Thursday, August 20, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today I want to look at how the Bible actually reads. By the time we are done with these lessons, I will hope to have answered every question someone could make to you about the Bible. There have been some good observations so far! If there are any that I've missed, please let me know and I will try to cover it!

More than three thousand versions of the entire Bible, or portions of it, exist in English.

Chapter and verse divisions in the Bible were not determined by those who wrote the words that we read. These divisions were added to the text hundreds of years after the authors died. The original writers neither planned nor anticipated these divisions.

Chapter and verse numbers in the apostles' letters, for example, would appear as strange to them as the following does to us:

Dear Aunt Sue,

Chapter One

Last week we went to town and learned that....

"Divided on horseback" was the criticism of Robert Estienne, a French publisher and convert to Protestantism who decided to number the verses in the New Testament in order to make it easier to study and memorize. While Stephen Langton had divided the text into chapters, Estienne then broke each chapter into numbered verses. According to his son, he did much of the work while on horseback—leading some critics ever since to suggest the reason some verses' divisions are short and others are long was because of the bumpy ride between his office in Paris and his home in southern France.

The Bible was designed more for the ear that the eye. In antiquity people passed history and genealogy from generation to generation by oral tradition—through storytelling or by reading aloud. Those who wrote the Bible did so knowing that their words would be read aloud. So puns, acrostics, and cryptograms are all used widely throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

Mgn rdng ths bk wtht vwls. Myb ftr whl y cld fll n sm f th blnks nd fgr t mst f t. Ftr ll, t's smpl sglsh. Bt nw, mgn t s prt f n ncnt lngg tht hs flln nt dss vr svrl cntrs. Tht s hw th Bbl nc pprd. Imagine reading a book without vowels. Maybe after a while you could fill in some of the blanks and figure out most of it. After all, it's simple English. But now. Imagine it as part of an ancient language that has fallen into disuse over several centuries. That is how the Bible once appeared!

Hieroglyphics—derived from two Greek words that mean "sacred carvings," since the signs were at first chiseled on stone—were the basci writing system in Egypt at the time of Moses. Since young Moses was educated in the Egyptian sciences and arts, he no doubt learned to read and write Egyptian hieroglyphics. About 750 pictures were used at first in hieroglyphics. At least twenty-two signs existed for various birds, such as the curved neck of the Egyptian vulture, the flat face of an owl, and the tail feathers of the pintail duck.

We will finish up this lesson next week!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

Our lesson this Saturday is looking at more of the inscriptions found in the Sinai attesting to the passing by of Moses and the Israelites. Also adding to the validity of the applicable Bible passages. These references come from A.P. Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, London: John Murray, 1905.

Explorers found two inscriptions in Wadi Sidri that refer to the murmuring of the Jewish people against Moses about their great thirst, hunger and terror they experienced during their flight from the Egyptians as they entered the great desert of the Sinai Peninsula.

The inscriptions:

Pilgrims fugitive through the sea find a place of refuge at Sidri.
Lighting upon plain ground they proceed on their pilgrimage full of terror [77]

The Hebrews pass over the sea into the wide waterless desert, famished with hunger and thirst. [17]

Moses recorded the experience in the wilderness when the Israelites complained bitterly against God and their leaders, in Exodus 17:1-3.

Another Sinai inscription describes God's miraculous provision of water to the Children of Israel through god commanding Moses to cause water to flow from a rock.

The people clamor vociferously. The people anger Moses.
Swerving from the right way, they thirst for water insatiably.
The water flows, gently gushing out of the stony rock.
Out of the rock a murmur of abundant waters.
Out of the hard stone a springing well.
Like the wild asses braying,
the Hebrews swallow down enormously and greedily.
Greedy of food like infants,
they plunge into sin against Jehovah (YHWH) [46]

The people drink, winding on their way,
drinking with prone mouth,
Jehovah (YHWH) gives them drink again and again. [39]

The people sore thirst, drink vehemently.
They quaff the water-spring without pause, ever drinking.
Reprobate beside the gushing well-spring. [58]

The Book of Exodus also record this in Exodus 17:6.

Despite God's ample and miraculous provisions for them, the Israelites remained reprobate in their attitude, refusing either to thank God or trust in His continuing provision for their daily needs!

Another inscription in the Sinai records that the Israelites' succumbed to gluttony in eating the quails which God miraculously provided at a place called Kibroth-hattaavah.

Despite God's daily provision of manna, the Israelites rebelled against the Lord and Moses by complaining about the sameness of food. This rebellion unleashed the wrath of God on their sinfulness. He sent a massive flock of quail to provide meat.

Rather than gratefully accept this as a gift from God, the Israelites greedily stuffed their mouths with the quail. Many died there in the plague of gluttony.

The inscription:

The people have drink to satiety. In crowds the swillFlesh they strip from the bone, mangling it.
Replete with food, they are obstreperous.
Surfeited, they cram themselves; clamoring, they vomit.
They people are drinking water to repletion.
They tribes, weeping for the dead, cry aloud with downcast eyes.
The dove mourns, devoured by grief.
The hungry ass kicketh: the tempted men, brought to destruction, perish.
Apostasy from the faith leads them to the tomb. [28]

Devouring flesh ravenously, drinking wine greedily
Dancing, shouting, they play.
Congregating on all sides to ensnare them,
The people voraciously devour the quails.
Binding the bow against them, bringing them down.
Eagerly and enormously eating the half raw flesh,
The pilgrims become plague-stricken. [34]

Moses gives us this account in Numbers 11:31-33. The next statement by Moses recorded in Numbers 11:34 gives the location where this event occurred: the very same place where the inscription was discovered over fifteen centuries later.

In 1761, the German explorer Barthold Niebuhr (Voyage en Arabie, tom. I, p. 191) discovered an extensive ruined cemetery with carved inscriptions and engravings of quail, standing, flying and apparently, even trussed and cooked, on the tombs and within a sepulcher on top of an inaccessible mountain in Sinai called Sarbut-el-Khadem. The

Byzantine monk Cosmas Indicopleustes had previously recorded his discovery of these graves in A.D. 535