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Author Topic:   A Few Things about Writing
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Message 1 of 6 (888583)
09-21-2021 8:28 PM

Even though you may not believe that the Bible is the Word of God, do you at least admire the rhetorical qualities of the King James Bible? Almost every rhetorical device is found in it, along with many rhetorical structures, not to mention its matchless cadences. Do you believe that there is anything we can learn about writing from the Bible?

I've been trying to learn a lot of rhetoric but I've been having trouble.

The most challenging thing for me in writing is invention; I often experience severe mental blocks which make it difficult for me. I seem to have discovered some strategies to overcome it, but I have yet to use them for any actual piece yet. One thing I thought of is to pick a noun, ask a question about it, and then turn it into a statement. I'm not sure if I read that advice in a book or not, but there are a number of things like that I can do to start the process of invention when I don't already have an idea.

Replies to this message:
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Posts: 6083
From: Phoenix
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Member Rating: 4.4

Message 2 of 6 (888585)
09-21-2021 11:06 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Christian7
09-21-2021 8:28 PM

I know the bible is your baby and from your god thus has to be perfect in every way, but Christian7, your bible, your king james, is not Shakespeare. I don’t know all that much about this subject but from a rather cursory search I’m finding quite a few bibliophiles that think its crap. You might want to rethink that issue.

As for writing, you have exceeded your goal of successful communication as your present missive elucidates, which is my overly stylistic way of saying your last message was written very well. Don’t worry about style. It is not style you really need to develop but your voice. Your natural inner voice.

No, I am not a believer but by way of flowery analogy, Christian7, you need to write from your soul. That takes a lot of years and a lot of practice. You think you know yourself? Not yet. Let that critter out, don’t force a style on him, let him jabber on in twice daily, thrice daily exercises (the one you cite would be beautiful) and soon you will have developed a style all your own.

Unfortunately, like with me, you may not be totally enthralled with the emergent property that develops but at least you’ll know you a lot better. Good luck.

And don’t fret over mental blocks. They are common, necessary, painful. Your muse trifling with your emotions avoids your attentions. But, the more often she hears your voice the more often she comes to whisper in your ear.

Edited by AZPaul3, : No reason given.

Eschew obfuscation. Habituate elucidation.

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Message 3 of 6 (888586)
09-22-2021 12:51 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Christian7
09-21-2021 8:28 PM

The KJV is also not the best or most accurate translation and it’s archaic language can be another barrier to understanding.

Whatever its literary merits it is not the best translation to use in discussions about the Bible - it’s one of the worst.

And trying to use the KJV as a literary model got us the Book of Mormon. Which is not a masterpiece of literature by any standards.

The most challenging thing for me in writing is invention

You seem to have no problem making things up. Which you should not be doing in discussions here.

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Joined: 12-30-2003

Message 4 of 6 (888587)
09-22-2021 3:02 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by PaulK
09-22-2021 12:51 AM

in my experience, the best translations are NKJV, ESV, and the Amplified Bible. I also sometimes use Strongs for clarity of word meaning

Edited by Phat, : No reason given.

"A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." ~Mark Twain "
“…far from science having buried God, not only do the results of science point towards his existence, but the scientific enterprise itself is validated by his existence.”- Dr.John Lennox

“The whole war between the atheist and the theist comes down to this: the atheist believes a 'what' created the universe; the theist believes a 'who' created the universe.”
- Criss Jami, Killo

“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.” — Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You

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Message 5 of 6 (888598)
09-22-2021 5:55 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by PaulK
09-22-2021 12:51 AM

The KJV is also not the best or most accurate translation and it’s archaic language can be another barrier to understanding.

From what I've read about the KJV, it was also created for largely political reasons.

King James I of England (AKA King James VI of Scotland) subscribed to The Divine Right of Kings and was used to ruling practically absolutely in Scotland, so he was not used to having less power in England. The then-current Protestant, the Geneva Bible, was a bit too egalitarian for his taste, so he commissioned a new translation which would give more emphasis to The Divine Right of Kings. That new Authorized Version came to be known as The King James Version.

BTW, his son and heir, King Charles I, shared his father's love of divinely ordained royal supremacy (AKA "The Divine Right of Kings") and tried to expand his royal power, which led to the English Civil War between him and Parliament, which in turn led to his capture, trial and conviction for treason, and execution.

Whatever its literary merits it is not the best translation to use in discussions about the Bible - it’s one of the worst.

As a foreign language student, I apparently have a different view of translation than monoglots do. My impression of monoglots is that they assume that translation is merely a matter of substituting words. In reality, different languages involve different ways of thinking.

The process of translation is therefore one of determining what the source language is saying and then expressing the same ideas and information in the target language. That means that a very necessary first step in translation is to interpret the source text. As a result, every translation is expressing your own interpretation of the source. Even though professional translators have methods that try to mitigate the effects of personal interpretation, the fact remains that the act of translation is still an act of interpretation.

So when you read the KJV (or any translation of the Bible for that matter), you are not reading the actual "Word of God", but rather fallible humans' fallible interpretation of the Bible.

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Message 6 of 6 (889119)
11-04-2021 5:50 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Phat
09-22-2021 3:02 AM

This adds to my Message 5, but I'm using your message to reply to since you mention multiple translations.

An additional issue with the various translations is what source material they used to translate.

There is no one single original text to work from, to translate. Not only are there a number of different codices to choose from, but in compiling each codex the editors had to choose which manuscripts and which version of each verse to include (and which to exclude). That adds yet another layer of fallible human interpretation to the translation problem. And according to the fundamentalist Christian doctrine I had learned from the Jesus Freaks (Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa circa 1970), nothing that fallible humans attempt can possibly succeed. That would mean that the only effect that all this fallible human interpretation could have would be to further corrupt any original "Word of God." Yes, they try to hedge their bets by claiming that the Holy Spirit would guide those fallible humans so as to prevent such corruption, but that obviously did not happen since everyone so "guided" has come up with different results.

In my Koiné Greek class in the early 70's, our reading book was Bruce Metzger's The Greek New Testament. It is a translators' bible in that every verse includes alternative wording and is annotated with which manuscripts the different version was taken from. There are very few verses that do not have variations. A favorite bit of irony for me is Revelation 22:18-19, kind of like the Mummy's Curse:

22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.

While those two verses do not have different versions, the book of Revelation itself is full of variations. That means that things have been added and taken away from that book despite the clear warning that they had been given about the consequences for their actions.

A few examples. I first became aware of the various endings of Mark (discussed in the article on Mark 16) from a note in my Kepler Bibel (German). The oldest manuscripts of Mark all have the "Short Ending" in which it ends end with verse 16:8. Later manuscripts included the "Longer Ending" (verses 9-20). Interestingly, it's Mark 16:18, which had been tacked on after the fact, which the rituals of snake handling and drinking poison are based on. Looks like the origins of Q-Anon go back much further than we had previously thought.

A minor one: What was Barabbas' name? Some manuscripts tell us, though the codices most of our translations are based on leave one out. His name was Jesus, Jesus bar Abbas (Jesus Son of the Father, AKA Jesus Jr.). That has led to a bit of speculation; eg, that Jesus had a son and he sacrificed himself to get his son freed. Or it's just an interesting coincidence (Nance's Law: "Coincidence takes a lot of planning").

Another one which shows up in different translations: What does Luke 2:14 actually say? From KJV:

2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

BTW, while Greek does have the comma, that verse does not contain any commas in the original Greek.

The key word there is ευδοξια, whose meaning according to Metzger can be good will, pleasure (I think as in "as Milord pleases"), favor -- or desire, purpose, choice.

What is important is that here it is in the nominative case -- nominative case is used for the sentence's subject, predicate nominative, or just to name something. That it's in the nominative case gives us the translation, "and on earth peace, good will toward men."

However, in several manuscripts that word is in the genitive case (which indicates the possessive): ευδοξιας. Those manuscripts lead to other translations like "peace on earth among men of good will" or "peace on earth among men with whom God is pleased" (and to Hell with the rest, right?).

So however much you might depend on Strong's Concordance, I doubt that it would help you much for when the translation is based on a manuscript that used different wording (or grammar such as case; see Luke 2:14 above) or even a different word or an added or deleted word (such as Jesus Barabbas' first name).

In short, naïve beliefs that a translation of the Bible, or a codex, or manuscripts are the literal "Word of God" are groundless and only cause us to roll our eyes and shake our heads. They certainly cannot convince anyone who has any knowledge or experience at all with languages or the history of the Bible.

I am not saying that it is foolish for believers to study the Bible or to take any of it seriously. Rather I am saying that it is foolish to blindly consider the Bible to be Magick and to insist on absolutist proclamations and ideas of biblical literalism.
Instead, I would say that they need to take a more informed and self-aware approach to their biblical studies that will no longer lead them astray.


I referred to those who have some knowledge or experience with languages, which means that I am also referring to those who lack such knowledge or experience: monoglots. I feel that monoglots tend to make certain ignorant assumptions. It has been far too long since I had been a monoglot (about 58 years ago, ending when I started learning Spanish in 7th grade) that I no longer know what that unfortunate state is like, so I can only make educated guesses and couple those with observations.

Another aspect of being monoglot is a strong tendency to be very ignorant of their own language and how it works. For my part, I learned much more about English through two years of high school German than I ever did or could through 12 years of English classes. A famous quote which proves to be quite true is (from memory):

Man kennt die eigene Sprache nicht, bis man eine fremde Sprache learnt.
(You don't know your own language until you have studied a foreign language.)

DISCLAIMER: The following is based mostly on my educated guesses of how monoglots would tend to think, which is quite foreign to me.

I already mentioned the naïve monoglot misconception that translation is simply an exercise in word substitution, whereas it's actually much more complicated than that. When working in another language, you actually have to think in a different manner, sometimes subtly so and sometimes radically so. They would think that in order to understand the original Greek and Hebrew of the Bible all they'd need to do would be to study what the individual words mean, which causes them to miss how those words are used which is much more important (refer back to Luke 2:14).

Related to that are naïve assumptions that all other languages work the same as English does. I have especially seen this as they apply English homophones (words that are different even though they sound the same) to other languages where it makes no sense at all.

For example, lay apologists will make much of the same sounds of the words "sun" and "son" (meant as "Son of God"). This was even used in a Star Trek episode, "Bread and Circuses", which featured sun worshippers but then in the end Uhura had figured out they meant "son" as in "Son of God." But does not work at all in any other language that I know of and especially not in the original Greek:

  • English: "sun" -- "son"
  • Greek: "ηλιος" (helios) -- "υιος" (huios)
  • German: "Sonne" -- "Sohn"
  • French: "soleil" -- "fils"
  • Spanish: "sol" -- "hijo"
  • Italian: "sole" -- "figlio"

So then this "proof of Jesus though words" only works in English, which shows that it has nothing to do with any kind of universal religious truth. But a monoglot thinks that what his own language says is all that matters.

Another example was a "profound" teaching about atonement. They point out that you can divide that word up into "at-one-ment", revealing a "profound and universal" religious truth that the act of atonement unites the worshipper with God, making him "at one" with God. Yet again, that only works in English and in no other language that I'm aware of (I quickly surveyed "atonement" in French, Spanish, Italian, and German and none of those languages' word for "atonement" could be manipulated like the English word). The English-speaking monoglot thinks he has found a profound religious teaching whereas in reality it's just a foolish coincidence; a far more profound word would be "assume" ("ass-u-me") which "makes an ass out of you and me."

I had collected that previous one from the wild as I did this one. In a creation science association (CSA) newsletter the editor told this story. A professor at a non-fundamentalist Christian college presented an argument to explain the Resurrection by proposing that Jesus had a twin brother, etc. The editor said he told that to a 9-year-old and she scoffed at it, pointing out that the Bible said that Mary was "with child", not "with children." The editor marveled at the young girl's wisdom which was greater than that apostate professor's.

So many things wrong with that one!

  1. There is absolutely no reason to try to explain away anything in the Bible, let alone the Resurrection. What part of "it's a story!" doesn't anyone understand? He might as well have addressed a far more important issue: how can an elevator lift Thor's hammer even though it's not worthy? Same kind of question and hence is to be answered within the framework of the story using the logic of the story. Never meant to have to be incorporated into reality.

  2. There is no such expression as "with children", so that is completely meaningless as well as not even being English! All that "with child" does is to identify the condition, not the number of fetuses present.

    That a 9-year-old would come up with that is not surprising and actually indicates that she's probably rather smart. That an adult would use it as a really great argument is very disappointing and indicates how dumb he is.

  3. That isn't even what the Bible says, so all attempts to twist and distort the English language are for naught.

    The expression is found in Matthew 1:18 and 1:23 and it is "εν γαστρι": "in belly". Nothing about what is "in belly", let alone how many.

So this "powerful argument" is nothing but a demonstration of the editor's own foolishness. A foolishness fueled in part by his monoglot ignorance of language and how language works.

This message is a reply to:
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