June 17, 2009

We're going to have a meeting in the air

I didn't think I'd be able to turn up much on a half assed search for A.P. Carter's "Bible Questions and Answers" and I didn't. Someone out there has a copy, it will eventually emerge. All will be revealed.

It didn't take me long to see that ever motherlovin' fool out there seems to have put out there own "Bible Questions and Answers". There is, of course, even a webpage called biblequestions.org.

But those questions aren't the right ones. And who are these people to be answering their own (misguided) questions?

We are decided. We are going to create Unsullied and Undismayed's Bible Questions and Answers. Not imminently, since Undismayed has to come up with the questions and the answers. But soon.

And, of course, Unsullied and Undismayed's Bible Questions and Answers will be freely available both online and inconvenient carry-it-with-you on the doorposts of your house style. And on your gates. The Truth Knows no Jurisdiction, or something.

The beautiful thing about Bible Questions and Answers as a genre is that you get to ask them and you get to answer them. That is a hell of a format. It is, perhaps, the best format for any religious discussion.

While we compile our questions, and answer them, Undismayed will also entertain your questions, please send them in.

Incidentally, have you ever read Howard Dorgan's study of six Appalachian Baptist sub-denominations? Really a fascinating book if you are into that sort of thing. One of the interesting things to glean from the book is that certain sub-denominations base their entire theology around finely grained readings of specific translations of the bible. Usually it is the King James. Other English translations change the meaning of specific phrases and render the entire sub-denomination directionless or even non-existent. So the articles of faith of the sub-denominations list the translation that they proceed to take as the literal word of God. I'd give the precise example but I don't have that book here with me to dig it up.

I am thinking of this because it occurred to me that, in the interests of scriptural purity, in our Q&A Undismayed is only going to ask questions of, and provide answers from, whatever Bible translation it is that tells people to handle poisonous serpents. That is, the actually true one.

And, helpfully, I see that Dorgan has an excellent essay online about this exact question in the serpent handling faith, which faced annihilation when the Revised Standard Version of the Bible was published without the key line in Mark 16 telling people to handle serpents.

Dorgan tells us (it is worth reading it all):

"Articles of Faith

I. A faith practice with a weak scriptural validation, having a biblical reference that must be labeled at least "questionable," perhaps "apocryphal."

A. Identified by biblical scholars as the "Marcan Appendix," Mark 16:9-20 was deleted when the Revised Standard Version of the Bible's translation of this gospel was published (1951), just as this "long version" of Mark has been deleted in a number of translations.

B. The reason for this deletion: these verses were not included in the earliest versions of Mark, and when included were occasionally listed as having questionable legitimacy.

1. The assumption being that these verses were not written by the original author of Mark.

a. Textual evidence (vocabulary and style) suggests-to what appears to be a judgment of the majority of biblical scholars-that these verses do not match the rest of Mark.

b. The argument has been made that this segment (called the "long version") was added by a third century AD scribe to make Mark's narrative conform more with Matthew and Luke by including Christ's appearances to Mary Magdalene and the disciples; however, what motivated the inclusion of the "signs" segment?

2. Also, these verses still appear to be out of parallel, narrative-wise, with the particular ascension stories provided in the other two synoptic gospels, Matthew and Luke, and particularly in Christ's mentioning of the five signs: casting out of demons, speaking in new tongues, the taking up of serpents, the drinking of deadly things, the laying on of hands to heal.

C. The most ancient versions of Mark end with 16:8 and do not include any reference to Christ's risen appearance to Mary Magdalene and to the disciples, thus also deleting the evangelical mandate "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" and all that follows relative to the "five signs," Mark 16:17-18. Cordex Sinaiticus is the only ancient Greek manuscript that contains the entire New Testament, and it does not include the Marcan Appendix.

D. In addition to the five signs passage not being included in the other two synoptic gospels, John's gospel doesn't include it either; however, in John, Acts, Corinthians I and II, and elsewhere there are statements about Apostolic actions being supported by "signs," referenced in a general way, but not by the specific five signs mentioned in Mark 16.

E. "And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs," Mark 16:20. Such a testimony for the validity of the "five signs" is not provided in other gospels or elsewhere in the New Testament.

F. When the New Revised Standard Version was published in 1989, the scholars/editors placed Mark 16:9-20 back into the main flow of Mark, but only after clearly indicating that the "Shorter Ending of Mark" closed with Mark 16:8, and after also providing a lengthy footnote noting the questionable character of Mark 16:9-20.

1. This return of the Marcan appendix may have been in response to the loud outcry that in 1951 arose from Pentecostals and other "practicing the signs" groups, condemning the Mark omissions, both of the "five signs" passage and the "Go into all the world . . ." mandate, which can be found elsewhere in the Gospels.

2. However, the act of bringing this passage back to the main flow of Mark 16 was not a great deal different from what was done in the Original Revised Standard Version, since in that rendering the full passage was included in a footnote, with all of the information about the short version there also."

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