Abdul Rahman to be Released

I posted, a couple days ago, on the situation of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan Christian who was facing the death penalty for his conversion from Islam. CNN is reporting that he will be released “in the coming days.” (Link to follow)

Afghan Christian Faces Death Penalty

In case you haven’t heard, yet, Abdul Rahman, an Afghan man who converted from Islam to Christianity has been arrested and is awaiting trial, at which he faces the possibility of the death penalty. CNN.com has the full story.

This is, obviously, an outrage. While freedom of religion is hardly universal and while other nations routinely persecute Christians and others for their beliefs, Afghanistan has a government the United States helped to create and which the United States is still actively protecting with military force. I’m fairly certain the possibility of people being executed by the new Afghan government for expressing a religious preference other than Islam was not in the minds of any Americans who helped oust the Taliban from power and install the current Afghan government. As Rep. Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, said in a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, “In a country where soldiers from all faiths, including Christianity, are dying in defense of your government, I find it outrageous that Mr. Rahman is being prosecuted and facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity.”

It appears that our own government and the governments of Germany, Italy, and Canada, are expressing the appropriate level of outrage, at this point; let’s pray they keep it up until Mr. Rahman is free to go home.

UPDATE: In an unsurprising move, Muslim clerics in Afghanistan are saying that Rahman must die. If he is freed, some clerics say, the population will kill him (and some of the clerics seem intent on ensuring that outcome).

Thought of the Day

When I am weary with the cost
I see the triumph of the cross
So in its shadow I will run
Till He completes the work begun.

One day all things will be made new
I’ll see the hope you called me to
And in your kingdom paved with gold
I’ll praise your faithfulness of old.

– Keith and Kristyn Getty, When Trials Come

Holy Trinity Church

I visited the Hyde Park location of Holy Trinity Church, today. I figured that any church holding services in a chapel at a synagogue has got to be interesting. I really liked it. It really made me think, and provided a lot of what I’m looking for in a church home.

Skepticism and Faith

I was a Religious Studies major as an undergraduate. I loved my field and my department, and I would not change my major, if I could go back to that time. I have to say, though, that a major like RELI makes it very hard to take any group – religious or otherwise – at its word. This is especially challenging if one is a person of faith and is looking for a local congregation, be it church, synagogue, mosque, or something else. I am probably the most skeptical of the non-liberal Christians I know; I’ve seen friends get involved (and stay involved) with very scary religious groups, so I find myself taking everything any group says with a grain of salt. Oh, to live in simpler times…

Trying to Find a Church

I’m looking for a good church, preferrably not an incredible distance from my apartment. If anyone knows of a good one in Hyde Park, please let me know.

Oh, and if anyone can explain to me why, in broad terms, “theological diversity” in a single congregation that is supposedly committed to certain core beliefs is worthy of celebration, please let me know that, too.

Harry Potter, Parents, the Media, and the Lunatic Fringe(s)

“Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.” (German: “Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.”) — Heinrich Heine, from his play Almansor (1821)

I saw a report on CNN Headline News, earlier, about the (midnight, last night) release of the latest Harry Potter novel. Forget for a moment that 300,000 Britons felt the need to hang around British bookstores in the middle of the night to buy a supposed children’s book at the earliest possible instant; what bothers me is how the debate over the value of these books is carried on.

Continue reading “Harry Potter, Parents, the Media, and the Lunatic Fringe(s)”

Updates, and Merry Christmas!

All my applications – a whopping 15 total, since I’m applying to do a J.D. and Ph.D. simultaneously, where possible – have been submitted, and I actually received my first acceptance letter, today, to Vanderbilt Law School. That was encouraging.

In other news, if you haven’t caught the flu, yet, by all means, get a flu shot. I came down with it last Wednesday, and it has made me as sick as I’ve ever been. At least, I think it’s the flu – I was diagnosed as having pharyngitis (an inflammation of the pharynx, part of the throat), which can result from viral or bacterial infections; since I was around a guy with the flu in West Virginia for four days, I’m betting it’s the flu. Whatever it is, it’s lousy.

In any case, I hope everybody reading this has or had a wonderful, Merry Christmas, and that you were able to celebrate the real reason for Christmas cheer, today. Merry Christmas, and God bless.

Open letter to the Bible Gateway

I would like to encourage you to reconsider your description of Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” at http://bible.gospelcom.net/languages/index.php?language=english&version=MSG . Far from capturing the “subtle connotations of meaning that are often lost in English translations,” The Message often exchanges these connotations for something totally different. Theological concepts are omitted, sin is downplayed – particularly by omitting reference to certain sins – and important themes are replaced with interpretations often covering far less ground.

Your review says, “The original books of the Bible were not written in formal language.” Certainly, many portions of Scripture were written in everyday speech, but others – particularly the epistles – used extremely specific and often slightly obscure language. The reason was simple: words were needed to convey complex ideas efficiently. Peterson fails utterly to convey the theological depth of the Bible by omitting “difficult” or “inaccessible” words.

Please reconsider this review. While your site is generally excellent, I feel that your favorable view of The Message risks gravely misleading many of God’s children.

Ed Cottrell

A question about Bible “versions”

The following is my reply to an email sent by a visitor to my website, asking for an explanation of the different Bible “versions.” Please remember that this is only an overview of the topic and is written for one evangelical Christian, by another.

Dear [name withheld],

Thank you for your question. I will try to answer it without getting too detailed. The main thing to remember is that the “versions” are actually translations, not different versions of the Bible, itself. That is, each “version” is just a translation from early manuscripts in the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek in the Old Testament; Greek only in the New Testament).

Most of the differences between “versions” come from differences in translation. For example, the Hebrew word “wayomer” might be translated “saying” (King James), “and he said” (NIV), or just as a quotation mark, or not at all. Sometimes words or phrases have no direct translation into English, so translators approximate.

Other differences come from the priority given to different manuscripts. For example, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint, is used heavily in some translations and not at all in others. This is like playing “telephone” – by the time the Greek translation of the rabbis from Hebrew gets translated to English, the differences become noticeable.

Generally, though, all the different manuscripts – there are about 6,000 total – agree very well, with most differences occurring in spelling (for example, “R” and “D” look nearly identical in Hebrew, so you might see notes about this in your Bible). When they do differ significantly, as at the end of Mark, for example, most versions will have footnotes about it, to tell you where the differences are. The introductory pages to your Bible will also have a list of abbreviations. If you look there, you will find for example that “LXX” refers to the Septuagint, the important Greek translation I mentioned.

The major versions in use in America are the King James (KJV, also called the Authorized Version), New King James (NKJV), New International Version (NIV), New American Standard Bible (NASB or NAS, sometimes NASV), American Standard Bible (ASB, sometimes ASV). There are also some “paraphrases” – these are not real translations, but summaries of Scripture. These include “The Message” and “Oxford’s Inclusive Language Version.” They may leave out whole passages or phrases, and usually boil the text down to one interpretation, so they are not recommended for serious Bible study, as you miss what the text is really saying. There are, of course, many other translations into other languages. Some of these are actually based on Cherokee! This is what Wycliffe Bible Translators do, as it makes a fast and consistent first translation into a new language much easier; future translations are often based on the original languages.

I am not aware of a version officially called the New Age Version, although I have heard various versions called that (usually derogatorily).

There are other translations out there, produced by the Catholics (the Catholic Bible with Apocrypha, The Jerusalem Bible), the Jewish Publication Society (The New JPS Translation Tanakh), independent publishers, and various cults and spin-off religions. The main thing you need to know about these are that the Catholic Bible includes something called the Apocrypha – these are books and parts of books written between the end of the Old Testament and the birth of Christ. They range from legendary to historical; some of the historical portions are correct and useful, but the Reformers (especially Martin Luther) rejected these books as not inspired. They are interesting to read, but not very useful for theology and should not be treated as Scripture.

The New JPS Translation Tanakh, of course, does not include the New Testament, since it is published by a Jewish organization. (Note: the Jerusalem Bible published by Doubleday does include the New Testament, as it is a Catholic translation. An earlier version of this document refered to another edition by the same name and was misleading.)

One final thing: you may hear references to the “Hebrew Bible” – this simply means our Old Testament.

I hope that helps. You can find a lot more information at http://www.gospelcom.net/ibs/bibles/translations/index.php. Please let me know if you have any other questions!

God bless,
Ed Cottrell