Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Bible is Reliable (part 1)

One of my first worries after I realized that the Book of Mormon and the other Mormon scriptures were false was whether the Bible was something I could depend upon. I decided I did not want to be deceived again and would research it thoroughly. As a Mormon I was taught that the Bible was only believable "inasmuch as it was translated correctly." My first order of business was to obtain as many translations as possible and compare. Since I don't remember much Greek or Hebrew from school (yes, I really studied those, along with Latin, but don't ask me for lessons), I stuck to English and one Spanish version.

I read sections that were reportedly in dispute, such as Psalm 22, verse 16. The King James Version reads, "For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet." A Jewish Bible reads "Dogs are all around me, a pack of villains closes in on me like a lion [at] my hands and feet."  It sounds much more Messianic in the King James Version.  But which is correct and why is there even a difference?

In written Hebrew there are no written vowels unless someone has taken the time to place marks on the text, kind of like we dot i's in English.  If I showed you this word, "rd"," you could say it was "red" or "rod" or reed," or, well, you get it.  So the difference between pierced and lion in Hebrew is a letter.  A page from the Jews for Jesus website explains it:
In Hebrew, the phrase "they have pierced" is kaaru while "like a lion" is kaari. The words are identical except that "pierced" ends with the Hebrew letter vav and "lion" with yod. Vav and yod are similar in form, and a scribe might easily have changed the text by inscribing a yod and failing to attach a vertical descending line so that it would become a vav. The evidence suggests that this may be what happened, since the Greek version of the Scriptures, known as the Septuagint, rendered in Egypt before the time of Jesus, preserves the reading of "pierced."
Unfortunately we don't have the "original text" to check whether that was a vav or a yod. What we have is the Septuagint translation which translated the Hebrew text as "pierced" and the Masoretic or standard text which has it as "like a lion."
Notice that the translation of the Hebrew is "pierced" in the Greek Septuagint which was completed in the centuries before Jesus was crucified. Therefore the charges made by some counter-missionaries, that fundamentalist Christian interpreters "twist" the meaning of the Hebrew Bible, rings hollow.
Somewhere I read that this one word doesn't change the meaning of the Psalm and I agree.  In the end, what does a lion do?  It pierces with its sharp teeth.

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from the words of my groaning?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the praise of Israel.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them.
They cried to you and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm, not a human being;
    I am scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
    “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
    since he delights in him.”
Yet you brought me out of the womb;
    you made me feel secure on my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you;
    from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.
Many bulls surround me;
    strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Roaring lions that tear their prey
    open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.
But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
    You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
Deliver me from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dogs.
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
    save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him,
    all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the Lord will praise him—
    may your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth
    will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
    and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
    all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
    those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it!
Today's New International Version (TNIV) © Copyright 2001, 2005 by Biblica

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