Asalamu aliakuam wa rahmat Allah wa barkatoo and Hello Everybody!
How is everyone? The title of this post may have surprised some of you. Reading the Bible? What has Sarira gotten into her mind?
Let me start from the ….middle (lol, it’s because this post is really long enough as it is!)
Basically, I decided to read the Bible. My intention is only to understand Christianity better and to understand it truly within its context (and not from say, what people say Christians believe).
Now, not to offend my Christian readers, though, but I just want to clarify that I am in no way reading it because I believe in the Christian creed or have a single doubt about the Islamic one- Alhamdillah, I am more than satisfied as a Muslim. And I believe in Islam 100%, Praise be to Allah.
I would like to point out though that we, Muslims, know that the Bible was Divinely Inspired and therefore, I know that there are beautiful passages in it. Yes, for those who do not know, we Muslims believe that it was Inspired by God but that it was altered (meaning Jesus, who is a Prophet in Islam, was Divinely Inspired, but when the individual books of the Bible were collected together as one book, all those years later, way after his death, the words were altered. Thus for us, the Qur’an is the only final complete perfect scripture.)
However, it would be misleading though to say that I am reading the entire “Bible”. I originally intended to start from the Old Testament (as some of you may remember), but I ended up changing my mind and I began with the New Testament- specifically, I started reading Matthew.
So in a bit of time, I post up my ‘first thoughts’ on what I’ve read so far and every other while, I’ll continue to post, inshaAllah, unless it bores you all too much (the thoughts of a Muslim on the Bible, that is- I would never be as offensive to my readers as to refer to the Bible as boring!)
The idea of this post then is just to let you know how I am doing it and to share some really interesting facts I found before I started reading the Bible.
Before I get ahead of myself:
Part I: The Method-
I want to clarify that I am reading it from online –I decided on this so that I could compare translations as I go along and so that I could also ‘quickly’ search for verse explanations if I had any major questions. So basically, I’m using a website called Bible Gateway and it has more than 100 translations (of course not all English ones). I’ve been reading it in English and also comparing it in Arabic (originally I intended to read it in Arabic but then when I found this website and the information I’ll be putting below later, I changed my mind :D)
Part II: Some Interesting Things about the Translations Available
Now, before starting to read the Bible, I thought it would enrich my reading of the Bible if I understood a little bit more about it- the original language it was written in it, who translated it, who wrote what, who Matthew is, who John is, etc, so I searched a bit on google books (hey, it’s like having a library in your HOME :P) on ‘the history of the Bible’. (Remember, I’m a literature student and that’s one of the first things we used to do when reading a piece- work on understanding its context.) Anyways, for this part, I’ll share the interesting things I learned regarding the translations. :The book that I leafed through for this is:
ETA- the computer has gone crazy. The formatting of this post is entirely not readable! Everytime I try to edit this post, it doesn't work. I've given up and I'm uploading my notes to a site. I'll be back with the link :)
Click here to read all that I found out!
[Trying again to paste it into the post]
The book that I leafed through for this is: History of the Bible in English. The author Frederick Bruce certainly grabbed my attention when he put this nice Italian quote that says that ‘all translators are traitors’, hehe!
So the first thing I found interesting in the book was how the book immediately demonstrated ‘the importance of translation’.
Take a look at this (I typed it up for you- I hope this isn’t considered copyright infringement.)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was towards the God, and God was the Word. This was in beginning towards the God. Everything through him became, and part-from him became not-even one-thing.(page xi).”
What is wrong with that? It is a word-for-word rendering of the Greet text of the 1959 edition published by the British and Foreign Bible Society. There is obviously one thing wrong with it: it is not English. And there is something else wrong with it: it does not faithfully represent the writers’ meaning
Pretty, interesting, huh? This was in the beginning and it was one of the reasons I continued reading (I’ll tell you later what I found when I decided to research this verse later, after putting this book away…)
But for now, let’s talk about the two most interesting thing I read in that book.
The first one was on page 143. It features a bit the discussion on the translation of the verse 1 John 5:7-v8.
First, let’s read it from the King James Version:
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
Now, let’s see it from the New International Version…
For there are three that testify: 8the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
So rather than mentioning ‘the trinity explicitly’, this version only writes this as a footnote: “Late manuscripts of the Vulgate testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 8 And there are three that testify on earth: the (not found in any Greek manuscript before the sixteenth century)”
So that the footnote makes a little more sense to you, I print screened the book’s explanation (the RV refers to the Revised Version- and yeah, I was that lazy :P)
The thing though that I really thought was interesting that the King James Version, when I checked that translation on the online website’ I am reading, failed to include any footnote or any mention that the ‘verse’ may these have been altered/added.
The second most interesting part of the book, for me, was this tiny little footnote, hehe (Excuse the overly capitalized words. I was trying to remain faithful to how it was written in the book.)
On page 247: “Dr. Paisley also issued an eight-page folder (The New English Bible- A Corruption of the Word of God) which lists ‘222 passages in which the Scriptures of Truth are corrupted through the ALTERNATIONS-ADDITIONS-DELETIONS by the translators of the New English Bible.” The standard by which alternations, additions, and deletions are detected in the AV,: the majority of the criticisms are basically criticisms of the Greek text, not the translations.
(I tried to find out a bit about this person and apparently he is what is basically a “Biblical literalist”. Quite the character, though…I mean calling the Pope the “Anti-Christ?!):
Anyways, back to point 1 where it was addressing “The Word was ‘towards’ God”. As you probably noticed, the author of the book pointed out, that the word to word translation didn’t make much sense in English- I find that interesting because it means to me that in order to make it make sense, in English, at least, the ‘authors’ had to write their ‘interpretations’, ‘filling in the blanks’, so to speak.
So that today, we have:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.
But is that really what was intended by the ‘authors’? Frederick Bruce had piqued my curosity! I thought I would look to see what other translations there were available. I meant only to find some other translations but instead, to my shock, I stumbled on so much information/misinformation out there on this single verse! There are major controversies- I mean I sat down for hours reading about this verse! You can blame Bruce” for the next few pages of info :P)
First, the other versions:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was divine"
(The New World Translation)
Similarly, in "The New Testament, An American Translation" this verse is translated as:
"In the beginning the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was divine."
The New Testament, An American Translation, Edgar Goodspeed and J. M. Powis Smith, The University of Chicago Press, p. 173
What’s the big deal about using ‘divine’ or God? I honeslty didn't think it mattered! But apparently it does. The idea is that this verse relates fundamentally to the Christian creed. No one wants to interpret it in a way that might just be blasphemous:
As David A. Reed states:
“The text of John 1:1 has a sordid past and a myriad of interpretations. With the Greek alone, we can create empathic, orthodox, creed-like statements, or we can commit pure and unadulterated heresy. From the point of view of early church history, heresy develops when a misunderstanding arises concerning Greek articles, the predicate nominative, and grammatical word order. The early church heresy of Sabellianism understood John 1:1c to read, "and the Word was the God." The early church heresy of Arianism understood it to read, "and the word was a God.”
The theological difference is this: The two competing beliefs which cause great controversy over this scripture center on whether Jesus was the one and only God, or was a god, lesser than and completely distinct from God, a subordinate to God as his Chief agent.
Now, everytime I read about the translations, the Coptics would come up. I wondered why! (Yup, I am going to share this- as an Egyptian, I have to, LOOOL:)
[First, why it matters what the Coptics think]“ The distinguished grammarian and Coptic scholar John Martin Plumley, former professor of Egyptology at Cambridge University and author of Introductory Coptic Grammar, (London: Home & Van Thal, 1948), had this to say about the significance of the Sahidic Coptic version:
"While there are limitations to the use which can be made of the Coptic version as an aid to the recovery of the original Greek text of the New Testament . . . it should also be recognized that by and large the Coptic version can be a valuable aid to the scholar engaged in textual criticism, and because in certain passages it preserves very ancient traditions of interpretation, it ought to be of considerable interest to the scholar working on the history and development of Christian doctrine." -- Quoted in The Early Versions of the New Testament, by Dr. Bruce M. Metzger
Eisegesis refers to interpreting a text by reading into it one's own ideas, or other ideas foreign to the text itself. Some apologists continue in a futile attempt to do that with Coptic John 1:1c.
For example, it is claimed that the indefinite ou.noute of Coptic John 1:1c should be translated as 'the one and only God,' because the indefinite article denotes unity, not 'a god.' As a "proof," 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Ephesians 4:6 are quoted, where ou.noute n.ouwt is usually rendered as "one God."
But that is erroneous eisegesis. It is a blatant attempt to read philosophical dogma into Coptic grammar. The Coptic indefinite article ou does not of itself 'denote unity.' It simply means "a" when bound with a common or count Coptic noun like noute, "god." The Coptic text of the New Testament contains hundreds of examples that prove this. (For example, see Coptic Acts 28:6, where the anarthrous Greek theos is rendered by ou.noute in Sahidic (Sahidica) and ou.nouti in the Coptic Bohairic version. Horner and Greek-based English versions including the KJV render this as "a god.")
Further, it is not the Coptic indefinite article ou that means "one," but the bound idiom ou______n.ouwt. This idiom literally means "a single, an only," and is used in Coptic to denote "one," adjectivally: "one god," "one man," "one spirit," etc. (For example, see Coptic Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 6:16, 17)
Therefore, ou.noute n.ouwt simply means "one god." It is the context, not the grammar, of 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Ephesians 4:6 that mandates the translation "one God" because the specific and definite reference in those verses is p.eiwt, "the Father," whom the Lord Jesus identifies as p.noute m.me m.mauaa.F , "the true God alone" (John 17:3 Horner), "the only true God."
Neither the grammar nor meaning of Coptic 1 Corinthians 8:6 or Ephesians 4:6 is the same as Coptic John 1:1c, so those verses cannot be used to exegete Coptic John 1:1c. Whereas ou.noute n.ouwt means a single god, i.e, "one god" or "one God" (in context, with reference to the Father), the fact remains that ou.noute means "a god." It does not mean some philosophical unity that calls for translating it as 'the one and only God.'
It would be far more honest to read Coptic John 1:1c for what it says, instead of trying to import foreign concepts into it.
[The conclusion- finally!] And what Coptic John 1:1c clearly says is "the Word was a god." Or, if you prefer, "the Word was divine." But definitely not, "the Word was God."
Am I finally done with this verse? Let me tell you something, that isn’t even the half of it. I swear there was so much info on the ‘translations’ of this verse, my brain felt like it was going to explode! (LOL!) I mean check this link out: (this time the ‘prepositions’ are translated differently). Remember, that is what sounded funny (the whole ‘towards’ thing) in English in the first place: How Prepositions Make all the Difference "towards God" or something else?
Finally, good old Wikipedia!
On the other hand, some people seem to even think this verse doesn’t even belong in the Bible:
“The words of John 1:1 are acknowledged by most reputable Christian scholars of the Bible as the words of another Jew, Philo of Alexandria (20BC-50AD), who claimed no divine inspiration for them and who wrote them decades before the "gospel of John" was ever conceived. Groliers encyclopedia has the following to say under the heading "Logos"("the word"):
"Heraclitus was the earliest Greek thinker to make logos a central concept ...In the New Testament, the Gospel According to Saint John gives a central place to logos; the biblical author describes the Logos as God, the Creative Word, who took on flesh in the man Jesus Christ. Many have traced John's conception to Greek origins--perhaps through the intermediacy of eclectic texts like the writings of Philo of Alexandria."
T. W. Doane says:
"The works of Plato were extensively studied by the Church Fathers, one of whom joyfully recognizes in the great teacher, the schoolmaster who, in the fullness of time, was destined to educate the heathen for Christ, as Moses did the Jews. The celebrated passage : "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word Was God" is a fragment of some Pagan treatise on the Platonic philosophy, evidently written by Irenaeus. It is quoted by Amelius, a Pagan philosopher as strictly applicable to the Logos, or Mercury, the Word, apparently as an honorable testimony borne to the Pagan deity by a barbarian...We see then that the title "Word" or "Logos," being applied to Jesus, is another piece of Pagan amalgamation with Christianity. It did not receive its authorized Christian form until the middle of the second century after Christ. The ancient pagan Romans worshipped a Trinity. An oracle is said to have declared that there was 'First God, then the Word, and with them the Spirit'. Here we see the distinctly enumerated, God, the Logos, and the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost, in ancient Rome, where the most celebrated temple of this capital - that of Jupiter Capitolinus - was dedicated to three deities, which three deities were honored with joint worship."
From Bible Myths and their parallels in other religions, pp. 375-376.
Do I believe that this was entirely a myth or a pagan insertion? Not, exactly. Islamically, of course, we do have references to Jesus (or Isa, as we say, alyhee as salam), as being the Word (from) God, and ‘a Word of’ God (in one verse). We believe that Jesus had a miraculous birth- Allah created him by simply saying “Be” and he was- thus, he was literally ‘Allah’s word’, in that sense, but we also clearly believe, (unlike for the Qur’an, for example), he was created (if you want verse references, I can get them for ya :P). Thus, for us, he was a wonderful prophet to revere but not a physical part/attribute/etc. of God.
Sarira, are you done, yet?
NO, but the rest you can find in the document. If you can't download it, don't worry. I'll be putting it up tomorrow, inshaAllah!
*Hey my signature disappeared. All sad*
Manually then- love, Sarira.
P.s. I can't see the comments properly, yet. It says 7 but 5 appear. I'll wait till I can see them to respond, but I've edited my beginning, Susanne :D It did sound wrong! Thanks for being there to correct me :)