translation

Day 50

Writer’s Note: I don’t remember if I said this last time, but I really need to hire a typist to transcribe my audio rants. It almost takes longer to transcribe it than it would to have just written it!

As I close Genesis and move into Exodus, I was thinking about things and thinking about how, supposedly, Exodus is “The Second Book of Moses.” So, apparently Moses is the one who transcribed all these books. I don’t know if God literally came down and dictated these books word-for-word, or what, because I haven’t reached that part of the story, where I get to learn about what Moses did.

I was thinking about this, about where this story comes from, where all this information comes from. I really hope that Exodus sheds some light on that and can explain it to me directly, or at least in terms of the Biblical narrative. I’m interested to find this out, and see where it takes me.

The thing is, the Bible is so open to interpretation. There are so many things… it comes out and says quite a few things directly; all of the “Do this,” or “Don’t do that,” you know, “This has changed,” or “This stays the same.” There are a lot of things that appear to be cut-and-dried, but overall there is so much room for interpretation with this book.

In a “perfect” world, it would be perfectly contextualized, but the fact is that it simply is not. Some things that might have made perfect sense thousands of years ago, or made sense in the Greek language to a Greek reader, or made sense in Hebrew to a Hebrew reader… some things that might have made perfect sense aren’t necessarily clear.

My father got a copy of a book from his brother called something along the lines of Misinterpreting Jesus, and I really want to read it. I decided it would be better to wait and skim through it as I go through the New Testament. Apparently, the person who wrote that book looked at old Greek or old Hebrew copies/translations of scripture in order to try to translate things directly rather than constantly translating from translations like some centuries-long telephone game.

I’m very interested to read that book and see how it stands next to the Bible, to see where there are alleged discrepancies in scripture. I believe that yes, there are translation errors in the Bible, but I believe that even those errors exist “for a reason,” so to speak. You couldn’t really expect there to not be translation errors. But on the plus side, in my opinion, there are reasons for it, there are reasons that people want to believe certain things, there are reasons that the stories are told a certain way. The stories have to make sense in a certain context and tell a particular lesson, and if one translation over another gets that across then so be it.

I was just thinking about all this, and about how again, in a “perfect” world, everything that God is, was, and will be, everything that we could know would be infinitely and perfectly contextualized. But it’s not. And that’s the tricky part about our lives, our lives as humans, is that there simply is no measurable, objective context. It’s not like a movie where there is background mood music that tells you how to interpret a particular occurrence. It’s not like a video game where you get a new objective that tells you exactly what to do, when to do it, and why to do it. There is no objective context.

Some people might say, you know… the kind of person that believes in God in a Christian sense, would say that there is an objective context, and God’s will is the context. We’re supposed to interpret everything as God’s will, the things that happen to us, the things that we see, and so on. I understand that, because I obviously like… I have made my peace with God, I talk to God, I accept God. I know that God is and that He is with me, for whatever that means.¹ I know that. It’s not even something– I’m not using the word “believe” because it’s not a belief; I just know that.

I mean, it’s in an abstract sense… I don’t believe that there is a white-bearded man who lives in some physical place. Again, I love the mythology surrounding these ideas, but I don’t– when I understand God as a being, that’s not what comes to mind. Anyway.

To me, I can put things into that context. I can say that even a bad experience has its merits, because we can look at it through the eyes of growth; we can look at experiences with a desire to learn and grow and we can get something out of them. It is possible to see the silver lining behind the cloud.

To me, that’s the context. But I also understand that that is an entirely subjective context that is based on my experiences an my worldview, and that other people don’t have that context, necessarily. Not everybody sees the world that way.

Obviously I’m a little biased, but in my opinion it’s a pretty healthy worldview. I don’t condone “evil” acts, or acts of cruelty against fellow humans or animals. I don’t condone “bad” things, because there are a lot of terrible things in the world that cause a lot of hurt to a lot of people. And I don’t like it necessarily, I– I don’t like it. I don’t like that people suffer, I don’t like that people… that people “repay evil for good,” to quote Gen 44:4, I don’t like that people do harm to one another.

At the same time, these experiences are all… it’s a natural progression. Does that make them “good” in a human sense? No. Just because they are a natural progression of miserable, victimized people miserably victimizing other people, hurting ourselves and hurting others, making people suffer, bringing injustice upon one another… I don’t think the fact that this is a natural progression of events makes it “good” in a human sense. Obviously, this is all perpetuating the cycle of suffering.

But in a cosmic sense… the fact that these things happen, the world doesn’t just change at the flip of a switch, and oftentimes when I’m in some strange scenario, or something happens that doesn’t go my way, or something that I’m not thrilled with, I look at the circumstances that led up to it and I see that it couldn’t have happened any other way. Here I am; if things could have gone differently, they would have. But from A→B→C→D, we have this progression of events and this is just how it happened.

The important thing is to be as conscious as possible as things are happening within us and around us, so that we can make good decisions, so that we can be responsible and we can have awareness to do the best we can with our circumstances, to will ourselves to do better.

My point is, even though, like the world, the way we understand it from a human perspective, anyway… though our world be flawed, though we be mired in sin, though we be mired in shame, guilt, victimization, and blame… how could it be any other way? And just so with the Bible.

People translating over years and years, languages and meanings changing, and so on and so forth… The language has changed, the interpretations have changed, and what was known and understood several thousand years ago is not necessarily understood today. We do the best we can with what we’ve got. And you know, we’re trying to make it work.

This is why I want my own interpretation. This is why I want to dig through the scriptures and translations and figure out “What does this mean for me, me specifically?” Because this all means a lot of things to a lot of people, and when I went to church on Easter, I got to see that, and I got to feel that, and I got to remember that. And that was good. I remembered why this is so important to so many people, and I remembered why people get so touchy and so defensive about it: because it’s a big deal.

The interpretation that people have of the Bible and of life is very important to them, the narrative that to which they subscribe… it becomes an important part of their identity. I understand that because the way that I interpret the Bible is unique to me. The eyes with which I see it, the mind with which I understand it has never ever been duplicated in the history of time.

This moment that I am experiencing from my perspective is one hundred percent unique. No one else is sitting where I am sitting, no one else is seeing what I am seeing in the way that I am seeing it.

My interpretation, and the meaning that the Bible brings to my life, these things are unique to me. And… and… in that sense, how could it be any other way?

All is as it should be.


See you tomorrow in Exodus, folks.

Peace be upon you.


¹ http://youtu.be/32FB-gYr49Y?t=1m16s
You’re so welcome.

Day 22

Three weeks! I’ve officially passed the three-week mark as far as consistent, daily writing. One of my absolute favorite quotes (which I just learned is attributed to Katherine Center) is

“You have to be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.”

My soul burns with these words; it resonates on such an intensely personal level that it feels as though it were written for me alone. This is my philosophy and my creed. It is as beautiful as the Golden Rule of “doing unto others” but it is turned inward. It is about how one treats oneself, how a person lives his or her own life as a beacon, a shining example. It is about doing and about being, about taking risks and overcoming challenges and letting other people see and believe it is possible.

It is about challenging old ways of thinking and old patterns of behavior. It is everything I love about psychology and faith rolled into one amazing statement. My mind races and my body vibrates with energy every time I think of it. It makes me want to go out and change the world, to go out and do something incredible, something that would have seemed impossible.

That is why I am writing this blog. That is why I am reading the Bible. A daily commitment of time and effort to something is impossible based on all of my previous experience and attempts. I could not write poetry every day, I could not exercise every day, I could not clean my house every day. I had not the power nor the discipline to see these things through, to visualize them in my head, to need them to be true and to realize them, to use all of my strength and will to bring them into being.

But, by God, here I am. Three weeks in and I shall not cease. I will write every single day until I am finished reading the Bible. And then I will write more and more. I will fill my life with… I will fill it with many things. But I have a sneaking suspicion that by the time I am done reading the Bible three years hence, I will know how to decisively finish that statement.

I want to say thank you today to all my followers. Right now there aren’t very many but every single one means so much to me, because in a way it reminds me that what I have to say means something. I committed to this task and I will see it through no matter what, but it feels good to have others following on my journey. I know no one asked for my advice, but I want to share what I’ve learned thus far:

Search deep within yourself for that nagging feeling, that one thought, that one imperative that will not let go. Dig deep and find the goal that you cannot dismiss, and find a way to achieve  it. If you are to be a writer, then start writing. Find that desire that cannot be ignored, for that is the fire of your life begging to be lit.

My followers:

  1. Musings from a Tangled Mind
    http://www.musingsfromatangledmind.com
  2. GODisms
    http://godisms.wordpress.com
  3. Jarosław PlayWithLifE
    http://www.playwithlife.org
  4. Kendall F. Person, thepublicblogger
    http://thepublicblogger.com/
  5. thisyearinmusic
    http://thisyearinmusic.wordpress.com

I just want to say thank you, and I hope that despite our diverse backgrounds or beliefs or what have you, I hope that the ideas I spread through my words mean something. I hope that watching as I move forward toward completion of this task, I hope that it brings you inspiration, that it drives you to do more than you thought possible.

This is nothing less than a realization of a dream, a transmutation of desire into reality, an exercise of pure will. And now that I have made up my mind, I feel a true and deep conviction… It is like nothing I have ever felt, and I know that my will has strength and that it will triumph at any cost.

Triumph_des_Willens_poster

Oh for Christ’s sake… That’s not what I meant and you know it!¹

Hey, just because I’m baring my soul doesn’t mean I can’t keep a sense of humor. I know, I know, Nazis aren’t funny, but… I can’t resist a terrible pun.

Also while I’m thanking people I want to thank my partner for being with me through this trying time, for encouraging me and believing in me. I love you so much.


Genesis 22

Ah, famous Genesis 22. God calls upon Abraham to kill and offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. I like how God says, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…” just to drive home the point and make this extra difficult for Abraham (Gen 22:2). But at this point Abraham seems to have learned his lesson(s) and this time he obeys without question.

Long story short, just as he is about to kill his son, God calls him again (“Abraham!” “Here I am.” I wonder if that rhymes in Hebrew too?) and tells him that he can stop now, and he doesn’t have to stab Isaac. God once again reaffirms his promises to Abraham regarding descendents and land and all that, and hopefully Isaac forgave his dad for this whole mess, and to wrap it all up, we get some genealogy of Abraham’s brother Nahor.

Matthew Henry says a good deal about this chapter but for the most part the story speaks for itself. The only thing that really struck me during this whole story was the parallels between the near-sacrifice of Isaac and the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “Your only son,” and so forth. Henry even makes the point that Isaac carries the wood toward his own sacrifice as noted in Genesis 22:6, just as Christ bore the cross on which he would be killed.

One excellent bit of information that Henry brings up is that

“In Hebrew, to tempt, and to try, or to prove, are expressed by the same word.”²

I’ll keep this in mind any time any of those words shows up. Also, I discovered Wesley’s Explanatory Notes today, my eyes having been drawn by a banner ad to that part of the page. I’d heard of them before but never explored them, having stuck with Henry. John Wesley is credited with creating the Methodist movement, apparently. His notes break each chapter down verse by verse. Frankly, I might use him for some clarification, but it’s… it’s just too much.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today; I’m going back to bed.

Peace be upon you.


¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_of_the_will

² http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=22

Day 15

Today has been a hell of a day. I drew my medicine card just now, after the end of it all, and it came up as a Contrary Blank. I don’t always know what that means, but today it feels like it has to do with the fact that no single card can encompass the day I’ve been through.

Good Fear and Bad Fear

The most interesting part of my day happened during work: I was out at a park when I ran into an awesome black grandmother who was there with her four grandchildren. We got to talking and I asked what she was reading; it turned out to be the Bible. Fitting, no?

Anyway, so I asked her why and I told her about my project. She said that she wanted to understand the Word for herself, that she wanted a deeper connection, and she wanted to understand what God wanted from her. I rephrased this as, “Give it to me straight, Lord!” She laughed.

We both were distracted but I did get to talk to her a little bit more and she told of a friend who I think was an atheist. This friend or acquaintance or whatever asked her why people were supposed to fear God. This wonderful woman said that for her, there were two kinds of fear: the good and the bad. She said that the good kind of fear was the fear of God, that which keeps people in line, so to speak. The bad fear was the fear of man, the fear that we have about our material life, the fear that drives us away from God and confounds our mind with mortal concerns. I told her I was going to quote her on this.

I of course decided to do my research and was richly rewarded. I immediately found this website, which has a wonderful breakdown of the different meanings of the Hebrew word yirah (יִרְאָה). According to this site, “there are three ‘levels’ or types of yirah.”¹ The first is what we normally think of as fear, or what the woman above called “bad fear.” This is the fear that leads us to do things or not do them only because we are worried about punishment or being cast out. The second type is what the grandmother called “good fear,” and “concerns anxiety over breaking God’s law.”¹ The Chofetz Chaim, “a holy book on the Jewish ethics and laws of speech,”² tells that

“even though the fear of God’s punishment may deter us from sin in the short run, by itself it is insufficient for spiritual life, since it is based on an incomplete idea about God.”¹

This is awesome, to me. This brings me to the third type of fear. I’m just going to leave this here:

“The third (and highest) kind of fear is a profound reverence for life that comes from rightly seeing. This level discerns the Presence of God in all things and is sometimes called yirat ha-rommemnut (יִרְאַת הָרוֹמְמוּת), or the ‘Awe of the Exalted.’  Through it we behold God’s glory and majesty in all things. ‘Fearing’ (יִרְאָה) and ‘seeing’ (רָאָה) are linked and united. We are elevated to the level of reverent awareness, holy affection, and genuine communion with God’s Holy Spirit.  The love for good creates a spiritual antipathy toward evil, and conversely, hatred of evil is a way of fearing God (Prov. 8:13).”¹

Reverence. Awe. These are the highest level of feeling that we are called to have in the name and in the honor of God. It is not fear in the human sense, but a seeing, a unity, a sense of presence and communion. This is what we need as a whole, is a “spiritual antipathy toward evil.”¹ It is clearly not enough to abstain from evil most of the time. We must actively do good, and cultivate our love of God and goodness so that there is no longer room for evil in our hearts and souls. Just as I vowed to not lash out against others in anger, so too do humans need to make a vow against evil. But we need to have the confidence and power to make such a vow. That power and confidence obviously can come from the Lord, but… I’m getting into a Catch-22 situation. The cycle of evil and suffering must at some point be broken. We are not perfect and we may not be able to leave it forever or in totality, but we can damn sure try.

Genesis 15

After all I’ve said above, I don’t feel the need to delve too deeply into Gen 15. Matthew Henry makes plenty of good points, some of which I will touch upon here and the rest can be found here by an interested reader.

Gen 15 begins with God coming to Abram in a vision; God tells Abram, “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

Your eternal reward.

Your eternal reward. ³

At this point, Abram is having what seems to be a crisis of faith, perhaps this time motivated by the fear or concern that he will not be able to do what God asks, especially since he can have no children. God tells him not to worry, and says that He can prove it. Abram listens to God and makes a sacrifice of several animals; vultures come to eat the animals, but Abram drives them away. Here, Matthew Henry writes:

“A watch must be kept upon our spiritual sacrifices.”

— Matthew Henryª

We have to be attentive to God, and drive away distractions. After this, Abram falls into a deep sleep, where God speaks to him and lets him know about the future. God tells Abram that his descendents will suffer, but will suffer only material injury while enjoying spiritual wealth in the form of divine blessings. Abram wakes up to see “a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between [the sacrifices]” (Genesis 15:17). God makes a covenant with Abram, and Matthew Henry here says that “it intimates that God’s covenants with man are made by sacrifice…. And we may know that he accepts our sacrifices, if he kindles in our souls pious and devout affections.”ª

I really want to continue with this, but I have here reached the end, essentially, of Genesis 15. I have some things to say, but I will say them tomorrow. My partner is waiting in the other room and has no idea what I’m doing. She might very well find out soon just what exactly I’ve been up to.

Blessings to all of you, and peace be upon you. Good night.

 

¹ http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Parashah/Summaries/Eikev/Yirah/yirah.html

² http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chofetz_Chaim

³ http://therewillbefilms.tumblr.com/post/11388120758/your-eternal-reward

ª http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=15&com=mhc