Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Faith Works 8-13-05
Jeff Gill

So Many Bibles, So Little Time

"What is the best version of the Bible?" I get that question fairlyregularly.There is a simple answer. Get a good Hebrew Bible for what’s generallyknown as the Old Testament, and the Reader’s New Testament in Greek.With the discovery in 1859 of Codex Sinaiticus hand printed by order ofEmperor Constantine by way of St. Catherine’s Monastery, and theMasoretic Text of the Hebrew books by way of the Synod of Jamniaconfirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls since 1947, we have solid sourcing andconsistent readings of the sacred texts of scripture ranging from over3,500 years ago to about 110 AD. Enjoy!Or maybe you meant "what’s the best translation of all that into English?"Can I go back to talking about the ancient papyrus and parchment?Recently, I went into Moments For Majesty in their large new store nowpart of Southgate Plaza. I was looking for a very particular edition ofone translation (but didn’t have the ISBN number. Always write down theISBN number.).Pausing to review the shelves and the dozens of Bible translations andpackaging options on display, I quickly confirmed it wasn’t "out there"and went on to the counter. Explaining my request, the very helpfulsales folk did some looking on their terminal, and then offered to letme browse through their master catalogue of Bibles. Just Bibles.Over 700 pages, longer than the new Harry Potter, had descriptions offour to seven different types of Bible on each page. Some 4000 Bibles tochoose from.And you guessed it. My Bible wasn’t there, meaning that there are . . .about that many.I recall the debates among old guard KJVers and new wild-eyed RSV users,both stunned when the "Good News Bible" or TEV showed up in paperback,no less. Then Ken Taylor wrote out his paraphrase for grandkids, "TheLiving Bible," and made Tyndale a publishing powerhouse in Bible terms.Then evangelicals nervous about the applications made of currentscholarship helped Thomas Nelson et alia come out with the NewInternational Version, the NIV, and then . . .So we’ve gone in about 50 years from the Catholic Douay version and theProtestant King James, with a few very small circulation translations,to dozens of very skillfully done translations printed in everythingfrom magazine format Bibles for teen girls to weighty gold spined tomescontaining those familiar first words of scripture many children readquietly to themselves, "Rich Moroccan Leather."No one will thank me for saying, in answer to "what’s a goodtranslation" the immortal "it depends." But it does.Do you want readability? The New Living Translation or Eugene Peterson’s"The Message" use the TEV’s principle of "dynamic equivalence," holdingthe text more closely than a paraphrase, but speaking in a contemporaryidiom.Do you want to work with a close study using resources word-by-word?Then the modern NRSV or TNIV allow understandability to work hand inhand with scholarly tools from the original Hebrew and Greek. The NASBhas many helps in print as well.Do you want public resonance for reading aloud? The Jerusalem Bible isstill considered a top contender in this bracket, along with the NEB,now ESV. And the NKJV (when in doubt, N is these abbreviations is always"New") has eliminated most of the Elizabethan tonguetwisters whilekeeping the Shakespearean cadences.Unless you are a dyed-in-the-Lamb’s-wool King James 1611 adherent, alittle examination will show that there are many excellent, useful,upbuilding translations out there today. We have so much available to usthat our grandparents could only imagine.The question is, do they get us to read the text itself?

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around centralOhio, and he found his Reader’s Greek NT online. What Bible are youreading, and what works for you in reading it? Tell him

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Notes From My Knapsack 8-14-05
Jeff Gill

Baird, Ashbrook Leave a Gap

So you registered to vote, actually do vote, fly your flag, and saluteher when she goes by. You may even have enlisted to serve in the armedforces or the Peace Corps or VISTA and done your duty that way. But haveyou ever run for office?Being a candidate isn’t a peculiar calling for only the privileged few.Sure, just like not everyone’s cut out for military service, noteveryone can hold a civic office: but more can than seem to think so.Every local election in recent years offers a slate with a large numberof one candidate ballots, or worse yet, the county always sees a fewspots with no one running a’tall. And that ain’t good.Is it because it’s just so difficult to run even for a local position?Your columnist wandered by the Board of Elections office, just behindthe front desk of the County Administration Building opposite the CountyCourthouse in Newark. Actually, I went in to pick up the form to serveas a pollworker, another cog in the machinery of democracy that isexperiencing parts shortages. The Little Guy was in good humortravelling with me, and so I picked up the one form and then went on toask, "How do you take out petitions to run for council?"Now, I haven’t even lived in my current address for a year, so thequestion is truly moot, but before I could say another word, the veryhelpful lady at the counter had bustled off and started banging away ata typewriter. When she began asking questions of me while still typing,I realized she was actually performing the steps to create my petitions,and I amiably exclaimed, "But I really don’t think I can run.""Well, do you want me to finish these so you have ‘em until you figureout if you can?" When she said that, I had the thought that passesthrough my mind far too often: "Hey, I can get a column out of that…" SoI said yes.And here’s the real point of this column, friends. I shared counterspace for five minutes with people who were easily recognizable aslongtime office holders in Licking County and other complete idiots…Imean, novices to the political process. With exactly equivalent patience and simplicity, the staff there explained that, with somevariation depending on the where and the which of the position, youneeded this many signatures, gathered on these forms, countersigned bythese people, all required back in here by August 25. Add one more formfor who is keeping track of the money involved or not involved (becausemany folks run for office in Licking County without spending a dime, orat least more than a few hundred dollars), and you are set. Even a guywith a seven year old in tow could walk away with (unuseable) petitionsin about five minutes.What am I saying? I’m telling you that two trips to downtown Newark andmaybe fifty signatures on a petition, and you are that great servant ofliberty, The Candidate. You may not win, but you ran, and kept someoneelse running on their toes.Friends, I grew up in and around Chicago in the 1960’s, and with all duerespect to the Daley family, one party, one candidate democracy is not agood thing. No true party partisan in America should be happy when noone from the other tribe runs against your incumbent. Just like any ofus, when Uncle Sam gets flabby and complacent and unresponsive, hestarts to show it. He moves slower, acts logy and half-stupid, and setshimself up for some real problems down the line.More seriously, we’ve lost some real electoral stalwarts in recentyears, and this last year saw the death of both Al Ashbrook and JayBaird just last week. I feel like I lost a friend with Jay, even thoughI didn’t get to know him until after he’d taken on fighting cancer as afull-time hobby. Those two did the work of seven of the rest of us inrunning for offices and serving the public during their lifetimes.Meanwhile, we see those blank spots on the ballot. One of them has yourname on it. And look at it this way: if you don’t run, that nutcase downthe street will, and may walk in unopposed. You know who I’m talkingabout. So think about it, OK?And if you don’t, you can serve as a pollworker. Stay tuned for news onthat front, live from this station.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around centralOhio. He’d be happy to sign your petition if you’re running for anythingin his area, but you really don’t want his endorsement; just throwideas, not hats in the ring by e-mailing

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Faith Works 8-06-05
Jeff Gill

State Churches and the State of the Church

Odd observations of the dog days of summer can be a little moreheat-warped than others, but sometimes the milky haze of Augustlassitude can reveal a new way of seeing things. You can obscure quite abit behind waves of heat rising off the pavement, and even see miragesoff the blacktop miles ahead, but at least we all tend to look around usat the world during this time of year when we often just blur along inthe cooler months.But my stray thought comes from a book read indoors while avoiding theheat. Now, there’s beach reading and there’s beach reading (whether ornot sand is involved). A big fat doorstop of a book I’ve just read isthe new biography of Soren Kierkegaard (look, I don’t make fun of yourhobbies, you don’t mock mine, OK?).The author is a professor in Denmark, a Great Dane like his subject, whois part of the team translating SK’s journals and notebooks and arecognized authority on the philosopher and theologian’s life and work.What has had many looking forward for the last five years to this workcoming out in translation is that Joachim Garff is focusing onKierkegaard’s everyday life as context for the voluminous writings hisproduced in mid-1800’s Copenhagen.So what’s it got to do with our everyday life in heat-swamped,drought-stricken central Ohio? Nothing. That’s the point. Thecommonplaces of street scenes, shops, shepherding were all very, verydifferent than what we might easily assume.And the mentions of the role of the State Church both throw illuminationon Kierkegaard’s work resisting the socialization of Christianity in histime, and also on our debates today about what the folks across the pond(where one brother had migrated and died a few decades after theConstitution was written) meant when they talked about "establishment"of an official church.Peter Kierkegaard had to sign the baptismal book at the local church foreach of his children when they were born. Sounds fine, right? Yep,except so did Baptists and Swedenborgians and Dissenters of all sorts.Wait, you ask, what if they didn’t want their child baptized into theDanish Lutheran Church? Well, that was against the law. But they sawthemselves as very tolerant, because if you then went to have your childbaptized in some other faith, you could without fear of arrest.And for Peter and his sons Michael and Soren when they grew toadulthood, if they wanted to receive communion, they had to go by theoffice and sign up for it, so that a full check could be done into theircurrent state of both civic and spiritual fitness to be accepted at thecommunion table. You needed to get signed up early, the warnings said innewspapers, to give religious authorities plenty of time to do a fullinvestigation.This kind of stuff is what the Founding Folks were looking back toEurope and seeing, and what they were wanting explicitly banned in thenew US Constitution. Even though Massachusetts still had an officialchurch (Congregationalist, now UCC) into the 1830’s, and tax money wascollected to support Anglican churches (now Episcopalian) in many statesright through and even past the Revolution, they hoped that in time theidea of a state church could be banned on the national level, anddiscouraged in the separate states.How we politically deal with the modern desire to frame the"establishment" clause as the right to be free of having to deal with orexperience religion anywhere in the public sphere is a hot potato, butthe roots of the so-called "separation of church and state" don’t diginto that territory. That’s some new excavation which we will continueto sift and study.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around centralOhio. Tell him how you’re spending the summer through

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