Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Left-Handed Disabled Transgender Bisexual Neo-Marxist Study Bible

The last two posts made some points relative to both liberal Roman Catholics as well as their more conservative counterparts. Now it is time to turn the eyes towards the preponderance of demographically-targeted Bible translations. The Pedantic Protestant [along with his three readers, though rumor has it that there is now a fourth] has seen the Woman's Study Bible, the African-American Study Bible, the hip-n-trendy teen Bibles [with the requisite denim covers], and the possibly now-infamous ONE translation .

Surely, is it not the progressive thing to have demographically relevant Bibles and such? May we sit around and congratulate each other for our enlightened state of being? Can we not say Lord Lord, I have preached a gospel relevant for [insert group here] ?

Well, I suppose we can, but are we really doing the right thing?

(1) The Christian religion is a religion that is a historically-based religion, and history is expressed in propositions, and propositions are expressible in well-formed sentences with clearly-defined terminology. The Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts consist of historical propositions and propositions regarding man, his state in the grand scheme of things, the attributes of God, etc. A translation, it seems, should be based on what the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts say, and the goal of a translation should be to simultaneously (a) be as faithful to the original text as possible and (b) find the nearest equivalents in the receptor language.

(2) The PP has no problem with translations based on dynamic equivalence. Human communication and ideas are not so much expressed in individual words as they are in sentences, clauses, and collections of words.

(3) Nor does the PP have any problem with what people what say are "literal" or interlinear translations. Again, the quest is, presumably, to get to the bottom of the text.

I will note that I've translated virtually all of the NT in my own studies, and I don't get anything different than what an NIV, NASB, etc will have.

What I haven't found in the Greek text of the NT writings is this idea that special attention has to be paid to anything relating to whatever fashionable grievance group of today comes to mind.

This isn't to say that the NT, say, doesn't or shouldn't talk about women; we do not claim that those parts of the NT that deal with Africans [white or not] don't exist and are products of drinking the wrong Kool-Aid. What we do say is that propositions are universals, and apart from trying to communicate these universals in the reader's language, we can't invest a political or victimological slant to things.

For example, in the African American Bible , is it really important to focus on the African presence in the Bible? After all,

(a) We're all sinners and damned by our own [lack of] merits,

(b) There is neither Jew nor Gentile in redemption,

(c) The language of faith is not demographically-based:
(i) For example, John 3:16, the second most famous verse in scripture [the most popular verse is "Judge not lest ye be judged" taken out of context], says that whosoever believes in the Son will not perish but have life eternal. The whosoever is a universal statement. It is not interpreted any other way.

(ii) All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God does not seem to imply any sort of racial connotation.

I would think that the mere fact that God became incarnate and, through a series of actions, has restored us to Him, should be enough. However, this fact, given our politically correct age, is not allowed to stand on its own. Instead, it must be supplemented with a special-interest angle that reinforces a group mentality.

One could conceivably object and assert that if such a Bible, even coming from a goofy and victim-based marketing perspective, were to be instrumental in leading one to Christ, would that not justify or at least ameliorate your concerns?

The answer to this is not at all. God uses imperfect men in carrying out the economy of redemption. If God can use the PP, then one realizes that God can use just about anything else, no matter how imperfect, so the fact that God uses me does not imply any sort of nobility on my part. In parallel fashion, just as one might come to a saving faith by reading a Watchtower-based New World Translation [and ignoring the deliberately altered passages dealing with the full deity of Christ], this does not excuse the basis on which the translation and emphasis is made, and it would've been better had they used a translation not based on a prior motivation to deny the deity of Christ.

Another answer to such an objection would be that the bare fact of one's being a damned sinner trumps all such social gospel concerns. Yes, one might admit that African Americans have a more sharply inclined hill to trod than some other groups with respect to some narrowly defined issues [though I do not necessarily admit this], but, if we take the NT seriously, we all have the same 180-degree vertical face to climb with regards to our status before God. In some ways, those blacks who are poor and oppressed may actually have an advantage over the non-victims with respect to the very narrow idea of relying on God and trusting Him, since it is hardship that more often makes a man realize his need for God than does material splendor and peace. If this previous statement is true, is not the victomological emphasis misplaced? Do we not need all the more the Suburban Upper Middle Class White Guy Study Bible to help people living comfortably realize that there is more to life than acquiring a new gas grill, a plasma screen, and a sit-n-drive lawnmower? Where is our marketing niche? In our suburban nightmare existence, where can we too learn about the contributions of white males to the redemptive economy? Our self-esteem depends on it!

An oblique point to make with regards to the objection given earlier is that such an emphasis seems rather insulting to the person who is in the group to which the translation is targeted. Just as I'd be insulted with the Suburban White Guy Study Bible [with emphasis on the use of well-to-do White men in the Biblical economy of redemption!!] because it patronizes me, so too I would think that African Americans would feel the same degree of patronization. I'd hope they would. My confidence in this hope is based on the fact that during my childhood I attended a Baptist church that was every racial bean-counter's pipe dream, where White folks were the minority. Remembering the fellow members of that parish, they were concerned with the same things that I was --- sin, soul, redemption, salvation, etc, and we all spoke the same language. But, then again, this was long ago, before the collectivist mentality began to creep into every corner of life.

Let's now turn to those teen-oriented Bibles. Again, the whole marketing thrust to such things is that Christianity is cool, fly, dope, you name it --- just as the kids at school get their self-esteem from wearing the right brand of jeans, our teenage sons and daughters can get their self-esteem from being a member of the Truly Cool Clique of Jesus.

It seems to escape the marketers [or maybe it doesn't and they're just in it for the money] that by going for the cool, hip, with-it approach, they're appealing to "the world" as their standard. The hook seems to be this: Jesus is cool, those non-Christians aren't [so says my denim-covered teen Bible] .....and from this a person may or may not become solid in the faith. Again, why shouldn't the hook be that Christianity is objectively true --- it makes statements about reality that are true ? Truth, after all, is the coolest thing around, not to mention that it is totally fly and dope. A Christianity whose initial hook is a coolness and a parallel with secular modern culture doesn't seem as optimal as a Christianity based on the idea of truth-and-truth-alone. This doesn't mean that the Holy Spirit does not work repentance and faith through the teenybopper Bibles, but it is the approach that leaves a square like the PP befuddled.

Basically, I don't like a marketing-oriented Bible period, unless the marketing is based on the fact that the translation and attitude is to be as faithful to the text as possible. Having had my nose in academics for a longer time that I'd care to admit, I've seen all sorts of Christianity-and-[insert approach here] to last me eternity. Christianity-and-Marxism, Christianity-and-the-Social-Gospel, Christianity-and-my-Sexual-Preferences, etc. The thread common to all of these is that Christianity, far from being normative, is used merely as the medium by which the aforementioned items are discussed, justified, etc. We see the final fruits of such approaches with the Jesus Seminar's The Five Gospels

At the rate we're going [see the ONE translation mentioned at the beginning of this rant-like core dump of a blog entry], I wouldn't be surprised that, near my dying days, to find on the local bookshelf the Left-Handed Disabled Transgender Bisexual Neo-Marxist Study Bible. It seems that we're headed in that direction. If one wants to challenge me and say that it won't go that far, I'd hope that the challenger is correct and I'm wrong. However, here the PP, usually with a smile on his face and a tune in his heart, is profoundly pessimistic.

Yet to edit.


Anonymous 1689 said...

Maybe King James was onto something when he told his translators to lay off the study notes (or maybe they just refused to give him an 'Erastian Royal Supremacist Sycophant Study Bible')

Thursday, May 05, 2005 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Study notes are perfectly fine, as long as they're trying to understand the text on its own internal and contextual terms.

Study notes that have a political or demographic focus don't have any value, other than further the race/sex/gender/class/sexuality paradigm that is forced on academic topics.

Thanks for the comment! We badly need them here at PP to keep the tumbleweeds from blowing through. =D


Thursday, May 05, 2005 6:46:00 PM  
Anonymous 1689 said...

Well, seeing as King James would certainly have wanted notes with a bias to a certain political focus, I'm VERY glad he didn't get them (see previous comment).

Imagine, if you will....

"Thus we see that God hath set kings above their subjects, and hath even given them power to rule in his Church; Therefore we ought the more fully to render all obedience to the King, seeing as he ruleth by divine right..." (The Sycophantic Royal Supremacist Erastian Study Bible, 1615, accidentally 'mislaid' by Calvin Bruen Printing, Chester and discovered in a sewer by achaeologists in 2005).

Saturday, May 07, 2005 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

An honest translation of scripture will contain some things we want to be true, and some things we don't want to be true. Scripture, I'd contend, can emphasize its own points provided that the reader actually knows how to read a book.
Bibles that continually point out a certain theme to the reader so that he doesn't miss it seem to be relieving the reader of exercising his own Protestant faculties.

I'll confess that I have a Lutheran study Bible, where passages upholding the Word and Sacrament Lutheran view are marked and noted. Now this isn't as bad as saying "Look, here is an example of a Marxist woman of color playing a part in salvation history," but, one would think that, if the Lutheran doctrine is in fact true, it would already clearly be there.


Saturday, May 07, 2005 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous 1689 said...

Maybe the trouble is people who don't know how to read a book?

Calvin Bruen was a Puritan printer in Chester, by the way.

The SRSESB says this on 1 Peter 2.17:
"'Honour the King.' The King's name is here placed after the Name of God to teach men that the King hath his authoritie from God; and is therefore to be viewed as God's deputie upon the earth, whom He hath set to maintain His true religion (thus we see the enormitie of the POPE's usurpation in that he contendeth that he holds that place himself, when God hath made him subject to his lawful king). The King is to be HONOURED, that is, to be given all obedience by his subjects in things temporal and ecclesiastical, for that a church not subject to the king doth ill agree with monarchie, and savoureth of Papistrie."

Saturday, May 07, 2005 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Actually, not only is it the case that many people in academics seem to be functionally illiterate, but, just as badly, they can't separate assumptions from conclusion. Witness most if not all rationalistic higher critical studies of the OT and NT texts.

Monday, May 09, 2005 10:21:00 PM  

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