Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Vox Dei. How Our Texts Came To Be - People of the Book

 The Process: People of the Book
How Were Early Texts Collected, Negotiated, Agreed Upon, Collated 

The Lexicon of kinds of texts is huge: see ://www-english.tamu.edu/pers/fac/myers/hermeneutical_lexicon.html

Faith cannot be blind. Why believe just because someone says so.  There must be some basic vetting of sources, even within highly authoritarian belief systems, is that so?

Follow as we look at some belief systems, and how they came to be.  You decide.

A.  Muslim - 7th Century

1.  How their texts were agreed upon, see ://www.travel-images.com/az-islam.html/
"Mohammed would annually go to Mt. Hira to meditate and pray. One year, upon returning from the mountain, Mohammed declared himself a chosen prophet of God. Mohammed claimed that he had his first vision while in a cave on the mountain. On return to Mecca, he preached his message for nine years, and gained a number of adherents. As one might expect, this caused friction with other established beliefs. Finally, in 612 A.D. he was warned by his followers that his enemies intended to murder him and he was forced to flee. This flight marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar and is called 1A.H. (after Hejrat meaning "after the flight or migration"). His flight allowed him to gather his followers and in 630 A.D. he returned to wrest Mecca from the hands of the Koreish. He was then acknowledged "the prophet" by all Arabia.

"During his lifetime (Mohammed died two years after his return to Mecca), his followers carefully transcribed his words and visions, as he himself did not know how to write. In 645 A.D. (about ten years after his death, 'Ali (Mohammed's brother in law) and other leaders collected together all these transcriptions, collated them and created the book of the Qur'an, which has 114 chapters, and 6236 verses. This became the Holy Book for the followers of Islam."


The Qur'an cannot be "translated" since believers see the words as the deity's direct communication in Arabic, and any translation will necessarily change meaning - no two languages present the same world view, having more or fewer words for concepts, and translators having their own agenda.  See discussion at Assessing English Translations of the Qur'an, The Middle East Quarterly 2005, by Khaleel Mohammed, at ://www.meforum.org/717/assessing-english-translations-of-the-quran/.  Mohammed was familiar with Judaism, notes the article; fair use portion here, footnoting omitted:

**** "Evidence of Muhammad's familiarity with Judaism is present in the Qur'an. One verse suggests that his contemporaries accused him of having a Jewish teacher.When some Arabs challenged Muhammad's claim to be a prophet based on his mortality, he suggested that they consult Jewish scholars about history. Early Muslims resorted to Jewish lore so heavily that they produced a genre of literature: the Isra'iliyat, loosely translated as the Judaic traditions An oral tradition was even attributed to Muhammad wherein he supposedly said, "Relate from the people of Israel, and there is no objection," thereby enabling Islamic scholars to cite precedents from Jewish scholarship.

"By the ninth century, this began to change. Muslim jurists, increasingly opposed to reliance upon Jewish lore, created new sayings from the Prophet and his companions that contradicted the original allowances. **** "

B.  Christian

1.  How their texts were agreed upon, see  ://www.williamtyndale.com/0transmissionofbible.htm/; and essay there by Kathleen Campbell

Going further back:
  • 500 BC - Original Hebrew manuscripts completed as to 39 books, OT.  Note that paleo-Hebrew texts predate the Hebrew.  
  • Then, in 200 BC, those Hebrew texts were translated into Greek (the Septuagint, or 70 translators); as well as 14 books known as the Apocrypha

New Testament:
  • First Century AD - Greek manuscripts completed as to the 27 books, NT.
  • 325 AD - Council of Nicea, see Emperor Constantine, hammered out a uniform statement of theology, dogma, see  an everyman's overview source at ://www.gotquestions.org/council-of-Nicea.html
  • 382 AD - NT Canon closed [Canon = roughly what texts are official], west, see ://www.ntcanon.org/closing-west.shtml
  • 384-419 AD - Canon varies, east.  Different places include, exclude texts, little interest in the uniformity imposed in west, see ://www.ntcanon.org/closing-east.shtml
  • Then, in 390 AD, St. Jerome completed translation into Latin of the 39 OT, 14 texts known as the Apocrypha, and the 27 NT.
  • 500 AD - translations of scriptures into more than 500 languages
  • 600 Ad - only Latin allowed
  • 995 AD - Early English forms (Anglo-Saxon) of Bible
  • 1384 - John Wycliffe, relies entirely on Jerome's Latin version to make manuscript of English (reviewed no other text, no Greek, no Hebrew, etc.)
  • 1455 - printing press invented
  • 1516 - Erasmus created a parallel Greek-Latin NT
  • 1522 - Martin Luther translated a German NT
  • 1609 - The official Catholic Douay-Rheims completed in English, and from referring to the Latin only (no earlier texts in Greek, Hebrew or Paleo-Hebrew compared)
  • 1611 - King James Version in English
  • Many versions have followed - see site.

See ://www.williamtyndale.com/0transmissionofbible.htm/; and essay there by Kathleen Campbell.

  • The Aramaic Root. Is Jerome on target with his Latin Vulgate?  Note that The Founder, J, spoke in Aramaic - not Greek, not Latin.  Here is a site for Peshitta Aramaic/English transliteration of the New Testament, at ://www.peshitta.org/.  Go look. Go in the margin to Interlinear and then start on the Gospels.
Note that the site abandons the transliteration approach in the OT.  Try to find how the words are actually translated there and you will lose. Why?  Why not give us the transliteration?
C.  Judaism

1. How the texts are agreed upon, see ://en.allexperts.com/q/Orthodox-Judaism-952/TANAKH-3.htm

Site information, and this is an Orthodox view:  The Old Testament, or Tanakh (see discussion at site) is the same set of books as used by Christians.  But Christian translations have errors. So, to study it, believers will go back to original translations.  There is an oral tradition called the Talmud, stemming from Moses on Mt. Sinai.  Study both together to get at meaning, intent. Tanakh, however, is considered eternal and relevent to all peoples, any time.

Sample texts on position of women.  These are from the Pickthall version, the Meaning of the Glorious Qur'an.  See the site for the entirety.
"11 Allah chargeth you concerning (the provision for) your children: to the male the equivalent of the portion of two females, and if there be women more than two, then theirs is two-thirds of the inheritance, and if there be one (only) then the half....*** "

"34 Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them....*** "


Text interpretations.

These no more agree in Islam than text interpretations do in the Western religions. See The Compilation of the Qur'an at ://www.abrahamic-faith.com/shamoun/compilation%20of%20the%20quran.html/.

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