Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Apocrypha

The Apocrypha

This definition of the word is taken from Wikipedia:
Apocrypha are works, usually written works, that are of unknown authorship, or of doubtful authenticity, or spurious, or not considered to be within a particular canon. The word is properly treated as a plural, but in common usage is often singular.In the context of the Jewish and Christian Bibles, where most texts are of unknown authorship, Apocrypha usually refers to a set of texts included in the Septuagint but not in the Hebrew Bible.
The word's origin is the Medieval Latin adjective apocryphus, "secret, or non-canonical", from the Greek adjective ἀπόκρυφος (apokryphos), "obscure", from the verb ἀποκρύπτειν (apokryptein), "to hide away”. 
In other words, for the context of this brief essay, it means “the set of books not included in the Bible, and deemed to be “not-inspired by God” or “heretical”, or, as claimed by Martin Luther, they are not be be regarded as equal to the “holy scriptures”, but still worth reading.
 King James Bible online gives the following definition:
The apocrypha is a selection of books which were published in the original 1611 King James Bible. These apocryphal books were positioned between the Old and New Testament (it also contained maps and geneologies). The apocrypha was a part of the KJV for 274 years until being removed in 1885 A.D. A portion of these books were called deuterocanonical books by some entities, such as the Catholic church.
 Many claim the apocrypha should never have been included in the first place, raising doubt about its validity and believing it was not God-inspired (for instance, a reference about magic seems inconsistent with the rest of the Bible: Tobit chapter 6, verses 5-8). Others believe it is valid and that it should never have been removed- that it was considered part of the Bible for nearly 2,000 years before it was recently removed a little more than 100 years ago. 
These books…

1 Edras
2 Edra
Additions to Esther
Wisdom of Solomon
Letter of Jeremiah
Prayer of Azariah
Bel and the Dragon
1 Maccabees
2 Maccabees

…give extra insight into the minds of the people who wrote the Bible, I agree they are worth reading, and I intend to do that, and to make an analysis of them from that reading.
For the purposes of this short essay, however, it is necessary to point out that the Bible we use today, the version that is handed out by the Gideons, and that is freely available for purchase in book stores, does not contain everything written in the last century before the current era (BCE), and the first two centuries of our dating system (CE). 
Our religious teachers would have us believe that the “Holy Bible” is the complete work of identified writers, i.e. writers identified by the people who are behind the support of Judeo-Christian religion, and that it is the “inspired” work of God. In other words, the writers were merely tools in the hands of the deity who spoke to them, telling them to write his words.
Looking at how different religions compile their various handouts, one can see that if this work were truly “inspired” then it wouldn’t contain contradictions, and it also would be complete, which it isn’t. For instance the Hebrew Bible does not contain the New Testament. The reason for this is that Jewish religion does not support Jesus and his story as valid, therefore they deem him merely a “prophet” and not the Messiah, although some Jewish people admit that Christianity is based on Judaism.
The pages of the New Testament clearly follow the framework of Judaism. The first four books, the gospels, addressed a Jewish audience. They echoed the pattern of historical narratives interspersed with instruction found in the Torah. "The controversies between Jesus and the Scribes/Pharisees have no referent outside the community of Israel; Jesus' preaching of the coming kingdom could have had meaning only for Jews; the synagogues in which Jesus reads from the prophets, heals the sick, and forgives sins are Jewish houses of worship for believing Jews and not unconverted gentiles.…"7 The Jewish festivals that are celebrated throughout the pages of the New Testament were not feasts of interest to the gentiles but were part of the daily life of the Jewish people.
To explain further about the exclusion of some books from the “Holy Bible” I quote from the page on “The Old Testament Canon and Apocrypha” on the Bible Research website:
The extra books which were eventually received as Scripture in the Greek Orthodox church and those received in the Roman Catholic church do not correspond exactly to the list of books commonly called "Apocrypha" by Protestants. The Protestant Apocrypha includes all of the books normally included in manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate. But three of these (1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh) were omitted from the list published by the Council of Trent when it fixed the Roman Catholic canon. (Apparently these omissions were unintentional. The "Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures" specified that the books were to be recieved "as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate.") The Eastern Orthodox churches (including the Greek, the Russian, the Ukrainian, the Bulgarian, the Serbian, the Armenian, and others) do not receive 2 Esdras because it was not in the Septuagint, and they receive some books which were present in many manuscripts of the Septuagint but not in the Vulgate (Psalm 151, 3 and 4 Maccabees).
(For a full list of the books contained in the various versions of Judaeo-Christian religion, see the lists and summaries contained here.

In conclusion therefore, the Bible I have been reading in my attempt to understand the belief in God, and that has been the subject of almost seven years of study, is not the complete text written for the purposes of conveying the idea of the single-creator, all-powerful, all-knowing deity known as “God”. It is merely a selection of works, chosen perhaps as a summary of all the works. I doubt that the original compilers believed that their compilation would remain the best-selling book in the history of the world’s book, several hundred years after their assembly.

Or perhaps Christians of the middle second millennium CE truly believed that Jesus would return to rapture humans to heaven, before they became clever enough to create technology that would allow even an ordinary person, like myself, to discover what I deem to be a misrepresentation.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Book of Genesis

Having completed the overview of the entire King James Version of the “Holy Bible”, I have embarked on a verse-by-verse analysis of each of the books in the anthology.

The Book of Genesis, as most people are aware, deals with the origins of the Jewish people, and through their descendants, claims that all people are descended through the lines of the children of Noah. 

Through the genealogies in the endless chapters of “begats”, it adds up the years of the lives of these patriarchs precisely to fit the run up to the arrival of the twelve tribes of Israel in the middle of the second millennium BCE, and leads up to the death of Joseph.

It explains how Abraham travelled to Egypt, supposedly to find food in a famine, but in reality to collect a handmaid for his wife, Sarah, a woman named Hagar, who was to become the mother of the Arab people through her son, Ishmael, whose own offspring interbred with the grandson of Abraham, Esau, to cement the relationship between the people of the Near East.

There are threads that run throughout the narrative: the number forty for instance, and the sibling rivalry in each generation, with a dubious contender always winning out to become the next in the line that runs from Adam to Jesus.

Abraham, for example, marries his half-sister, then, twice, sells her to collect wealth in the form of livestock. He is also prepared to slaughter his son because his god asks this of him, in blind obedience, having faith that God will find a way to fulfil his promise of Abraham’s seed being as grains of sand. 

The story of Joseph and his abduction after the horrible tale of the slaughter of the men of Shechem, and then later in Egypt learning that he has another brother, but that his mother died in giving birth to him, continues through the games he plays with his brothers in order for them to agree to bring his father, and young brother to him in Egypt.

There’s the one about Lot escaping from Sodom, and how he fathered two sons on his own daughters, who became the forefathers of the Moabites and the Ammonites.

The story of Joseph’s dream interpretations appear to be a rehash of the story of Daniel interpreting dreams in Babylon, which makes the whole saga of the Hebrews in Egypt a myth based on their experience as hostages to that nation, in the first millennium BCE.

In all, my impression of Genesis is that it is the most detailed mythology of any people that has survived into modern times. It reads like any other mythology, but what I find most impressive is the amount of detail, and the complex way characters are woven into the stories in order to place them in their position in the genealogy lines. It is also interesting how dates are calculated exactly so that events fit into the appropriate position in world history, even though lifespans are exaggerated to make the fit work. 

Given that the stories were handed down by oral tradition, until they were written down and compiled into a single “book”, the story-telling is fairly advanced. Considering the level, or lack, of education of the average person. It shows fairly high-level reasoning ability in the writers, something one would not expect from people who lived when writing was still being fine-tuned. 

The book ends with the death of Joseph, leading into the story of Moses, and the exodus from Egypt. More on that in my next post.

Rationalising the Bible - Book 1 is in the final stages of editing, it will be available as an e-book early in 2016.

Book 2 - The Book of Genesis, is in the first stages of editing, essays detailing some of the subjects in the book, will be published online, the book itself will be available as an ebook later in 2016.