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Nominal Me

I'm falling in love with my camera and taking photos everywhere I go. That, combined with my passions for politics, sports, religion and other things we all agree on, makes this blog persist.

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Location: Astoria, New York, United States

I'm born in Manhattan and raised in Queens.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Ink & Blood in St. Petersburg, FL (Part III)

In my previous posts on Ink & Blood at the Florida International Museum, I showed the exhibits wonderful examples of early Jewish texts, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the early formation of the New Testament and Christian Bibles. These works were all done by hand.


The Gutenberg Bible, dated 1433-5, was the first Bible to be "mass produced" using moveable type. There was no major advancement in translation or text, just in production, as it is a print of the Latin Vulgate. However, the existence of printed Bibles forever changed the economics of Bible reading and made the Protestant reformation possible.

At the museum, a replica of the Gutenberg press is on display with demonstrations given on how it worked. On the top right, you can see how the books were shipped on Amazon.com.

Just kidding about that.

In the West, there was a great amount of tension between the Catholic church, who demanded that Bibles remain written only in Latin, and those who wanted more accessible languages used. Eventually, Martin Luther helped start a protestant reformation and translated the New Testament into German, his home language. This version comes from a 1551 copy.

The water was spilling out of the dam. Once people began reading the Bible for themselves, the next step was to be able to interpret it.

A foundation of textual criticism came from Novum Instrumentum ("New Instrument"), the work of Desiderius Erasmus (above), who created a Greek-Latin version of the New Testament (a 1522 copy is above). His work brought Greek, the original language of the New Testament, back to the West. It also encouraged Christians to seek earlier drafts of Biblical text than the Latin Vulgate for translation purposes.

This implied that it was possible for the Latin Vulgate to be wrong on some parts of its translation, and therefore an imperfect document to base religious teachings from. Needless to say, the Catholic church was not happy again.

Adding to the vernacular translation trend was Tyndale's New Testament (the version above coming from 1536, the year William Tyndale was burned at the stake).

Tyndale saw the Roman church as oppressive, and beloved the common person needed a Bible in a language they could understand. He translated Erasmus' 3rd edition (1522) Greek-Latin New Testament into English, but could not get away with printing it in England. The books, printed elsewhere, were smuggled into England in bales of cloth and sacks of flour.

His 1534 translation was so accurate that 90 years later the King James translators would use more than 75% of its exact wording, and it was used as a standard for translations for at least three centuries.

Yet until the publication of the Coverdale Bible (this copy from 1535), created by Miles Coverdale, no complete Bible had ever been printed in English. This was another major step in allowing the church to evolve into a structure that would allow people like me to read it and completely take it out of context in my own way.

The Geneva Bible (1557) was another advancement in Biblical scholarship and the first to be printed in Roman type, which is often still used today. It also added verse divisions (the "16" in John 3:16), and it was the first Bible to be completely translated from its original languages. It was the favorite Bible of Shakespeare (his plays often quote this version) and with the Puritans it was the first Bible to settle in America.

The invention of verses made it possible for people to ignore the whole of the Bible in favor of it's parts, allowing people like me to overlook 90% of it in favor of my theology.

It also enabled guys to show up at sporting events with John 3:16 signs.

The most well-known Bible in the world, the King James Bible (1611) was on display. Even though it's named after King James, he never authorized the project. Today, this "Holy Bible" is the most printed book in history. Thy must read it, if though hath not thou shall.

In 1631, a "Wicked Bible" was created. The word "not" was omitted (some feel deliberately) from the one of the ten Commandments, creating God's instruction that stated "Thou shalt commit adultery." Hundreds of years later, this would be Bill Clinton's favorite family Bible.

The Aitken Bible(1782), printed in Philadelphia, PA, was the last Bible on display. On September 10th, 1782, the new United States Congress made a proclamation praising it. So much for the wall between church and state. By then, most of the major controversies about Biblical texts had abated, leaving only minor debates about translation details (is the NRSV better than the NIV?).

Lately though, no one has been burned at the stake. So read what you would like.

Or as many of you will, not read at all (like a good 5th Century Catholic).

This Lamp's review of Ink & Blood

Ferrell Jenkins' review of Ink & Blood

Bible translations in English.


Blogger LeesMyth said...

I always liked the "Vinegar Bible" - it was published in 1717 or so, and featured the "Parable of the Vinegar" in Luke 20 due to a printer's error.

Sunday, 05 March, 2006  

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