Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text Critical Essay
In Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text, its author, Burton L. Visotzky, presents to the reader a wonderful and exciting world of the midrash, one of the methods of interpreting the Hebrew Bible. Rabbis were the people who developed midrash in the land of Israel.
Visotzky finds the Bible like an entity with numerous insights available to any reader who wants to understand the essence of the text. In this book, he focuses on different issues such as good and evil in a person, parent-child relations, sibling envy, life and death, faith, etc. In the chapters 8 (Dying) and 9 (Siblings), Visotzky discusses the issues of death, faith, essence of life, relations between relatives, and envy.
In order to deepen the understanding of the text presented in Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text and in the Bible itself, it is necessary to clear up the differences between the Bible and midrash, using the ideas of Visotzky; to realize how exactly midrash may keep the text alive forever; and to discuss how Rabbis apply and elaborate the biblical story to their lives and the lives of their relatives using midrash and peshat in particular.
To start the analysis of the book and the Bible, it is important to have a clear understanding of what midrash is and how it differs from the Bible. “Midrash is often compared to new literary analyses of the Bible because the rabbinic and the contemporary approaches to the Bible are said to bear some similarities, such as close attention to textual detail, and openness for multiple interpretations.” (Teugels 140)
One of the peculiar features of midrash is that every word and even every comma in Torah has a reason. People truly believe that the Bible is written by God, so, such a text cannot have any punctuation or grammar shortages. The Midrash is created by people, the Rabbis, so, someone may think that it is not that perfect as the Bible. The relation between the Bible and the Midrash may be compared with the relation between the present and the past.
The text presented in the Midrash is a kind of interpretation of the text presented in the Bible from one concrete perspective presented by the Rabbis. This is what Visotzky tries to reproduce in his Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text. The Bible is the source text, and the Midrash is a kind of the target one interpreted by Jewish people.
It is not the question of race and inequality, it is just one more attempt to present the biblical text from another perspective, a kind of renewal of the information taking into consideration cultural aspects, traditions, and time. So, the main difference between the Bible and midrash is that the later is a type of interpretation of the former that concentrates on small details, and this is what makes midrash unique and significant.
There is one more peculiar feature of midrash, it is its ability to keep the text alive. In Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text, Visotzky underlines that the text, the Torah, stays alive because of easy thematization prevention. In the Midrash, some alternative readings and interesting questions are offered. Midrash is not only a simple story to read, comprehend, and remember.
The Bible is a holy text with its rules, and midrash helps to interpret it and opens the God’s voice to the reader. Midrash lifts all the voices out of the text and makes them somehow audible. Readers do not involve into simple reading only, they are also the participants of the conversation, conversation with God, other people, and oneself. Almost at the beginning of Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text, Visotzky writes: “Every act of reading is a journey for which we carry baggage.” (Visotzky 5)
So, with the help of midrash, readers get an opportunity to analyze their own sense of life, improve it, and even help the others make the necessary changes. For someone, the Bible is simple words, for someone, these words have unbelievable meaning that rules the life. Almost the same happens to the readers of the Midrash. People take all the information in midrash seriously and pay attention to each word and even comma, if they need and believe in all this.
From the biblical perspective, the author touches upon such issue as sibling rivalry (in the chapter 9). It is not only about the envy between males and females (for example, in the Bible, the youngest brothers have been always in some kind of favor). However, the envy only between brothers or only between sisters is present indeed. This is what Visotzky describes in Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text.
One of the possible ways to understand clearly the reasons of such a rivalry between the relatives, especially between brothers and sisters, and the literary meaning of the text itself is the method of peshat. The author wonders: “Why should one prefer the midrash to the simple reading of the scriptural text, the peshat? (Visotzky 159).
Peshat is one of the methods that Jewish people use to comprehend the Hebrew bible. The literal meaning of this method underlines the simplicity. In other words, peshat is a kind of exegesis that presents the meaning of the text with the help of simple and comprehensible expressions for any reader. The purpose of peshat is to retain a clear literal understanding of the Bible narrative.
In the chapters 8 and 9 of Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text, the method that we call “peshat” or “pshat” helps to understand that the personalities presented in the Bible relate to ordinary people with their personal experience, their own dreams, and principles. The biblical narratives are captivating and unique indeed. They have such a quality to pull the reader and burn a desire to read more and more.
In general, with the help of the Rabbis interpretation of the biblical text, people get one more opportunity to comprehend the information presented in the Bible that gathered during such a long period of time. The New Testament and the Old Testament are not always comprehensible to every reader.
If people take into consideration the variety of traditions, cultures, and time barrier, it will not be that easy to create one source that will be appropriate for any generation and any culture. The Midrash provides the readers with an opportunity to look at the familiar text in another light.
The professor of interreligious studies and midrash in particular, Burton L. Visotzky in his Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text explains to the readers the grounds of the Bible from the Rabbis perspective. Such explanation helps to analyze the information in a different way. This book turns out to be interesting and understandable to people of any race, belief, and people with any religious background.
The interpretation offered by the Rabbis deepens our understanding in different ways: the readers realize that it is not that difficult to create and develop their own relationships grounding on the Bible, and present their own midrash. “Although midrash was mostly created by male rabbis, there is nothing to stop the modern writer and reader of the Bible from creating new midrash which re-examines texts that may be unfavorable and unsafe for women and re-fashions, re-interprets, and revises them.” (Graetz 19)
The ideas of jealousy, parenting, rivalry between siblings, responsibility, and faith presented in the book – this is exactly what rouses unbelievable interest in the readers’ mind. It helps to reveal a richness that the readers have not known or noticed before.
A new vision of the already analyzed and discussed problems, new ideas and suggestions – this is what the reader can get from the book Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text by Visotzky.
A clear understanding of the differences between the Bible, and one of its interpretations, midrash, the factors, which prove that midrash keep the holy text alive forever, and the analysis of the Bible with the help of one midrash methods, peshat, help to comprehend deeper not only the sense of the book by Visotzky, but also the essence of the Bible.
Graetz Naomi. Unlocking the Garden: A Feminist Jewish Look at the Bible, Midrash and God. Gorgias Press LLC, 2005.
Teugels, Lieve, M. Bible and Midrash: the Story of “The Wooing of Rebekah”. Peeters Publisher, 2004.
Visotzky, Burton, L. Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text. Random House, 1996.
The Bible: Eve and Female Place in the World Report
The role of women in society is considered to be one of the most burning and captivating issues of all the times. People face numerous problems during the discussions whether it is correct to make men and women equal to each other or not. This is why lots of people try to use as reliable sources as possible to prove the chosen idea.
And of the first sources, used in discussions concerning women place and role, is the Bible. The fact that Eve was created not first but second and the idea, came from Hebrew religion, that Jacob is considered to be the favorite implied for a long period of time that women were inferior to men; however, nowadays, lots of contradictions take place on these arguments and the discussions about woman’s role in society become more and more urgent.
The questions of gender inequality are inherent to many cultures and nations; some nations prefer to rely on religion in order to satisfy society; the other nations take into consideration modern points of views and moral values. However, during a long period of time, The Holy Bible was considered to be the major religious text that helped to clear up the different between women and men, their roles, and duties.
The point is that even The Holy Bible represents several approaches to the discussion of this concept. The New Testament and The Old Testaments tell that women have to inferior to men as the authority of God is really great, and God is the only one, who has the right to judge, divide, or make equal. In these testaments, women take the second place and may be regarded as men’s properties. However, The Gospels of Jesus, which appeared between The Old and New Testaments, underline how powerful women could be and that the equality between men and women was obligatory. However, the power of God was really huge, this is why the point that God created Eve second provided many people with a chance to underline women’s inferiority to men.
The Hebrew Yisrael presents other evidence that males have a kind of privilege in comparison to females. Jacob got inspiration from God, so, God perfects his favor and admiration on Jacob more than on any other person, and any woman in particular. He is the only one, who can communicate to God and introduce God’s messages to other people.
Due to such God’s preference, Hebrew boys have more rights, choices, and freedoms. Is it relates to The Holy Bible and Eve’s creation? Maybe; however, each religion has its own values, and the Islamic people made their choice in favor to male priority. Of course, women have certain rights, but still, their rights are dependent on many other factors, connected to male activities.
The Holy Bible is the first source that divided people in accordance with their genders. From the Old Testament, the roles of women were not that significant. The fact that Eve was created second allows many people to believe that women are inferior to men. However, times have been changed, and values are different now. It is hard to prove that women are inferior to men, and those people, who still believe the ideas, offered in The Holy Bible, just do not have enough imagination to prove women’s inferiority within own words.
Martin Luther’s Translation of the Bible Essay
Martin Luther, the once devoted Catholic, one day came across a bible hidden in one of the apartments of Erfurt University library. Upon reading the book keenly, Luther encountered significant differences between what his Catholic Church taught and what the bible said concerning issues like relying on the church fathers for the remission of sins. Since the church teachings were contrary to the bible teachings, he got concerned and protested the issues, hence becoming the father of Protestantism.
As a working criterion of spreading the truth, as it stands in the bible, Luther took the boldest step ever of translating his newly found bible into vernacular languages, German for instance, an issue that angered the Catholic Church as more people left the church to follow Luther’s teachings.
The translation plays a very important role to the German history. Initially, the Germans could not tell lies from the truth based on the then teachings, which were presented in foreign languages other than their understandable vernacular language.
In addition, they had hungered for reformation for long and thus the translation seemed important as it marked the dawn of that awaited reformation. In fact, Shaff points out that “The spread of this version, imperfect as it was, proves the hunger and thirst of the German people for the pure word of God, and prepared the way for the Reformation” (Para. 9).
In addition, the translation was so important in that it solved the problems of the majority of Germans who, despite their little education, wanted to know the truth but could not get it from the former complicated bible. Sanders observes, “…even tailors and shoemakers, yea, even women and ignorant persons…studied it with the greatest avidity as the fountain of all truth” (Para. 2).
Further, the translation assisted the common people who, through the easy reading and understanding of the true word of God, could then make informed decisions concerning the truth. In other words, Luther’s work was no more than a force that fuelled the freedom of the Germans.
The evident Protestant state churches of Germany, initially used by Luther to teach his cohorts, aroused the courage of teaching to the Germans. Besides, the Lutheran bible is of great significance to the German history.
Luther’s translation of the bible into German marked the most outstanding revolving point of the Germans’ history. For instance, its high rate of spreading across the Germans stands out as the origin of the advanced German language. Initially, the language featured so many dialects such that the people could neither understand nor unite with one another.
Therefore, Luther, through his works restored this harmony of language and further forming the basis of the contemporary German literature. The translation too fuelled the famous reformation of religion. In fact, it was through the translation that Protestantism emerged, which was otherwise nowhere before.
Further, the Lutheran bible contributed significantly towards “the creation of German nationalism because…his sayings and translation became part of the German national heritage” (Gerhard 216). The translation too contributed towards the reformation of the German education system.
The reformation came as Luther campaigned for the education of every person, which in turn left virtually all Germans in a position of reading and understanding the bible. Internationally, Luther’s translation significantly fuelled the widening of Protestantism as many other people who supported Luther came up with some other translations like the King James Version, the Bishop’s Bible, and the Douay-Rheims Bible among others.
Therefore, as evidenced by the expositions, Luther’s translation of the bible into vernacular German language stands out as both important and significant the Germans history. It marked the dawn of reformation in Germany as people demanded to hear and know the truth, as revealed by the word of God.
Further, it induced the courage of teaching by the Germans and more so teaching the true pure word of God in a language that even the illiterate could understand. As a result, the translation is the root of all the protestant churches, not only in Germany, but also in the world at large.
Gerhard, Ritter. Luther: His Life and Work. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1963.
Sanders, Ruth. How Martin Luther’s Translation of the Bible Influenced the German Language, 2010. Web. https://liturgical.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/how-martin-luthers-translation-of-the-bible-influenced-the-german-language/
Shaff, Phillip. History of the Christian Church. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910.
Analyzing the Story of Joseph in the Koran and the Bible Essay
The Bible and the Koran are both wonderful books that have been used for numerous years to guide and counsel members of the religious cultures that these two books represent. The reason why these books are popular is that Christianity and Islam are the only two religions that command wide following in every part of the world. Although these two books draw their inspiration from different sources, they contain scenes that carry identical story lines.
This is best demonstrated in the story of Joseph that is found in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Koran. By reading the two stories, one is quick to realize that both stories contain the same foundational principles and plot. However, by closely analyzing the two stories, one realizes that the each version contain deep-seated variations that might be theoretical in nature depending on the passage being analyzed. (Submission.Org)
To begin with, the story of Joseph in the Bible that appears in the book of Genesis starting from the 37th Chapter gives a detailed account of how Joseph spent his youth and explains why the brothers were jealous of him. In the story, we get to learn that Joseph was 17 years and that his occupation was a shepherd boy. In the Bible story, Joseph is seen intermingling with his siblings and letting them know of his frequent dreams. (New Revised Standard Version)
This differs from the Koran version where we only encounter Joseph telling his father of his recent dream. Unlike in the bible where his brothers know the content of the dream, Joseph’s father does not allow him to disclose the dream to his siblings for fear that they would “plot and scheme against” him. (Submission.Org)
However, both stories are similar in their account of the cause of the brother’s hatred toward Joseph. In both stories, the aspect of Joseph finding favor from his father is considered the cause of the hatred from his eleven brothers.
Another major contrast between the two stories appears in the way they are presented. In the bible version, the story is presented in form of a narration. In fact, the story spans from chapter 37 all the way to chapter 50 from the time when Joseph was a young boy up to a point where he is old and the brothers come begging for his forgiveness.
All throughout the narration, the story pauses to give little moral lessons. At the end of the narration, the moral of the whole story comes out when Joseph tells his brothers “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.” (Genesis 50:20)
On the other hand, the Koran version of the story is given in a summary form with only 111 verses covering the whole story. Contrary to the bible, the Koran focuses on giving God the glory that is due to His name.
This is seen at the beginning of Sura 12 when the author says “In the name of God, Most Gracious, and Most Merciful.” (Submission.Org) What this verse seems to stress is that all initial stages of doing things must begin by mentioning the name of the highest God in the land. This aspect of honoring God appears numerous times in the text.
The stressing of this verse can also be seen in Verse 91 when Joseph’s brothers tell him “By GOD, GOD has truly preferred you over us.” (Submission.Org) This clearly shows that the Koran version is more concerned with glorifying the name of God as opposed to the bible story whose main goal is to pass out key moral lessons.
In both versions of the story, we see the brothers conspiring to kill their brother. While this is the case, both versions give a different account of how the brothers carried out their mission. In the Koran version, the brothers first had a meeting where they decided to kill Joseph. After ensuring that the conspiracy was well perfected, they requested their father to allow them to take Joseph with them so they can play in the fields.
The story takes a different turn in the Bible since we see Jacob sending his son to the fields to see how his brothers were doing so he can present a report to his father. Unlike the Koran version where the brothers conspire to kill Joseph before hand, the Bible version says that they only hatched the plot once they saw him in Dothan. (New Revised Standard Version)
Another similarity of the story is seen in what transpires while the brothers are in the field. While the original plan was to kill Joseph, both accounts document that one of the brothers prevailed upon his brothers to instead throw him in to an abyss. Immediately after this, the brothers slaughter an animal and dip Joseph’s coat then take it to his father claiming that a wolf ate him.
The difference in this story is soon seen in the preceding verses where the Koran says that a caravan passed by and in the process of drawing water they discovered Joseph in the pit then took him with them to Egypt. This is in stark contrast to the Bible version, which documents that the pit that Joseph was thrown in to contained no water.
Instead of leaving him in the pit, the bible claims that the brothers sold him to Midianite traders for twenty pieces of silver whom in turn who sold him to a certain household in Egypt. Still on the same issue, a difference occurs in the way Jacob receives the news concerning the death of his son. While the Koran says that Jacob does not believe the story told by his sons, the bible version says that he believed them and mourned for his son many days. (New Revised Standard Version)
Another similarity in both stories is seen in what happens in the household to which Joseph is sold in Egypt. In both accounts, it is detailed that his masters gave him much authority and despite being in exile, he keeps on prospering. Additionally, both accounts of the Joseph story show that his wisdom and knowledge kept on increasing for the whole time he was in Egypt and was consulted regarding various things.
On top of this, both the Bible and the Koran agree that the woman of the house in whom Joseph was living tried to seduce him. According to the two versions of the story, Joseph fled the scene and was imprisoned after the woman accused him of trying to rape her. Despite this agreement on the rape scenario, the two versions give a completely different account on the outcome of this case. (New Revised Standard Version; Submission.Org)
In the Koran, it is reported that both Joseph and the woman of the house almost succumbed to their desires before he saw a proof from his Lord, which caused him to flee. While trying to flee, the Koran claims that the woman grabbed his garment and it was torn from behind.
Upon arriving at the door, the two of them found the woman’s husband standing outside and she accused Joseph of trying to molest her. With this accusation at hand, a witness from the house suggested that if the garment was torn from the front then the accusation was true but if it was torn from behind then it was a lie. As it turns out, the garment had been torn from behind and so Joseph was pronounced innocent. However, the master decided to commit him in to a penitentiary in order to please his wife. (Submission.Org)
In the bible’s version, Joseph does stop to analyze things and he flees immediately after the woman makes her advances. Unlike the Koran version, the man of the house shows up later and upon hearing the accusations brought in by the woman he immediately throws Joseph in to prison without proving his innocence. (New Revised Standard Version)
The bible and the Koran provide inspiration and guidance to its members. Although the writers of the two books were drawn from different backgrounds, both books contain stories bearing the same theme and teachings. Although most of the stories found in the Koran and the Old Testament part of the bible correspond in different aspects, they still have fundamental differences that make them distinct.
One story that is found in both the bible and in the Koran is the story of Joseph, which explains how God prepared the young man to save his household from future famine. Although both stories bear the same foundational message, they contain numerous dissimilarities that make them distinct.
New Revised Standard Version. Trans. Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Zondervan, 1983. Print.
Submission.Org. Sura – 12 Joseph, 2007. Web. <https://submission.org/index.html>
How magical realism of animals in the Bible is echoed in “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner and “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison Essay
Faulkner and Morrison have borrowed heavily from the Bible in their works, As I Lay Dying and Song of Solomon respectively. Of particular interest is their regular use of animal imagery drawn from the Holy Book in order to achieve magical realism in their texts.
A number of animals featured in King James Version Bible, Job chapters 39 to 41 have been used prominently by these two literary artists. The most prominent animals highlighted in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying include the horse, snake, vulture, fish and mules (biblically referred to as asses). In Song of Solomon by Morrison, bull (referred to as ox in the book of Job in the Bible), peacock and dogs have been used.
Magical realism is the underlying feature of African-American literature. This is partly due to the protracted history of forced labor, servitude, abject poverty and cruel racial discrimination endured by the blacks in America. Escape from such suffering was nearly impossible; hence, the resort to fantastic forms of liberation. This aspect is reflected heavily in African-American literature. It is evidenced in the two books by Faulkner and Morrison.
Reference is made to an extraordinary horse in King James Version Bible, Job 39:19-23. This is a fearless horse that does not shy away from battle. The same attribute is alluded to by the horse that Jewel rides on their way to bury their mother at Jefferson. Through the eyes of Darl, it is described: “… watches Jewel as he passes, the horse moving with a light, high kneed driving gait, three hundred yards back…”(Faulkner, p. 101).
This is equally an extraordinary horse like the one Job describes to God. It is able to travel long distances as the other members of the hearse board a wagon. The resort to magical realism in this instance is to provide a way of escape for Jewel, who does not want to accompany a corpse to Jefferson. However, this kind of escape is short-lived as the horse has to be sold later on to meet an emergent need.
Another use of magical realism of animals is illustrated by the use of the mules to transport the casket after the wagon is destroyed in the floods. In King James Version Bible, Job 39: 5, Job asks his creator about the freeing of the mule so that it can serve mankind. Reference to mules is made by Darl who says: “I promised my word me and the boys would get her there quick as mules could walk it…” (Faulkner, p. 18).
Due to flooding, all the bridges are washed away, bringing the Bundren funeral procession to an untimely halt. There is no way of getting across the flooded rivers, especially when the wagon is wrecked by a log floating along the swollen river. The use of the mules appears rather magical.
Biblical magical realism is also evident in the use of the image of the vultures in the novel by Faulkner. As Addie is about to die, her absentee husband, Anse, is described as a vulture hovering in the background waiting for her to die; just as they usually do. More than four vultures are reported on the barn (Faulkner, p. 512). The feathery species are also alluded to by Job as he converses with his maker (King James Version Bible, Job 39: 26).
Job wonders where they get the wisdom to do what they do. In this story, the Bundrens wonder what brings the vultures to their barns. What is lost to them is that they are a sign that Addie is surely going to die. Another implication subtly made here is that somebody is going to benefit from her death, i.e, the mischievous husband, Anse, who, after her death, acquires a new set of false teeth and another wife immediately upon her burial.
The image of a fish is also consequential in this novel. After Addie’s death, the Bundren children adopt various animals to signify their mother. Vardaman declares that his mother is a fish that he caught on the day of her death.
As the fish is cut up, he realizes that his mother is no longer alive – and so is the fish. Although he is too young to make rational conclusions, it may not be lost on him that his deceased mother may be a form of sacrifice to atone for her marital infidelity. The use of the fish may be an appropriate symbolism that succinctly sums Addie’s life, and death.
It may imply that she has been caught by circumstances, the way fish are trapped. Her death could also be random just like fish are caught randomly. It has a bearing on the fact that African-Americans were losing their lives randomly in the hands of racial discrimination. The fish is, therefore, a relevant aspect of magical realism applied in the text. In King James Version Bible in the book of Job, this appears in chapter 41 verses 7.
In Song of Solomon, Morrison borrows several animal imageries from King James Version Bible, Job chapters 39 to 41. A white bull is a source of death and violence. It causes a lot of disturbance to those suffering from racial discrimination in this novel. It causes Freddie’s mother to go into unexpected labor and dies in the process.
The white bull symbolically represents the brutish white oppressors that occasion the deaths of many African-Americans as well as untold heartaches. In King James Version Bible, Job 40: 15-24, God demonstrates His amazing power by describing how He has humbled the behemoth (great bull). The great bull is harmlessly eating grass in spite of his immense strength.
The white bull in Song of Solomon bears the great strength of the behemoth described in the Bible. However, unlike the humbled beast presented to the Biblical Job, the white bull is untamed and, therefore, uses his strength destructively. In interferes in the life of Freddie’s mother with deadly consequences. Its power can only be controlled by God Himself.
Another important element of magical realism in the novel involves the peacock. The peacock is Biblically associated with extreme haughtiness and this is highlighted in the book of Job. Due to its pride and self-centeredness, the peacock lay eggs and handles them carelessly (King James Version Bible, Job 39:15). As soon as they have hatched, the peacock abandons her young ones. This negative element also alludes to human existence and is brought to the fore in the novel Song of Solomon.
This factor is powerfully expressed through the character of Guitar and Milkman, who abandon family love in search of the elusive wealth. The peacock first appears in the car lot where Guitar and Milkman usually spend their time discussing the materials things they would acquire when and if they grow rich.
It is completely white; it can easily be mistaken for purity. However, its tail is spotted such that it oozes the illusion of jewelry and by extension, riches. It possibly explains why Guitar and his accomplice are planning to steal gold. If they eventually succeed, “life, safety and luxury fanned out before him like the tailspread of a peacock” (Morrison, p. 58).
The peacock, therefore, connotes the corrupting influence of material wealth. This is exemplified by the enmity that eventually springs up between Guitar and Milkman (Morrison, p. 279). It is spawned by the suspicion on Guitar’s part that Milkman could be hiding the much-sought after gold.
When they gather at Blue Ridge Mountains to bury their father’s bones, things go terribly awry as Guitar shoots Pilate (Morrison, p. 355). Sensing his own life is in danger, Milkman literally takes a flight to freedom by jumping into oblivion (Morrison, p. 337). This is in spite of the fact that he had learned at a tender age that humans could not fly.
The flying motif, which alludes to birds, in this novel is another remarkable aspect of magical realism borrowed from the Bible. The idea of flying to ultimate freedom is introduced right at the beginning of the story. When the story opens, Robert Smith, an insurance agent, is about to take a flight to freedom from the top of a hospital roof (Morrison, p. 6).
There is a rather surreal twist to the episode when people gather and apparently urge him on, although this is a clear case of suicide. Indeed, the action sets him free from his earthly tribulations for good. This is simply magical!
Birds naturally achieve their freedom through flight. In Job’s response to God, he makes a powerful allusion to birds (King James Version Bible, Job 41: 5). In order to restrict a bird’s freedom, one has to tie it. This prevents it from flying away. The characters in this novel, especially the African-Americans, are literally tied like a restricted bird.
They are perpetually trapped in abject poverty and servitude to their white masters. Consequently, they spend most of their time trying to fight against the unjust dominion, albeit unsuccessfully. This makes them indulge in wild fantasies, like flying to freedom. So preoccupied are they with this fantasy that when Robert appears atop the hospital building, nobody is shocked by the impending suicide.
The flight fantasy is probably fuelled by the ancient myth prescribed by the African-Americans in which it is said that their forefathers had flown to Africa: “Solomon cut across the sky, Solomon gone home” (Morrison, p58). At the end of the novel, Milkman, as if in a dream, flies away from his deadly aggressor, Guitar.
Magical realism is a genre of writing that blends magical elements with the real world. Both the two novels discussed in this essay use folkIoric and Biblical form to portray magical occurrences, which are interwoven with the real events. It involves an ever-shifting pattern representing ordinary events in descriptive detail.
These are events are interspersed with fantastic and dream-like elements, which may borrow materials from myths and fairy tales. The two stories have employed magical realism to a great extent in order to leave a powerful impact on the mind of the reader and to increase the aesthetic quality of the texts.
The Biblical allusions evident in these stories are perhaps an indication of the Christian religion espoused by many African-Americans. Having exhausted all other means of escape, the African-Americans could have resorted to divine approaches from the Christian church. They could have then developed the belief that one day God was going to set them free. Hence, African-American literature has received a lot of influence from religious quarters.
Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. New York: Vintage International, 1930. Print.
King James Version Bible. Ed. Arthur Farstad. New York: American Bible Society, 1999. Print.
Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: Vintage International, 2004. Print.
For The Bible Tells Me So Essay (Movie Review)
Fundamentalist Christians and Homosexuality
The viewpoint of the fundamentalist Christians concerning homosexuality is that it is a sin and an abomination to mankind. Several fundamental Christians such as Mary Lou Wallner and Reitans openly reject their children who declare themselves as homosexuals.
Wallner rejects her daughter while the Reitans gang up with the Minnesota community to through a brick at Jake for declaring that he is gay. Besides, the Missouri congressman is at cross road whether to support his gay daughter or reject her despite her assistance towards his presidential campaign.
In addition, Gene Robinson who doubles up as a gay bishop has to live with rejection from his parents who are part of the conservative Episcopal Bethany Church. The many young religious persons who are gay have a difficulty of balancing the relationship with their families and their sexuality. Same as the views of the fundamentalist Christians, the book of Leviticus 18:22 in the Bible condemns homosexuality in totality as detestable before God.
Opposing Views on Homosexuality
The homosexual sympathizers, the homosexuals, and several experts offer an opposing viewpoint concerning the Bible and homosexuality. The first argument is that only one or two verses in the entire Bible mention homosexuality and it is barely a topic in the holy book.
In the views of Rev. Dr. Keene, biblical literalism can be blamed for demonizing homosexuality since the manuscripts of the good book can only be traced to the 20th century. The other proponents of homosexuality argue that most fundamental Christians are hypocrites who have discarded all the other topics in the tome of Leviticus apart from the one or two verses on homosexuality. Thus, selective amnesia only promotes literalism instead of ‘contextualism’.
Consequences of declaring homosexuality as an abomination
The consequences of socially constructing homosexuals and homosexuality as an abomination according to the film “The Bible Tells Me So” are destroyed family relationships and discrimination of the homosexuals by the society. The film indicates that several gay persons and their families have to live with the prejudice by the society for condoning what is considered immoral and against the good book.
The relations among the family members may also be strained since no one would want to accept or associate with homosexuals as members of their family. On the other hand, constructing homosexuality as an abomination may open the door for abuse of gay rights by their opponents.
The abuse may be in the form of discrimination from participating in social events, church activities and free interaction. In fact, the society may internalize the selective amnesia approach when relating to the homosexuals irrespective of their feelings and freedom of choice.
The perspective of the film of homosexuality
Reflectively, the film “The Bible Tells Me So” seems to suggest that homosexuality is based out of choice. Despite knowing about it in the early years, most the homosexuals are afraid to declare their sexuality to the society due to fear. For instance, Jake and the other homosexuals in the film are afraid of the perception of the society towards their choice of sexuality.
I support the view that homosexuality is based on personal choice. I don’t believe that somebody can be born gay. As an individual grows up, several external factors in the environment may influence his or her views on sexual direction. For instance, very close and prolonged attachment to a member of the same sex may eventually lead to development of sexual feelings for that person.
Bible Study and Scripture Comparing Essay
Inductive Bible Study Form
Text: The Healing at the Pool, John 5: 1-15 (Attridge, 2006)
What: Jesus has the power to heal. He healed a sick man near the pool of Bethzatha. Upon healing the sick man, Jesus asked him to get up and carry his mat. In addition, Jesus does not like it when people engage in sin. He asked the sick man to stop sinning when He found him at the temple (Attridge, 2006).
Who: Jesus healed a man who had been sick for 38 years. He had stayed by the pool for this long time as he did not find someone to help him get to the pool.
Where: The healing took place near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem where there was a pool with five porches. The pool was considered to be sacred and when it was stirred up by an angel, “the blind, lame and paralyzed bathed in this pool so that they could be healed” (Alexander & Alexander, 1999)
When: The healing took place on a Sabbath. Jesus had come to Jerusalem for a religious festival and that was when he found this man who had stayed by the pool for such a long time waiting for someone to help him get into the water.
Jesus is Lord and Savior. It is because of the love and mercy he had, that he healed the sick man by the pool. The fact that it was on a Sabbath, thus healing was not in accordance with the Jewish law, Jesus showed that there are no limits for love and kindness. Jesus was love and he came to the world because of salvation of mankind (Alexander & Alexander, 1999). This is seen by the fact that he asked the sick man to stay away from sin when He found him in the temple.
According to the Jewish law, the Sabbath was a holy day and no one was allowed to do anything during that day. Jesus, who is Lord, proved to the Jewish that it was not an offence to show an act of kindness and love towards others on a Sabbath. The Jewish law symbolized the old covenant while Jesus came to bring the new covenant, which He summarized into two parts. These are:
- Love for your God
- Love for your neighbor
When Jesus healed the sick man, it was an act of love. While the Old Covenant preached punishment to sinners, the New Covenant brought by Jesus preached forgiveness and repentance.
Consecrated Common Sense: The act portrayed by Jesus when he healed the sick man is an act of kindness and is part of worship. The Sabbath was a holy day for the Jews during which, worship was carried out. Therefore, when Jesus chose to heal the man on a Sabbath, he implied that healing was part of the Sabbath and worship. In addition, Jesus came into the world for the sake of mankind and especially the sinners. That is why He asked the healed man to stay away from sin.
Christ Jesus showed the people that it was not wrong to heal on a Sabbath. He brought the New Covenant to the people and with regard to the New Covenant; Jesus taught people how to love.
The situation of the sick man is similar to most situations in people’s lives. Many are the times when people will sit back in sorrow waiting for someone to come to their aid. It may be that they are seeking for employment, love or peace. The Bible advocates that people should put their whole trust in God as He is capable of helping them where fellow men fail.
The sick man healed by Jesus was alone meaning that he had been abandoned by his family, friends and relatives. That is what happens when someone is in trouble. Everyone leaves but, Jesus assures the people that He is there, ready to help if called upon. The only problem is that people do not realize this and instead rely on unreliable fellow men. The Bible asks the people to put their trust and faith in Christ Jesus as He is the only one who will be there by their side, when everyone else turns away.
The very same verse is preaching love. Jesus portrayed an act of love despite the fact that working on a Sabbath, for instance healing as performed by Jesus, was against the law. Therefore, by following Jesus’ example, people are asked not to limit their selves in loving other people. In addition, this verse calls on people to stay away from sin as it can bring about dire consequences.
Alexander, D. & Alexander, P. (1999). Zondervan Handbook to the Bible. Canada: Zondervan.
Attridge, H. W. (2006). The HarperCollins Study Bible: Fully Revised & Updated. Yale: Harper One.
The Bible Stories of Abraham and Rahab Case Study
Faith is defined as an act of being assured in things we hope for and believing in what we cannot see. Faith can only be complete, if coupled with relevant actions. In this regard, one has to portray his faith by assuming actions that demonstrate believe in hope and things that cannot be seen.
The Bible stories of Abraham and Rahab have a similarity in violation of telling the truth. Both Abraham and Rahab are referred to as hall of faith, in the book of Hebrews. The essay will feature instances of deceit that Abraham and Rahab applied and relevance to their faith in God. Actions are essential in future praise and success associated with faith.
Abraham is widely referenced for his faith and close relationship with God. There are however two instances of deceit that Abraham engaged in, which demonstrated little faith in God.
When famine struck the land of Negev, Abraham went to Egypt in search of food and pasture for his cattle. Abraham made his wife Sarai lie that he was his brother, so that he wouldn’t be killed. The lie demonstrated that Abraham did not believe that God could protect him from Egyptians. Abraham was afraid that Pharaoh would order his execution, so as to keep Sarai.
In this regard, Abraham’s faith was not sufficient to protect his wife. Similarly, Abraham told Abimelech that Sarai was his sister, since he did not know whether the people of that land believed in God. Despite the fact that Abraham had faith in God, he failed to assume relevant actions that could demonstrate his assuredness in God’s power, in both instances. The acts of deceit by Abraham were wrong and did not accredit him to be regarded as hall of faith in Hebrews 11 (Carr & Conway, 2010).
Rahab was a simple prostitute who was disregarded in the society. Despite the low and dirty life she led, her deceit demonstrated great faith in God. Rahab saved the lives of the Israelites by hiding them in her house. It should be noted that, Rahab hid the two Israelites because of great faith that she had in God.
Rahab chose to betray her people because God’s power surpassed that of local authority. Rahab believed in God to extent that, she trusted in His salvation from pending destruction. Rahab’s act of faith in God was demonstrated when she hid people she did not know, just because of great things that God had done for them.
Rahab believed that God would destroy Jericho and sought for her salvation, as well as that of her family. Rahab’s act of deceit was therefore praised and she was worthy to be regarded, as a hall of faith in the book of Hebrews. Rahab put her life in danger, as opposed to Abraham who was too afraid to do so. The act of faith by Rahab was associated with success, since her entire family was saved from destruction. Further, Rahab was given privilege of being an ancestor of Jesus Christ (Public Domain, 1965).
Bible Absolutes and Commandments
The seventh commandment warns against adultery. It should however be noted that, in both instances of deceit by Abraham, there was no attempt to prevent his wife from committing adultery.
As a matter of fact, he told pharaoh and Abimilech that Sarai was his sister. In this regard, pharaoh and Abimelech were at the verge of committing adultery unknowingly. There is divine intervention that prevents adultery from taking place. In both instances, God strikes people involved with a plague, so as to prevent them from defiling Sarai (International Bible Society, 1973).
God promised Joshua to guide him and enlarge territories of his land. The act of deceit by Rahab can be interpreted as, fulfillment of God’s promise to Joshua. Rahab concealed the plans of Israelites by hiding the spies and thereby helping them to conquer Jericho. Further, Joshua abided by law just like he was commanded by God. Joshua kept his word to Rahab and saved her entire family from destruction. Rahab was not destroyed and was made an ancestor of Jesus Christ, as a reward for her faith in God.
Faith has to be accompanied by actions, for it to yield results. Actions of faith should demonstrate level of assuredness that an individual has on unknown and degree of faith God. In the instances of deceit by Abraham, he was afraid to believe that God would save him from pharaoh and Abimelech. As a result, he ended up surrendering his wife and exposing her to adultery. A health professional would have a lot to learn from the plagues that God caused on Pharaoh and Abimelech, as a way of preventing adultery.
God struck the people who wanted to defile Sarai with strange sickness (Wilson, 1989). Notably, the sickness disappeared when Abraham prayed for Abimelech. Pharaoh was also healed after he returned Abraham’s wife. A health professional would learn that some health conditions can be brought by divinity and that God has the power to heal.
Carr, D. &Conway, C. (2010). An Introduction to the Bible: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts. New York: John Wiley & Sons Press.
International Bible Society. (1973). New International Version Holy Bible. Web.
Public Domain. (1965). King James Version Study Bible. Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+12%3A10-20&version=KJV
Wilson, M. (1989). Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith. Massachusetts: Eerdmans Publishing.
Bible Studies about the Judgment Day Essay
The verse brings to light several principles which can be applied in the current life situation. The day of the Lord is the judgment day. This day will be marked with darkness as will people dance to the tunes that they set for themselves. This day will come after the Lord gives man a lot of time to repent and come back to Him.
God will have no mercy at the wicked during this time because they chose their own path. Many people who long for the day of the Lord are not aware of the meaning attached to this day. It is a day when the Lord will ensure that the long suppressed justice prevails. All the wicked people will come face to face with God’s wrath. People associate God with light but the converse will be realized during this time. Darkness will be evident across the universe as the Lord unleashes His anger to the people due to their wicked ways.
The Lord has mentioned the wicked deeds that He is not pleased with. He does not like the façade presented by the people who bring to Him offerings and hold festivals in honor of His Name. This is because, these people pretend to love God but fail to love their fellow men by subjecting them to oppression and treating them unfairly. Before having love for God, one ought to have love for his or her fellow men. It is because of the pretence of these people that the Lord refuses to accept their offerings.
There are so many times when we ask ourselves why our lives are filled with a series of misfortunes. However, we do not sit back to reflect on our actions. We should evaluate out deeds to determine if we can be called righteous. Are we just to other people, the poor and oppressed, do we treat them fairly? When we go to the church to serve God and offer to Him what He has blessed us with, are we true to ourselves and to Him? These are some of the questions that as believers we need to reflect on.
The call for justice and righteous in the reading applies to the present world. The Lord is interested in justice and righteousness of the people and not the offerings and festivals held in accordance with His name. The songs, festivals and offerings accorded to the Lord are synonymous to a façade due to lack of sincerity from deep within the people’s Souls. The world hosts a lot of injustice and wickedness. Injustice presents itself in the form of oppression, theft, destruction of other people’s property and corruption.
People deemed to be inferior are oppressed by those who deem themselves as superior. These superior people are the leaders and prominent persons in society.
The inferior people are the common poor individuals who have no place in society. The inferior people are denied important rights to life which the superior people can easily obtain through corruption and unjust means. After engaging in such inhumane acts, these people go ahead to worship God and offer offerings and hold festivals in honor of the Lord, yearning for the day of the Lord.
There are so many court cases between rich people and poor people whose ruling end in a very unjust way. The words of the rich are heard while the poor man is always treated with contempt. These are the unjust systems that the Lord is against. “God is not a respecter of persons” (Attridge 2006). To Him, everyone is the same and should be treated equally.
The verse shows that the very same Lord who blesses is capable of destroying that which he has blessed if it turns away from Him. However, with the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, God is ready to give us another chance if only we turn away from sin and repent. God’s anger is not instant, but he warns us through our own life situations.
Attridge, H. W. (2006). The HarperCollins Study Bible: Fully Revised & Updated. Yale: HarperOne.
The History of Bible Making Research Paper
The history of Bible making is an unclear subject to most people. Majority, especially Christians, blindly believe in the bible teachings without seeking to understand how it came about or where it came from. It is very important for Christians to understand this subject in order to comprehend more about their religion.
By doing so, Christians will not only be followers of Christianity, but also they will be part of it. Scholars argue that the process of bible making started thousands of years ago during the pre-reformation period between 1400 B. C and 1400 A.D. During the pre-Reformation period, the Bible existed in the original languages of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.
The translation of the Bible started about 1380’s AD when John Wycliffe wrote dozens of manuscripts in English. The canonization process whereby the authorities determined which ‘writings’ were authoritative to form the present Bible has received worldwide criticism throughout the history.
It is uncertain why the authorities included some texts rather than others. Although, the original manuscripts of the Bible might not be available to support the arguments of most theologians, historical sources for both Testaments of the Bible provide sufficient evidence regarding the origin of the Bible. This study touches on historical issues surrounding the dissemination of the bible across the world.
The aspects explored here provide supportive evidences for emergence of different versions of the Bible. The purpose of this research is to find out how the modern Bible was collected into its current form. With focus on New Testament, the paper discusses the textual content considered for inclusion into the Bible. The paper will also examine the role played by translation of the bible as a developmental stage as the bible moved into its current form, what many refer as ‘the modern bible.’
This section highlights various teachings and writings by the early scholars, which could have led into composition of the modern Bible. The writing by Constra Celsum between 3rd BC and 3rd AD played a crucial role in the writing of the New Testament. Celsum criticized the then Christianity teaching of monotheism. Although, Celsum was a pagan, scholars assert that he believed in supreme divinity.
However, his argument was that there existed other inferior divinities which the supreme God delegated powers (Young 1990, 35). With the birth of Jesus, Celsum argued that the Christian’s position on monotheism loosened and monotheists slowly disappeared with the waning popularity of their religion. Celsum’s writings elicited debate among the Christian thinkers, who worked hard to defend the core teaching of Christianity.
In order to ensure respect for Jewish monotheism, Christian scholars wrote different texts, which disapproved the arguments of Celsum and from these texts Paul founded his teachings. 1Corinthians 8:6 states that, “But to us there is but one God” (NRV). As this text presents, the author seemingly was opposed to the views of other people such as Celsum. Scholars believe that this passage aimed to confirm the Jewish faith in monotheism.
Although, non-Christians such Celsum questioned monotheism, Paul derived 1 Cor. 8:6 from the teachings of the defenders of monotheism such Justin Martyr.
Theologians attribute the origin of John’s first chapter to the accounts of Justin Martyr. In his writings, Justin argued that God used creative speech to present his reason. This reason is what Justin referred to as Logos. In John’s first chapter, the author defines the reason as the word through which God revealed Himself to man. In fact, God expressed Himself through the ‘word’ in Genesis.
As per the Justin’s writings, the word was not just any word; it was wisdom. In order to illustrate this word as wisdom, according to Justin’s assertion, the author refers to the word as God. This teaching proved to the doubting Thomases that Jesus was the son of God since it was through him that God’s word reached the world. It is therefore justifiable that, Justin’s writings contributed significantly to the writing of the gospel books in the Bible.
The gospel books focus on confirming to the world that Jesus is the only son of God through whom, His word shall reach and save the world. Justin’s work illustrated the difference between Jesus and the prophets. According to him, Jesus was a fulfillment of the Old Testament as predicted through the prophecies of Isaiah. This further formed the foundational texts for the writing of the gospel biblical books.
The concept of God’s trinity evolved in 2nd century AD, when Irenaeus indicated that there were three personalities of God: Son, word and the spirit. As a doctor of the church, Irenaeus’ teachings received applauded attention among the Church thinkers.
Although the modern bible does not consider word as the element of trinity, it is apparent that Irenaeus’ writings formed the basis for God’s trinity in the bible. According to modern theology, God trinity is composed of three personalities namely, the father, son and the spirit. The ‘father’ replaced the ‘word’ in the Irenaeus teaching.
As the Gospel of John notes, “The word was God” (John 1:1, NRV); therefore, it is justifiable to conclude that the ‘word’ was the ‘father’ according to Irenaeus’ teachings. The writings of Irenaeus are the basis of the New Testament teachings that God is the spirit, the son and the father.
Another important scholar though controversial in the making of the New Testament is Noetus of Smyrna. Noetus in 200 AD wrote that Jesus was not the son, but the father. Although, his work may not be vivid in the New Testament, he contributed greatly to the understanding of God among the non-Christians. As per some Biblical contexts, particularly the New Testament, Jesus possesses the powers of God. Indeed, he is God.
The writing of the Bible
Originally, the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament existed in the Hebrew language except a few books, which Scholars wrote in Aramaic. Close examination of these different texts is useful for reconstruction of the most likely origin of the Old Testament.
According to Mykytiuk (2010), “the very oldest fragment resembling part of the text of the Hebrew Bible so far discovered is a small silver amulet, dating from approximately 600 BCE, and containing a version of the Priestly Blessing” (76). The Old Testament of the modern Bible originated from the Hebrew bible. The authors of the Old Testament used three blocks of genres, the Torah, Deuteronomy history, and Chronicler’s history.
The Torah comprises of books between Genesis and Deuteronomy. Torah reflects many historical writings by the Hebrew scholars concerning God’s creation of both the world and man. It also includes the history of Moses, Egypt and the Israelites. The Deuteronomy and Chronicler’s histories focus on the Israelites journey to Canaan.
Originally, the New Testament was recorded in Greek and for over the years, more than 56,000 copies of the ancient Greek Bible have survived. It is from this original manuscript that scholars derived the modern New Testament. With the support of the Roman Empire, composition of the New Testament was made easier. The authors in the New Testament describe the stories of Gospels and the Revelation.
The Gospels describe the life of Jesus Christ in the world whereas Revelation describes the end of the time and the ultimate God’s judgment to mankind. Most scholars such Dever, Young among others dispute the authorship of the New Testament books. Based on the contextual evidences of these books, scholars should not have any reason for contention. Critical analysis of the gospels reveals that the authors were conversant and closer to Jesus.
Therefore, as Mazar asserts,”the disciples or their associates therefore wrote these stories (1992, 65). It is therefore justifiable to assert that John wrote the gospel of John and so on. Scholars unanimously agree on the Paul’s authorship of the epistles and acts. This observation holds because of contextual evidences, which characterize Paul’s personality.
Evidences for Paul’s authorship
The epistles have one common format throughout the New Testament. They start with Paul’s greetings to his audience. According to Jewish culture, greetings represented courtesy and love (Mazar 1992, 73). Paul possessed these two characters. Prior to his conversion, Paul, then Saul, persecuted the followers of Christ and after the conversion; God filled him with love and the urge to transform the world.
Therefore, in order to share this love, Paul introduced his letters with “Grace and peace of Jesus Christ to you” (NRV). The letters end with similar phrase that “Grace to all who Love our Lord” (NRV). It is therefore clear that these epistles share the author, who happens to be Paul.
The second evidence is the subject of the letters, commonly known as epistles. The author aims to bring hope to humanity. Since on his conversion Paul found hope, it is justifiable that Paul used these letters to bring hope to the world. The letters also focus on change of the behaviors among the Jews.
As a person who transformed his life through encounter with God, Paul uses these epistles to transform others not to succumb in sin. In his letter to Galatians 5:1-13, Paul informs them that it is through transformation of their lives that they will live in freedom (NRV). According to Paul, human beings are captives of sin and free people in Christ. Since Paul had experienced this captivity, it is only him who could write such content.
The third evidence, which supports Paul’s authorship, is the message of peace and care for others contained universally in the epistles. As indicated earlier, the letters begins with a message of peace. In 2Corinthians 7:1, Paul emphasizes on purification of the heart (NRV). Through purification of his heart, Paul acquired unlimited peace in God.
Therefore, such message illustrates Paul believed in purification of the heart as the means to eternal peace. Throughout the letters, Paul advocates for friendship among the people of God. Because of his past life as a persecutor, Paul clearly understood the effects of unfriendliness among God’s people. Therefore, in order to ensure that the people of God do not experience the same, Paul used these letters to warn Christians in advance.
Canonization of the Bible
According to Young, the canonization of the “Old Testament consists of 24 Hebrew books, which Hebrew scholars further divided into three parts: the Torah or the law, prophets and writings” (1990, 98). The modern Old Testament therefore derived its plan from this Hebrew Bible and other additional books. The modern bible arrangement however is slightly different from the Hebrew Book. It consists of the books of Law, then the historical books, followed by the books of wisdom and the prophetic books.
The canonization of the New Testament began towards the end of 2nd century. It started with the acceptance of the ten letters of Paul. Irenaeus’ argument for inclusion of Gospel canon into the New Testament then followed. Early in the 3rd century, scholars accepted the other books.
However, an official canon of the New Testament never existed. In Egypt for example, Christians used at least 35 books in New Testament while Jerome version (Latin) had 27 books. Mid 4th century, Athanasius, the Alexandria bishop raised the question on which canon the church was to adopt. In order to avoid the spread of false information about Christianity, church authorities developed the basis for canonization of the New Testament.
The church delegated the responsibility to the church councils who canonized the New Testament based on several guiding principles. First, the author of every book considered had to be an apostle or an associate of a disciple. Mark for instance was not an apostle, but a friend of Apostle Peter.
Secondly, the message of the book had to act as a divine revelation of the Old Testament and reflect Jesus’ Character. For example, the gospel of Matthew is a fulfillment for the prophecy of Isaiah on birth of Jesus Christ and the salvation of the world. Thirdly, the council had to consider the universality of the book; all the books had to communicate the message of God, which all the Churches would practice.
All the epistles of Paul provide hope, encouragement and love to the world, which were teachings of Jesus Christ. Finally, the council had to consider whether the books provided inspiration to the church. They had to ensure that all the books had spiritual character of God to inspire the believers.
Historians note that there were three major councils: Laodicea (A.D. 363), Carthage (A. D 397) and Hippo (419 A. D). “Laodicea accepted all the New Testament books except Revelation; the other two councils endorsed the 27 books” (Mazar 1992, 39). However, throughout the canonization process, the council members disputed several books including Philemon, Hebrews, II Peter, Jude, John’s epistle, and Revelation.
The book of Philemon did not measure up to the canonization protocols for as per the priests of that time, this book was simply another personal letter if not secular manifesto. The council could not figure out the authorship of the book of Hebrews, whether the author was an apostle or a friend to the apostle. The Epistle of John was not universal to the church and it was very brief while Jude and II Peter were not original; they seemed to contain borrowed information.
Finally, Revelation was the center for dispute since very few Christians comprehended its message up to A. D 400. Its apocalyptic imagery of the judgment and the end of the world proved confusing to most council members and the church. Finally, by 450 A. D the church had reached a consensus of a New Testament with 27 books, which is the composition of the modern bible. The council did not include texts such as Maccabaeus and Enoch simply because they did not meet the canonization criterion.
Translation of the Bible
During the 3rd century BC, Greek was the first language for Jewish communities who lived in the Diaspora. Since Greek had written the New Testament, there was no need for Bible translation until five centuries later when people developed the urge to read the Old Testament.
This was therefore the first reason for translation of the bible (Lemche1998, 32). Due to spread of Christianity all over the world, scholars and theologians shifted their focus on bible translation into major languages such as English. John Wycliffe was the first scholar and theologian to translate the bible from Latin into English.
However, the church opposed severely his teachings. In his translated bible, Wycliffe argued that the bible should be available in all the languages for all people to read. Wycliffe further taught that, the church should not continue to perpetuate oppression among the Christians. The church was so infuriated such that it murdered all the Wycliffe’s followers.
Through the invention of translation, the spread of the canonized bible against the will of the early church became possible. This invention further resulted into making of a beautiful bible, used by the modern Christians. Translation increased understanding of scriptures to many Christians. This further enhanced the interpretation of the biblical messages. Interpretation of the bible by many Christians enhanced further translations into native languages.
For instance, Professor Colet’s translation of the Greek New Testament into English resulted into increase in Christians in London. Historians note that after this translation, Christians increased beyond the capacity of the church of London; a clear indication that translation increased the scripture knowledge among the Christians, which further led into translation of the bible into the modern languages.
During the translation, there were alterations in the content of the original bible. These alterations meant to reduce the powers of the church and this is the reason for existence of varied versions of the English bible. Comparison of verses for different versions of the bible would clearly evidence this argument. Therefore, changes made by reformers during the translation era, contributed significantly into the development of the modern bible.
The making of the modern bible started before the 3rd century B. C, with the teachings of the early scholars. These scholars expressed their thoughts through diverse writings some of which became the basics for writing of the bible. Beginning with the Celsum’s criticism to the teachings of Irenaeus and finally to the contribution of the translators, the collection of the modern bible came into realization.
The important stage of modern bible making is the canonization stage whereby, the council of the church selected the books for inclusion in the bible. The canonization criterion had three important guiding principles viz. universality of the books, the nature of the message contained in the book, and inspiration of the book to the Christians. Paul’s authorship of the epistles is widely accepted by the modern scholars. The messages in these epistles characterize Paul’s personality.
Theologians refer to Paul as the message for hope, encouragement, and peace. Because these characters form the messages in the epistle books, it is justifiable that Paul is the author of these books. Translation of the bible on its part played a very crucial role in the development of the modern bible. Alterations in the content of the original bible during the translation process resulted into the different versions of the modern bible.
Lemche, Niels P. 1998. The Israelites in History and Tradition. London: John Knox Press.
Mazar, Amihai.1992. Archaeology of the Land of the Bible: 10,000-586 B.C.E. New York: Doubleday.
Mykytiuk, Lawrence J. 2010. Strengthening Biblical Historicity vis-vis Minimalism: Introducing a Bibliographic Essay in Five Parts. Journal of Religious and Theological Information 9, no. 3 (January): 71-83.
Young, Frances M. 1990. Making of the creeds. London: SCM Press.