Sunday, March 31, 2013

Revelation Before Good Friday

For at least a decade, I have begun each new year by beginning to read again the New Testament.  This year, as happenstance would have it, I finished my reading of the New Testament the day before Good Friday.  My reading ended, of course, with the book of Revelation.  What particularly sticks in my mind from reading that book is the point in the narrative where an angel proclaims that  " Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird " (chapter 18, verse 2).   Babylon falls in the course of only one hour.

Further down (verses 11-13), there is a partial description of the former city, now no longer in existence:        " And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:  The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, And cinnamon, and odours,  and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men. "

Friday, March 22, 2013

Denunciation of Apostates: 2 Peter 2:17

2 Peter 2:17 presents an interesting image in a lengthy denunciation of the teachers of apostasy.  A few translations follow:

" These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. "  (King James Version)

" These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm.  Blackest darkness is reserved for them. " (New International Version)

" These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm; for them the deepest darkness has been reserved. "  (Revised Standard Version)

" Das sind Brunnen ohne Wasser und Wolken, vom Windwirbel umgetrieben.  Ihr Teil ist die dunkelste Finsternis. "  (Martin Luther's German translation)

The alliteration in the first sentence of Luther's translation is intriguing, but probably unintentional.  (The word for "clouds" in Old English is "wolken."   It survives only as the obsolete, poetic term "welkin," referring to the firmament in general.)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

1 Timothy 6: 6-10

Most probably, the Christian Right has an answer to the following, from 1 Timothy 6:6-10, but they are even more likely to be  not very forthcoming about it:

6.   But godliness with contentment is great gain.

7.   For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

8.   And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

9.   But they that will be rich fall into temptation and snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

10. For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Luther's German translation of the same verses is as follows:

6.   Es ist aber ein grosser Gewinn, wer gottselig ist und lasset sich genuegen.

7.   Denn wir haben nichts in die Welt gebracht; darum werden wir auch nichts hinausbringen.

8.   Wenn wir aber Nahrung und Kleider haben, so lasset uns genuegen.

9.   Denn die da reich werden wollen, die fallen in Versuchung und Stricke und viel toerichte und schaedliche Lueste, welche die  Menschen versinken lassen in Verderben und Verdammnis.

10.  Denn Habsucht ist eine Wurzel alles Uebels; wie etliche geluestet hat und sind von Glauben abgeirrt und machen sich selbst viel Schmerzen.

Luther is cited here because his German translation of the Bible was consulted by those who prepared the King James Version.    Luther appears to say that a seeking to have things ("Habsucht") is a root ("eine Wurzel") of all evil.   Can it be rendered as "the one root" ?

The New International Version offers the following translation:  "For a love of money is a root of all kinds of evil."  That is a translation which will be more palatable to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Getting back to the Christian Right, they are most likely to seize upon this passage as justification for the poor to be content with their poverty.   Few of them, however, would be so bold as to say such today, most of them recognizing that open expression of such sentiments went out with the upper class of the age of Dickens.