the faith hope

an ongoing exploration of a thankless subject

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Founding secretary of the Urbane Society for Sceptical Romantics, a club I take very seriously indeed.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

the good news bible, or Christianity tailored to your sensibilities


blurring the message

A few points. After posting on the 'Story of Investment' in Luke 19, using Eugene Peterson's translation/modernisation, I checked out what the Skeptics' Annotated Bible had to say on it. They use the KJV, and lo! what a difference in the modernisation. Peterson's version ends thus:
'As for these enemies of mine who petitioned against my rule, clear them out of here. I don't want to see their faces around here again.'
The King James Version of this parable ends a little differently:
'But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.'
Now, had Peterson not been so flagrantly dishonest in his 'updating', my criticism of this parable would've been a tone harsher. Sadly too, it means that I've lost all faith, if I dare use that word, in Peterson's version. I can imagine the excuse:

Peterson: Hey, I'm writing this to bring new people, young people, to the faith, I don't want to scare them off with gratuitous violence.

USSR: But isn't this the word of God, mate? You can't play fast and loose with that, can you?

Peterson: We have to update the language, and the context. God's message is eternal, I grant that, but it must be chanelled through the writings of all-too-human conduits, embedded in particular, changing cultures. I've kept to the spirit of Jesus's words, but the times have changed, we no longer find it acceptable to kill people who disagree with us.

USSR: Yet Jesus found it acceptable - he used the language didn't he? And he doesn't appear to be censuring this wanton killing.

Peterson: He came down to this earth in brutal times, and used the language of the time. Don't forget that this is a parable, a story - nobody was really killed. It's really about other things - it's not advocating despotism, though it accepts despotism as a given.

USSR: Yes, it's about devotion to the master, but there's this clear subtext about power and what can happen to people who question power, or the powerful, like God. And by softening this message about absolute authority, you're changing the nature of God aren't you...?

And so on.

A quick squiz at other versions of Luke 19: 27, by the way, shows them all agreeing with 'slay' or 'kill'. One of them has 'cut them to pieces'. Nice one Jesus.

Must say I was much tickled by this contribution to the most tedious debate imaginable, the debate on miracles. Still, I intend to enter that debate more fully soon.
Particularly enjoyed this comment, on some scientific pundit's attempt to attribute the walking-on-water miracle to a build-up of ice on the Sea of Galilee:
I've always found this kind of “Bible skepticism” story slightly silly. Yeah, maybe Jesus walked on frozen ice. Or maybe people made stuff up! Ya think?


3 Comments:

Blogger Nick Blasbeat said...

Hey, you are really writing up a storm at the moment. Hope Sat. was reasonably comprehensible. Have you read Jon Haidt's article yet? It fits in pretty neatly with Tim Wilson's views.

Also: http://scienceblogs.com/retrospectacle/2006/08/friday_science_cartoon_intelli_1.php

5:34 AM  
Blogger Stewart said...

hi, yes i've read a little over half of the article. Can't help but marvel at how the social intuitionist model seems to consign so much moral reasoning of the philosophical sort to the 'interesting but not particularly helpful or relevant' file. It's almost a bit scary, but interesting and quite possibly relevant.

6:22 AM  
Blogger Nick Blasbeat said...

Yes, that is a lot of people's reaction to it. Its fucking weird, but somehow, this makes sense to me. Even though I am adicted to moral philosophy a lot of the time, the Darwinian (or perhaps Nietzschean !) in me wants to say: bullshit; too much thinking going on here. That being said, there are challenges to Haidt's model, and I will try to cover that the week after next, when I cover the SIM. I haven't fully assimilated that stuff yet unfortunately, because I have had to write about meta-ethics for a while now, and that takes up lots of mental cpu cycles, as the geeks would say.

One of the other interesting things I wonder about is this. If what the behavioral geneticists say is right, then it may be that our position on our cultures spectrum is very much determined by emotional reactions which are acutally pretty hard wired. So making things change could be even harder, especially if Pinker is right in saying that things that are more heritable are harder to indluence.

7:15 AM  

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