Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Just Read The Whole Thing: I Swear
On A Bible That I Do Have A Point

Imagine you were writing a history of, say, the time George Bush walked on earth. But there are no computers, and no ballpoint pens, and no spiral bound notebooks to accomplish this task.

Now imagine telling the story of George Bush using only an oral tradition over a period of more than three decades. In other words, between now and 2044 there is no written account of George Bush until, 37 years later, there appears the first of what would be four accepted biographies.

The first biography, written by Mark Jones, is also the shortest. Later, say in 2064, other biographies appear. One is written by Luke Smith, another by Matthew Johnson, and a fourth, the last to be penned, is written by a quirky fellow who emphasizes different things than the other three. His name is John Schwarzenbergerhopperstein.

There are other accounts of Bush, too, many other accounts, but they don't stand the test of time. One is written by Thomas, who portrays George as a spoiled child and a vindicative being who bites the head off of birds. These books, including the one written by Thomas, are later suppressed as untrue accounts of the reign of George Bush.

This suppression happens hundreds of years later, sometime around 2407, when it comes to be accepted exactly which of the George Bush biographies are sound, and which aren't. Eventually people come to agree that 27 books form an acceptable canon of the culture of 2000-2008, and other accounts are discarded. Only four actual biographies make the cut -- the ones written by Luke, Matthew, Mark and JohnSchwarzenbergerhopperstein.

And even these four can't seem to agree on the details.


Now, in this fictional scenario, remember that the first biography of George Bush, the one by Mark Jones, was written in 2044. However, and this is a big however, we don't have a copy of the scroll -- er, I mean, the neatly typed manuscript -- that dates from this time.

In fact, the earliest remaining paper copy of the Mark book is from hundreds and hundreds of years later, perhaps 2444, and even these copies exist only in fragments.

What happened? The original book by Mark was hand copied many, many times, and only after decades in the oral tradition.

Sometimes the copying was done well, by a secretary I'll call Jenny; other times, it was done sloppily. We'll call this secretary Brenda.

Brenda, who always gets "needs improvement" on her performance reviews, sometimes would change the biography to suit her own purposes. Other times she accidentally introduces mistakes to the text. Brenda is lazy, and she makes terrible coffee, too.

All this happens over a period of hundreds of years, by hundreds of different Brenda's. And only THEN do we arrive at the first known fragments of Mark's book on Bush.

Jenny isn't innocent, either. Sometimes super-efficient Jenny would note what she thought was a mistake by Brenda (Jenny is annoyed by Brenda), and she'd correct a text to what she thought the original document was. Unfortunately, Jenny is not always correct and sometimes copies and changes documents so that their meanings are completely shifted.

Oh, and one more thing: The original Bush biography from 2044 (post oral tradition) was written in English, but over the years the language has changed. Jenny speaks Spanish and Brenda speaks German. So some of the surviving texts are in German, others are in Spanish, and some are in Aramaic and Greek and Latin. You also notice that some languages don't have the exact word to describe what you're trying to communicate. German, for example, has Schadenfreude to describe "delighting at the misery of others"; English has no equivalent.

Now, project yourself even further into the future: Say the imaginary PRESENT DAY: the year 4007.

After thinking about The Telephone Game that small children like to play in kindergarten, think to yourself how accurate, on a literal level, this biography of George Bush would be?

Would you be quoting from this biography like it's ... scripture?


I only mention all this because of two things:

1) James Cameron says he's found the tomb of Jesus, and that Jesus was buried with a woman that JC (as in James Cameron) says was Jesus' wife. He says all the EVIDENCE points in this direction.

2) Equally as silly, that cutie pie little honey on The View (Elisabeth Hasselbeck ), a graduate of Boston College, a Catholic school, showed she knows absolutely nothing about New Testament scholarship when she embarrased herself yesterday on the show by taking a literal and uncritical version of the New Testament events.

"There's so much EVIDENCE to prove that ... in what I have read, that Jesus did indeed resurrect," Elizabeth says in condemning Cameron. "... There's been proof in the Bible: All four accounts of the Gospel. I mean, Paul's account."

She goes on: "You take Luke -- a great historian of the Bible. [huh?] Just the factual information that Jesus appeared after he resurrected to, like, 500 people at a time on all these different occasions."

She continues: "There were two tons of rocks outside the tomb. A Roman guard. If anyone were to move that stone away ... you know they would be crucified upside down for violating Roman law."

Rosie then counters, not quite exactly correct but still with a correct general observation: "Wasn't the Bible written 200 years after the death of Jesus?"

Elisabeth: "I don't know exactly how many years... It may have been published 200 years later," she opines, ignorant of the oral tradition, scroll copying and the Gutenberg printing press, which wasn't developed until 1445, and which left a bunch of scroll copiers (like Brenda and Jenny) looking for work. [I think Brenda wound up starting a blog.]

"The New Testament, the Gospels, were written by people who actually saw what was happening. You know, so they actually saw what was happening and witnessed," Elisabeth concludes.

"That is essentially the cornerstone of the Christian faith -- that he actually did indeed physically rise from the dead.

"There was nothing in that tomb when they opened that tomb," Elisabeth said yesterday on The View, with unshakeable certainty, without a doubt in the world, based on all available evidence.


NOTE: I'm not questioning anyone's faith, but merely saying that one's faith should not be based on ignorance, either. An understanding of textual criticism does not necessarily undermine one's beliefs, but people like Elisabeth have beliefs that are based on woeful and unquestioning ignorance. She defends her beliefs not with a single word -- "faith" -- but by "citing" faulty texts that are full of contradictions. There is no exclusionary criterion that people of faith can't also be people with brains.
What's more: James Cameron is an idiot, but you already knew that, didn't you?


jercwe said...

Just one question: When did you start taking anying Elisabeth says as fact-based? Or for that matter Rosie or Joy or Barbara? Now I'm sorry I got you hooked on those first 30 minutes. Just listen, make fun of their usual ignorance on a plethora of subject matters, and thank God that you are smarter than the four of them combined. That show is entertaining because none of them really know the facts.

sammyray said...

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

mkfreeberg said...

Couple hundred years huh?

By your own logic, Rosie would seem to be a bigger idiot. Which actually seems more a matter of observation and measurement than of opinion.