The Gross National Debt

Thursday, March 17, 2011

You really don't know what it means

Context plays a far greater role in our understanding of communication than most people realize.

While I really can't afford it, I went ahead and bought a copy of Unprotected Texts. Considering the disturbance this book is causing, I just want to read it.

A major disagreement I expect to have with the author is - she doesn't know what she is talking about.

How can I say that having not read the book and knowing virtually nothing about her and her credentials?

Easy. She lives in this present century in this time.

Ergo, she is not a native or resident from the time the Old Testament and the New Testament were written.

Makes no sense you say?

Consider how much information we actually have about the world from 2000+ years ago. The written information from 2000 years ago that covered the average person's lifetime would fill just a few books. That's for the entire world.

The written information we have on Hebraic cultures, spanning the time the Bible was written, is much less than half the most recent published edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. It's pretty much The Bible, and the Masoretic texts. There's a lotta duplication in them too.

Lemme ask you - could you write down absolutely everything about your community, put it all in context with no duplication and make that fit in a book the size of an unabridged dictionary at 9 point type?

And exactly how much information is this?
No way. Absolutely no way. You couldn't do it in a series of books the size of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

I'll do you one better. Look out a window. Describe everything you see in exact, precise terms and in detail such that the scene can be re-created exactly by someone who has never seen it.

Describe the color blue to a blind person.

'Nother example. Look at a newspaper article today.

Easy to read, hopefully. Easy to understand, hopefully. Informative. Factual (we hope).

But. But. But.

That newspaper story is NOT going to tell you absolutely everything about the issue at hand. It's not going to give you extensive background of the sources. It will not give you the socio-economic information behind the story. Likely it's not even going to contain all the facts - I speak from extensive experience on this subject.

In short, the article does not tell you a world's worth of information which creates the situation which frames the story. Call  this background information.

You, as the reader are expected to know a lot of this.

Indulge me in Science Fiction for a moment. Bring a reader from 500 years in the future to today and hand him the newspaper.

Can he read it? Will he understand it? Is he going to have a grasp of nuances of the languages, fully grasp the meanings of all the words? Can he comprehend the overall story? Will he be able to handle the jargon?

Before you say yes, I ask you - Can you read Chaucer's work in the original language?

Is the reader from 500 years in the future going to know the same background information you know?


Which leads me to ask how much do we really know about the ancient Hebrews and the culture Jesus was raised in?

Far, far, far less than the majority of Christians are willing to believe.

Consider the scope of the cultures back then. Consider what we know. Our knowledge comes to less than a mil. A mil is one tenth of one percent.


And yet, Jennifer Wright Knust is confident in her ability to hold forth on the culture, the norms and what was meant by those ancient writings. She's holding forth some serious opinions on some extremely thin evidence.
Most Biblical scholars, even Knust, will admit there are words in the ancient Hebrew which we still don't fully understand.

How can she comment on something she doesn't understand? Never mind. I do it too. Doesn't make me right, just makes me opinionated. Knust, myself and pretty much everyone on the planet engages in conjecture and hypothesis. In other words, we make a guess.

A guess is all it is.

How educated that guess is varies. In the case of the Bible, it doesn't matter who you are - the guess offered up is very poorly educated. It has to be.

We simply cannot fully understand the life and times of the ancient Hebrews and those who lived at the time of Jesus.

Now lemme REALLY throw a monkey wrench in things.

Sorry Gus, ya know I love you brother, but I also have an obligation to tell the truth.

A lot of Christians believe the Bible was divinely inspired. God said it, man wrote it down.

I'm good with that.

But was it written down correctly?



What about free will? Man has free will, right? Which means we do things our way, right?

In all the Bible can you show me an example of two people who perfectly followed God's will? Two people who did exactly what God told 'em to every time?

"But God's will cannot be thwarted," you say.

I'm good with that.

But man still wrote down the words.

"God will not allow His word to be distorted, abused and perverted," you say.

I ask you - Do you know what Jesus' only unanswered prayer request is?

Did you know Fred Phelps leader of the Westboro Baptist Church is 81 years old?

Did you know there was a sect in the Middle Ages which believed the God of the Old Testament was a demon?

Did you know for the majority of time Christianity has existed, it has been a form of Catholicism? Do you know what books comprise the Catholic Bible? How about the Greek Orthodox Bible? The Eastern Orthodox Bible?

Did you know for the majority of the history of Christianity, the Bible contained books not presently found in the protestant versions of the Bible?

Do you know the ancient texts on which modern Bibles are based are written slightly differently in various places? Which one is correct? Who chooses? How do they choose? Do you trust 'em?

Did you know ancient Greek, which is the language of the New Testament, had several different words for slave? Different slaves had different duties and responsibilities, which is important in context, yet most modern Bibles use only the word slave.

Translations generally leave something to be desired.
How much is lost in translation?

And, if you happen to be a KJV-onliest, then I tell you chances are better'n 90 percent you can't read and understand the KJV. Yeah. I'll put money on it, depending on who you are. I have a KJV published in the original type and form and reading it is a rough job even for me.

"So, put it in modern English fonts," you say.

Chances are 100 percent you still don't and won't understand all of it, at least while you occupy this realm of existence.

It is not my point here to bring down anyone's faith. But if your faith cannot hold up under questioning, then I have to wonder how sincere you are.

All I'm trying to do here is tell you that academics like Knust and even writers like me, are just guessing. It may be a slightly better educated guess than most other people, but it's a guess.

When we start debating minor points of the Bible, we miss the overall message.

In this next statement, my buddy Gus and I are in complete agreement. Grace. That's what it's all about. Everything else must take second place.

In the end "All I know is that I know nothing," as Socrates said. But I'm trying to learn. As I'm on this journey, I'll lean on grace.

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