Friday, 4 September 2015

Is it possible for a people to be prosperous and at peace without exploitation?

I've been working my way through the old testament in my new NIV study bible (illustrations are nice, but the translation isn't good IMO - King David's sons being priests, rather than advisors as it has in the previous version - really? Don't you translators even read the stuff you write?)

Anyway, I'd just visited Solomon in the book of kings, after the kingdom is established for him and everyone is propserous and at peace. Except for the conquered nations around him, who are pressed into forced labour. Except for the other nations nearby who bring tribute (effectively protection money) to him.

The more things change the more they stay the same.

This isn't a poke at anyone in particular, but it IS a warning not to just read stuff and do a 'that's how it was then' shrug of the shoulders when some will model themselves and their society on 'how it was then', because that was Israel's golden era and everything was blessed, right? It seems I have gently wandered from my fundamentalist roots now, and become rather lost - not that I don't believe the bible is the inspired word of God, but that the 'just read it and do it' approach I once favoured doesn't really cut it, even though it does help build faith and inspire people.

So another question, for those of us in the rich west - are we happy to allow our peace and prosperity to be built on the backs of the nations subjected to us? Maybe not subjected through conquest now, but through economics and politics. It won't surprise you to know I don't have a handy solution for the problem.


  1. I know it's beside the point of this post, but since it interests me it stood out.

    I had a look at 2 Samuel 8:18 (which is what I assume you're referring to in your evaluation of the new NIV) and most of the major modern translations say "priests." In fact, even the old NIV says "priests" in the footnotes, so even then the NIV translators were aware of that wording. I'm guessing they didn't use "priests" in the main text precisely because it is a curious problem.

    But "priests" is in the footnotes because the Hebrew word translated "royal advisers" in the old NIV is the Hebrew "cohen," which as far as I'm aware is always translated "priest" elsewhere. Seems the translators behind the new revision figured they should go with what the Hebrew says (the Hebrew being the preferred source for translation, the Septuagint being a secondary source).

    So is the translation not good? Well, I would argue it's better if it reflects the most reliable ancient texts better. You may not like it, which is perfectly fine, and on those grounds say it is isn't good or that other translations are preferable to you (although you're not likely to find a translation produced in the last 30 years that won't say "priests").

    On the other hand, I don't think we can really call a translation "good" or "bad" as a translation in a broad sense based on our own expectations or what we're used to (though I readily confess that I'm guilty of doing this from time to time). King James Only folks, for example, will sometimes accuse modern translations of removing verses, therefore making them corrupt (or even evil), but this is based on the assumption that the KJV, which is what they have always known, got it right (or was itself divinely inspired). In fact, it seems to be that the KJV is based on later manuscripts that had *added* verses (likely out of good intentions), so the problem is actually the other way around.

    I suppose this poses a bit of a problem for those of us who aren't experts in the original languages and probably means for the purposes of study we should use more than one translation... and ideally learn Greek and Hebrew.

    As for your main points, you're right. "God said it, I believe it..." doesn't always work very well. I think the fundamentalist approach to scriptures has its problems and can get dangerously close (or closer still) to bibliolatry.

    And your last question... my inclination is to say "No," but the implications of that answer are so far-reaching and complicated that I don't think it's really an honest answer!

  2. PS. A cursory Google search turned up this explanation, which I haven't scrutinized closely:

  3. Thanks for the comments Marc, I'll try to reply properly at some stage but I'm a little distracted right now. :-)


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