Christian Fundamentalists argue for a literal interpretation of the Bible. But that raises a very important question: which version of the Bible should we use? And in what language?
What language did God use when he told the Evangelists what to write? Was it the same language he used to tell Moses what to write in the first five books (the Pentateuch) of the Old\r\nTestament? Was that the same language God used to talk to David and Solomon or the Prophets? If one listens to some of the more extreme fundamentalists God speaks the English of the King James Version of the Bible. But modern editions of the King James Bible are written in modern English but in the style of the original edition. The words are not exactly the same.
The oldest copies of the Gospels are written in koine Greek. They were then translated into Latin – the Vulgate version. It was the Vulgate Bible that was translated into English and other languages. When I was studying at the University of Chicago Divinity School back in the early 1980s, a required course for my Master’s degree was a course in early Christian literature. One of things I learned is that there are mistranslations in the Vulgate Bible and the King James Version.
Sounds very much like a game we played when I was in kindergarten. We would line up a row of chairs and we would sit in those chairs. Then the teacher would whisper something into the ear of the child in the first seat and tell them to pass it down. The secret was passed on down the line. The last student would then say out loud what they thought the original message was. The results were always hilarious. The final message and the original message were so different!
Now, you say, these were small children. But we are even less than small children compared to God, if one accepts that God is infinite. We are mere finite beings trying to comprehend the Infinite! Talk about the blind men and the elephant!
I am going to accept the divine inspiration for the writings included in Scripture without discussion. Whether one accepts or denies that divine inspiration is a matter of faith. What I do argue is the so-called literal translation of Scripture argued by the fundamentalists.
The books of both the Old and New Testaments are thousands of years old. They have been translated and re-translated a number of times. There have been revisions and errors in that chain of translation. The only way to even begin a literal interpretation of any Scriptural text is to go back to the original texts in the original language, assuming such a text is available. I know for a fact that no one has found any of the original texts of the Gospels. We only have very old copies. Whose to say those copies are exact duplicates of what the Evangelists wrote. How many of the fundamentalists have ever read even those ancient copies?
Finally, when I was an undergraduate student majoring in Anthropology, I did a minor in Linguistics. I learned that any given language changes over time. The phonetics change and the meanings change. The Hebrew of Genesis is not exactly the same as the Hebrew of David or of Jesus.
Language is the medium of any culture. In learning to talk, I.e., learning the language, our children learn our culture. This is the socialization process. Language is what separates us from the animals. Only humans have true language.
As a culture changes, so does the language. And changes in language and culture over time are inevitable. The culture of the USA in 2007 is not the same culture of the USA in 1907. Look at the changes in the last 100 years. How even more significant would the changes be over thousands of years and thousands of miles?
In conclusion, a literal interpretation of the Bible is impossible and those that argue for such an interpretation are hypocrites or fools! IMHO, the fundamentalists are afraid of change, afraid of progress. They fear the future and so they hide their heads in the sands of the past.