Thursday, January 3, 2013

Misquoting Jesus

That's the title of a book I read yesterday.  I thought it was a pretty catchy title for a book about Biblical Criticism (the scientific process of arriving at the most reliable texts from which to base an English translation of the Bible).  It's a fantastic book.  But the thing that interested me was something on page 187:

"How did Christianity move so quickly from being a Jewish sect to being an anti-Jewish religion?  This is a difficult question, and to provide a satisfying answer would require a book of its own. [footnote 7]"

And so, seeing that there was a footnote, I raced to the back of the book and found this:

"7.  For two standard treatments in the field, see Rosemary Ruether, Faith and Fratricide:  The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism (New York:  Seabury, 1974), and John Gager, The Origins of Anti-Semitism:  Attitudes Toward Judaism in Pagan and Christian Antiquity (New York:  Oxford Univ. Press, 1983).  A more recent study is Miriam Taylor's Anti Judaism and Early Christian Identity: A Critique of the Scholarly Consensus (Leiden: Brill, 1995)."

And so I'm on the hunt right now!  Yes, I'm an uber-nerd.  Today I'm going to look all over town for these books.  When I have them, I'll devour them and write up some review posts for you to enjoy!

I should probably explain why I'm interested in such books so you don't think I'm totally nuts.

We don't have the original texts for the Bible (clearly).  The process of textual criticism has been evolving for two thousand years.  It used to be horrendous.  For example, when the King James Version was written, they had a paltry selection of texts to work with--texts that were not very early at all!  But now we've discovered like 1,500 or so really ancient Greek texts.  Some are amazingly accurate witnesses to the original manuscripts (e.g. Sinaiticus and Vaticanus).

Why is this so great for textual criticism?  Well, the more reliable data we have, the more accurate our results will be.  It's a fact that early Scribes wrote in a lot of anti-Judaic additions to the text.  Now is the appointed time that HaShem has allowed us to go back and pinpoint where those non-original, scribal additions are, to find the best representation of the original by using the oldest and most reliable manuscripts.

Hmm....is it possible that we could now be in a position to piece together the most reliable, most pro-Judaic version of the early manuscript witnesses that has ever been done?  What an exciting time in which we live!

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