Saturday, July 2, 2011

Psalms 23-32 The Nicest Part of the OT?

Psalms 23-32

We start off with one of the most famous pieces in the Bible, Psalm 23.  It's short, sweet and sums up (IMO) the philosophy of Christianity, pre Jesus even.  This (and the rest of the chapters in this reading) is the FEEL the Bible is most known for.  It comes off as very human and a very honest commitment to a loving god.

But (you knew there had to be a but from an Atheist), This very nice, positive passage is in the great minority.  Most of the Bible that we've read so far is violent, vengeful and often leaves me wondering why people would willing follow a jealous, demanding god.

What do you think?

To my American readers, have a happy and safe Independence Day!  And to my Canadian readers, a belated happy Canada Day!
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. We’ve had quite a lot of discussion about the content lately; I wondered if anybody were interested in the style, or thought that the style could have an effect on the way one thought about the content?

    To elaborate: I was brought up in a household with one church-going parent and one atheist parent, in a region where religion, and more specifically, denominational Christianity, was a defining social factor. It was not at all unusual for children of my generation (I’m 48) to be forbidden to play with school-friends because of the church their parents attended (although my parents never attempted to enforce such regulation on me). The Bible of choice at that time and in that place was the King James, and that is, accordingly, the one with which I am most familiar. It was used in the majority of the churches; it was used for Religious Education classes in school (which, by the way, were much more specifically aimed at Christianity than such classes are in UK schools now; my own children have covered more comparative religion and ethics, and less of what I underwent, which was effectively Bible Study). Modernists took up with the Good News Bible but it carried a distinct reputation of ‘happy-clappy’-ness (and where I lived, ‘happy-clappy’ was scorned even more than usual).

    I have actually not been reading in the KJV; I’ve been reading the New International. Last week I went to a funeral at which, as is common enough, the 23rd Psalm was read; the KJV was used, by deliberate decision of the family. In all likelihood, that will have been the version most familiar to the deceased. Then this weekend I read it in the New International version – and found it much less... well, much less what? Much less attractive? That sounds superficial and facile. Say rather, making much less connection.

    (Apologies for the broken post – blogspot doesn’t seem to like anything bigger than this.)

  2. To continue:

    Language is important to me; I am an auditory learner, and at least half of what is on my MP3 player is spoken word rather than music, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I react differently to different versions of the same text. I’ve noticed it before, at Christmas; obviously as an atheist I’m not particularly affected by the religious aspects, but in my family Christmas was the only time when the whole family gathered together, and I feel family links are important, so my own Christmas traditions include many of those from my childhood, such as listening to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on the BBC, on Christmas Eve. The language of the lessons, and also of the Bidding Prayer (on page 10 here: ), which was used in the churches I attended, with, obviously, variation to allow appropriate references to location, I find extremely evocative and on the occasions on which I have attended similar services using other translations and renditions, I have been disappointed.

    So... looking at the 23rd Psalm, which I think of as uplifting... I find that for me at least, it’s uplifting in the KJV. Reasonably uplifting in the NIV. Less so in the New Living Translation. Clumsy in Young’s Literal Translation. Over-simplified in the Good News version. Fabulous in the Latin Vulgate.

    So I’m wondering: do other people feel that way? I’m more than ever inclined now to continue to read in a version other than the KJV because I can see a risk that I’ll be seduced by the language of the KJV rather than actually engaging with the content. And something else I’ve never even wondered before: are there translations in other (modern) languages (let’s not start on Latin/Greek/Aramaic!) which carry the gravitas which the KJV does in English? Have all of Bruce’s readers arrived with English as their first language, or can somebody tell me: does the specific translation matter in other languages too?

  3. I believe for German Lutherans, Luther's Bible, is important.

    "Der HERR ist mein Hirte; mir wird nichts mangeln."

    However I'm not a German speaker

  4. @showinginterest:

    I grew up with KJV ... and continued to use it during my stint as a born-again Pentecostal - tho' I have no recollection of what their official version was. I'm familiar with the "Good News" Bible ... but, as you say, it's "clappy-trappy". I'd be interested in comparing KJV with other versions, but my work schedule takes precedence ... so not this year.

    Sticking to the KJV was always my intention during Bruce's project here. I had started re-reading it last fall independent of "The King and I", so the momentum was already going that direction. What I gain out of rereading the Bible in the version I grew up with, is that I can contrast how it affected me emotionally then, as opposed to now. I was always impressed by the soaring, almost inaccessible language used. It really seemed that the words had come down from on high. As a child and young adult, I'd never read more than a single chapter at a time, and never in a thoughtful, reflective way. During my born-again period, the words and form were awe-inspiring, but as I read it chapter-by-chapter, it lost its sense of mystery and awe.

    Thirty-some years later ... well, it whets my appetite for reading other formative cultural texts from around the world.

  5. I am only an english speaking person. I know of some books i want to get that will help me with Greek, however i don't have the time right now to learn that kind of "new language".

    I used to read the NIV, then i did a study on the different translations because i had a few problems with the NIV. Now after doing the study i have a whole lot more problems with it and many other translations. I stick only with the KJV, the others aren't worth the paper their printed on.

    ya the post limit is pretty short. At least you didn't lose your post. I have lost several. :-D It was interesting to read about your past and view. Thanks for posting that.


    This very nice, positive passage is in the great minority.
    Oh come now my good friend, there is more positive then negative.. it all depends on your point of view. :-P

    I hope you had a good 4th. Pretty non eventful here. Granted at the time of this post you might be out watching fireworks... if your into that stuff.

    I had a British friend say Thanksgiving is the day Americans celebrate the British coming to America. The 4th of July is the day they celebrate kicking us out. Well something like that. :-)

  6. @showinginterest,

    Great question. As an evangelical Christian, the issue of Bible translations gets batted around a fair bit in my circle. I'm a big evangelist (for lack of a better term) for the English Standard Version, which I find to be much more readable and beautiful than other versions which are touted for being very "literal." So I do think style matters considerably when choosing a translation. While I do have a considerable background in biblical languages and can debate the issue of literalness back and forth, I like the ESV because, while it maintains a quite literal rendering of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, it's also more of a pleasure to read than other contemporary versions. I see the ESV as a descendant of the KJV, even though much of the ornate language has been dropped in favor of understandability.

    As a German speaker, I can vouch for @Erp's thought on Luther's Bible. I actually did a term paper in college on the influence of Luther's work on the KJV and, therefore, the English language. Very interesting to think about. Most German Christians today, however, use a more modern rendering: either one of the updates to Luther's original 1545 translation (done in 1912 and 1984, similar to the Revised Standard Version and the New International Version, respectively) or various others (the Schlachter, Elberfelder, and Zürcher being the ones I'm most familiar with).

  7. Hi Bruce.
    First off, it was great that you were able to meet up with Kevin and Tom. They rarely sleep when they visit trying to meet up with all friends and family.
    Second...46 was the age of Shakesphere when he proofread the KJV. So...count 46 words in you get Shake and then count 46 words from the back of verse 46 you get Sphere.
    Check it yourself but here is a link:

    BRUCE:Most of the Bible that we've read so far is violent, vengeful and often leaves me wondering why people would willing follow a jealous, demanding god.

    ME: You may get my response after reading the NT and I will tread lightly here but here it goes:
    you just posted a passage from the NT, with that said you also agree with the message. The message came from Jesus, Christians believe in the Trinity. so we also believe that that message came from the Father as well. You yourself agreed with Gods message. Yea for Bruce!!!

    Now here is where I may lose you (I might lose myself): We have the knowledge to judge as humans and have something called free will. When you look at the overall grand universal-multi-dimensional picture, who can judge when God is violent and demanding? Perhaps on the surface, it looks demanding or violent, or loving and caring from a human standpoint. But no human knows all the small details of Gods ultimate plan for the human race as a collective and as individuals. According to Revelation, the devil owns this planet. God is here to help us along the way with our sin and prepare us for Heaven.

    For example, If one is doing the work of the Pharaoh or Hitler, or (insert random act of violence here) We don't know what God has for the ones who are murdered by the hands of humans guided by the devil or a number of his countless demons. Or perhaps violence is the only way for God to save their soul from being with the devil for eternity. Again...that whole free-will thing sometimes puts God in a tough situation. Regardless, looking at the end result of Heaven first and not focusing on how our body leaves the planet is important. The Soul is the focus point. Our human death is our Souls Birth into Gods Love.

  8. The point of me commenting on your NT quote was to show that even you agree with Him on certain things and dis-agree with him on other things...kind of like a Father/Son relationship.