[sword-devel] clean bible or bad phantasy?

Daniel Russell sword-devel@crosswire.org
Wed, 04 Dec 2002 21:41:49 -0800

Let's not make this into a religious argument. This is a very weak basis 
for deciding what to allow or block in what should be a great study 
tool, for all parties involved. Only insecurity in the textual 
traditions would make one argue that it is wrong to ask for tools to 
study the exact original text to be included, (if they are programmed by 
someone willing already).

Don't censor the scriptures. By this i mean, don't talk about 
"authority" or "obediance" or whether the Bible is perfect or not, or 
whatever. It is a completely irrelevant issue unless you want to make 
this into a paranoid religious group of developers instead of a secure 
group of Bible scholars who are level headed and friendly to 
scholasticism in general.

Let's not criticize or seek to block a tool that allows the text to be 
viewed almost much more closely to how it originally appeared. 
Regardless  of whether or not that tool is deemed necessary from a 
*religious* point of view, include it if nothing else than for the sake 
of scholastic authenticity. Remember: this is the scripture we are 
talking about: it was written that way. I think a simple rule for 
determining ANY decisions like this should be: if the scripture appeared 
that way originally, it should be included (if someone has programmed 
it). Otherwise the message is: the original text is not good enough. You 
may have whatever reasons for why you think the original text is not 
good enough, such as the fact that it does not have vowels. You may say 
there's no reason NOT to include vowels, but don't limit the tools based 
on such standpoints. You yourself may not use the tool, but others will, 
and the work has already been done.

Frankly, i'd prefer to read the text without vowel points for another 
reason: i'm used to it and i think many native Hebrew speakers would 
prefer it as it causes less clutter in decoding the words in the brain 
since less symbols are picked up by the eyes. This particular reason for 
including the tool is purely a matter of preference, but it is backed up 
by the reasons given above, so it is worth it.

There are cases where various renderings are possible in Hebrew when 
vowels are not assumed. This can occur in Hebrew in general, not just 
the Bible. In some cases the words that may thus be rendered are no 
longer in common usage, and other, related words with different vowel 
points are. Thus an incorrect (even if plausible) rendering may be possible.

Another example is when the vowel points (added in the Middle Ages) are 
taken as being one gender, but the same spelling with different vowel 
points can be the other gender. This can change the entire effect of a 
sentence since grammatical deconstruction will be affected by such a 
change (since gender helps determine what words are connected 
grammatically -- what verbs take what objects and what adjectives and 
adverbs modify what nouns, etc). BEING ABLE to view the original 
unvoweled text is useful as it can help free the mind from the erraneous 
belief that the vowel points that are present are absolutely correct: 
that no other renderings are possible.

Once again, the rule for determining what tools should go into the 
project should be a simple one, WITH NO basis on any religious bias or 
assumption: if the module is authentic and can help anyone study the 
scripture better, or improve in some way (even slightly, even if you 
personally don't see how) their studying it,  then it should be 
included. The key here is the word "authentic". I'm not talking about 
including a book about Dyanetics or the Book of Mormon. I'm talking 
about the original unvoweled text. Someone wrote a module for it. By 
golly, don't waste his effort.