Apologetics · CEC · History · Philosophy · Religion

Literacy and the Bible

I came across a new Bible translation – “The Message Remix Bible,” written by Eugene H. Patterson – it can be found on Amazon.com

The product description is as follows: God’s Word was meant to be read. But more than that, it was meant to be understood. It was first written in the language of the people––of fishermen, shopkeepers, and carpenters. The Message Remix gets back to that: You can read it and understand it. In The Message Remix, there are new verse-numbered paragraphs that will help you study and find favorite passages. Or, you can just read it like a book and let the narrative speak to you. After all, it is God’s story, with its heroes and villains, conflicts and resolutions. Either way, it’s God’s Word––the Truth––in a user-friendly form.

Now, I understand the need for people to feel like that they should be able to “understand” the Bible in such a way in which it makes “sense” to them, especially as they read it alone, etc. I also understand that, beginning with the printing press and then continuing with the Protestant Reformation, personal Bible’s, and the ability to have the Bible at your finger tips have increased rapidly, and has led to an explosion of different translations (into a certain language) as well as different versions (plays on translations). And though I do not have any particular problem with paraphrase versions of the Bible – except that I would not call them the Bible – or the “Word of God,” just as in the same light a Muslim would never call any translation of the Koran the true Koran, unless it was in the original Arabic, I still do not have any particular issue with paraphrases – I do it in every paper and essay I have ever written. Also, it is important to note I have never personally read this version, and though I probably will not read this version, it is not the version that I have an issue with, it is the description.

It was first written in the language of the people––of fishermen, shopkeepers, and carpenters.

This one statement is simply not true. The Bible was not written for fishermen, shopkeepers, carpenters, or any other working class person of the day… simply… because the majority of the working class, up until very recently by the way, were illiterate. Historically – even Jesus would have been illiterate, having no need, as a carpenter, or a “Tecton,” to have to be able to read. The readings he would know, form the Torah and the Prophets, would have been memorized as a child. More over, the Old Testament was not even written down until at least 1000 B.C. and would not be “finished” until the Babylonian Exile – and even afterwards, books and lessons were added, not being formalized until the Greek Septuagint was finished in Alexandria. Even more, the Torah was written down specifically for the priests and Jewish scholars, not the common man. Like wise, the New Testament letters, as well as those written not included in the Canon, were written to the churches… i.e. would have been read to the congregation by the priest, deacon or bishop (overseer), and more then likely not read by the common man. Further, it was not “common” men, once you got out of the 1st Century A.D. who wrote commentary on the letters and the Scripture, as well as began to write and debate Theology, Christology, and the like – it was learned men, scholars, philosophers, etc.

Anyways, am I saying that the common man should not be able to read and understand the Word of God? No. What I am saying is, the Word of God should be read, but the Word of God was meant to be SPOKEN, and not spoken in a paraphrase were its dumbed down so anyone can “understand” it, but should be spoken as it was written.. in the meaning, and context, and force that it was written.

Again, I have nothing against paraphrases, I believe they can be wonderful tools. But they are just that, tools, story books – like the old cartoons that used to come on of Bible stories.

JZ Holloway

2 thoughts on “Literacy and the Bible

  1. good article & yes i agree with most of it also.

    words are powerful, now matter where they come from or how they are related. spoken, written, & read. the understanding of such is another account altogether. perhaps it is the essential spirit behind the words that is key to its importance in perspective & understanding. in literacy or illiteracy words are mankind’s key to communication. but – i can say i love you & it really means i hate you – either in writing or in speaking. selah.

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