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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Friday, April 1, 2011

Literacy

There is what you say and then there is how you say it. Similarly, there is what you read, and the way you understand it. Consider the following four ways of expressing the same verse from Genesis 12:5.

NRSV
Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother's son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan.

Inspired Version
And Abram took Sarai, his wife, and Lot, his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

The Message
Abram took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot with him, along with all the possessions and people they had gotten in Haran, and set out for the land of Canaan and arrived safe and sound.

The Living Bible
He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth--the cattle and slaves he had gotten in Haran--and finally arrived in Canaan.

Isn’t it interesting that here we have four ways of saying the same thing, and four expressions to describe a certain group of people:
persons whom they had acquired in Haran,
souls they had gotten in Haran,
people they had gotten in Haran,
slaves he had gotten in Haran.

I actually checked 10 different versions of the Bible in preparing this blog, and The Living Bible was the only one that was prepared to use the word slaves in the text. (To be fair, the New American Bible adds the following definition of “Persons” in a footnote: “Persons: slaves and retainers that formed the social aggregate under the leadership of Abraham;”, so I suppose we could say that two versions acknowledged this truth.)

The point here is not that the various versions are trying to hide anything. The point is not that Abram apparently began his great adventure with a trip to the slave markets in Haran, nor is it that God’s chosen man of the hour was some horrible person because he was a slave-master. Slavery was a sad reality throughout all the periods of history touched on in the Bible. The point is that almost all the various versions of the Bible gloss over or do not point out this fact, and it is very easy to miss. It is an argument for biblical literacy; an informed and educated approach to understanding what the Bible is really saying. It also makes a case for using more than one version of scripture when we read.

Just in case anyone is now thinking, “Well I am not a trained Biblical scholar, so I guess I just won’t bother to read it at all”, let me hasten to add that becoming biblically literate is a life long process. It is also an enjoyable adventure; a delightful quest of discovery and a growing relationship with a text that has inspired millions of people for millennia. It is part of our faith journey; our soul-filling quest for and adventure with the God of life and love.

Here’s to reading the Bible again, whether for the first or fiftieth time.

Posted by Carman

2 comments:

  1. I appreciate you pointing out things like this. I also defiantly concur that becoming biblically literate is a life long process as the more I read, the more I realize I have alot more to learn. I also recommend to everyone to check out "The Amplified Bible" it has helped me understand alot more than the KJV on its own.

    Also for those of you with Blackberry's and smart phones you can also download the bible with multiple versions free right to your phone and you always have a bible with you.

    Again thank you Carman and God Bless all of you

    Stephen Charlton
    canadawalrus@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Stephen, I am glad you found the post helpful. We are always gratified to hear from readers who feel the blog has touched them in some way. Thanks for the suggestion about downloading the Bible to our phones.

    Keep reading!

    ReplyDelete