Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Bible - One book or many?

Sometimes grammatical distinctions, far from trivial, reveal larger concerns. One such is pertinent to my recent threads. That is, how is the root term BIBLIA (Greek and Latin) to be construed? Is it a feminine singular, designating one coherent entity? Or is it a neuter plural, "the books?" Today when we can buy various editions of the whole Bible in any bookstore, we assume that the former is correct - it is one thing. So too with the way that many read it, construing a single plot line throughout: the ways of the Deity in history - or for others, the manner in which believers have constructed this story.
Historically, full editions of the Bible did not become generally available until ca. 800 CE, during the Carolingian era. Even so, they were expensive, to be found in only a few wealthy monastic libraries. Pious lay people acquired partial editions such as the Psalter and the Gospels.
In my view a segmented approach remains preferable, for modern textual analysis has disclosed a range of autonomous entities therein. For example, modern analysis of the Pentateuch rejects any single author, instead identifying four source-streams, generally known as J, E, D. and P. So at the beginning of the Bible we find a composite: the books, as it were.
I thought of this approach in noting another thread hereabouts, one that reopens the old issue of the contradictions in Scripture. Unlike the usual generic approach, these anomalies are often best explained by invoking a piecemeal approach. For example, the book of Genesis begins with two separate accounts of the Creation. Since they were originally autonomous, we must expect discrepancies between the two. Yet when contradictions are found in a single installment, as does sometimes occur, that is significant.
Hence discussions of Biblical contradictions should be conducted within the arenas of individual text-clusters. In this way many otherwise troublesome variants become understandable. Over the centuries, the editors have sought to retain the integrity of the texts they were integrating, leaving be the discrepancies along the way.


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