Borrowing “tone”

From Vanity Fair: “An unbeliever argues that our language and culture are incomplete without a 400-year-old book—the King James translation of the Bible.”

When the King saved God by Christopher Hitchens.


Until the early middle years of the 16th century, when King Henry VIII began to quarrel with Rome about the dialectics of divorce and decapitation, a short and swift route to torture and death was the attempt to print the Bible in English. It’s a long and stirring story, and its crux is the head-to-head battle between Sir Thomas More and William Tyndale (whose name in early life, I am proud to say, was William Hychyns). Their combat fully merits the term “fundamental.” Infuriating More, Tyndale whenever possible was loyal to the Protestant spirit by correctly translating the word ecclesia to mean “the congregation” as an autonomous body, rather than “the church” as a sacrosanct institution above human law. In English churches, state-selected priests would merely incant the liturgy…. The cold and righteous More, backed by his “Big Brother” the Pope and leading an inner party of spies and inquisitors, watched the Channel ports for smugglers risking everything to import sheets produced by Tyndale, who was forced to do his translating and printing from exile. The rack and the rope were not stinted with dissenters, and eventually Tyndale himself was tracked down, strangled, and publicly burned.


For years, I would listen to it in chapel and wonder how an insipid, neuter word like “charity” could have gained such moral prestige. The King James version enjoins us that “now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Tyndale had put “love” throughout, and even if your Greek is as poor as mine you will have to admit that it is a greatly superior capture of the meaning of that all-important original word agape. It was actually the frigid clerical bureaucrat Thomas More who had made this into one of the many disputations between himself and Tyndale.


When Joseph Smith began to fabricate his Book of Mormon, in the late 1820s, “translating” it from no known language, his copy of King James was never far from his side. He plagiarized 27,000 words more or less straight from the original, including several biblical stories lifted almost in their entirety, and the throat-clearing but vaguely impressive phrase “and it came to pass” is used at least 2,000 times. Such “borrowing” was a way of lending much-needed “tone” to the racket.

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The Jefferson Bible

Thomas Jefferson took two copies of the new testament, cut out all the parts that he agreed with, and pasted them up as a new, redacted version, now called The Jefferson Bible.

Confusion reigns

Miss California 2009, Carrie Prejean, said that she thought gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry. Now, one of this year’s competitors is paraphrased by Lean Left blog: “I’m putting all my friends to death because I love them.” This might be proof that religion is confusing.

…when did they go from mouthing mindless platitudes to spewing hateful right-wing bigotry from the stage?

Miss Beverly Hills 2010, Lauren Ashley, went further and quoted the bible as being pretty clear that gays should be executed. She went on to say that she had lots of friends who were gay.

Not any more.

God’s word on fatherhood

Here’s what the Bible has to say about parenting skills:

If a man shall have a stubborn and rebellious son, that will not hearken to the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and though they chasten him, will not hearken unto them. Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place. And they shall say unto the elders of his city: ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he doth not hearken to our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard’. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die; so shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

That’ll teach him.

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Biblical scholarship

From the Truth Journal, “Modern Biblical Scholarship, Philosophy of Religion and Traditional Christianity” by Professor Eleonore Stump:

In recent decades biblical scholarship as practiced in secular universities has been dominated by a certain historical approach…. [W]ith the related disciplines of archaeology, classical languages, and near-Eastern studies, this approach has made significant contributions to our understanding of the historical context in which the biblical texts were composed. But to many outsiders what has been at least equally noteworthy about this approach is the havoc it has wreaked on traditional Christian and Jewish beliefs. In their effort to discover and present what is historically authentic in the Bible, the practitioners of this approach have in effect rewritten the Bible. They have cut the Old and New Testaments into a variety of snippets; some they have discarded entirely as not historically authentic, and others they have reassembled in new ways to form what these scholars consider the truly original historical documents or traditions. They have denied the traditional authorship of certain books of the Bible-for example, they tend to hold that the pastoral apostles (the one to Titus and the two to Timothy) were not really written by Paul-and they have claimed to find the sources for other biblical texts in such clearly human products as Hittite suzerainty treaties and Hellenistic philosophy.The general result of such scholarship is, for example, that a text which a church father such as Augustine may have used to support a particular theological doctrine on the grounds that the text was composed by a disciple of Jesus who was an eye-witness to the events recorded may now be classified as a much later document fabricated by certain anonymous Christians for theological motives and derived by them from identifiable pagan sources. But if the biblical passages on which traditional doctrines are based are truly of such a character, they provide no credible support for the doctrines. [Yes.] And so the general effect of this approach to biblical studies has been a powerful undermining of classical Christian doctrines and a powerful impetus to religious skepticism.

And that’s a bad thing because…?
The author uses rhetorical innuendo to make research into the sources and history of biblical text seem questionable (“a certain approach, “as practiced,” even “But”–where’s the contrast? And why should outsiders care? I should think church insiders would take more note.)

She says they’ve rewritten the bible–why not restored it, or un-re-written it?

The researchers have cut the bible into “snippets” and “discarded” parts of it–how callous and disrespectful of them! Discarding suspect texts is a fine old Biblical tradition: that’s where we got the Apocrypha–books of the bible that were discarded because they were unreliable or contained unpalatable teachings, such as stories of heroic women.

They have “denied the traditional authorship”–or should we say “disproved folklore attribution?

They “tend to hold” opinions — not “they’ve spent years analyzing and now believe that the balance of probabilities is strongly…”

They have “claimed to find” that some epistles weren’t written by the purported author, Paul, but composed later. As someone once said, “Do you claim to have had breakfast this morning or did you have breakfast?”

And an eye-witness texts “may now be classified as”–how about “has been revealed as” a much later document? (Although it’s odd that anyone thinks we have eye-witness reports at all–who are these Biblical naifs?) I’m sure I’ve read that the first mention of Mary and Joseph was in 107 A.D., in a letter from a Bishop.

See also “Christ’s ascent into heaven” or “Dates for early Christian writings“.

Biblical alterations: Christ’s ascent into Heaven

Again, careful comparisons of manuscripts shows that many familiar parts of the New Testament, including much of the evidence for Christ’s resurrection, was added later. The tale of Philip running to the tomb and finding the grave cloths, is a later addition. So is the whole extended tale in Mark 16, 9-20, of the apostles meeting Jesus after the Crucifixion, speaking with him, and watching him ascend into Heaven.

Source: Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman
See also “Women should keep silent” or “Biblical scholarship

Biblical alterations: women should be silent

Textual analysis and other evidence of Paul’s attitude towards indicate that the whole “women should learn in silence and subjection” snippet was added later, possibly as part of a successful attempt to minimize the influence of women in the early Christian church:

Source: Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman
See also “Divinity of Christ” or “Christ’s ascent into heaven“.