Ink on the Page

Holy Books are hugely important in many cultures and faiths. Even today in a largely secular society, witnesses in court are made to swear on The Bible. As a child I was sent to a Christian school, and always accepted The Bible as a pretty solid, reliable piece of writing. I was aware that it was authored by several different people, but we were never really told about the problems of its editing, translation, attributing, censoring and re-writing.

I have heard that there is one edition, called The Revised Standard Version, which is a very close translation to the original (with no artistic license permitted on the part of the translators), but this edition is very hard to get hold of, as it was superseded by The New Revised Standard Version. Curiously the RSV is very non-PC in its language and phrasing, the passages concerning women and other marginalised groups are not well received. Whereas the NRSV is more polished and PC.

I’m not suggesting that this is a deliberate censoring of parts of The Bible. I suspect that the publishers just found that the later, more PC version sold a lot better and stopped printing the other version. (There are few things in this world that cannot be explained easily by economics.) But this incident does illustrate the problems with books. I have a copy of Brideshead Revisited which has an upside down lower case ‘e’ tumbling half way down the margin, due to some typesetting error. This makes me wonder about how much we rely upon books to tell us the truth, accurately and consistently. There are several editions of The Bible which contain typesetting errors which completely alter the message. A 1631 edition known as The Wicked Bible misses out the word ‘not’ in the seventh commandment, so it reads “Thou shalt commit adultery”. As it happens that edition was withdrawn, but what if someone from a completely different time and culture were to come across a copy of that Bible, knowing nothing about it, except that it is a holy book and must be obeyed.

Several years ago one of my Theology lecturers spoke about the problems with books. Their printing, translation, typesetting. As well as their meaning, why they were written, the reliability of the author. This did not go down well, as many of the students were fairly traditional practising Christians, who held The Bible in very high esteem, and regarded the New Testament (though not so much the ancient poetic parts of the Old Testament) as a very literal truth.

He himself was a very devout Christian, who believed in the ethics and eschatology taught by Christ, so I don’t think he was trying to be heretical or offensive.

To paraphrase, he said that all the importance and meaning we ascribe to The Bible (or any other book) is highly subjective, and that the book itself is only an object, and as such can be flawed. The only thing we can ever be sure of is that there is ‘ink on the page’.


2 thoughts on “Ink on the Page

  1. The King James Bible was translated from the original Greek, Hebrew language by 600 scribes who counted each word and each letter to insure an accurate translation….don’t let the evil of this world confuse you to the truth of Gods word…please go to go to video section then go to understanding end times, just watch the first video Modern Nations in the bible, if that does not get you started into looking deeper into Gods word than nothing will…My hair was standing on my arm when I started this bible study….many things in the old testament that has been predicted has already come to pass….God Bless and let me know what you think watching the video…

  2. BIBLE (Basic Instructions before Leaving Earth) As a source of information, if you believe this man made book – be honest at least. Say you have faith/belief as opposed to logic??

    My Bible is 1854 or thereabouts! I wouldn’t say this or any older is more correct. As for having the right bible – noted Linda’ comments… Certain words when translated, lose their original meaning… This means, the transliteration/interpretation is at the mercy of the translator.

    Would write more – sorry a lil wasted here 😉

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