Saturday, November 07, 2009

Seeking Biblical Scholarship over Biblical Hubris

On Halloween, 2009 Pastor Grizzard of Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, North Carolina planed to burn versions of the bible, music and other objects that are not in alignment with his church’s belief system. One of the definitions of hubris is pride of presumption. Here are the exact words copied from a cached version of the website:
Come to our Halloween book burning. We are burning Satan's bibles like the NIV, RSV, NKJV, TLB, NASB, NEV, NRSV, ASV, NWT, Good News for Modern Man, The Evidence Bible, The Message Bible, The Green Bible, ect. These are perversions of God's Word the King James Bible.

We will also be burning Satan's music such as country , rap , rock , pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel , contemporary Christian , jazz, soul, oldies but goldies, etc…

…There will be BBQ Chicken, fried chicken and other fixings.

Crystal at Slaughter of the Sheep doesn’t much care for non-Christians. She feels that Christians are different people. That is her opinion and she has a right to express it just as I have every right to disagree. Crystal feels that this (bible burning) is going too far:

Hey, I’m all for getting together on Halloween (if your church decides to do that) and give the kids a night of Christian fellowship and good food. No problem. But this is nonsense (which is turning out to be my favorite word in these last days).

Lori Stanley Roeleveld at Deeper in Jesus in Rhode Island is equally concerned. She make it clear that she is absolutely against book burning. My understanding of her reading her full post is that she is looking inward to herself as to not being afraid to take a stand or live in action instead of fear. Her desire is to turn folks away from the dark side to the light. Lori doesn’t approve of this act but doesn’t like what she is seeing in the world:
…however misguided the action at least they church is acting on their convictions. Again, I am opposed to book burning and think these brothers and sisters are misguided at best but every day I sit by and watch people opposed to God make what I believe is true look like a lie and dress up the things God says are detestable to look as beautiful and appealing as a harem of Victoria Secret models.

The Balancing Act

Pastor Grizzard has the freedom to express his thoughts and opinions; like his belief that country, jazz and contemporary Christian music is a “perversion” or “Satan’s” music.

Not sure that in his role as pastor has the freedom to ignore facts. You can’t ignore facts such as the English language did not exist during the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Or that there are other English language bibles that pre-date the King James version by three hundred years.

The man is so certain in his faith that when other people point out to him that there were earlier bibles in other languages like Aramaic, Egyptian, Babylonian, Hebrew and then Greek and Latin it does not phase him one bit. This is the response from the church, again from a cached copy from the website:
One does not need to know Greek or Hebrew to understand God's Word. God has promised to preserve them, not man. If the preservation of God's Word was left up to man than we would mess it up. That's what we have with modern versions. But divine preservation is God's promise to give us his pure words and we have that in the KJV. God's Word is not lost or hidden somewhere. We have them today for the English Speaking people and that is through the KJV.

The balancing act comes in when I need to point out factual errors but not intentionally or unintentionally disrespect another person’s faith. There is a strong part of me that cannot believe faith requires self-induced closed mindedness. It seems like there are stories that are rushing up to meet me every day to try to prove me wrong.

The women that I discovered working in the area of academic biblical scholarship provide interesting entry points to questions that are not always easy to answer. The difference is that they love the questions.

Biblical Scholarship Blogs and Websites

Julia M. O’Brien is a Hebrew/Old Testament scholar who mixes the relation between contemporary life and the many biblical connections. In her post on Growing an Audience she wonders about how to outreach beyond the university and religious institutions. I also learned a new form of illiteracy, bible illiteracy:
Every year in the mainline seminary in which I teach, I encounter more aspiring pastors who have never heard of Daniel or the allegorical reading of Song of Songs. If I want to challenge a traditional interpretation, I have to teach it first. My colleague in New Testament doesn’t face quite the same level of biblical illiteracy: he can still count on most people having strong opinions about Jesus. But even he reports that students’ knowledge derives far more from pop culture and pop religion than from the Gospels.

April DeConick at The Forbidden Gospels is a professor of Biblical Studies at Rice University. Her post, Creating Jesus 24: Transmutative Soteriology had me hunting for the dictionary. Soteriology is the study of salvation. April writes about another perspective of salvation. How God and Jesus met as one as a means of modeling what humans could emulate.

This is my understanding of what I read. It may not be what Professor DeConick intended to convey:

Because we have here a christology in which God and the flesh meet, forming an extraordinary human being, the goal of this paradigm is for all humans to experience this same transmutation, a perfecting that alters their humanity in the same way that it had altered Jesus'. This is a process called theosis and it is captured in the words of many of the church fathers from the east, "God became man so that man can become God."

Suzanne McCarthy has a series on the women who have made contributions to the translating of biblical text such as Francis Siewart and Helen Spurrell. What caught my attention was her posts about gender exclusivity and the use of male pronouns to represent all of humanity. Suzanne is concerned about proper translation from the Greek language and the inclusion of all people found in the original source material.

One more for the road. Over at the Society of Biblical Literature – visit the podcast page where you can hear an interview with biblical scholars like Shawna Dolansky, and other professionals in the field of academic biblical study and research.

Other Resources:

Biola University’s The Unbound Bible – a database collection of various versions of the Christian bible searchable by language, publisher, publishing date and other variables.

Codex Sinaiticus – from the 4th century contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament.

From Papyri to King James: The Transmission of the English Bible a collection of early materials from the University of Michigan Library.

God Didn’t Say That – A forum for discussing translations and mistranslations of the bible.

In conclusion, you can’t always take a negative situation and derive a positive value. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make the effort. If you know of other academic biblical scholars pop them in the comments or put in your drachma on what I have written.

Gena Haskett is a Contributing Editor at BlogHer and a version of this post originally appeared on that site.

No comments:

Post a Comment