What did the Bible say?
Truth is, no one really knows, but plenty of people base their lives around particular interpretations of it. We know Ken Ham‘s absolute-literal interpretation isn’t based in any sort of reality. But what about progressive Christians who are supportive of things like abortion and LGBT rights? Are they interpreting it correctly or is it wishful thinking?
A group of Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem is trying to get to the bottom of what the Bible originally said:
Scholars in this out-of-the-way corner of the Hebrew University campus have been quietly at work for 53 years on one of the most ambitious projects attempted in biblical studies — publishing the authoritative edition of the Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew Bible, and tracking every single evolution of the text over centuries and millennia.
The scholars note where the text we have now differs from older versions — differences that are evidence of the inevitable textual hiccups, scribal errors and other human fingerprints that became part of the Bible as it was passed on, orally and in writing.
A Microsoft Excel chart projected on one wall on a recent Sunday showed variations in a single phrase from the Book of Malachi, a prophet.
The verse in question, from the text we know today, makes reference to “those who swear falsely.” The scholars have found that in quotes from rabbinic writings around the 5th century A.D., the phrase was longer: “those who swear falsely in my name.”
In another example, this one from the Book of Deuteronomy, a passage referring to commandments given by God “to you” once read “to us,” a significant change in meaning.
Because their work is so detailed, the project is projected to last another 200 years. How much have they done so far?
… in more than five decades of work the scholars have published a grand total of three of the Hebrew Bible’s 24 books.
What they end up with may very well be the most accurate version of the Bible we have… and most Christians will probably dismiss it as heresy.
The project just shows how crazy it is for anyone to believe the Bible is inerrant. Reader Sarah raises other questions as well:
- Was the human interference guided by God?
- Should it be “fixed” by scholars who are going by the oldest manuscripts?
- Who honors the Bible more — those who seek to understand what it originally said, or those who are attached to it in its current form?
In any case, it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “Bible-believing Christians.”