Translating the Bible
— 3. History of the Bible —
How the translated Bible came to look the way it does
Whatever mechanism of action Moses underwent for him to come up with the Torah is hard to guess at, and it is even harder to transmute this masterpiece into another language. When Ezra rediscovered the Torah he had to not only translate it into Aramaic, but also have it explained, maybe even to add the elements that were lost in translation.
The returning people were most likely too estranged from the Scriptural toolkit to handle reality consentaneously, and in stead contaminated with the same Persian philosophies that today still oppose Scriptures. Zoroaster, or Zarathustra, had successfully preached a bi-polar reality model: light versus dark, night versus day, good versus evil. Much modern theology is sadly scarred by this bi-polar model, which even demands God to be adverted by an anti-God called Satan.
The Biblical model on the other hand is strictly mono-polar: no other Being than the Lord causes all things good and bad, and all things have a perfect function in the grand scheme of things. The Biblical Satan has no authority to create, is not organized in an empire (Beelzebub means Lord of the Flies and flies are not organized), and he is most certainly not an opposite pole of God.
When the Babylonian Empire was replaced by the Persian, and the Persian Empire by the Greek the people needed a Greek Bible and seventy of the best and brightest composed the so-called Septuagint. Although a masterly product in its own right it failed to convey the richness and conceptual liberty of the original Torah, and, probably inspired by the Greek scientific method of logical deduction and linear determinism, the Rabbinical period kicked in.
The Rabbinical period
Around the time of Jesus the knowledge of the Living God had mutated into a shriveled carcass of legalistic terrorism from which all love and life had departed. That the Septuagint alone was not sufficient to understand the Word becomes evident when Luke writes that Jesus had to open the minds of the disciples to understand Scriptures.
After the Septuagint for the Greek world came the Vulgate for the Latin world. Where the Septuagint mildly missed the point here and there the Vulgate is about as botched as a pretzel. Michelangelo drew from the Vulgate to make his art and, for instance, gave Moses horns, because the Vulgate writers had misunderstood the Hebrew word qeren, which means ray or radiate, and thus have horns, as if horns are 'frozen rays.'
To the Vulgate writers it was not any weirder or less acceptable for Moses to have grown horns on Mount Sinai than that his face would have shone with light. Although we should not doubt their integrity, these people obviously had no idea what they where trying to translate.
The Hebrew language became largely forgotten, and in an attempt to preserve the pronunciation of the Scriptures some Jewish scholars called the Masoretes, or the Preservers (and who themselves spoke another, modern language) devised a punctuation system which is still used today. But they also added details to the Text, contaminating it, as adding anything to any sophisticated balance will tilt the scales and distort the whole. The Masoretes added many distinctions in applicatory meaning where the original authors had used only one, homogeneous word with one broad meaning. The authors thus had not acknowledged differences where the Masoretes divided. Hence their divisions were nothing less than random, arid and ultimately degenerating.
The Masoretic interpretations still dominate modern day translations and exegeses, but we should always remember that the Masoretes were active in the second half of the first millennium AD and that their efforts were, consciously or not, a response to medieval Christianity. The Masoretes did not necessarily have a deeper understanding of the Hebrew language of the ancients than we do at present, since the language had been dead for a thousand years already. They were Jewish scholars, most likely acquainted and contaminated with Judaic and Zoroastrian philosophies and occultism. But most importantly they categorically denied Christ and the Golgotha-event and should be expected fiercely diligent in erasing every trace or hint of the Text towards its grand conclusion.
The Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages priests preached in Latin, even though no common person spoke it. The first common-language translation appeared during the Reformation, but most of these were funded by kings and the likes, who espoused any demagogic tool they could get their hands on.
On top of that, much of our contemporary Christian imagery is derived from the interpretations of artists who lived around the time of the nascence of Protestantism, such as Dante who provided a trend setting geography of earth, hell and purgatory in his La Comedia and Michelangelo who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and whose chubby little angels still seem to be the popular standard.
These artists derived imagery from Scriptures in a similar way as how they derived cosmological imagery from nature. The artists that have formed most of our collective library of theological imagery did not know better than to believe in models of a flat or hollow earth and a terra-centric universe.
Since Scripture and creation are intimately kindred — as God displays His genius openly in both — we should expect to find deeper consistencies in Scriptures once we are willing to depart from these outdated theological models. Some of Christianity's most fundamental visual and dogmatic models are to theology what alchemy once was to physics and bloodletting to medicine.
The world is gearing up for an earthquake that will usher in a new theological era comparable with the quantum mechanical revolution of the early twentieth century. Guided by the two witnesses of observation and revelation this 'neosophy' will study the validity of and relationships between all scientific disciplines and religious models and eventually unite them in one consentaneous understanding of the Creator and His creation. And after that something terrible and splendid will arise.