Linguistic Issue with Scripture


Daraamanthas

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OK... I am about to jump on a grenade here...

 

I am a linguist and translator by trade and hobby.  In my studies of language and ancient history I have develloped a serious issue with the Bible.  First, I do believe the DOCTRINE to be basically good and true.  The History therein has been veryfied to a point.

 

My problem is with the descriptions of various events and people in general.  There are NO original documents. The oldest documents we have are dated to a few centuries AFTER the New Testament!  How do we know that these documents are accurate copies or translations of the original?   How can we (christians) put so much creedence in these writings?  

 

In essence my question comes to this:  How can we as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put our trust in a set of writings that are unverifieable?  

 

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We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. (Article of faith 1:8)

 

That coupled with cross verifying doctrine with the Book of Mormon, and Revelation.

And from what I recall historical writings within 100 years of an event are generally considered fairly reliable. A few documents fall into that time frame.

Edited by Crypto
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I agree with everyone above. A careful reading of my original post will attest to that. As I said, the doctrines contained in the bible are true.  Yes, the BoM does verify the Bible, but, with very few exceptions, only in doctrine. 

 

While acceptable documents can come from about 100 years after the event in question, how do we account for the 500 to 6000 years that separate the earliest documents and the Old Testament. Yes I have heard about the exacting standards of the Jewish copyists.  They were still men and made mistakes.   Let us not forget 1 NE 13 beginning in verse 29.  Nephi tells us that many "plain and precious" things will be removed from the Bible before it went forth amoung the Gentiles.

 

The issue is in language, for example:  

Most current translations of the Old Testament are derived from Jewish text. In Genesis 1 the word translated as God is Elohim.  Elohim is the plural form of the Jewish word for God and would therefore more correctly rendered as Gods.  Everything I have found to this point makes excuses for the modern rendering.  The oorrect rendering makes sense to the LDS population, but is still wrong.  This affects the Doctrine of the Nature of God and the Nature of "Heaven".   I am sure that with time I could find a myriad of othe examples.

 

This becomes the dilema then of accepting the Bible as the basis of religion.  Seeing the number of flaws that are inherent in this volume, How can we continue to accept it as Scripture?

 

Connie, I agree 100%. Unfortunately, in the case of the Bible, I would say that 99% of Christendom accepts the Bible without consulting the Spirit.  This is blind faith and I refer to D and C 9.  This discussion is part of my method for studying the issue for myself before I confirm my conclusion with the Lord.

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While acceptable documents can come from about 100 years after the event in question, how do we account for the 500 to 6000 years that separate the earliest documents and the Old Testament. 

 

We account for it by recognizing that that is the best we have. Popular autographs (that is, original documents written by the author's own hand) in an ancient context would almost certainly perish within centuries, probably decades. Aside from the slow and very expensive process of inscribing on metal plates that don't tarnish (meaning a gold alloy) or that are kept from weathering (which means centuries-long vigilance without a slipup), there simply was no way to create a durable record of any significant length. n-generation transcriptions are the very best we can hope for. There is nothing either mysterious or conspiratorial about this.

 

The issue is in language, for example:  

Most current translations of the Old Testament are derived from Jewish text. In Genesis 1 the word translated as God is Elohim.  Elohim is the plural form of the Jewish word for God and would therefore more correctly rendered as Gods.  Everything I have found to this point makes excuses for the modern rendering.  The oorrect rendering makes sense to the LDS population, but is still wrong.  This affects the Doctrine of the Nature of God and the Nature of "Heaven".   I am sure that with time I could find a myriad of othe examples.

 
I believe the issue you raise is nowhere near as cut-and-dried as you suggest. The noun "elohim" (אֱלֹהִים) is a plural that is also used as a collective plural and a singular, where it takes a singular verb conjugation. As a singular, it appears to be a shortened form of "el elohim", or "God of Gods". (There are other theories, too.) This idea would suggest that "Elohim" was adopted as the conventional name for the Great God, or the Father God -- hence the singular verb conjugation.
 
The point is, to bring up a poorly understood, 3,000-year-old linguistic feature in an ancient language as a basis for rejecting the authenticity of the Bible doesn't seem the most reasonable course.
 

This becomes the dilema then of accepting the Bible as the basis of religion.  Seeing the number of flaws that are inherent in this volume, How can we continue to accept it as Scripture?

 

If you are talking about accepting the Bible in the "sola scriptura" sense that other sectarian Christians do, you are preaching to the choir. But we accept it as scripture because, in the first place, prophets of God have told us it's scripture, and in the second place, because we have read it, studied it, pondered it, and prayed about it until we accept it by testimony.

 

Connie, I agree 100%. Unfortunately, in the case of the Bible, I would say that 99% of Christendom accepts the Bible without consulting the Spirit.

 

This may be true, though you would be hard-pressed to demonstrate it.

 

This is blind faith and I refer to D and C 9. 

 

Interestingly, the term "blind faith" does not occur in D&C 9, nor anywhere else in scripture that I am aware of. I get the distinct impression that God isn't much worried about us having "blind faith", and that he's actually a lot more concerned about us not having faith at all.

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At least part of your question, to me, seems to center around several elements of textual criticism of the Bible. I don't know how deeply you have studied the field (I have only scratched the surface), but there are several authors, scholars, and researchers (mostly from broader Christianity -- I don't see a lot of LDS authors at the forefronts of Biblical textual criticism) who have made it their life's work to study the manuscripts and parts of manuscripts that we have in an effort to understand what is reliable in the Biblical text and what seems less supported by the available evidence. Obviously, a single internet forum post cannot cover in any kind of complete way this field of study. If you have not yet done it, I would suggest putting something like "biblical textual criticism" into your favorite internet search engine, and see what those who study the Bible at this level have to say about it. It certainly is not a field without controversy, but it is interesting to see what comes out of the study.

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The Book of Job is one of the 5 "song" books of the Bible. It is said to be the oldest book of the Bible which means it was constructed even before Genesis and the books of Moses were committed to writing. It is a testament as to how scripture was passed from generation to generation from the beginning of time - verbally.

 

People who think the Bible is a literal translation from the mouth of God simply haven't made any study on the "life" of religious writings. Just to understand how the King James version was compiled from a dozen different Bible versions - and those from dozens of disparate versions - would lead one to understand that the Bible is simply man's "version" of what God has communicated to man.

 

Given that, I believe as is stated above; it is the Spirit that testifies of revelation and I am grateful for those who have sacraficed to preserve those writings so as to direct us to the Spirit.

Edited by pkstpaul
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Thank you all for the discussion.  I appreciate the further comments and references so I can study this further. Perhaps I will take my Applied Linguistics degree and make this my life work.

 

Thinking about this this morning I had a bit of personal revelation.  Whie I still have questions in ths area, I am content with the answer recieved.  In short, for those interested, due to the cultural and histirical importance of the Bible, the Lord uses it as a primer to His Truth.  Similar to the way an information pamphlet/page is used to tell a customer about the services of a business.  Given all of the plain and precious things lost over time, there is not enough informatin left to build the details His Church on. Thus we have the BoM and modern Prophets.  The Bible is one of the Lords ways of getting his foot in the door, so to speak, so that those who recognize the truth can be brought to the fulness of that truth through exposure to the BoM and modern revelation, eventually leading them to the Temple Ordinances prepered for the.

 

This is not the whole detailed answer, but it is enough for now and strengthens my faith that our Father works in so many subtle ways that we neither see nor fully understand.

 

Again, thank you all for your input. Without it I would never have reached this understanding.

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OK... I am about to jump on a grenade here...

 

I am a linguist and translator by trade and hobby.  In my studies of language and ancient history I have develloped a serious issue with the Bible.  First, I do believe the DOCTRINE to be basically good and true.  The History therein has been veryfied to a point.

 

My problem is with the descriptions of various events and people in general.  There are NO original documents. The oldest documents we have are dated to a few centuries AFTER the New Testament!  How do we know that these documents are accurate copies or translations of the original?   How can we (christians) put so much creedence in these writings?  

 

In essence my question comes to this:  How can we as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put our trust in a set of writings that are unverifieable?  

well the best way is to get an answer from God.... Christ has a good saying for how to find out- Live the principle, and you will come to know whether its from man or from God.

 

The goal of religious text is not to provide a historical context, but rather to get the receiver to humble themselves and seek divine intervention (IE revelation). Things like history take a back seat to such.

I've found for me many little things that have popped up that have reinforced the leap of faith I've taken, mainly more with the book of Mormon more so than the bible... but it has been interesting to see some of the things that have been found that do lend evidence or credence to various religious texts.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I read the following on the ending of the the Gospel of Mark:

Most scholars, following the approach of the textual critic Bruce Metzger, believe that verses 9-20 of Mark chapter 16 were not part of the original text.  Textual critics have identified two distinct endings—the "Longer Ending" (verses 9-20) and the "Shorter Ending," which appear together in six Greek manuscripts, and in dozens of Ethiopian copies.

 

There is disagreement among scholars as to whether Mark originally stopped writing at chapter 16 verse 8—and if he did so, if it was deliberate or not—or if he continued writing an ending which is now lost. Allusions to a future meeting in Galilee between Jesus and the disciples (in Mark 14:28 and 16:7) seem to suggest that Mark intended to write beyond 16:8.

Latter-Day Saints can confirm Mark 16:14-19 are confirmed to be truth in the text of Mormon 9:22-25.  There is nothing in the text of Mark 16:9-20 that looks to be untrue to my examination.

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