Five More Myths about Bible Translations and the Transmission of the Text

Rebloged from Daniel Wallace’s site. Many of these issues are very important to English readers of the Bible especially. It is vital to know *the how and why and to what extent* for laymen and not only pastors and theologians. I am not sure I fully agree with all that Dr. Wallace holds to in these matters but will need to study the issues before concluding. One issue that I am in full agreement is the acceptance of all the manuscripts for consideration as contra the “Received Text Only” position.

Daniel B. Wallace

There’s an old Italian proverb that warns translators about jumping in to the task: “Traduttori? Traditori!” Translation: “Translators? Traitors!” The English proverb, “Something’s always lost in the translation,” is clearly illustrated in this instance. In Italian the two words are virtually identical, both in spelling and pronunciation. They thus involve a play on words. But when translated into other languages, the word-play vanishes. The meaning, on one level, is the same, but on another level it is quite different. Precisely because it is no longer a word-play, the translation doesn’t linger in the mind as much as it does in Italian. There’s always something lost in translation. It’s like saying in French, “don’t eat the fish; it’s poison.” The word ‘fish’ in French is poisson, while the word ‘poison’ is, well, poison. There’s always something lost in translation.

But how much is lost? Here I want to explore…

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The Cyrus Cylinder

This is probably the most famous cylinder seal and it is scheduled to tour the US in 2013.

(courtesy Artdaily)

I tried to re-blog Ferrell Jenkins’ post about the US tour but could not. Jenkins posted this news at the end of Nov. 2012, here is the link: http://ferrelljenkins.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/cyrus-cylinder-scheduled-for-a-u-s-a-tour/

Gen.3.15

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; 

He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

This verse is a curse on the serpent for deceiving the woman into eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thereby causing her to become a sinner. Many theologians think that when Adam took the fruit from Eve and also ate it that they died spiritually. Initially the first pair were innocent but without eternal life which presumably would have been theirs had they passed this test. Now however, their sin nature was evident since they hid from God when He visited them in the evening.

All Adam’s and Eve’s offspring also subsequently share their progenitors’ fallen nature: 

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” (Eph. 2.1-3 TNIV)

God in His grace clothed Adam’s and Eve’s nakedness and cursed the serpent (not snakes per se but the entity behind this particular serpent: the devil). The curse formula is given in somewhat cryptic terms but Satan was aware that his head would someday be crushed by a human supernaturally born of a woman. Satan, it is thought, searched out aspects of this divine human in the scriptures so to thwart the Messiah in some way. during Christ’s temptation, the devil quoted from Psalm 91:  Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. (Mt.4.6 NIV)
This quotation is from Psalm 91.12. The very next verse is the promised Seed’s retribution on the devil: “You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” (vs.13)
The promise of this divine man is all of mankind’s hope and is reflected clearly, I believe, in some cylinder seals from Mesopotamia in the Fertile Crescent just north of the Promised Land. Abraham was called from Mesopotamia and given the promise that: “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen.12.3b NIV).

Mesopotamian Cylinder Seals

(Courtesy British Museum)

Here is a seal (on the right) with the impression in clay. This one features Adam, Eve, the tree of forbidden fruit, and the serpent.

It is significant to note that all these cylinder seals were produced by Gentiles and appropriate also since the Gentiles share in the promise of the deliverer who would crush the serpent’s head given in Gen.3.15. This impression in clay seems to portray the serpent coiled somewhat under Adam’s chair. Notice Adam reaching his hand in a receptive manner.

Cylinder Seal Article (courtesy British Museum)

Mesopotamian cylinder seals are small cylinders, generally made of stone and pierced through from end to end so that they could be worn on a string or pin. The surface of the cylinder was carved in intaglio (cut into the stone) with a design, so that when rolled on clay the cylinder would leave a continuous impression of the design, reversed and in relief. Cylinder seals were invented around 3500 BC in southern Mesopotamia (now Iraq) or south-western Iran, and were used as an administrative tool, as jewellery and as magical amulets until around 300 BC. Cylinder seals were linked to the invention of cuneiform writing on clay, and when this spread to other areas of the Near East, the use of cylinder seals spread too.

The shape and size of cylinders seals, the type of material used and the designs carved into the surface varied according to period and area. Many ancient clay seal impressions have survived on tablets, envelopes and sealings: small pieces of clay applied to doors and containers, including jars, baskets, sacks, leather bags and wooden boxes. However, these are often incomplete. The designs on the many thousands of surviving cylinder seals are best studied from modern impressions or rollings of the seals on clay or some other soft material. It is these modern impressions which are here shown alongside the ancient cylinder seals.

Gen.3.15 cylinder seal II

Gen.3.15 cylinder seal II

(courtesy of The British Museum)

This impression has all the elements of the Genesis story: A king treading a horned dragon with limbs, a woman picking fruit from a tree, an additional lesser figure who may depict Adam.

This seal is truly amazing and undoubtedly refers to the Promised Seed of the woman from Gen.3.15.

Living by Degrees

Much Christian advice either instructs us to “not” do certain things such as “don’t steal” or “don’t covet (lust after something).” Other instructions tell us to practice certain things such as “taking our cross daily and following me (Christ).” Most things in our daily life (our “walk” in the Bible) though needs to be lived out by degrees.

Reading in Ecclesiastes 9 we find this section that tells us to enjoy life:

So go eat your food and enjoy it;
drink your wine and be happy,
because that is what God wants you to do.
Put on nice clothes and make yourself look good.
Enjoy life with the wife you love. Enjoy all the useless days of this useless life God has given you here on earth, because it is all you have. So enjoy the work you do here on earth. Whatever work you do, do your best, because you are going to the grave, where there is no working, no planning, no knowledge, and no wisdom. (NCV)
This part of the Bible tells us we should enjoy our life because we have only this one shot to determine our eternal rewards. We are able to enjoy life if we live it for God and keep Him in view. Notice it doesn’t say overeat or get drunk as if life is about much eating or desensitizing our mind by drugs. It speaks about a balance since later Solomon mentions one’s vocational life.
God doesn’t want us to suffer meritoriously as if this would please Him. Yes, there is a place for fasting too but it is clear God doesn’t need anything from us since He gives everything to humans:
“The God who made the whole world and everything in it is the Lord of the land and the sky. He does not live in temples built by human hands. This God is the One who gives life, breath, and everything else to people. He does not need any help from them; he has everything he needs. God began by making one person, and from him came all the different people who live everywhere in the world. God decided exactly when and where they must live. God wanted them to look for him and perhaps search all around for him and find him, though he is not far from any of us: ‘By his power we live and move and exist.’ Some of your own poets have said: ‘For we are his children.’ Since we are God’s children, you must not think that God is like something that people imagine or make from gold, silver, or rock. In the past, people did not understand God, and he ignored this. But now, God tells all people in the world to change their hearts and lives. God has set a day that he will judge all the world with fairness, by the man he chose long ago. And God has proved this to everyone by raising that man from the dead!” Acts 17:24-31 (NCV)

Image

January 2013 Preview

Here the sun illumines the tops of some hills above Hau’ula. Winter in Hawaii often features rainy or overcast skies, not the best for lighting purposes when highlighting landscapes. This picture though presents a nice scene I think.

We are still getting settled into our new place and won’t be fully functioning until summer 2013 I feel. Being the cabinet tinkerer that I am, buying furniture is not an option. Our last place had all our study nooks, shelving, bird spaces, built for the unit’s layout. This new residence requires purpose-built bookcases and desks and other constructions in order to maximize the usable space it contains. The new place needs many other improvements and modifications to suit our living requirements. Also, we had to rent storage space to put all our accumulated stuff until the new place is ready to receive it.

So during construction I am not able to hike and photograph as much as I want. Life goes on too. One good thing is that I am closer to different trails that I am unfamiliar with and now are easier for me to explore and find interesting vistas to photograph. As stated in my “about page”, the photoblog’s purpose is to present natural scenes of God’s handiwork. Eventually I would like to organize my blog differently as a daily devotional corresponding to the days of the month. For now though I will put more pictures up and organize them later.