Friday, 1 March 2019

Drawing conclusions from the Bible

Conclusions seem awe-fully final don't they?

We all begin with looking at the sky in wonder. Psalm 8
For I see your heavens that your fingers make,
moon and stars which you have established.
What next? I recall that film, Life is Beautiful. The historical record of the war is a major testament for me of the failure of Christendom in spite of all its watertight theological conclusions from the Bible. One of the first News of the World broadcasts (those old films we would see in the theatres) that I saw was the image of broken bodies in the concentration camps.

Yet we all maintain apart from mental illness that life is beautiful.

My purpose in translating the Hebrew Scriptures is so that I can hear a fresh approach to the palimpsest that is the New Testament. I cannot understand the NT without a full appreciation of the OT. The NT is so imbued with allusion, that it is like a manuscript that has written itself on the backside of the first testimony and even scraped off some of the front side to write more.

As far as I have been taught, and this is not from any particular church or school, we have misread the character of God in both the Old and New Testaments. We have used the Scriptures to control the people, not to free them. We have emphasized fear and punishment, something humans do for their own convenience, and we have failed to see the real form of responsibility that is called from each of us and all of us together. Our unity is therefore fragmented. This is our doing, not God's. Our fragmentation is everywhere, not just in churches, but in cultural isolation, and in political parties. And it has real-life consequences.

Having completed my translation as a base for further thought, I feel I am at the first step towards rethinking the theology I was brought up in. Every question we think we know the answer to needs to be withdrawn so we can rethink it. It is for these reasons that I refused to use some words in my translation. I think it is irresponsible to teach answers as if there were to be no further questions.

How do we read this body of text? I came across today, a day late for the carnival, but still in the month, this note from Mosaic by Hillel Hapkin on a discussion of Alter's translation and motives for translating. I suggested in early February that literature is not an adequate rationale for the way we treat the text of the Bible. I have repeatedly said that 'understand' is sometimes a substitute for 'over-stand' and understanding is used for power by a human. That won't do either as a motivation. Now here is standing under well used:
To read the Bible merely as literature is to read it not so much without faith as in bad faith, although what better faith can be hoped for from the faithless than the faith in literature, which alone holds that every word in the Bible counts even if it is not God’s, would be hard to say.
And for me a comment clarifies this further:
Believing Jews come to the Bible in obedience to it. So do believing Christians. These stand under the Revelation. Others, whether (with identification sets even as Christian or Jewish) take the Scriptures as human literature. The former are already in union. The others are doing something else across a chasm of obedience and faith.
What about drawing conclusions based on standing under the Revelation? I would heighten the tension by not capitalizing that word. No one standing under revelation should shove any words down anyone else's aural canal. I would not even use the word obey as it is commonly used for שׁמע hear. I didn't use it in my translation except for the stem יקח which appears only 3 times in the Bible. I would use the phrase hearing with the voice of God. To hear with is to identify with what we do not intrinsically know. It is in fact the basis for science, the real process of discovery. This is true as much for the scientist as it is for the religious.

Now I can begin to read, reading for the music, and singing as respite for tired eyes - and without commentary. Commentary tells us what we should read. But it often prevents our first requirement which is to actually read the text.

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