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Tony Grist

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Bamboozled [Dec. 26th, 2004|10:39 am]
Tony Grist
Channel 4 boldly, and in the teeth of protests, gave over their prime-time Christmas slot to a show about how the Bible was written and edited by a succession of power elites and how anybody who thinks it's the unmediated word of God is stupid and/or dangerous.

I was taught this stuff at theological college thirty years ago, but it seems to be no more common knowledge now than it was then. The churches give the information to their clergy (fore-warned is fore-armed) but they don't encourage them to pass it on to the folks in the pews.

I find this mildly scandalous. It's nearly a hundred and fifty years since scholars first began to take the Bible apart. Their conclusions ought to be as much a part of the common culture as Darwin or Dickens.

And so should their methods. If we're awed by one text we'll be awed by others- and politicians, leader writers, newscasters, gurus and advertisers will continue to be able to manipulate and bamboozle us.

[User Picture]From: pickwick
2004-12-26 11:24 am (UTC)
Was it a decent programme? I'd have definitely watched it if it was half an hour, but 2 hours seemed a bit too long for me!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-26 12:22 pm (UTC)
I thought it was very well done. The presenter was this black pentecostal minister. He started the journey as one kind of Christian and ended as another. He wound up by saying that faith is about working it out for yourself and not letting other people "pull the wool over your eyes".
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[User Picture]From: suzilem
2004-12-26 11:38 am (UTC)
When I was about 10 or so, my maternal grandmother gave me a Bible quiz game for Christmas. My mother made her take it back because it was based on the Roman Catholic Douay version instead of the King James and "That book isn't the REAL Bible!"


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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-26 01:05 pm (UTC)
I would hope that that would be less likely to happen these days- what with the plethora of modern translations.

The programme last night informed us of the existence of a hip-hop Bible and (my particular favourite) a Bible specifically tailored to the needs of teenage girls.
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[User Picture]From: arielstarshadow
2004-12-26 12:20 pm (UTC)
If you know the title of the show, please let us know. Who knows? Maybe it will show up on BBC America over here sometime. I'll watch for it, just in case.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-26 01:05 pm (UTC)
It's called Who Wrote the Bible and the presenter is Robert Beckford.
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[User Picture]From: thewayupward
2004-12-26 01:30 pm (UTC)
I used to think, okay, after reading the KJV surely people can't take it all seriously? But apparently not. I don't know, I believe the word of God is perfect but the hands of men certainly aren't and well who does all the translations? Silly. Was it a good programme? What was it called? Are there any really good books on the subject - by which I mean, oh, stuff like who wrote the Bible and the history of it and everything - that you would recommend? I know some stuff but it's kind of picked up from articles and brief mentions in other books, which is no good really.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-26 02:13 pm (UTC)
The series is called Who Wrote The Bible.

I don't know about books. The ones we read in theological college are almost certainly out of print by now.

But I see that Amazon are selling a couple of recent titles together at the knockdown price of $23.06.

They are- Who Wrote The Bible by Richard E Friedmann
Whole Wrote the New Testamant by Burton L. Mack.

These seem to be the kind of texts you're looking for...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-26 02:32 pm (UTC)
People are afraid.

I always think of the dear old Bishop of Middleton (and he was genuinely a dear) who told me he never read radical theology for fear of it destroying his faith.

But I always think that a faith that won't stand up to the facts isn't worth having.

As John Lennon said, "Just gimme some truth!"
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[User Picture]From: silent_mouse
2004-12-26 02:14 pm (UTC)
Would be interesting to compare the approaches to and conclusions of such Bible studies by Christian and Jewish (how do you make a adjective from Judaism?) scholars. Sadly, I'm not much of an expert, - I haven't even got a proper religious education, being a girl and all.
Once thing that strikes me - it's still considered a big No-No in the orthodox community, so I'm amazed to learn that you were taught about it at theological college! Then again, maybe it is taught to the more advanced students, but my feeling is that if it taught, it is taught as an example of lies that are out there.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-26 02:25 pm (UTC)
I get the impression that Christian and Jewish scholars work together. There is after all a lot of common ground.

The programme made the point that the big divide is not between Christian and Jew, but between those scholars, of either faith, who are prepared to follow the evidence wherever it leads and those, again of either faith, who refuse to consider anything that might challenge their beliefs.
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-12-26 03:15 pm (UTC)
It was a nun, actually, who taught me the meaning of things. Not only is there a danger in those who seek to change meaning, but also those who change language. Traduttore, traditore, she told me. Indeed, the translator is as much as traitor as he who changes the facts to suit his theory.

She told me that the true meaning of many things was hidden, even from those who spent their lives translating in the Vatican. I remember distinctly her comparing two bibles and showing me that one had translated a certain word to "love" and the other to "charity."

"Question everything," she said. And I do. Perhaps that makes me a better Catholic than most. That or we are both raving heretics. I don't think it matters as long as one realizes that there are more "Mysteries" than any creator could ever have intended.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-26 03:55 pm (UTC)
And words are so slippery. Sometimes, when you're translating, there just isn't a word that carries quite the charge of the original. "Charity" and "Love" are both stabs at the Greek "Agape" and neither is entirely right- "Charity" because it has come to mean alms-giving and "Love" because it has erotic connotations.

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[User Picture]From: dakegra
2004-12-26 06:36 pm (UTC)
damn, I missed that. The one thing I actually *wanted* to see too..
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-26 06:44 pm (UTC)
It's being repeated on Tuesday (actually Wednesday morning) at 1.25....
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