Monday, November 28, 2016

The Murderous HIstory of Bible Translations - Harry Freedman

I often sense a tendency in myself to take having an English translation of the Old and New Testaments for granted.  But, as Harry Freedman demonstrates in his book, The Murderous History of Bible Translations: Power, Conflict, and the Quest for Meaning, I shouldn't take it for granted and should appreciate all the more the effort and sacrifice that went in to getting the written Word of God into a book that ordinary people could read. 

In this book Freedman does an excellent job at writing, he grasps and keeps one's attention, and it flows nicely.  He takes you through history, beginning with the translation of the Old Testament and then goes on to include the New in the focus as well.  Translating God's Word into the common vernacular of any people was often very tumultuous and controversial, and we see this down the passage of time that the author takes us through and we also see this as we look through the viewpoint of different translators who took many risks to make the translation. 

Though I really like the book, I feel the need to mention that there were several things that I did not like, for instance, statements like:  "…even to this day, radical fundamentalism hasn't gone away.  And religious extremism relies upon a revealed, unmediated, literal reading of Scripture, one which rejects the prism of human interpretation."(pg.139)  Perhaps I am misunderstanding what the author is saying, but I think that' religious extremism' is that which focuses upon the "prism of human interpretation" without interpreting the Word of God with a literal/grammatical-historical hermeneutic. To be extreme is to not take the Bible for what it says, to not interpret it literally.  Interpreting the Bible "literally" in my view is to interpret it correctly in context: taking allegory as allegory, historical narrative as narrative, prophecy as prophecy, …etc. But again, perhaps I misunderstand what he meant by that statement.

This book seemed more or less secular look at the history of Bible translation (as one can probably deduce from the above quotation), but Freedman did a very good job at giving the perspective of the translators (whether Christian or Jewish). whose lives he recounts.  All in all, I really liked the history given, it is very, very interesting and an informative read.  Knowing this history should drive Christians more to reading this Holy Book that people in the past translated and read in secret, suffered and died for; many considered the Words it contains as much more valuable than their lives or comfort in this earth. We Americans should do the same and take advantage of our wonderful privilege of being able to simply sit down and read it without fear of punishment,  imprisonment or death for having done so.

Many Thanks to the folks at Bloomsbury Press for sending me a free review copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable).

One of the places where this book may be purchased is at Amazon.com

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Tunnels - Greg Mitchell

The Tunnels by Greg Mitchell is a book about escape tunnels that were built under the Berlin wall during the Cold War.  Though many tunnels and tunnel escapes are looked at, the focus of the book is on one particular tunnel that was funded by NBC in exchange for filming the construction of the tunnel and any escapes that would happen by means of the tunnel.

I picked this book to review simply because I thought that it sounded rather interesting, I didn't realize how absolutely riveting it would be.  I started reading it to myself, got a little way into it and then started reading it out loud to one of my sisters. By, probably the middle of the book, several of my siblings were listening in with fixed attention. 

This book is very well written, Mitchell really seems to give one the perspective of the people involved in these escapes so that you feel along with them as they attempt their dangerous work.  We all got pretty tense with every tunnel escape attempt, and also with fears that their work would be discovered by the clever West Berlin spies.  It was very intriguing to find out how they made these tunnels, starting them from West Berlin (the good side) they would pick a building on the other side to aim for (sometimes without those who owned the building being in the 'know') where they would then break through into a cellar or even a living room.  I found it amazing that they were able to aim SO well.  They would work long periods of time, sometimes staying in the same building for a month or more without coming out just to have more secrecy while digging  the tunnel.  Then you have to wait and hope with the tunnelers that there are no Stasi agents waiting for them when they break through, and hope that all of the East Berliners who want to escape make it to the tunnel without being caught.  At times there are Stasi agents waiting and you then hope that no one comes to the tunnel to escape and get caught. 

I learned a lot about the Cold war and the Berlin Wall.  I found it fascinating that some of the government officials in the U.S. were (amazingly) actually in favor of the Berlin wall being built(to the East Berlin government's delight), thinking that it would calm things down…which of course it didn't.

 The book switches back and forth from different perspective of various characters in this history,  you will meet Harry Seidel, an East Berliner who has already escaped to the West but who wants to get his mother out of the East and therefore works on various tunnels, including the "NBC Tunnel";  Piers Anderton of NBC is another player in this history who really wants this documentary on the "NBC Tunnel" to be a success (and also for it to actually be allowed to be shown on tv);  Siegfried Uhse is an East Berlin informant who is working under cover with some of those who are organizing escapes to West Berlin for desperate East Berliners, he is attempting to get information about various tunnels so that he can pass it on to his superiors and be the means of foiling any escape attempts;  JFK is also a player in these events, he is nervous that any open U.S. support of escape attempts will be the means of provoking an invasion of West Berlin by the Russians, and so he is very wary of any American news documentaries filming and aiding any escapes.
These are only a few of the people involved in this account of this tense time in history. 

I just wish that the author would have dealt with Ronald Reagan's part in pressuring Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall, I don't remember that being mentioned at all (though I may have just for gotten it).  Also There were some topics that were rather uncomfortable to read, such as the immoral lives of some of the people discussed and some pretty bad language  and expressions that some people used.  I scribbled out a bunch of those things.  

But all in all, this was a very interesting historical account. It's amazing to think that these things actually happened,  I thought that Mitchell did a great job of impressing upon the reader the reality of these events and people. 


I received this book from the Blogging For Books book review program (My review did not have to be favorable)

One of the websites where this book may be purchased is at Amazon.com

Friday, November 18, 2016

From Heaven - A.W. Tozer

From Heaven:  A 28-day Advent Devotional with excerpts from the works of A.W. Tozer, is one of the strangest devotionals I have ever encountered (though I haven't looked at or read many).  Strange in a good way though.  When I think of devotionals, I think of generally light portions of readings per day, with a verse of Scripture that is contemplated at a high level and that is then meant to be applied to oneself in an extremely personal way.  Tozer's devotional, like any devotional, has a small reading for any given day, but the content of the reading is anything but small and goes much further than provoking one to mere introspection, it provokes one to contemplate the true awesomeness of our God and His love and grace.

There are things in this devotional that I was delightfully surprised to see in a Christmas devotional (or any devotional for that matter), like, "Put the emphasis where the Bible puts it, on the Christ at the right hand of God, not on the babe in the manger."  And, "Among the harmful abuses of the Christmas season in America is the substitution of Santa Clause for Christ as the chief object of popular interest, especially among the children.  The morality of Mother Goose stories and fairy tales has been questioned by serious -minded Christian parents, but my opinion is that these are relatively harmless because they are told as fiction and the child is fully aware that they are imaginary.    With Santa Claus it is not so.   The child is taught falsehood as sober truth and is thus grossly deceived during the most sensitive and formative period of his life."  

This devotional will get you into the true Christmas spirit (and I'm not saying this sarcastically).  You will contemplate with awe the fact that God sent Christ to come at all, "What would be the logical mission upon which God would send His Son to the world?  We know what our nature is and we know that God knows all about us and He is sending His Son to face us…..Our own hearts-sin and darkness and deception and moral disease- tell us what His mission should be.   The sin we cannot deny tells us that He might have come to judge the world!" You will dwell upon the wonder of the work of God in salvation in sending His own Son to save us, and that this Son is God Himself in the flesh, come to bring us His righteousness and come not just to dwell among His people for a short time, but Who dwells IN His people.  You will also contemplate Christ's second coming and be shocked that you do not long for it as you ought, "Another reason for the absence of real yearning for Christ's return is that Christians are so comfortable in this world that they have little desire to leave it……….We want to reserve the hope of heaven as a kind of insurance against the day of death, but as long as, we are healthy and comfortable, why change a familiar good for something about which we actually know very little?...  Again, in these times religion has become jolly good fun right here in this present world, and what's the hurry about heaven anyway?   Christianity, contrary to what some had thought is another and higher form of entertainment.   Christ has done all the suffering.   He has shed all the tears and carried all the crosses; we have but to enjoy the benefits of His heartbreak in the form of religious pleasures modeled after the world but carried on in the name of Jesus.  So say the same people who claim to believe in Christ's second coming."

All in all, though there were a few statements I did not agree with (like the parts where Tozer describes God's love for us as COMPELLING Him to do certain things rather than God being in complete control of His own love), but for the most part I really liked this devotional, and highly recommend it.  As I mentioned earlier, it will get you into the true Christmas spirit!


Many thanks to MoodyPublishers for sending me a free review copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable)


One of the places where you may purchase this book is at the Christian Book Distributors website

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader

Discovering the Septuagint - A Guided Reader - by Karen Jobes is a very nice resource for those looking for an introduction to the Greek of the LXX (The Septuagint).  There are chapters dealing with selected passages from 9 books of the LXX, in each chapter there is an introduction telling you about that particular book and its translation techniques.   Then follows the  Rahlfs-Hanhart Greek text of an excerpt from that particular book and a brief examination of certain key words and phrases in each verse, notes on vocabulary and syntax. Then comes another excerpt of the Greek text and the notes on the various verses…etc.  After all of the selected texts are done being examined, then comes the NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint) version of the passage(s) so that one may read the whole thing in English. And then finally, if verses from the chapter are cited in the New Testament, they have a table showing where in the NT the passage is referred to and a small summary of its context in the NT.

I like this study resource pretty well, and I like having an introduction to the language of the LXX.   Again, this is just an introduction to the study of the LXX, not necessarily a study resource, Jobes gives a list of recommended reference works on the LXX at the beginning of the book, as well as selected bibliography at the end of each chapter. 

I especially like that Jobes points out that each book of the LXX "potentially gives us a 'snapshot' of what the Hebrew looked like at the time of its translation".  But she seems rather contradictory when she then goes on to say that, "In places, the Greek translators of the Hebrew Bible used forms of words and interpreted their text in ways (without being able to foresee it, of course) that were more congenial to the message of the New Testament than the corresponding Hebrew texts would have been…"  But if the LXX potentially gives us a look at what the Hebrew text looked like in the days of the Apostles, why not assume that the Hebrew text of that day actually said what the Apostles quoted from the Greek?  Why do we hold our present day Hebrew text  as being the authoritative text with which to judge an older translation of an older Hebrew text?  Why not even consider the thought that perhaps the translation that various Apostles used was actually a literal translation of their Hebrew text rather than a heavily interpretative translation?

Anyway, I do like this resource, and think that it will be quite handy for those looking to be introduced to the Greek of the LXX.  I think it would be really neat if they came out with a book doing basically the same thing with the full text of the LXX…especially if they also included the variants that are found in the various Greek OT manuscripts.  


Many thanks to the folks at Kregel Academic for sending me a free review copy of this book! - My review did not have to be favorable.

One the the websites where this book may be purchased is at Christianbook.com