Monday, August 22, 2005

Discretion

Reuben: Himy, would you listen to this?

Himy: Do we have a choice?

Mutti: A lot of it wasn't meant to be taken literally.
[...]
Mutti: It's a nice story, Adam and Eve. bound with moral fibre...but asking a grown man to believe it... It's a nice story. It's just that. Just a story. Catholic religion is based on a mistranslation.

Himy: Enough already. Ruben, say something.

Mutti: Listen. Are you busy? I'll tell you the whole story. The Septuagint scholars mistranslatedthe Hebrew word for "young woman"...into the Greek word for "virgin." It was an easy mistake to make...because there was only a subtle difference in the spelling. So, they came up with a prophecy: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear us a son." You understand? It was "virgin" that caught people's attention. It's not everyday a virgin conceives and bears a son. But leave that for a couple of hundred years to stew...and next thing you know you have...the Holy Catholic Church!

Himy: Oy vay, what are you saying?

Mutti: I'm saying, just because it's written...doesn't make it so. Gives them hope. It's not important whether it's fact or fiction. People like to believe.
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That... was a scene from Snatch, a brilliant brit movie by Guy Ritchie.

I did some research and found this:

As it happens, the Greek translators had made a mistake. When they were translating the Hebrew writings into the Greek Septuagint and similar translations, they converted the Hebrew word " 'almah " as the Greek equivalent of our English word for virgin. " 'Almah" appears 9 other times in the Hebrew Scriptures; in each case it means "young woman". When the scriptures referred to a virgin (and they do over 50 times) they always used the Hebrew word "betulah". So, Isaiah appears to have referred to a young woman becoming pregnant (a rather ordinary event).

Some English translators are accurate to the original Hebrew:
Revised English Bible: "...a young woman is with child..."
Revised Standard Version: "...a young woman shall conceive..."
James Moffatt Translation: "...a young woman with child..."
New Revised Standard Version: "...the young woman is with child..."

Others completely mistranslate the Hebrew and refer to the woman as both pregnant and a virgin; implying a miracle. This neatly settles the conflict that would otherwise occur between Isaiah and Matthew 1:22-23. (The author of Matthew quoted Isaiah as describing a virgin who was pregnant before becoming sexually active):

New International Version: "...the virgin will be with child..."
The Living Bible: "...a child shall be born to a virgin..."
Contemporary English Version: "...a virgin is pregnant...".

In a footnote, they say that the "Hebrew word did not imply a virgin birth". They give "young woman" as an alternate. Others went part way. They mistranslated the Hebrew and said that the woman had been a virgin. However, they imply that the woman might have been a virgin, who engaged in sexual intercourse and then became pregnant:

American Standard Version: "...a virgin shall conceive..."
Amplified Bible: "...the young woman who is unmarried and a virgin shall conceive..."
King James Version: "...a virgin shall conceive..."
New Living Translation: "...the virgin shall conceive a child..."
New Century Version: "...the virgin will be pregnant...".

They also admit in a footnote that the original Hebrew word really means "a young woman". Some versions are vague and can be interpreted in many ways:

New World Translation: "...the maiden herself will actually become pregnant..."
The Jerusalem Bible: "...the maiden is with child..."
Young's Literal Translation: "...the virgin is conceiving"

The story in Isaiah 7:14 appears to be unrelated to the birth of Jesus. It describes a siege of Jerusalem by the Syrians about 715 BCE. The child that was born to the young woman at the time was a sign from God that the siege would be lifted and that Jerusalem would continue as before. The prophecy was completely fulfilled more than 700 years before the birth of Jesus.
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Similar statements could be made regarding any religion-- Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism (if there is such a thing!)... but does the general populace need to know these things? discretion!... thats the word... As a rule, most are not ready to accept the truth.

Over to Morpheus:

"The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it. "

Though we cant take the quote as-is in th religious context, we can take the gist that most are not ready to accept the truth that its the symbolism and moral of a story that has to be digested, not the literal meaning-- Hanuman was not a monkey, Bhagavath Geetha episode didnt happen at all, Moses didnt cause the Sea to divide or bring the ten plagues on Egypt, and Christ was a jew and was married happily to Mary Magdalene. All these things might be true, but naked truth cannot drive the human race. We need something to hold on to... something to believe.

Kedar.

7 comments:

Sketchy Self said...

Indeed, "We are the miracle workers."
The irony of religion is that while every notable religious "icon" has repeatedly invested us the common people with the power to bring our own "miracles" into being, the followers (or indeed, the leaders of the followers) make it a point to use the miracles of this idol to divest themselves of that very power.
How we make it a point to miss the point!

Gandaragolaka said...

I guess, those who want to create a religion do not want others to create their own miracles... those who dont want others to bring in their own miracles never want to create another religion!

Random Walker said...

I haven't done much research on the bible. Yet, wasn't it originally written in aramaic? Or was it written in hebrew?

Ragz said...

Peceptions, Conceptions, Inceptions

Gandaragolaka said...

Aramaic was the lanuage used by people in judea. Jesus is supposed to have given his ministry in that Language. Some part of the new testament was written in Hebrew, some in greek, etc.

The old testament, however, was written in hebrew. The prophecy of Isiah in question is from old testament.

yadbhavishya said...

Great analysis, especially the first scene of Snatch.. hee hee

Iam not knowledgeable on the bible front but I agree with the iconisation. A (poor) example would be an icon on your PC desktop, with a broken link. Now you end up with the icon but do not know where it leads you to. Still we hold on.

And when we are given hope, I just hope it helps but we know it will end up like the "the battle was lost, all for want of a horse shoe nail" story.

Amen.

Gandaragolaka said...

I guess I should mention that the material in between-- after the Snatch script and before Morpheus.. isnt written by me. I only found it on an article on the net!