Bible Bashing Chronicles

I served a two year full time mission for my Church in Switzerland and France.

One thing missionaries do quite often is knock on your door, interrupt your dinner, and tell you that you need God. I understand just how rude and ineffective this is as a method of introducing my beliefs in God, but when you believe it so strongly, you tend to hope that your intrusion will be forgiven if the person who hears the message has their heart changed, and finds God.

One night, I was knocking on doors in Cournon d'Auvergne, which is just outside of Clermont Ferrand. Anyway, my companion and I had found a small apartment building with about 12 apartments inside and begun to knock. Not long after we had prayed for the Lord's guidance we ran into a family of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Now I'll be the first to concede that my faith can look weird from the outside, so I'm not afraid to say so about others as well. I admit it's their faith, and I mean no disrespect, but what looks normal to you looks weird to me, and vice versa. Any Jehovah's Witness readers can correct me, but they believe that God's name is Jehovah. For most Christians out there, whatever their particular brand of faith may be, the Old Testament's written by prophets who spoke in the name of the LORD, which is a way of giving respect to the name of the Almighty since it's not too cool to constantly write 'Jehovah.' So in their Bible, all instances of the LORD are replaced with Jehovah. Us Mormons believe that Jesus of Nazareth is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, and that God (Jesus's Father) is someone else. Most Christians tend toward this, because of Zechariah 12:10, which I'll quote here from the King James Bible:

10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

(Emphasis is mine.) ME, Jehovah, whom they have pierced. I believe this to be a reference to Christ's crucifixion. From this (and other reasons) I believe that Jesus is Jehovah.

From the New World Translation of the Bible from the Watchtower society (linked above):

“And I will pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of favor and entreaties, and they will certainly look to the One whom they pierced through, and they will certainly wail over Him as in the wailing over an only [son]; and there will be a bitter lamentation over him as when there is bitter lamentation over the firstborn [son].

(Again, emphasis is mine.) the One whom they pierced. Starting out with I, as in Jehovah, and changing the one that was pierced from me to the One.

Now I'm no expert in Jehovah's Witness theology, nor do I wish to belittle them. They have the right to believe as they wish, as do I. I just wanted to tell the family whose house I had tracted into that I felt that they had changed the Bible. Again, that's up to them and what they want to do. But as we argued at the doorway over who Jehovah was, Jesus Christ (Us Mormons) or God, (the Jehovah's Witnesses,) I decided to Bible bash and whip out the Bible and compare the two verses. It just so happens that the same discrepancy between who was pierced exists in the Louis Segond translation of the Bible in French.

So I very arrogantly produced my Bible, the very nice lady procured hers, and I tried to take her to this very scripture. I was going to prove to her she was wrong. I think the Lord had something else in mind, most likely to teach me a lesson.

I couldn't remember the reference.

I flipped madly through the pages in Zechariah, searching everywhere. After a few awkward moments, I admitted that I couldn't remember the exact chapter and verse. All credit is due to the Jehovah's Witness lady, she didn't gloat or anything. She just smiled and said "That's ok, that sometimes happens to me too."

So I got shown up. Kudos to the Jehovah's Witnesses for that.

The best part is, when I got home that night, I looked up the verse and found it almost immediately. I was overcome with the feeling that the Lord didn't approve of my attempt to shove my beliefs on someone. I know that was the Spirit of God telling me that.

So I repented, vowed never to fight with Scripture, and I never have.


dienekes said...

Nice story, but a bit winded.

Shaun said...

It's strange how things work out sometimes. As for the LORD part in the KJV, the prophets didn't write that. If I recall correctly, when you go to the more original texts and the Hebrew texts, instead of LORD, you find JHVH or YWEH. This is typical of how the scriptures were actually written, they typically took out the vowels in words as they were recorded. Going through the Bible and finding LORD is actually a work of the scholars under commission of King James.

To me it makes little difference which you use. If you use Jehovah to speak of God, you can't get much more specific nor truthful than that since these are things that He specifically said. You can mix it up with other nouns, such as Lord, God, Saviour (depending on the context), etc., but it all means exactly the same thing.

As for the retranslation, I would be careful about asserting that a critical change was made. In some cases, the newer translations are more accurate because of the advances and discoveries of our time. Not only that, but translation is a messy business since what is said in one language never fully makes it across to another.

Besides, in the KJV, the very same verse switches pronouns on its own. It starts out with the "I" and "me" pronoun, but then it switches to "him" when presumably the speaker is still talking about the same person (himself). When you think about it, this is a very odd thing to do. When I start talking about myself, he doesn't switch to the third person halfway through his sentences. This makes me wonder if "the One" isn't a more accurate translation, but that the translator understood that the verse was really talking about the speaker still (Jesus), and so just used that pronoun and then didn't stay consistant throughout the rest of the passage.

That's another reason "Bible-bashing" just doesn't work. Yes there's the fact that it defeats the whole spirit of the word, but the word itself is not perfect in English. You might just end up arguing on the same side, just using different words or connotations. I think one of the best ways to understand a translated work (short of going to the original and reading it in its native language) is to read a couple different translations. The differences will often show you better what the writer meant rather than what one translator thought the writer meant. This is why I don't understand how people want to take the Bible so strictly literal. It's too prone to misinterpretation.

sixline said...

Ah. My first ever "I don't really agree with you post." It's excitin gand upsetting all in one. :)

I've had a class at school that talked about the translations, and I've also read a book (Misquoting Jesus) that talks a lot about the translational problems that can arise.

The point however, was not that I wish to reassert my opinion, but that the moment I went to show someone up, I think the Spirit of Rememberance left me. I don't think the Spirit is really with you in your endeavours to prove someone else a fool. (Unless you're doing righteous censuring, and my heart wasn't right for that.)

I felt that the post was long winded enough without giving the history of the translation of the Bible. Sorry, I just hate being corrected when I was deliberately being simple. :)

dienekes said...

relax, d00d. i dont think shaun was trying to correct you.

Shaun said...

That's quite fair to say. Since I wasn't certain of your intention, I thought I would take a step back and look at the subject from a more general stance. I guess I was somewhat correcting you, which really wasn't my intention.

My point was to show another reason why trying to use logic to prove/disprove something like that is usually ineffective. Indeed, the Spirit leaves the discussion just about every time it leads to that, but I was asserting if one wanted to, one could step back again and even pick apart the argument you wanted to make. Most "Bible-bashing" arguments fall apart under their own weight quite rapidly, even with the Spirit not supporting the tactic.

So in reality, I think I was agreeing with you. I'm guessing you've since moved away from that earlier argument position and I included the details about the Bible translation and such since it seemed relevant to the points I was making, specifically the use of the pronoun LORD as opposed to JHVH. I just wanted to put my view on the subject out for consideration.

On an unrelated note, have you read any other books by Ehrman? I heard a radio interview with him on NPR quite a while back and I was very impressed. Along with the book you mentioned, I'd also like to read "Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code" and many of his other books. He had some interesting commentary on the role of Mary Magdalene, what we tend to think about her, and what was actually written about her. He also talked about several gnostic works and such that he wrote another book about, "Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament", that I would love to read as well. This does nothing for shortening my reading queue.

sixline said...

Shaun, sorry if it came across as that. I get a little defensive sometimes because I get scared if people don't think I'm as smart as I think I am. :)

I would REALLY like to read more of Ehrman's work. I got a taste for that kind thing when I took my History of Christianity class. In Misquoting Jesus, he references some other works of his that seem to delve into more detail the history of what was selected and what wasn't. Most of the concepts weren't new to me (because of the class) but the knitty gritty details of it were. I find it a bit ironic that none of what he asserts 'shook' me, rather, it just reinforced further my belief that revelation, prophets, and new scripture are always needed.

And yes, Bible bashing doesn't hold its own even when you don't consider the fact that the Spirit leaves. I've commented earlier that I feel we'll never be able to unequivocally prove ANYTHING.

I never suspected malcontent or a better than you attitude on your part, I promise, it was my own shortcomings that I wanted to hedge up. :)

dienekes: well said.

Danny Haszard said...

-A heads up on the Jehovah Witness-

There is no Armageddon that will annihilate 6.5 billion people,and install Watchtower leaders as world rulers.

The core dogma of the Watchtower organization is that Jesus had his second coming 'invisibly' in the year 1914.Their entire doctrinal superstructure is built on this falsehood.

Jehovah's Witnesses door to door recruitment is by their own admission an ineffective tactic. They have lost membership in all countries with major Internet access because their false doctrines and harmful practices are exposed on the modern information superhighway.

There is good and valid reasons why there is such an outrage against the Watchtower for misleading millions of followers.Many have invested everything in the 'imminent' apocalyptic promises of the Jehovah's Witnesses and have died broken and beaten.

Every Jehovah's Witness member will grow old and die just like everyone else.
Danny Haszard Bangor Maine 'expert witness on the Jehovah's Witness'

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