of their discovery and shortly after, it was widely believed that the Scrolls would have something to say about early Christianity, but that turned out not to be the case: All the texts date to the middle of the last century BCE, so they contain no Christian content.

The turf-wars over the Dead Sea Scrolls were not only fought among scholars; as one might expect in the Middle East, the wrangling has become political. The CBC reports (back in January) separately on this aspect of the Scrolls (cached):

The Canadian government says it will not act upon a request by the Jordanian government that it seize the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea scrolls, now on their last day of display at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

Discovered in 1947 by Bedouin tribesmen in caves bordering Israel and Jordan, the 100,000 fragments of ancient religious parchment and papyrus manuscripts have been a source of conflict between Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians — who all claim ownership. …

Jordan contends Israel acted illegally in 1967 when it took the scrolls from a museum in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized from Jordan during the Six-Day War.

Ottawa, however, begged out of the conflict and decided to do nothing:

According to The Globe and Mail, the Canadian government issued a statement at the end of the year in reaction to Jordan’s request saying that “differences regarding ownership of the Dead Sea scrolls should be addressed by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. It would not be appropriate for Canada to intervene as a third party.”

Can’t say I blame them for not wanting to stumble into even just a marginal aspect of the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict.

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Deutsche Studenten verbrennen eingesammelte, 'undeutsche' Schriften und Bücher öffentlich auf der zentralen Prachtstraße 'Unter den Linden' in Berlin.For the second year in a row, this coming Halloween, a church full of crazies in Canton, North Carolina (that I blogged about last year) plans to burn Bibles. You read that right. A Christian church plans to burn Christian Bibles. It’s quite true; they’re damned serious about it; and they’re proud to announce it to the universe (WebCite cached article):

The annual Book Burning for 2010 will be upon us very soon. This year is going to be much bigger and better. We already have collected more perversions of God’s Holy Word than we had last year, as well as many books by heretics and movies.

Many churches and individual Christians last year contacted us in support of what we were doing. Many comments were made about how they could help or participate in 2010. So we believe that God is using us to help encourage other believers to do what God’s Word says in Acts 19 about burning satanic books. We are not starting a movement, association, denomination, brotherhood, or anything else for that matter. We are not in charge of anything or over anything except our local church. We are just a “voice crying in the wilderness” trying to encourage others to “earnestly contend for the faith.”

Their beef is with any Bible which is not based on the same manuscript foundation as the King James Bible:

We are burning Satan’s bibles like the NIV, RSV, NLT, HCSB, CEV, NCV, NIRV, TNIV, NKJV, TLB, NASB, ESV, NEV, NRSV, ASV, NWT (Jehovah Witness Bible), Amplified Bible, God’s Word Translation, 21st Century King James, Young’s Literal Translation, Reina-Valera 1960, Darby, Good News for Modern Man, The Evidence Bible, Book of Mormons, The Message Bible, The Green Bible, Quran (Koran), Bible in Rhyme, Boomer Bible, and ect. As well as Greek New Testaments by Westcott & Hort, Metzger, Scrivener, Berry, Ginsburg, and Green. Also Herbrew-English Dictionaries by Brown, Driver, and Briggs. Also Greek-English Lexicons by Moulton, Thayer, Danker, and Liddell.

These are perversions of God’s Word [cached] the King James Bible [cached].

This church, it seems, is one of the few remaining “King James Only” churches left in the country. This evangelical-fundamentalist movement peaked probably in the 1970s, and it makes a very odd claim: That the Holy Bible is not really “God’s literal Word” in any form other than the King James Bible.

This seems exceedingly odd to those of us who are aware that the original Bible texts had not been written in English; that language didn’t even exist in the time when the Bible texts were conceived. It had been written, rather, in Hebrew and in Greek (with a few passages in the Old Testament, and a few words in the New, in Aramaic).

Yes, it seems that — according to the KJO folks — the Bible was not really God’s intended “Word” until the start of the 17th century when the King James translators started working. Before then, these ancient texts in ancient languages were merely a corrupted and flawed version of “God’s Word.” When the King James translators started working, God intervened miraculously and guided their quills so that they generated the text he’d intended all along.

Of course, prior to that, the Bible had been translated many times … e.g. into the Syriac Peshitta, the Latin Vulgate of St Jerome, the Gothic Bible of Wulfila, and many more … but apparently God chose not to intervene in any of those projects. No one quite seems to know why he waited c. 16 centuries to correct his many flawed manuscripts, but according to the KJO folks, that’s what he did.

Among their rationales for this is that the textual basis of the King James New Testament, the Greek Textus Receptus of Erasmus, is the only truly sacred edition of the ancient manuscripts that make up the Bible. There are some problems with this position:

  1. The T.R. is not a complete Greek edition of the New Testament. Erasmus could not locate Greek texts for every portion of the New Testament, especially most of Revelation, so what he did was to translate the Latin Vulgate versions of these passages back into Greek, himself. In other words … he filled in the gaps on his own.

  2. The issue of the textual basis of the King James Bible is limited to the New Testament; it basically leaves out the Old. Which is strange, because something like 2/3 or 3/4 of the Christian Bible is the Old Testament.

  3. The King James translators included the Deuterocanonical or “apocryphal” books in their project, and they were included in its first printings. Afterward, the Anglican Church (for which the KJV had originally been commissioned) followed the Protestant dogma established by Martin Luther, and jettisoned those. Since the 18th century or so, all King James Bibles have left those books out. The KJO churches are all Protestant, too, and likewise reject the Deuterocanonicals. But it’s inconsistent of them to claim that the KJV is “God’s literal Word” as he originally had intended, yet leave out a healthy chunk of that project, as it had originally been handled.

At any rate, I find it amusing that Christians are burning their own sacred texts in an effort to promote textual purity. If not for the fact that book-burning is an affront to humanity and the intellect, it would be hilarious to watch. In the end, it’s sad, pathetic, and fascistic.

Hat tip: Religion Dispatches.

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The history of Bible texts has long been something that’s interested me. Thus, I tend to keep my eyes open for new Bible translations that are proposed or produced. I came across a proposal recently that is so ridiculous, I’m forced to wonder how genuine it is. It’s a proposal for a “Conservative Bible,” to be hosted by that bastion of Right-wing philosophy, Conservapedia (created by some folks who think Wikipedia has a “liberal” bias — I’ll let their juvenile whining about Wikipedia speak for itself). So it may well be genuine. Here’s what the Conservative Bible Project has to say about itself:

Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations. There are three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning:

  • lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ

  • lack of precision in modern language

  • translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.

Naturally, these folks equate “disagreement” with their views or “problems in translation” with “bias,” even though “bias” is not necessarily to blame. (Sometimes alternate views are sincere differences of opinion.) At any rate, here is how they plan to go about their project … and this statement shows immediately not only what’s wrong with it, but why whatever it produces, is guaranteed to be garbage:

Of these three sources of errors, the last introduces the largest error, and the biggest component of that error is liberal bias. Large reductions in this error can be attained simply by retranslating the KJV into modern English.

Let me be clear on this, folks. The King James Bible (which its advocates call “the Authorized Version” in order to make it seem better than it is), is crap. Not only is it complete crap, now, compared with more current Bible translations, it was complete crap even back when it was translated, because its translators knew there were problems with it. You see, those translators based their New Testament on a problematic collection of Bible texts, known as the Textus Receptus of Erasmus. Erasmus had intended to produce a Latin New Testament superior to what was part of the then-prevailing Vulgate, but ended up publishing the New Testament texts in the original Greek as well. His problem was that he did not actually have Greek manuscripts for the entire New Testament; pieces of it were missing, particularly most of the book of Revelation. So what did he do? He translated Latin portions of those missing passages (which themselves in classical times had been translated from Greek) back into the Greek. This is a serious flaw, and while arguably Erasmus had done the best he could, the translators of the King James Version, who lived decades after he published, knew of the existence of those flaws. But they used his texts anyway.

What’s more — and stick with me here — the Textus Receptus mostly follows what later became known as the Byzantine text-type or the “Majority Text.” You see, not all the old manuscripts of the Bible books agree with one another; rather, they follow what one might call a chain of copying over the course of centuries. As one might expect, those copying-chains diverged over time and distance into distinct “tracks” that can seen now. Other text-type traditions include the Alexandrian, Caesarian, and Western. (These chains of copying can also be seen in quotations of Bible texts in other places such as in the writings of the Church Fathers … in fact, these quotations provide useful snapshots of what those books may have said, at the time they were quoted.) We have, since Erasmus’s time, discovered that the very-oldest manuscripts follow the Alexandrian text-type, not the Byzantine/Majority. Granted the KJV translators were unaware of this particular issue (it hadn’t been noticed and cataloged until after their time); but the inherent translation flaws of Erasmus’s work were. This means there’s really no excuse for anyone, now, to build a modern English translation of the Bible around the KJV and its antecedent, the Textus Receptus. None.

Not to mention, I don’t really see anything here about going back to the original manuscripts (mostly in Hebrew for the Old Testament, and Greek for the New). These people appear to want to take an existing English translation, and parse it out in their own way. The logic behind this kind of “translating” is pathetic and stupid … every modern translation of the Bible worth reading has, at some point in the process, referred back to old manuscripts. That’s just how Bible translations are done.

At any rate, the motive of this project appears to be an effort to remove passages from the Bible that “conservatives” and Rightists find troubling … and to do so at minimal cost and effort, by basing it on a public-domain work (i.e. the KJV) and by calling on people who aren’t even literate in Hebrew or Greek.

In sum, this plan is pure bullshit, all the way through. They’re just trying to satisfy their own ideology … and that’s pathetic.

At any rate, as I stated initially, I’m not even sure this effort is genuine. It might have just been put up on Conservapedia by a lone wing-nut and is not even sanctioned by its organizers; it might also be a joke, hoax, or parody. I just don’t know. I do know, however, that if it ever happens, it’s going to be insipid and dumb.

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All right, folks. It’s official. President Barack Obama is the Antichrist! Here’s the earth-shattering story (locally cached version of page):

Did Jesus actually reveal name of the ‘antichrist’?

Viral video makes Hebrew word connection to latest White House occupant

For centuries, many have wondered about the identity of a biblical leader who will do Satan the devil’s bidding, trying to thwart the plans of Jesus Christ shortly before His prophesied return to Earth.

That character has come to be known as “the antichrist,” even though the Bible never uses that word to describe any single person.

Now, after endless speculation suggesting Presidents John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush could possibly be the End Times Bad Boy, there’s a new viral video placing the current occupant of the White House into the club.

An American Christian has produced a brief film for YouTube that connects one statement by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke to President Barack Obama.

That’s right. According to this “World Net Daily exclusive,” and a viral video on the Internet, Barack Obama is the Antichrist.

I’ll leave aside the fact that these translations of Obama’s name into Biblical languages is more than a little bit off. I’ll leave aside the fact that World Net Daily is an instrument of dominionism and not very credible. And I’ll leave aside that “viral videos” are not exactly known to be bastions of truth.

I will, rather, leave it up to you to decide what the truth is, here.

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