Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rewriting the Bible in Postmodern Parallel

The apologist James White on his blogsite has called attention to the controversial publicly funded exhibit in Glasgow, "encouraging people to deface the Bible in the name of art" -- an exhibit which features a copy of the Authorized Version, "a container of pens and a notice saying: 'If you feel you have been excluded from the Bible, please write your way back into it.'"

The results of course have been almost exclusively negative, as the Times Online reports (URL below). Supposedly the intent of the artists (if seriously to be believed) was "to reclaim the Bible as a sacred text"; however, the results have been quite the opposite. Those writing and altering the biblical text "have daubed its pages" with atheism and profanities. Even though the original artist said "“Any offensive things that have been written are not the point of the work,” the result was quite the opposite. As expected, the Christian community has reacted quite negatively to all the radical material that has been inserted and texts altered or torn out in the name of "art".

Leaving aside the socio-political agenda and demerits of the organizers (which are clearly stated in the Times Online article and need not be gone into here), what is interesting in all this is that the example provides a strong but negative postmodern parallel to concepts such as Parker's Living Text and Ehrman's Orthodox Corruption, with the difference being more a matter of kind and degree as opposed to the hypothesis itself.

When evaluating the numerous various readings that appear intentional in our sources -- especially those that might affect translation or exegesis -- one seriously should consider the possible motivations (whether positive or negative) that might underlie the changes so made by scribes of varying stripe, lest we fall into the trap of assuming someone's personal opinion to be more valuable than the text he or she chose to alter in the first place.


  1. Hmm. There are at least a couple of mss with names written into them (not referring to colophons or marginal doodles, but to the text itself).
    I'm not sure that anyone has yet hypothesized that any of these were the result of a scribe seeking literary immortality.

  2. That's interesting news; perhaps a slight parallel could be made between that Bible-grafitti and the removal of Lk. 23:34 in some MSS, expressing the anti-Semitism of a scribe.

    Also, I hereby ping whoever asked, "What half-truths and inaccuracies are you referring to?" in the comments to the recent post about Dan Wallace's collection of inaccuracies about Codex Sinaiticus; I replied with a list of the NET's seven inaccuracies, unbalanced statements, or significant fact-omissions.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  3. Perhaps it wasn't anti-semitism. Perhaps the scribes thought the graciousness of our Lord exhibited here was simply incredible.