Saturday, November 29, 2008

Center of the Bible?

King James Bible
Divinely Inspired Translation?
(Image from Wikipedia)

Recently, a friend forwarded to me an email with a message and a prayer that might be called a chain-letter prayer (for one is supposed to email ten more people). I liked the stunning images of nature, and also the accompanying music borrowed from Irish musician Enya, but felt a bit skeptical about some of the claims.

What did the message claim?
That Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible. That Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. That 1188 chapters make up the Bible. That Psalm 118 is the middle chapter of the Bible. That Psalm 118:8 is the middle verse of the Bible.
What does that exact verse state?
"It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in men."
I thought that these coincidences sounded too good to be true, so I asked my friend about it, and she told me that she actually "thought the exact verse idea was kind of hoaky." I checked into the matter and then reported to my friend:
Yeah, it is kind of hoaky -- and too good to be true . . . so, it isn't.

Psalm 118 is not the middle chapter of the Bible; Psalm 117 is, for the Bible has 1189 chapters in all, and Psalm 117 is number 595.

Psalm 118 also does not contain the middle verse of the Bible. If we're using the King James Version, which has an even number of verses, at 31,102, then the two middle verses are Psalm 103:1-2.

That's what Wikipedia says, at any rate.

I [had been] . . . skeptical, so I searched the internet . . . though I'm usually also skeptical of Wikipedia. But there's more here, and it looks valid.

Of course, we could also ask why the King James Version is used. Is it supposed to be a sacred translation? And why use a translation? Why not the original? And which 'original'? With or without the Apocrypha? But originally, there were no chapters or verses -- these were added in the 8th or 9th centuries AD by the Jewish Masoretes.

I could go on and on . . . but I won't, and you will bless me for that.
As will my faithful readers -- and I am thankful for all my blessings.

As for the music and images, I've searched the internet for what I received by email, though without success. The same message but with less impressive images and utterly unimpressive music can be endured on You Tube.

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At 7:57 AM, Anonymous Christopher said...

You asked about the King James Version: ".....Is it supposed to be a sacred translation.....?

I assume you are wondering why the King James Version of the bible is arguably the most popular?

Maybe because it is the version which most English-speaking Christians were brought up on?

I'm led to understand that the modern English versions of the Bible are more true to the Greek versions from which the King James was translated. Despite this, and speaking only for myself, the King James will always be the only one because of the beauty of its language, because of its literary quality.

The modern English versions are like Shakespeare in modern English. I mean, who wants to read Shakespeare in modern English?!!!

At 8:11 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Christopher, thanks for the comment.

Actually, that was more of a rhetorical than real question. Some people do believe that the KJV translation was divinely guided (and there's even a legend about this that is remarkably similar to the legend about the Septuagint translation).

I, myself, grew up with the KJV and still prefer it because it sounds 'sacred' to my ears. Also, for the verses that I have memorized, I've them memorized in KJV English.

The KJV is a 'literal' translation, attempting to be word-for-word, so it was 'true' to the Greek manuscripts that it used, but many modern translations are more accurate.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a story, probably just a legend, about a new preacher coming to his first church. He carried one of the newest versions.
Visiting an elderly lady, he asked if he could read something. She gave consent. After he finished reading from the new version, the lady said, "Thank you kindly, young would you read me something from the Word of God."
I have several versions, but have used the King James so long that it will always be the one I use.

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, I've heard similar stories -- and even wilder tales of folks who figured that if King James English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for them.

Nothing quite so wild as your tales, of course...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:31 PM, Blogger writtenwyrdd said...

There are some odd versions of the bible out there. But King James version has never been touted as a divine translation from the Greek, so far as I know. Just popular, probably because it was put into Middle English, in the popular Also, wasn't it the first translation into English?

Not being christian nor raised so, I find this focusing on irrelevancies by the religious to be unfathomable. It's missing the point, which would be what Jesus said, I'd presume...

At 4:32 PM, Blogger writtenwyrdd said...

That should have said, "in the popular vernacular". Sheesh, seems like every time I post on your blog I leave a word out.

At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Charles said...

This could really open up a can of worms about the translation of sacred texts, something which I haven't really looked into much but which I've always found fascinating. I grew up memorizing the KJV, but the version is practically non-existent in Korea, so now I generally use the NIV.

Personally, I think it is a bit foolish to think that one single translation is the embodiment of the sacred text and there can be no other embodiments. Language changes, and thus so should translations. I agree that the KJV does sound more literary, and if you like it for that, more power to you. But I will heartily disagree with anyone who thinks the KJV is the only "true" translation.

(If I can briefly address writtenwyrdd's comments... the KJV was actually written in Early Modern English, not Middle English. ME was what Chaucer wrote (for example). Also, the KJV was not the first English translation of the Bible. That would be the Wycliffe translation.)

At 5:32 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

WW, there are some who argue that the KJV was divinely translated, and there are many more who consider it the only valid translation.

As for me, I prefer to check several translations, along with the Greek and Hebrew, but the KJV always sounds good to my ear.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:33 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Good to see you here on this entry, too, Charles.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:33 PM, Blogger writtenwyrdd said...

Ah, scuze my forgetfulness, Charles. I studied English language development 25 years ago and should have double checked myself.

There are bibles out there with four different versions side by side, and that makes for interesting comparative reading.

At 7:48 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

WW, I've got a copy of The Complete Parallel Bible, which has four translations!

I rarely consult it, however.

But I do wonder what the exact center would be for the Bibles of the various Christian traditions. Perhaps the one with the most significant center is the one true faith.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:56 AM, Blogger writtenwyrdd said...

Hah! That's as fine an arbitrary criteria as any I've ever heard.

At 4:49 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Why, thank you, WW! I specialize in formulating fine, if arbitrary criteria.

Jeffery Hodges

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