September 2009 Archives
"The Saint John's Bible" is a remarkable, gorgeous representation of an ancient technique of rendering sacred text -- written by hand and "illuminated" with fine art.
Here's a partial description: "The Saint John's Bible is the first handwritten, hand illuminated Bible in more than 500 years. Under the artistic direction of Donald Jackson, M.V.O., one of the world's foremost calligraphers and Senior Illuminator to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's Crown Office at the House of Lords, The Saint John's Bible was commissioned by the Benedictine monks of Saint John's Abbey and University in Minnesota, U.S., to ignite the spiritual imagination of believers throughout the world and to illuminate the word of God for a new millennium."
What effect does engaging in such a process have on those who undertake or undertook it? And what effect on those of us who have the opportunity to hold in hand and read such texts?
This year, our Jewish and Muslim sisters and brothers are celebrating big holidays at the same time. Sweet New Year wishes to Jews just wrapping up the two days of Rosh Hashanah ("head of the year" in Hebrew) and embarking on the days of instrospection and repentance before the fast of Yom Kippur (Sept 27-28). And to Muslims: a happy Eid al-Fitr! ("festival of fast-breaking") -- three days of celebration following the Ramadan fast. Good wishes to all, and may your spiritual journeys be a blessing to all.
Of these sentences, which do you think is better?
1) "The Bible is a singular document of inestimable influence; but all evidence to the contrary, it can be really, really hard to understand."
2) "The Bible is a singular document of inestimable influence, but despite all evidence to the contrary, it can be really hard to understand."
Oh, and feel free to weigh in on how many "really"s should be included!
This sentence, in some form or another, will appear in the first paragraph of Bible Babel's chapter 1. FYI, one of my goals for Bible Babel is that it be a light, swift read, humming along even while it introduces and engages serious and heady info.
Here's the greater context (Ch.1's first full parag):
Earlier, I noted some of the difficulties that translators face when trying to render the ancient biblical texts in contemporary English for a modern audience. The biggest issue for the team reworking the NIV is how to handle the gender-bound language of the Bible's original context. Here's an articulate voice in favor of seeking gender neutral language -- to meet today's readers where they are.
I begin Bible Babel's chapter on translation by contemplating two quotes: this, from Miles Smith's preface to the first edition of the King James Version -- "translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light"; and the other from Umberto Eco -- "translation is the art of failure." Smith, with an optimistic tone; Eco pessimistic. And yet... No pithy statement here, but an invitation to consider the challenges of translation in the face of the very real fact that there is no perfect, once-and-for-all way to render the Bible into English.
Quentin Tarantino's new movie, Inglourious Basterds, was informed in part by taking part in a seder at Philip Roth's house. The Passover seder is a religious practice of remembrance commanded by none other than God in the Bible to commemorate God's liberating the Hebrew people from Egypt in order that they could be free to be servants of God. With violence, liberated from violence.
In Inglourious Basterds, the extraordinary violence that characterizes Tarantino's filmic art takes on a new meaning in the context of a real, historical moment -- the Holocaust. Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor, and Nobel prize-winning writer, has championed the importance of remembering -- of remembering in order to prevent horrific crimes such as genocide from happening again.
Elie Wiesel and Quentin Tarantino on the Holocaust. In the same context? Discuss. What does remembering violence require? And to what end?
On the NBC sitcom, "30 Rock," the optimistic, smile-y, and just plain aw-so-cute character Kenneth the Page declared, "science was my most favorite subject, especially the Old Testament." It's a hilarious poke in fun at a serious debate raging today -- Should the Bible's narratives about creation inform ideas about the earth's origins? Or: If a person takes the Bible seriously, must he or she necessarily reject the scientific theory of evolution?
N-E-W for the NIV? Twenty-five years after its blockbuster release, the New International Version is in for an update. The most popular version of the world's most popular book -- embraced by millions as the very word of God, well, you can imagine that reworking it is no small thing. Folks are already weighing in. (See blogs on Beliefnet , USAToday and Christian Science Monitor , e.g.) You can post your own remarks directly. Perhaps the most sticky sticking point in this go-round (and which derailed an earlier effort) has to do with gendered language -- for God, as well as for human beings (or "man," as some would have it).