Ken Ham, Andrew Lloyd Weber and lazy KJV-only monoglots

Via Patheos blogger and New Testament professor James McGrath, I learn that Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis has dismissed both of us as “secularists.”

I’m a Baptist, and our core belief in “believer’s Baptism” stands in stark opposition to the practice of involuntary baptism into the state church. That makes all of us Baptists — in doctrine, at least — advocates of secular government.

Somehow I doubt that’s what Ham meant. Maybe he’s still upset that I suggested he must be Austrian rather than Australian.

Elsewhere on McGrath’s blog, I learn something I somehow failed to notice in the dozens of times I have read through the book of Revelation.

In the bit about the “144,000,” John of Patmos offers a pretty strange version of the list the 12 tribes of Israel: Judah, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin … WTF?

James McGrath sifts through this:

The list of 12 tribes is a problem, as anyone who actually knows the 12 tribes will spot, assuming they read carefully. The problem is not just the absence of Dan, for which which many have tried to come up with an explanation. The inclusion of Joseph as well Joseph’s son Manasseh simply doesn’t make sense. The author could have omitted Dan and included Levi, and the two Joseph tribes Ephraim and Manasseh, if the aim was to omit Dan. But as it is, the list is problematic.

McGrath notes that:

Most people, if they try to rattle off a list of the 12 tribes, will not do nearly as well as the author of Revelation did.

That’s kind of him to say, but that’s no excuse for me missing this odd listing in the many, many times I’ve read that chapter. After all, I earned gold stars in Sunday school for memorizing the names of those 12 tribes. And a bit more recently, I was in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat — which means I sang the names of those tribes for months.

Hmmm. Maybe that’s why I always missed this. Seeing all those names makes me start stressing out again about having to hit the high note in “Those Canaan Days.”

Or maybe I had to clear that list out of my brain to make room for memorizing “red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve and cream and crimson and silver and rose and azure and lemon and russet and grey and purple and white and pink and orange and blue.”

And while we’re over at McGrath’s place, he’s got a good post today about “Accepting the Bible“:

Work on such matters as Hebrew linguistics are crucial. Most people who discuss the Bible nowadays on the internet and in churches are discussing English translations, which depend on the work of scholars such as linguists. Young-earth creationist groups like Answers in Genesis reject such scholarly work, and thus the literal meaning of the Bible in the original languages, when it suits them to do so.

This is the dirty little secret of “KJV-only” fundamentalist churches — those that insist the 1611 King James Version translation in English is the only acceptable version of the Bible. They never explain or admit the only real reason they insist on this: They’re too lazy to learn Hebrew and Greek.

  • PJ Evans

     The Catholic version contemporary with the KJV is the Douay Bible. I don’t know how it compares.

  • Kiba

    The real block is learning a bunch of other languages.

    That’s one of the things that irritates me about my brother. He can pick up languages like nothing. Then there’s me who took 3 semesters of German and all I can say is “Where’s the toilet?” and “My goldfish is dead.”

  • Joshua

    I was there for three months, but I can’t remember “Where’s the toilet?” Should be the first thing you learn in another language, at least, a living one.

    Maybe I just held on that whole time. Although I did figure out what “D” and “H” stood for without embarrassing myself.

    I also learned that the more you pay for a toilet, the worse it’s going to be. Two euros makes for a permanently life-changing level of smell.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ianracey Ian C. Racey

     I’d submit that “My goldfish is dead” is unnecessary. If someone asks me where the toilet is, I’m going to point them to it without first demanding to know why they need it.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Lately I’ve been drifting back to KJV though. both for familiarity,

    Use the Revised Standard Version.

    It uses the same linguistic “flavor” as the KJV, but was retranslated from the Dead Sea Scrolls and other old extant texts in the 1950s, so before the modern tendency to insert anti-abortion language into Bible translations.

  • Tricksterson

    Or very noisy pandas.

    It’s also the name of my favorite bookstore, located in Cambridge Mass.

  • Joshua

    The RSV is about the most literal modern translation. It has a good level of scholarship. I use the New RSV, but wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, especially if you want slightly old-fashioned language.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    mm-hmm. I exclusively use the RSV ( http://quod.lib.umich.edu/r/rsv/ ) for looking up Biblical texts partly for that reason. The other is that I was given such a Bible when I was a child and basically grew up with it.

  • GDwarf

     

    To quote a person I “helped” when I worked at a christian bookshop, “I
    want the King James Version. I beeeeeleeeeeeeeve in the King James
    Version.”

    Turns out some people believe so strongly in the truthfulness of the Bible that not even the Bible can convince them otherwise.

    A survey mentioned in the (excellent! Also free!) book The Authoritarians notes that when asked if the Bible, hypothetically, contained a clear, unambiguous, contradiction that could not be in any way reconciled, would the person being surveyed still consider it to be without error or contradiction? A fair chunk of fundamentalist Christians surveyed said that even the Bible itself showing it had contradictions would be insufficient to get them to believe that it had contradictions.

    Mind you, the author goes on to note that several of these people clearly weren’t properly understanding the question (or were answering to score points with themselves). In another questionnaire he pointed out some contradictions between the gospels and asked how they could be possible if the Bible didn’t have any contradictions. Some answered simply that it had no contradictions, full stop. Others offered explanations such as it being “Like different people watching a car accident. Everyone will have a slightly different memory of events” while, at the same time, still saying it was without any error or contradiction.

    He also notes that many of the justifications for these contradictions-that-don’t-exist were very similar, suggesting canned responses they were taught to repeat without thinking about.

    But yeah. How do you talk someone out of a belief when they won’t accept the word of their perfect arbiter of truth on the matter?

  • Kiba

    Thinking back on my German classes I kind of regret that when my professor would accost me in the hall and start nattering at me in German that instead of panicking because I couldn’t remember anything I would have just stared at her sadly and said, “Guten tag, Frau —.  Mein goldfisch ist gestorben. Wo ist die toilette?” I would have cherished the look on her face forever.

    And I must have a thing for only remember phrases about dead animals because the only sentence I can remember in Spanish is “My penguin is dead.” 

    My great grandmother was from Spain and all of her kids spoke Spanish and my grandmother still speaks it and that’s all I can remember….>.<

    Edit: I lie. The other phrase I know in Spanish is, "Sister isn't here." from when I was answering phones for a nun.

  • Turcano

    I understand that the translators working on the KJV knew very well that they didn’t know English equivalents for some Hebrew words, leaving space for future workers to fill in spaces & correct mistakes.

    “Unicorn” being a particularly prominent example.

  • reynard61

    “The Song of Solomon in the KJV translation is some of the lushestlustiest and most beautiful poetry I’ve ever read.”

    Fixed that for ya!

  • reynard61

    “But yeah. How do you talk someone out of a belief when they won’t accept the word of their perfect arbiter of truth on the matter?”

    “You can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.” – Anon.

  • christopher_young


    Sir John Milton actually coined twice as many new English words as Shakespeare, but he never gets the credit.

    Milton, bless his revolutionary, republican, heretic soul, was never knighted by anybody. After the restoration of the monarchy he was in and out of jail for a bit, and then kept out of sight for his own good.

  • The Guest That Posts

    Well, while the artificial “mauve” pigment hadn’t been invented yet, it’s named after the flowers of the mallow, which grows around the Mediterranean. So Joseph would have known the shade “mallow-coloured”.

  • Fusina

     Cool. That is the version I had as a kid, and grew up reading. Finding that out explained why I have trouble finding verses in other translations. The language is just different enough that most concordances don’t work so well.

    See, during church services, my Mum would only let us read the bible or the hymnbook. So I would read–people now ask why I remember so much of the bible–well, reading pretty much every sunday for seven years or so, fifteen to twenty minutes at a go–you can get through quite a lot. Esther and Ruth were two of my favorites, and Judges–Go Deborah! and Samuel was pretty entertaining. Job because of the descriptions of stuff. Song of Solomon after I got old enough to understand what was going on–if you want teens to read the bible, just tell them not to read SoS.

  • The_L1985

    “Make it translation-error-proof?  But then how would they learn to think for themselves?”

  • The_L1985

    Yes, but Eve was female, and she’s the one actually saying this to the serpent.  So you should say “the first example…has her misquoting it.”  ;)

    Basically, this is a case of the Telephone Game, with 3 players. We see what God says at the beginning, and we see what Eve said that Adam said that God said.

  • Light_Sleeper

    “They never explain or admit the only real reason they insist on this: They’re too lazy to learn Hebrew and Greek.”

    Bingo. They obviously do not care to make even a token effort to investigate the terms of their salvation.

    That, and the KJV is the one with all that delicious, comforting paganism baked in.

  • Tricksterson

    I was thinking Douay because as a Franco-American (Well, Greek too but that side of my family had no functional contact with me growing up) that was the Bible in our house as a kid.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    Mind you, the author goes on to note that several of these people
    clearly weren’t properly understanding the question (or were answering
    to score points with themselves). In another questionnaire he pointed
    out some contradictions between the gospels and asked how they could be
    possible if the Bible didn’t have any contradictions. Some answered
    simply that it had no contradictions, full stop. Others offered
    explanations such as it being “Like different people watching a car
    accident. Everyone will have a slightly different memory of events”
    while, at the same time, still saying it was without any error or contradiction.

    I think that in general, people who do these kinds of surveys don’t usually do enough to control for people not quite getting the question. They can call out the more obvious forms of it, but they often overlook more devious forms of “is not actually answering the question as asked”  (For my money, the most common one is when the question involves the term “average”. I suspect most people interpret “average” not as “in the middle” but rather as “the worst possible that does not cross the line into failure”)

  • Carstonio

     My original question wasn’t necessarily about providing the original Hebrew and Greek, although that would be useful. In the broader sense, it was more about the context and meaning of the original text becoming common knowledge, including any mistakes in earlier translations.

  • AnonymousSam

    Heh, several translations of the Bible have vastly differing ideas of what the twelve gemstones in the priestly breastplate were, and of them, several (notably topaz and sapphire) wouldn’t be found until many centuries later in regions far, far away from where Canaan supposedly was.

  • Joshua

    This is one of the purposes of preaching, and most preachers I have heard do their best to mention relevant cultural detail when doing an expository sermon.

    Some are better at that than others, of course.

    I’ve found there’s a kind of body of bullet-points of knowledge among laity, gleaned from all the little points preachers have made in sermons over the years. Stuff like, Jesus used Samaritans in his parable because his audience had a major prejudice against them, or that Jonah didn’t want to go to the Assyrian capital because the Assyrians were superlatively nasty oppressors, etc.

    This is a good thing, and I guess the best you can expect of people who aren’t going to study the ancient history of the Assyrian empire or whatever formally. These bullet points lack the big picture, but that’s not really possible in a 30-minute sermon or small group informal bible study.

  • jenelle

     Two lines of manuscripts – pure, corrupt.  God promised to preserve His word and He did.  

    To the article writer:   The churches are filled with those who aren’t KJV believers and who sit Sunday after Sunday trusting what their seminary trained pastor tells them the Bible really says in The Greek and The Hebrew.  These pastors only pick out a word here and there.   Are these non King James Bible believers  too lazy to learn Greek and Hebrew?  Do the pastors even know Greek and Hebrew fluently?

  • jenelle

    The printer did not fare well after this mistake in his printing.    The 1611 KJV underwent the following changes:  printer’s errors (not translators), font, and spelling.


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