|« Slavery and the Bible||Quick poll »|
Here's a thought experiment. What would happen if some authoritative Christian body, such as the Episcopal Church, came out with a new version of the Bible with the worst of the bad stuff removed? There would be some backlash, of course. But what if the redactions were limited to a short list of indefensible verses? Let's say the new version left out Leviticus 25:44-46. Would Christians protest this new version? Would they fight to have the slavery-condoning verses included? If you are a Christian, would you refuse to use a Bible that excluded those verses?
I have follow-up questions, but I would like to see what people think about the initial question before I bring them out.
I don’t think anybody would react favorably.
The folks who think the Bible is the holy and perfect word of God would obviously object loudly.
But I think people who see the Bible as a historical document, as a set of human-written spiritual insights, or as a combination of the two, would not want to see any of it taken out either. For these people the “bad stuff” is easily understood in a cultural context, and is an important part of history.
I recently finished reading a translation of Psalms by Robert Alter that looks at the book in a purely historical and cultural light. Even he shows a great unwillingness to alter (sorry, I couldn’t resist) the received text, even in cases where he said there were clear scribal errors. He occasionally “fixes” such minor mistakes as a single miscopied letter, but otherwise he wants his translation to reflect the message and content of the Hebrew text as it has been used by Jews and Christians for thousands of years, not necessarily as the original writers (or God, if that’s your view) may have intended.
I think I prefer it this way too.
Depends on how you package the product. Biblester would probably not work as adding “ster” is pretty much played out. “Bible 2.0 - web enabled social thumpery” would probably do real good because people dig on anything with a “two oh” in it. Specially if you gots a cool tagline. Or even better, take it from the public domain and give it a new name so you can copyright protect it and bank the proceeds from those willing to say “hell yeah this is the truthiest truth out there". Maybe call it … I dunno … “E-bible 2.2″. Yeah that’d rock: an “e” for no reason at all and .2 better than 2.0. Totally awesome. Instant gazillionaire.
Didn’t something like this go down when the Catholic Church decided using a dead language was stupid? Didn’t the “faithful” have a hissy fit because they wanted their sessions to be unintelligible to any living human? And then each time the Pope Dude does the … what do you call it when they have a big todo over what the deal is … ? When they decide that yeah okay so some stuff is different now but hey we gotta keep most everything the same so here’s some change that people can have a hissy fit about even though nothing’s really gonna change and young boys just gotta man up and shut up? Every 10 or 12 years it happens. Damn but I can’t recall the term for it. Oh well. At any rate I’d guess the same thing would happen with a ‘modernized’ version: total freak out by those more into the habits of procedure than that which is actually available to anyone willing to think through a belief system.
Because you say you have a follow up question, I’m reminded of the, “What if I get hit in the head and need a chip implanted in my brain. Does that make me a robot?” path.
I don’t know how anyone can answer how all Christians would react. How would all African Americans or all sci-fi geeks react?
I probably wouldn’t care much. Unless I was trying to look up those verses. Then I’d just be frustrated.
I think my answer is still the same.
The presence of outdated ideas in religious texts is only a problem when people insist on only interpreting those texts literally.
The way to solve that is to get people to develop a more well-rounded view of scripture, not to just get rid of the offending passages.
I realize this isn’t exactly the point of your experiment, but I’ve actually always found it surprising and admirable that the church has, as a whole, rarely tried anything like this, even when it would seemingly have served its purposes (Jesus’s predicting the apocalypse within a generation, for instance, is transmitted in most manuscripts). Course, we don’t know exactly what did disappear along the way (the ending of Mark comes to mind), but enough stuff was left in that could have been quietly excised.