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In The Beginning & The Keys of Egypt 365

Posted by timothy
from the through-the-time-warp dept.
honestpuck writes "Linguistics has long been an interest of mine, and one of my fields of study, and I've recently read two good books that combine linguistics with other topics. The Keys of Egypt is the tale of history's most famous decoding task, the translation of Egyptian hieroglyphics and In The Beginning is the story of the King James Bible, the history, theology, politics, linguistics and technology that surrounded Bible translation and printing in Renaissance Europe and England." Read on for his combination review of two books that might inspire your curiosity, no matter how far from the usual Slashdot fare.
In The Beginning & The Keys of Egypt
author Alister E. McGrath & Lesley Adkins & Roy Adkins
pages 352 & 368
publisher Anchor & Perennial
rating 7
reviewer Tony Williams
ISBN 0385722168, 0060953497
summary A good book on the history of the King James Bible & A decent read on the translation of hieroglyphics

Hieroglyphs

The Keys Of Egypt was written by husband-and-wife archaeological team Lesley and Roy Adkins. It is subtitled "The Race to Crack the Hieroglyph Code," and starts with a short chapter that introduces the eventual winner of that race, the Frenchman Jean-Francois Champollion, and mentions his most serious rival, the Englishman Thomas Young.

The book goes on to examine Napoleon's expedition to Egypt which both brought the Rosetta Stone to light and started a period of French and European fascination with ancient Egypt. These were the two catalysts for the riddle's eventual solution.

This is a well-written book that looks at the struggle and race for translation and the political and academic machinations (often both combined) that surrounded Champollion. It is essentially a biography of Champollion, who grew up and worked amid the turmoil of the Napoleonic era. The story is a compelling one and the authors have done well to make it at times fascinating.

As a genre I find that 'scientific biographies' tend to be a little overblown and flowery, the writing not quite precise -- and Keys suffers from these shortcomings. I also felt that while the book is subtitled "The Race to Crack the Hieroglyph Code" it really only focuses on Champollion, while he is the eventual winner a little more effort in examining the others involved in the effort would have improved the book.

The Bible

It can be argued that the King James Bible has had as large an effect on our language today as the work of Shakespeare. 'In The Beginning' has at its core the story of biblical translation, a topic you may think anything but fascinating. McGrath has done a good job in making this a compelling book.

He starts, as one may expect, with the story of Gutenberg and his first printed bibles. Before arriving at the King James he covers Martin Luther, the rise of Protestantism in Europe, Henry the Eighth, more than one hanging, and several other bible translations and translators. Along the way he manages to dispel a few myths I had held about biblical translation and the King James in particular. I always thought that it was the King James version that introduced the idea of the main body in roman type and words inserted to clarify meaning in italics, but it was actually an earlier English translation known as the Geneva Bible that first implemented this idea. After explaining the technology, theology, politics and linguistics nuances that led King James to permit (but not fund) a new translation, McGrath tells us how the translation was accomplished organizationally before examining some of the nuances of the translation itself. Some of the language in the King James was archaic even when it was published; translators had been instructed to lift from previous translations all the way back to the partial translation of William Tynsdale published 90 years earlier, and this at a time when the English language was going through the huge changes of the Elizabethan era. McGrath examines this aspect, pointing out such things as changes in verb endings and personal pronouns.

I found the book patchy. McGrath does a much better job covering the story up until the translation. It is harder to get a feel for how the translation was accomplished and how the various teams worked, and when he comes to examine some of the nuances of the translation, the text makes much harder going. If this had not been a part of the topic that interested me a great deal, I may have lost interest.

Conclusion

Both books may have their flaws but both are well worth the read. It is important to realise the history of science and language that have brought us to our current place and both these volumes do a good job of illuminating the past efforts of men who worked under entirely different pressures than we find today.


You can purchase both In The Beginning and The Keys of Egypt from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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In The Beginning & The Keys of Egypt

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  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:38AM (#6589135)


    If you're intersted in decypherments you should look at John Chadwick's Decipherment of Linear B and more recent literature on that topic, a stunning intellectual feat done without the benefit of any Rosetta Stone.

  • by mrAgreeable (47829) * on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:40AM (#6589153)
    A shame. The King James Bible was almost certainly based on his translation. I've seen estimates that as much as 80% of the King James Bible was actually his work.

    Like so many great reformers, he was put to death. His last known letter before [bible-researcher.com] he died is especially tragic to read.

    The Tyndale Society [tyndale.org]
    • by pseudochaotic (548897) on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:50AM (#6589231)
      He might have misspelled it in the review, but it's still there.

      translators had been instructed to lift from previous translations all the way back to the partial translation of William Tynsdale published 90 years earlier

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yes it was a tragedy that Tyndale was captured by the Roman Catholic Church and put to death because he had the audacity to suggest that laymen should be able to read the Bible without the help of a priest.

      But no, he did not make up 80% of the KJV; there are much better books detailing the history of the KJV. See "Defending the King James Bible" by Dr. D.A. Waite, or "Examining the King James Only Controversy" by David Cloud.

      Just avoid books by Peter Ruckman; the guy is a nut.
      • Yes it was a tragedy that Tyndale was captured by the Roman Catholic Church and put to death because he had the audacity to suggest that laymen should be able to read the Bible without the help of a priest.

        Martin Luther almost suffered the same fate for the same reason.
    • Like so many great reformers, he was put to death.

      Funny you should mention that, and not the irony of it all. He was put to death for translating the Bible into English.

      (You could argue that it was for disobeying authority, etc., but the creation of the English language Bible is what got him into hot water.)
  • by Baron_Yam (643147) on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:41AM (#6589155)

    Has anyone in the last couple of decades attempted a translation from the oldest possible sources for the Bible's contents?

    While I'm sure it would piss off a few here and there (see what happened with Jewish scholars when those scrolls were translated a while back) it would be interesting to compare a direct translation based on modern understanding to the more popular current versions that have passed through multiple interpretations through multiple cultural lenses.

    • I believe the NIV (New International Version) of the bible was translated recently (1965) and I'm sure would have only used the oldest sources.

      Here's some more info

      http://www.gospelcom.net/ibs/niv/background.php
    • by Anonymous Coward
      According to my Jews for Jesus acquaintance, it does not matter. All bible translation occurs under the influence of God and is immune from question.

      Yeah, that's what I thought when I heard it too...

    • The question is what is the oldest manuscript. For the Greek (NT) portion, the Roman Catholic Church has two rather badly corrupted manuscripts (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) which were basically unused for 1500 years or so. Unused because they were so corrupt. An unused manuscript gets to be an old manuscript; valid ones get used and copied, so the request for the oldest is actually a bit off the mark.

      It is widely known that the best Greek text is the "Textus Receptus"; the altered text or "Westcott and Hort" or "Nestle-Aland" text is the one based on the corrupted manuscripts.

      Unfortunately, in the 20th and 21st centuries the only new translations that have been done were based on the Westcott and Hort manuscripts. The last translation done from a good manuscript is the KJV.

      The Hebrew text that's been proven totally accurate, by comparison with the Dead Sea Scrolls, is the Masoretic text. And guess what, that's in the KJV. I don't think any modern translations have used that, but I'm not certain on that point.

      Note the reason for this: you can't copyright something unless it's sufficiently DIFFERENT from something that's in the public domain. The KJV was never copyrighted; all the new translations are done for-profit and are copyrighted (with one exception, the World English Bible). So of course the new translations are different, they wouldn't be worth anything (profit-wise) if they weren't. But there's no indication the KJV is wrong.

      In point of fact, the KJV was translated when the English language was at its zenith (it was contemporary with Shakespeare).

      • by schmidt349 (690948) on Friday August 01, 2003 @12:15PM (#6589510)
        "It is widely known that the best Greek text is the "Textus Receptus"; the altered text or "Westcott and Hort" or "Nestle-Aland" text is the one based on the corrupted manuscripts." This is idiotic, and I'll explain why: The Textus Receptus was created in 1518 by Desiderius Erasmus, a very wise scholar of many ancient languages. Unfortunately, dear old Erasmus had access to only a handful of Byzantine-tradition manuscripts for his Textus Receptus, so it absolutely positively cannot be a more reliable source than the emended texts available today. Incidentally, his only copy of the book of Revelations was missing the last few pages! His solution: he retranslated the Vulgate's Latin text of the pages into Greek, so his last few chapters of Revelation were a translation of a translation... think about a video that goes through multiple standards conversions and you get the impression of what the TR's last few pages of Revelations look like. Ah, the extents to which people will go to discredit Alexandrine-tradition manuscripts anymore... (of course, the Gospel of John text in Sinaiticus is Byzantine, but I suppose that spells the difference between "badly corrupted" and "totally corrupted" to the otherwise uneducated.
        • Erasmus was fully aware of the Alexandrian manuscripts (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus), but he could easily tell they were corrupt, which is why he did not use them. He travelled extensively and saw far more than the "handful" of manuscripts you claim. Indeed today the manuscript evidence for the TR is up to something over 5000 (including papyrus fragments and bits here and there).

          Erasmus had at least ten manuscripts for his first edition (1516), four in England, five in Basle, and one lent to him. His frien
          • "Erasmus was fully aware of the Alexandrian manuscripts " Actually, the distinction between the Alexandrine and Byzantine manuscript traditions wasn't made until the time of Westcott and Hort in the 19th century. Erasmus certainly couldn't have known about Sinaiticus considering it was collecting dust in a Russian monastery at the time. Erasmus was a brilliant man, but bear in mind that he was working within his limits as one man with a limited manuscript collection. Flip open any copy of the NA/UBS to the
        • A question for you two biblical scholar types:

          Can you post examples of where the text of a "corrupted" manuscript differs signifigantly from the text of an "uncorrupted" text?

          It might be interesting to see the size of the head of the pin.

          DG
          • Going from memory, here. But IIRC, the differences are significant - one the order of 10% of the text. CT translations are missing, among other things, the Great Comission, references to Christ as deity, and the Johannine Comma. Proponents of the CT like to insist that the differences cause no fundamental change in doctrine, ignoring the doctrine of preservation [revelationwebsite.co.uk]. The early writings of the Church fathers also tend to support the TR over the CT, for example [montanasat.net]:

            Well, now they had my attention and interest, b

          • There are a number of issues at hand here. First, it's important to realize that copies of the GNT are generally compiled from multiple sources using the available documents. Where there exists doubt or variation among the documents, these are footnoted and referenced in the text. Within the Nestle-Aland 26th edition, approximately 1/4-1/3 of each page is taken up by those footnotes. The vast majority of those are very simple changes. For instance:

            Opening pretty randomly to Mark 7:7, we see "mataen de
        • The Textus Receptus was created in 1518 by Desiderius Erasmus

          That statement is actually misleading. The "Textus Receptus" was based on Erasmus' version, but was revised many times (Erasmus also revised his own text, multiple times), before it was called the "Textus Receptus". The name "Textus Receptus" comes from a quote in the introduction of Bonaventure and Abraham Elzevir's edition published in 1633 (note this is much later than your 1518 date). Check out This article [skypoint.com] for the quote.

          The truth is
    • by schmidt349 (690948) on Friday August 01, 2003 @12:09PM (#6589450)
      Almost all major translation efforts carried out since the release of the Revised Standard Version have used as their reference texts the Nestle-Aland and UBS revisions of the Greek New Testament, which are critical texts based on the oldest available sources for the NT. There is no doubt that translations effected today are based on much better-attested texts than what was available to the creators of the King James Version, since certain discoveries had simply not been made by that point. In fact, one of the "baseline" texts for the NA/UBS editions is Codex Sinaiticus, a fourth-century well-preserved Greek New Testament manuscript that was only rediscovered in the nineteenth century. Hic parvus porcus ad forum veni...
    • I think the International Standard Version (ISV) does that. It is a very recent translation. In fact, I don't think they've finished translating the Old Testament portion yet. The New Testament portion is available though, in hard-copy or electronic forms. You can see what texts they use as their base texts at the Translation Principles [isv.org] page on their website: ISV [isv.org]
    • by RobotWisdom (25776) on Friday August 01, 2003 @12:10PM (#6589465) Homepage
      Has anyone in the last couple of decades attempted a translation from the oldest possible sources for the Bible's contents?

      I tried to inventory all online translations and most major offline versions here [robotwisdom.com]

    • by Teach (29386) * <graham AT grahammitchell DOT com> on Friday August 01, 2003 @12:16PM (#6589518) Homepage

      ...the more popular current versions that have passed through multiple interpretations through multiple cultural lenses.

      The New International Version dates from 1978, and many consider it to be very good. The updated New American Standard was originally done in 1971, but was updated as recently as 1995. Both are "from scratch" translations from the most reliable texts currently available, so neither has passed through "multiple cultural lenses". And I'd say the NIV is the most popular current translation (for Protestants, anyway), so your assertion is incorrect.

      You can find information on other modern translations at Zondervan's site [zondervanbibles.com].

      Interpretation of any centuries-old work is difficult, and involves two phases. First is exegesis, the careful, systematic study of the Scripture to discover the original, intended meaning. That is, what was the original writer attempting to say to the original audience? This is where better understanding of the source language and the culture at the time of writing is most helpful.

      The second phase is hermeneutics, the contemptorary relevance of ancient texts. That is, given the original, intended meaning of this passage, what does it mean to me, today?

      An excellent book discussing proper exegesis and hermeneutics, looking book-by-book at each literary type in the Bible is How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth [barnesandnoble.com], by Stuart and Fee. I highly recommend it for those interested in the subject.

      • Has anyone in the last couple of decades attempted a translation from the oldest possible sources for the Bible's contents?

      That's exactly where the American Standard Version (and its crippled counterpart the Revised Standard Version), Darby's New Translation, the New Internation Version (more of "thought translation" than "word by word") and other modern translations have come from. The latest work on reconstituting the oldest and closest-to-the-original (sometimes the oldest available isn't the most au

    • Even some of the modern translations, supposedly based on what we think are the most accurate and usually oldest sources, still reflect some cultural biases.

      Part of the problem is that the meanings of the words are often debatable. You might find a word used only once or twice. You might have some idea of the meaning, but not necessarily the exact context.

      Even then, however, there are probably biases in the original text because the oldest fragments of text we have are probably more than 100 years older t
    • For fun (Score:5, Funny)

      by conan_albrecht (446296) on Friday August 01, 2003 @12:23PM (#6589576)
      A man comes up on a priest banging his head against the wall -- clearly frustrated. The man asks him, "what's wrong?"

      The man, who has been celibate all his life, replies, "We just retranslated the oldest manuscript available. The word is 'celebrate'!"
    • It's interesting to consider the Holy Book of Islam, the Koran, is still pure. It's written in a living language that has never been lost. Most of the Arabic-language classes in America are not conversational, they are specifically designed to allow the student to read the Koran in the original. So when the Koran says something like, "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their
  • Languages (Score:5, Interesting)

    by borkus (179118) on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:42AM (#6589165) Homepage
    In university, I was an Enlgish major with a habit of studying other languages - specifically, French, Russian and Old Icelandic. Studying human languages, you quickly realize that there are many ways to express the same abstractions - a realization that has helped me as a programmer.

    Yeah, the review could have been better. I would have like to known more about some of the linguistic problems sovled on both books.
    • by sanchny (692285)
      In university, I was an Enlgish major with a habit of studying other languages - specifically, French, Russian and Old Icelandic. Studying human languages, you quickly realize that there are many ways to express the same abstractions
      But how do you express irony in other languages?
  • Religion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GillBates0 (664202) on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:43AM (#6589175) Homepage Journal
    I've been having these troubling thoughts since a couple of years...approximately since the first Matrix was released.

    Not that I'm an atheist or anything, but I've been developing a feeling off late, that religion was introduced in ancient times as a deterrent against perceived immoral/harmful behavior. In the absence of effective law-enforcement agencies, the best way to encourage people to act peacefully/etc was to lay down a set of rules of "acceptable behaviour" and make it known that breach of the rules would result in punishment in the form of hell or alternately reward in the form of heaven.

    I think the world has developed enough now, that we no longer need religion as a deterrent. It serves more as a tool for discrimination/fanaticism, rather than what it was intended for.

    Not sure if there are other people who've thought along these lines...who knows, I may be the ONE :)
    *wears Matrix goggles and gets back to work*

    • Keirkegaard, Satre and Camus for IP infringement, at least for a start.
    • Re:Religion (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I guess you've never heard, or heard but didn't understand, the phrase "God is dead" [age-of-the-sage.org]?
    • Re:Religion (Score:2, Insightful)

      by lscotte (450259)
      religion was introduced in ancient times as a deterrent against perceived immoral/harmful behavior

      Yes, of course it was! It surprises me that so few people seem to realize this. The best way to get people to follow some set of societal laws is to scare them into not violating such laws. The threat of 'eternal damnation' and promise of 'eternal life' clearly comes from this.
      • Yes, of course it was! It surprises me that so few people seem to realize this.

        But you can't use the fact that it might make sense to use it this way as an argument for the FACT that that was it's intended purpose. That's like saying that super glue, because it is effective at bonding things together, was created to repair china. While it may be true that it is good for that, it is wrong (originally created to help close wounds in triage on the battle field). So just because your explanation fits, doe
    • To look at this from a point of secular evolution, exherting an influence over the masses was only one particular motivation; that it would maintain a power for few over that of the many. Even the un- or ill- educated wouldn't have thrown straight in with that lot, as it would be a voluntary loss of freedom - also, those in power would have little need to control the perceived morality of others unless it had a direct hold on the ability to control itself.

      The motivation originally was the other way round
    • Re:Religion (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DaFlusha (224762)
      You're right, but you're only seeing one side of religion. There's this thing called "spirituality" as well. And although I think organized religion is a pretty dry source of spirituality, that's another reason for its existence. I don't think it's possible to retain a valid model for a complex concept like religion by reducing it to a single societal need.
    • You also have to look at history to gain understanding and context of why certain church events are placed where they were. Christmas was moved to the winter in order to combat a popular winter occult festival [tripod.com]. Not only that, but remember that during the early formation of the Christian church, Rome was in the heydey of its power. The Jewish/Christian problems with self-image and body issues are a direct result of trying to turn away from "matters of the flesh" which Rome so famously embodied. But remem
    • Re:Religion (Score:3, Interesting)

      by KillerHamster (645942)

      *prepares to be modded down by liberals*

      The problem with trying to analyze why religions were "made up" and what social purposes (deterrence, discrimination, thought control, etc.) they are used for is that it ignores the possibility that there actually is a God, and that which we call "religion" came to exist as a result of God's revelation of himself, not as a result of random guesses or evil conspiracies. Everyone wants to treat religion as merely an object of study, like politics or literature...but

      • Heh..

        Eternity. So a finite crime begets infinite punishment? Doesn't sound fair to me.

        Personally, were I to die and find out that the christians were right, I'd join up with Lucifer in hell. I mean, I'm sure he'd take care of his own. Even if not, you have an eternity to get used to that lake of fire. Adapt: prove Darwin right ;^)
      • Occam's Razor... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by UnrefinedLayman (185512) on Friday August 01, 2003 @12:16PM (#6589523)
        ...just sliced your reply in two.

        Sorry, but when faced with the two choices of:

        (a) There is a god, and he caused the creation of religion

        and

        (b) There is no god, and religion is an institution that has its roots in superstition and social control

        One has to make the most likely choice given the evidence at hand. Most logical, lucid people who discount that which cannot be proven find themselves coming to logical conclusions.

        It amazes me how some people (not necessarily you) will suspend the very logic which they use in every other aspect of their life just for the chance to believe in something or someone that, for all intents and purposes, doesn't exist.
        • (b) There is no god, and religion is an institution that has its roots in superstition and social control

          One has to make the most likely choice given the evidence at hand. Most logical, lucid people who discount that which cannot be proven find themselves coming to logical conclusions.

          So, on the basis of exactly *what* "evidence" (remember, you said "given the evidence at hand") have you concluded that "(b) There is no god..."?

        • First, thank you for an intelligent response.

          Second, is it really logical to conclude that God must not exist just because it cannot be proven by "scientific" methods? True, no one can prove or disprove the existence of God, but one can still come to a logical conclusion that he exists.

          Here is my reasoning: If science is correct about the universe forming from a "big bang," then everything that exists, including living beings, came to exist from that explosion. We have all studied biology and chemistry,
          • > I find it impossible to believe that life, even in a primitive form, could spontaneously form from random atoms flying around in space, and that its formation happened on a planet with exactly the right chemical make-up and just the right temperature and just the right atmosphere, and that I evolved from this thing. It's way too big a coincidence to be believable.

            Yeah, that's why scientists suspect things like gravity and chemistry got involved with those atoms flying around in space. You might have

        • You forgot an option.

          (c) There are processes in the brain that, under the right circumstances, cause people to have visions, revelations, out-of-body experiences and a truckload more of experiences we call "spiritual". Some of the people who have those experiences record them and/or become prophets, who sometimes start new religions.

          People like Michael Persinger [laurentian.ca] have done a lot of studies on this recently. Persinger is even capable of inducing some of these effects -under laboratory conditions- by stimul

        • "Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindboggingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

          "The argument goes something like this: `I refuse to prove that I exist,' says God, `for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.'

          "`But,' says Man, `The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore,

        • I guess it depends on whether you find applications of personal logic the highest goal humankind can strive for.

          Personally, I have seen and read of too many things for which modern science cannot account to dismiss the possibility of a guiding intelligence out of hand. When science can explain all the unanswered questions, then I'll start believing there is no god. And when human beings can stop using science to create new means of destroying himself, his fellow humans, and the planet, then I'll start beli
          • by nojomofo (123944)

            And when human beings can stop using science to create new means of destroying himself, his fellow humans, and the planet, then I'll start believing we no longer need [a god]

            And when most of the wars that are destroying our fellow humans are caused by reasons other than "gods", then I'll start believing that they (gods) might not have a negative influence on human affairs.

            • by shokk (187512)
              Why "most"? Are the few (the most destructive) from the 20th century that were caused by capitalism, communism, and plain old racism not enough? Blaming wars on religion is just a convenient excuse for crucifying Christians, beheading Bhuddist monks, burning Jews, and quartering Muslims because you don't like the wart on their face or the way they walk. There is usually something else not too much deeper if you care to look.
      • Re:Religion (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JesterXXV (680142)
        ...but has it occurred to anyone that there may actually be truth to it?

        It occured to me for about 18 years. Then, suddenly, it occured to me that it might all be made up. And everything made much more sense that way.

      • No it doesn't. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by roystgnr (4015)
        The problem with trying to analyze why religions were "made up" and what social purposes (deterrence, discrimination, thought control, etc.) they are used for is that it ignores the possibility that there actually is a God, and that which we call "religion" came to exist as a result of God's revelation of himself, not as a result of random guesses or evil conspiracies.

        If that possibility is true, it just means that trying to analyze why one particular religion was "made up" would be pointless, but all the
      • There's a great Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin is sitting at the table with his parents for dinner and Calvin blurts out: "WHAT IF GOD IS A GIANT CHICKEN? I'LL TELL YOU WHAT: ETERNAL DAMNATION, THAT'S WHAT!" You seem to be in the Pascal's Wager mindset. "What have I got to lose by believing?" Right? Well, have you ever considered that believing in the wrong god is Blasphemy to the true god and could be punished worse than being an unbeleiver? Or try to think of it this way: You know you are aliv
      • Re: Religion (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Black Parrot (19622)

        > *prepares to be modded down by liberals*

        > The problem with trying to analyze why religions were "made up" and what social purposes (deterrence, discrimination, thought control, etc.) they are used for is that it ignores the possibility that there actually is a God, and that which we call "religion" came to exist as a result of God's revelation of himself, not as a result of random guesses or evil conspiracies.

        a) What have "liberals" got to do with any of this?

        b) You seem blithely unaware that

      • My problem with the argument that it might just be the real thing from a real God, is that I must ask the question, which God? Which Religion? Who is right? Who is wrong? Is Sunday the day off or Saturday? Does a being which created the universe really care? Are all the prophets right? How can they be?

        From the outside looking in at all the different religions with their different teachings (no matter how you try to reconcile the differences, some remain), it is obvious to an atheist that at least so

    • Re:Religion (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bigfleet (121233)
      Be careful that you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

      Organized religion may been been instituted by chiefs to validate their rule (along with other things, like what you suggest), but to believe that what we say, think, or do has any bearing on whether there actually is some creator-being outside our system is misguided.

      You may find the way the methods of organized religion distasteful, their beliefs flawed, their system corrupt, but it does not mean that religion itself is an "invention" witho
    • Neal Stephenson, for one...

      Christianity started going away in the Renaissance. Not much left of it by now.
      • Christianity started going away in the Renaissance. Not much left of it by now.

        More than one billion Christians all over the world beg to differ.

    • Usually these kinds of thoughts enter the mind as young teenagers begin to develop abstract thought. Of course, every person thinks it's original thought; that nobody else has such a novel idea.

      However, it's very easy to tell that your thoughts haven't been well-developed yet. There is no consideration for the evolution of ideas, nor have you done any research done on history or on the theories of societal religious development. Nor have you read works by any philosophers who have taken this idea many

    • I think the world has developed enough now, that we no longer need religion as a deterrent. It serves more as a tool for discrimination/fanaticism, rather than what it was intended for.

      I think you're partially right, but I find that a very narrow viewpoint. Organized religion can be used as deterrent to certain behavior, but that's not necessarily the sum total of its function. Many people get a lot of personal and spiritual fulfillment out of their religion. It lends meaning to their lives. Because the
    • I think the world has developed enough now, that we no longer need religion as a deterrent. It serves more as a tool for discrimination/fanaticism, rather than what it was intended for.

      As one who is both unapologetically Christian and unapologetically free-thinking, it seems to me like our task is to develop our conception of God to catch up with the new picture of the world around us, instead of trying to make our world conform to the picture of God we find in the Bible or other sacred texts. I share

  • Understatement? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:46AM (#6589195) Journal
    It can be argued that the King James Bible has had as large an effect on our language today as the work of Shakespeare.

    I'm no expert on this but that seems like a huge understatement -- Shakespeare invented a few words and turned an enormous number of common phrases, but the King James translation surely had an even larger impact on English, no?

    If only for being responsible for the inversion of "thee/thou/thy" from familiar to formal speech.

    • Wrong (Score:5, Informative)

      by jbellis (142590) <jonathan.carnageblender@com> on Friday August 01, 2003 @12:01PM (#6589359) Homepage
      KJV is not even a little 'responsible for the inversion of "thee/thou/thy."' It was using these in the familiar sense, which was the sense used in the greek original of the NT, and thus was REINFORCING the original connotation of these words rather than inverting it...

      http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/m971211c.htm l

      http://www.linguistlist.org/~ask-ling/archive-mo st -recent/msg10071.html

      http://www.bartleby.com/61/66/Y0026600.html

      http://www.kencollins.com/why-05.htm
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:49AM (#6589223)
    I told pharaoh to use Pretty Good Pharaoh Privacy on those damn cartouches. France was just a mote in Isis's eye at the time, but even then I knew they would turn out to be nothing but troublemakers.
  • by aclarke (307017) <spam@cl[ ]e.ca ['ark' in gap]> on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:50AM (#6589230) Homepage
    Comparing the impact of the Kings James Bible versus the entire works of Shakespeare is an interesting task, especially as the two men were contemporaries.

    One thing to note are the political motivations behind the translation of the King James Bible. This translation was mandated to be used in all Church of England services, IIRC. It was instrumental in helping King James wrest control of England from the Catholic church to the Church of England (controlled by the monarch, i.e. James himself). This gave the British monarchy significantly more power in their own country, as well as preventing such a large portion of the funds from being diverted to the Vatican.

    As a spiritual and literary work, the King James Bible has had an immense impact on western culture. It has also had a large impact on Great Britain, and, in turn, its many former colonies. Mute your sound beforehand, but there are some interesting articles about King James and the period here [jesus-is-lord.com].

    • There's a theory that Shakespeare actually worked on the King James Bible. I never looked into it enough to decide if it was some nut trying to get attention or something with serious merrit.
    • I wouldn't take anything from jesus-is-lord.com seriously. That site is one of the most discriminatory, hateful sites I have seen. I find it even more offensive than the KKK or American Nazi Party sites. Furthermore, both their history and theology are screwed up. Think of it as religious FUD.
    • One thing to note are the political motivations behind the translation of the King James Bible. This translation was mandated to be used in all Church of England services, IIRC. It was instrumental in helping King James wrest control of England from the Catholic church to the Church of England (controlled by the monarch, i.e. James himself).

      While an English translation was probably aimed to get control over the people compared to the church, James did not establish a separate church without the pope as its

  • God's Secretaries (Score:3, Informative)

    by marklandm (91990) on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:51AM (#6589240)
    I found the following book to be very interesting as it describs many of the people involved in the King James Version of the Bible in detail.

    _God's Secretaries : The Making of the King James Bible_

    by Adam Nicolson

    Unfortunately I haven't read the book the poster discusses so I cannot make a comparison.
  • by dodell (83471) <dodell&sitetronics,com> on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:51AM (#6589241) Homepage
    Well, I personally think its unfair to start the history of the bible at the time of the printing press. A Grand Funk Electric song captures this best - "You've got the English translation of the Roman translation of the Greek translation of the pure Babylonian". Indeed, the King James translation of the Bible is one of many English translations of the Bible. Starting one's Bible history from ca. 1450 (when the Bible first began being pressed) simply does not seem fair to me.

    The first translations were made ca. 200 BC, and was the "Septuagint" - from Hebrew to Greek translation (the Old Testament). It was not until ca. 400 AD that the Hebrew version of the Old Testament was translated into Latin; the New Testament was translated from Greek to Latin -- the Old Testament was re-translated. The manuscripts on which these translations were based are no longer present in the whole.

    In my opinion, there is a rich history to be told in the differences between translations of the Bible from original to later versions. Hell, one could back into European translations of the Bible and teach an entire story based upon the discrepancies of copies of the hand-written versions.

    There's a rich history to the translation of the Bible. Google for it [google.com].
  • by Anonymous Coward
    While these books may seem well researched and informative, it is important to note their main [ucdavis.edu] financial contributer while doing their research was the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints [lds.org](Mormons [mormon.org]). In fact, the publishers [harpercollins.com] of these two books was founded in New York, but moved it's headquarters to Salt Lake City, Utah, and is majority owned by the Mormons.

    Why does all that matter? Conflict of interest. Remember, the mormons are the ones that claim their founder, Joseph Smith [lds.org], translated a previou
    • If you bothered to check the HarperCollins page you linked to, you would see that they are actually owned by News Corp.-- yes, the right wing folks who also run Fox Broadcasting. They are not owned by the Mormon Church.

      Does this mean that SCO is a Mormon K-O-N-spiracy, too, because they are also headquartered in Utah? Not likely.

  • by scrotch (605605) on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:56AM (#6589298)

    On a related note, people interested in these books may be interested in this story [msnbc.com] (via metafilter) about how the Qu'ran as it's known now may be a mistranslation of the original.

    • So is he saying that heaven is now full of blokes sick to death of dates and raisins and absolutely gagging for a woman ?
    • Interesting link. Just today, I have begun to look at the Qu'ran from a literary/historical angle, to find out more about Islam and the scripture that has so shaped much of the world. The work of the Jesus Seminar [westarinstitute.org] might interest campers who find the book on the KJV Bible to be interesting. Their book on the Five Gospels [westarinstitute.org] and The Complete Gospels [westarinstitute.org] (which includes the translation of the Five Gospels) provide an excellent look into the literary origins of the Gospels and a window into the nature of early
  • by dodell (83471) <dodell&sitetronics,com> on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:58AM (#6589318) Homepage
    There's also a rich history to the development of the Egyptian writing style of hieroglyphics throughout the entirety of the Egyptian era. Indeed, the Rosetta Stone, the key to the translation of the hieroglyphics was written using no less than three different scripts of hieroglyphics. More information about the Rosetta Stone is available here [ancientegypt.co.uk].
  • by Mr.Sharpy (472377) on Friday August 01, 2003 @12:04PM (#6589402)
    Pfft...everybody knows the bible came down from heaven in Renaissance era English way back in the day. Imagine the trouble Moses had trying to explain the Ten Commandments without knowing what language they were in! Fortunately, God guided our language in such a way that we are today able to read it.

    The idea that the words of the bible changed to English from some heathen language is an evil LIE and work of the Devil! Everybody knows that Jesus was and his disciples were English speaking white men! Haven't you seen the movie! and TBN! They couldn't possibly be wrong!

  • To ask a totally random and silly question, does Unicode support Egyptian hieroglyphics, or is it technically counted among the non-living languages not supported?
    • > To ask a totally random and silly question, does Unicode support Egyptian hieroglyphics, or is it technically counted among the non-living languages not supported?

      Google is your friend. [google.com]

      I haven't followed this stuff carefully, but I understand that people are busy working on Uncode representations for dead languages as well as living, because people still like to publish documents that include the text of dead languages.

  • by ssclift (97988) on Friday August 01, 2003 @12:16PM (#6589520)

    It's perhaps an old urban legend that William Shakespear (spelled here without the terminal 'e', both spellings seem to be around) was consulted on the poetry of the Psalms. Presented as evidence:

    KJV Psalm 46 [virginia.edu]

    Note that 4+6 = 10, the number of letters in Shakespear. Count to the 46th word from the beginning, you see "shake" and the 46th word from the end (excluding the "Selah", a musician notation, IIRC) you have "spear"...

    I'd love to find out if the Bard really did have a hand in it... which one might hope this book would...

  • by ansak (80421) on Friday August 01, 2003 @12:31PM (#6589669) Homepage Journal
    What the Christian world calls "the Bible" is a collection of documents written in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek. Most modern translations follow
    • the best available textual criticism (trying to reconstruct document 0 from the many fragments one finds -- and compare the statistics to the ones on numbers of copies of other documents available from the same time periods)
    • cross-checked with
      • quotations from commentators (Old Church Fathers)
      • translations into other old known languages (including in the case of Hebrew: Aramaic, Greek, Syriac and Samaritan; in the case of Greek: Aramaic, Arabic, Armenian, Latin, Coptic, Syriac, Old Latin etc. etc.)
    • with the vocabulary used cross-checked with all available other usages of the same words in the same time-frame (Thankfully, the Greek-speaking world wrote a LOT of stuff!)

    The point being that of all possible documents you could hold a copy of in your own language, a modern translation of the Bible is about as close to the closest possible meaning in your language of the meaning in language 0 of document 0 as you could possibly have of any text of similar origin and antiquity.

    And all that without invoking a single phrase of mumbo jumbo...in saecula saeculorum Amen, Amen

  • by dotgod (567913) on Friday August 01, 2003 @01:22PM (#6590201)
    One interesting thing about the translation of the Bible into English was the transliteration of the word "baptizo". In Greek this work means to dip or immerse. This translation was done under the rule of the English King James (duh!) who was part of the Church of England (Anglican/Episcopal Church). The word baptizo was not translated directly into english, but was transliterated. The new word "baptize" was invented at that time. The reason for this transliteration was that royalty had to be part of the church, into which they were introduced by Anglican baptism, which involves springkling water onto the heads of infants. To literally translate baptize into immerse would imply that all the royal officals were not part of the church since they had not recieved a valid baptism

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