Saturday, April 23, 2016

My search for the Hebrew Bible in the original

I am an amateur Biblical scholar (emphasis on the "amateur"). I have been trying to learn Greek so I can read the New Testament in the original one day. (Any observations about being a shameless nerd are readily agreed with.) Many are surprised to learn that the oldest manuscripts of the New Testament were originally written in Greek (rather than Hebrew), and a number have asked me why. The reason is actually that Greek was the international language of the time. It was the language that people published in if they wanted to reach a wide audience, and that was the case with the early New Testament.

By contrast, the Old Testament really was written in Hebrew - or at least, most of it was. Scholars believe some of it may have originally been written in Aramaic - a Semitic language closely related to Hebrew. In the words of my church's Bible Dictionary: "The original language of most of the Old Testament is Hebrew, but a few portions ... were written in what is popularly called Chaldee, but more correctly Aramaic." (Source: Entry on Bible itself)

My church's edition of the Holy Bible

I don't have any plans to learn either Hebrew or Aramaic; as they are difficult languages for English speakers, and my primary Biblical interest is the New Testament; but I thought that as long as I had a copy of the New Testament in the original Greek, I might as well complement it with a copy of the Old Testament in the original as well. Thus, I looked into what version to get; and found that this was easier said than done.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

History's horror stories: The “grand experiments” with communism

Americans have rightly been interested in their own country's history for a long time - both for the moving stories it contains, and for the secrets of its success. But we have long been interested in the stories of less successful countries as well, and we have a never-ending fascination with historical horror stories like those found in Nazi Germany. It is well that we pay them attention; because along with a careful study of the secrets of our own success, it is good to have a healthy knowledge of the causes of other countries' failures; and how the terrible events so tragically found in other countries could have been allowed to happen.

Iron Curtain, 1949 - border between the two Germanies

In that spirit, I set out to talk about another of history's "horror stories" - a story not as well-known as that of Nazi Germany, but one of vital importance nonetheless; which may be even more topical in this day, due to the expanding socialism found within our own country today. I speak of the experiences of other countries with the horrors of communism.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

War of “every man against every man”: Thomas Hobbes and the state of nature

The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes once said that the state of nature is a "war of every man against every man." Many have not wanted to believe it (even great democratic philosophers like John Locke), believing that even if men are better off with civil society, life before civil society wasn't all that terrible. "I'm not violent like that!" many say, taking their own aversion to violence as representative of everyone else. "Humanity by nature is peaceful!"

Thomas Hobbes

And even in the book where Hobbes himself made this statement, he acknowledged that "it may seem strange to some man ... that nature should thus dissociate, and render men apt to invade, and destroy one another: and he may therefore ... desire perhaps to have the same confirmed by experience." Thus, he meets this challenge head-on with the following argument:

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