Saturday, January 7, 2012

Word of God has been translated

Word of God has been translated.

In the Hellenistic period seventy Jews translated Hebrew and Aramaic Scriptures into Greek. Septuagint LXX

In the Byzantine period Saint Jerome translated entire Bible into Latin. Vulgata.

In modern times the entire Bible has been translated into 450 languages and parts of it into over 2000 different languages and the translation work goes on. No other book comes even near these statistics.

God thus speaks on this planet everywhere and especially during those days of the week that have been dedicated to Him, on Sabbaths and Sundays.

Whatever your mother tongue you can hear and read the Word of God in your own language.

It is quit a story how the Church of Christ has achieved this number of translations.

Today the Bible is at your fingertips in many languages and translation version also in the Web at Bible Gateway and elsewhere.

You can also freely download your own desktop Bible in electronic form in many languages together with very smart software choosing e-Sword or other packages.

So you have no excuse one day to tell your God "I did not hear and believe your word since I had no Bible in my own language".

A free gift from God to humanity. the Word of God.

God speaks in many languages

As for the other languages spoken in Jerusalem around 35 A.D. we have a nice listing in the miracle of the passover in Jerusalem when the city was filled with Jewish pilgrims.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men out of every nation under heaven.

Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together and were confounded, because every man heard them speaking in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, "Behold, are not all these who speak Galileans?

And how then do we each hear them speaking in our own tongue wherein we were born?

  1. Parthians, 
  2. Medes, 
  3. Elamites 
  4. and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, 
  5. and in Judea 
  6. and Cappadocia, 
  7. Pontus 
  8. and Asia,
  9. Phrygia 
  10. and Pamphylia, 
  11. in Egypt 
  12. and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, 
  13. and strangers from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
  14. Cretans 
  15. and Arabians 

-- we hear them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."

And they were all amazed and were in doubt, saying one to another, "What meaneth this?"

Others mocking said, "These men are full of new wine."
Acts 2:1-13 KJ21

Jesus speaks Aramaic

Word of God came flesh - this is called the mystery of incarnation by Christian theologians - and was born in Bethlehem, Efrata, in the Promised Land of Israel.

The stories about Jesus in the Gospels and the early Christian history in Acts of Apostles and the teachings in the Letters of Paul and others as well as the Revelation are all written in colloquial Greek called koinee.

But from various sources we know today that at the time Jesus of Nazareth lived in occupied Palestine, Galilee and Judea, the people were talking a West Semitic language called Aramaic.

The holy language of the Jews living there was West Semitic Hebrew - the language that God spoke to Moses.

The "Hebrew Bible" contains also some sections written in Biblical Aramaic.

Old Testament Aramaic

Undisputed occurrences
  • Ezra 4:8–6:18 and 7:12–26 – quotations of documents from the 5th century BCE concerning the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem.
  • Daniel 2:4b–7:28 – five tales about Daniel and his colleagues, and an apocalyptic vision.
  • Jeremiah 10:11 – a single sentence denouncing idolatry occurs in the middle of a Hebrew text.
  • Genesis 31:47 – translation of a Hebrew place-name.
Other suggested occurrences
  • Genesis 15:1 – the word במחזה (ba-maħaze, "in a vision"). According to the Zohar (I:88b), this word is Aramaic, as the usual Hebrew word would be במראה (ba-mar’e).
  • Numbers 23:10 – the word רבע (rôḇa‘, usually translated as "stock" or "fourth part"). Rabbi J.H. Hertz, in his commentary on this verse, cites an unnamed scholar's claim that this is an Aramaic word meaning "dust."
  • Job 36:2a – Rashi, in his commentary on this verse, states that this phrase is in Aramaic.

Aramaic of Jesus
New Testament Greek texts contain some expressions in Jesus mother tongue Aramaic.

for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:15

And James, the son of Zebedee, and John, the brother of James, and he gave them the name Boanerges, which is Sons of Thunder. Mark 3:17

He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John, you shall be called Cephas", which is translated 'Peter'. John 1:42

Then Thomas, who was called Didymus, said to his co-disciples, "Now let us go that we might die with him!" John 11:16

Talitha kum
And taking the hand of the child, he said to her, "Talitha kum", which translates as, "Little girl, I say to you, get up." Mark 5:41

And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," which is 'be opened'. Mark 7:34

"Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." Mark 14:36

"But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother [without a cause] shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." Matthew 5:22

"No one can serve two masters: for either they will hate the one, and love the other; or else they will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:22

Jesus said unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. John 20:16

But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.’ Matthew 27:6

Lama sabachthani
And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, for what have you forsaken me?" Mark 15:34

The Gospels mention place names in Jerusalem that are Aramaic:

  • Aceldama 
  • Pool of Bethesda 
  • Gabbatha 
  • Gethsemane 
  • Golgotha.

(For detailed discussion on these and other Aramaic words in New Testament see the wikipedia article)

God speaks myths

Ah, so the holy Bible contains mythical language!

The Word of God contains myths!

The people of God, Jews and Christians, believe in mythical stuff!


Because of this many sneer at Bible and go away searching the pure logical and scientific words in the footsteps of August Comte and Ludwig Wittgenstein. They have defined for modern man what is meaningful language what is given to us (by whom?) and what is nonsensical piling of words (especially in Philosophy and Theology and the world of religions)

But why hurry away?

If God chooses to speak to us His creatures also through myths - and He does - so who are we to reject that kind of parlance?

For anyone studying modern communications know about the penetrating power of myths and the deep impact of mythological imagery. If a company reaches in its marketing strategies something of mythical proportions among global audiences it Transforms their products into plenty of hard cash!

Would not God our creator know that myths are powerful media?

And would He not know how to create myths that contain deep truths about reality?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Saint George and the dragon

Saint George is today one of the main saints in the Eastern Orthodox Churches in the Near East and is also revered by the Muslims as el Khader, the Green one.

His icon typically depicts a knight on horse slaying a dragon with his spear. In the background is often a building and in front of it a woman who is saved from the beast by the hero.

What is going on here?

Christian explanation
A Christian Web site shows the typical icon in the picture and tells

Saint George was a soldier in the Guard of Emperor Diocletian in the Roman Empire, venerated as a martyr.

Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches, and the Eastern Catholic Churches. He is immortalised in the tale of George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial is celebrated on 23 April.

St. George is the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia, as well as the cities of Amersfoort, Beirut, Bteghrine, Cáceres, Ferrara, Freiburg, Genoa, Ljubljana, Lod and Moscow, as well as a wide range of professions, organisations and disease sufferers.
In the fully-developed Western version, a dragon makes its nest at the spring that provides water for the city of “Silene” (perhaps modern Cyrene) in Libya or the city of Lydda, depending on the source.

Consequently, the citizens have to dislodge the dragon from its nest for a time, in order to collect water. To do so, each day they offer the dragon at first a sheep,and if no sheep can be found,then a maiden must go instead of the sheep. The victim is chosen by drawing lots.

One day, this happens to be the princess. The monarch begs for her life with no result. She is offered to the dragon, but there appears the saint on his travels. He faces the dragon, protects himself with the sign of the cross, slays it and rescues the princess.

The grateful citizens abandon their ancestral paganism and convert to Christianity.
Turn back to God

The quoted page does not explain from where the "fully-developed Western version" has been adopted but the basic structure underlying the story is representative of the legend in its various Christianized forms.

Andromeda and Perseus Christianized
Saint George and dragon may have pre-Christian origins. The Greeks knew the myth of Andromeda about beautiful Andromeda in distress and the brave Perseus who save her from the sea monster.

From Orlando Furioso. Gustave Doré

Gustave Doré (1832-1883) catched the deep psychological and sexual content of this unforgettable Greek myth that captivates our imagination. The picture is from his illustration of Renaissance period Orlando Furioso where Ludovico Aristoso (1474-1533) uses the theme that has the fundamental structure of "princess and the beast".

Comparing Dore's image with the icon in churches also shows how the process of transforming the Greek legend into a holy history transforms the imagery and details.

Yam at Yafo

Rocks in front of the ancient harbour city of Yafo

Bronze Age Canaanites were quite afraid of the sea and called it god Yam (from which the Biblical Hebrew word for sea). In front of Yafo harbour there are still rocks where waves break into foamy torrents that fishermen in their boats must avoid. Greeks had similar mythological interest to rocks near sea shore in Cyprus where Aphrodite herself was born from the water.

In the Ugaritic poem we have a mythical fight for power amongst the gods

Ba'al Hadad warns Yam that the gods will not allow him to usurp the throne of heaven. In KTU 1.2 iii, he warns:
"From your throne of kingship you shall be driven,
from the seat of your dominion cast out!
On your head be Ayamari (Driver) O Yam,
Between your shoulders Yagarish (Chaser), O Judge Nahar
May Horon split open, O Yam,
may Horon smash your head,
´Athtart-Name-of-the-Lord thy skull!

It is said that in Yafo the Canaanites sacrificed to Yam once every seven years a virgin to the sea monster Yam to keep it calm. (To be honest, I am not sure about the veracity of this information and need to study more the sources). This would have been heard by the seafaring Phoenicians and Greeks inspiring the  ancient Andromeda Perseus myth.

Myth and reality

Greek myths contain powerful psychological truths used for example in modern psychiatry to describe mental profiles from Oedipus to Narcissus. Also the Christened myths usually contain truths valued by the Church that carries them on in iconography and legends of the saints.

But in the case of Saint George and the Dragon... Perseus and Andromeda cycle there may be more truth to the story than we like. For there is a theory that Phoenicians brought the story to Greece from the Holy Land - where it then returned as Saint George.

The myth and legends of Saint George and the dragon are true in many ways and have several levels of significance although that Anatolian soldier bishop may never have slain a real life dragon to save the damsel in distress.


Myths are closely tied to religious beliefs and constitute a significant element in cultural traditions in every known human society. Myths and a system of myths, a mythology, are a complicated matter involved with cultures, languages, and development and interaction of civilizations during history. The study of myths is an integral part of anthropological research, sociology, cultural history and often involves discussions using Semiotic and Structuralists concepts. defines the word quite broadly with its modern connotations

1. a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.
2. stories or matter of this kind: realm of myth.
3. any invented story, idea, or concept: His account of the event is pure myth.
4. an imaginary or fictitious thing or person.
5. an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.

The list of such creatures is long and varies from culture to culture.  Dragons are interesting because they are such a global phenomenon. Most cultures also know giants and many kind of divinities, supernatural heroes and beings with stories and artistic depictions that set them to the huge and complicated world of mythologies.

In the broadest sense a myth can refer to any traditional story, although folklorists prefer to use the term to refer to a sacred narrative that validates a religious system. Normally, myth transpires outside or before human time. Mythic events within human history are often termed legends. Origin myths concern the origins of the world, and explain how the world and the creatures in it came to have their present form, whereas founding myths (Greek aition) are the etiological myths that explain and justify the origins of a ritual or the founding of a city. A political myth can represent a particular interpretation of a historical experience or policy, or some acknowledged historical antecedents, invoked in the present to justify a certain policy.

Mythology denotes a body of myths or their study.

Greek mythology
The word myth comes from the Greek language which is appropriate since ancient Greeks have such a place of honour in the creation of mythologies.

The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece. In the field of folkloristics, a myth is defined as a sacred narrative explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form. Many scholars in other fields use the term "myth" in somewhat different ways. In a very broad sense, the word can refer to any story originating within traditions.

God and dragons

A dinosaur like Medieval dragon imagined by a Western artist

The word "dragon" creates in our Western brains an image that is usually something like this dragon imagined and drawn by an artist.

The English word "dragon" derives from Greek δράκων (drákōn), "dragon, serpent of huge size, water-snake", which probably comes from the verb δρακεῖν (drakeîn) "to see clearly" wikipedia

We immediately know what a dragon is once we hear or read the word or see an image about it; a fearsome winged creature that throws flames and flies over Medieval castles carefully watched by dragonslayers and other heroic knights holding their bows and arrows, swords and shields ready for fight. Some remember the game of Dragons and Dungeons!

Chinese dragons look slightly different from the traditional Western monsters and are more clearly snake like creatures with fearsome teeth gaping in their mouths and huge eyes scaring the wits out of children celebrating Chinese New Year - or, alternatively, making them laugh happily!

Bel and a Dragon
A Maccabean period addition to the Book of Daniel tells an interesting story about Bel and a dragon and how Daniel solved the problem caused by the monster.

The narrative of Bel and the Dragon incorporated as chapter 14 of the extended Book of Daniel exists only in Greek in the Septuagint. This chapter, along with chapter 13, is referred to as deuterocanonical, in that it is not universally accepted among Christians as belonging to the canonical works accepted as the Bible. The text is viewed as apocryphal by Protestants and typically not found in modern Protestant Bibles, though it was in the original 1611 edition of the King James Version. It is listed in Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England.

From snake to Dragon
Holy Bible tells a most fundamental story about a talking and walking snake in the beginning of the history of humanity. At the end of the Bible the snake discussing nicely and wisely with Eve has grown into a fearsome dragon with ten mysterious horns.

Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, "Yea, hath God said, `Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?"

And the woman said unto the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden,
but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, `Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it,lest ye die.'"

And the serpent said unto the woman, "Ye shall not surely die; for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."
Genesis 3:1-5 KJ21

Book of Revelation
And I stood upon the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.

And I saw that one of his heads was, as it were, wounded to death, and his deadly wound was healed.

And all the world wondered after the beast.

And they worshiped the dragon which gave power unto the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"

And there was given unto him a mouth, speaking great things and blasphemies, and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.

And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in Heaven.

And it was given unto him to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world.
Rev 12:1-8 KJ21

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Facts in Fiction


Hogwarts - an English school

In the fantasy world of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter we feel the factual reality of English school in the fictional Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The facts are there in the general organization of teachers and pupils and in the classes on mystic plants and potions, magical techniques in using the wizard's staff and those amazing sports hours. But even more true to our reality in this fantasy world are the description of personal growth and the eternal conflict of evil and good in humanity.

The totally fictional Harry Potter is actually a factual description of our world using the tools of fiction to describe reality and invoking deep symbolism to describe abstract concepts of good and bad. And, of course, it is also an enthralling love story based on facts of human nature as seen by J.K. Rowling.

Mos Eisley Cantina

Imaginary sky bar (from the official Star Wars blog)

George Lucas takes his fictional heroes Luke Skywalker and Obi-wan into a fabulous space bar somewhere out there in the universe. (Note the typical choice of pseudonyms: Lucas - Luke!)

The completely fictional Mos Eisley Cantina is filled with the strangest imaginary characters that are truly out of this world! Also the music, the setting and the colours of the drinks made by the resident mixologist Ackmena are something else.

And yet, this totally fictional bar completely reflects our factual bars to the extent that the same drinking hole could as well be located in Texas - except for the pretty fancy costumes and choices of drink. We even expect a regular bar fight a la Hollywood because we instinctively associate the sky bar with the real life bars in the United States and their macho visitors on motorbikes instead of fancy space vehicles.

G. Lucas is talking about our factual world using fictional characters and imaginary sceneries - all based on real world things!

Hobbits and Gollum

Hobbits, small in size but so big in bravery!

The Hobbits of J.R.R. Tolkien are also completely recognisable by our brain systems because of the factual world that lies under the fabulous legends and myths. We feel with the characters that have the psychology and personal features of real humans, even that Gollum in Lord of the Rings!

Gollum, powerful symbol of an obsessed human 

Facts in Fiction
In fact (sic!), it is extremely difficult to write fiction that is not factual and has nothing that links its contents to the reality of our world.

Fiction that is so imaginary that there are no images that our our brain can recognize from the reality around us or in our souls is nonsensical.

No human can create or understand fiction created without facts!

Fact or Fiction

Both English words, fact and fiction have Latin origins and were introduced to English around 1500 AD ± 30. Fiction is attested before fact which has changed its meaning to the modern one during the time of Elizabeth I and Shakespeare.

Online Etymology Dictionary informs

fact Look up fact at
1530s, "action," especially "evil deed," from L. factum "event, occurrence," lit. "thing done," neut. pp. of facere "to do" (see factitious). Usual modern sense of "thing known to be true" appeared 1630s, from notion of "something that has actually occurred." Facts of life "harsh realities" is from 1854; specific sense of "human sexual functions" first recorded 1913.

fiction Look up fiction at
late 14c., "something invented," from O.Fr. ficcion (13c.) "dissimulation, ruse; invention," and directly from L. fictionem (nom. fictio) "a fashioning or feigning," noun of action from pp. stem of fingere "to shape, form, devise, feign," originally "to knead, form out of clay," from PIE *dheigh- (cf. O.E. dag"dough;" see dough). As a branch of literature, 1590s.

© 2001-2011 Douglas Harper

These two words are good examples of the complicated relationship between words and reality.

Everyday parlance may lead us to think that there is a very obvious difference between fact and fiction.

BBC news anchor tries to present facts about what is happening today and online dictionaries put many facts at our fingertips.

On the other hand, it is obvious that the amazing Harry Potter fantasy novels written by the British author J. K. Rowling belong to the world of fiction. Similarly, Hollywood movie producer George Lucas created fictional worlds and planets with two moons in his immensely popular Star Wars space opera. Some of the characters in Star Trek series speak a fictional language called klingon that consists of an invented vocabulary and grammar and can be studied in the same way as L.H. Zamenhof's esperanto or other such artificial languages.

And last but not least, J.R.R. Tolkien's mighty legendary stories about the hobbits. They feel so real and true to life in the books and in the spectacular new movie. There are many facts about hobbits in the online dictionary wikipedia. And yet, they are totally fictional characters!

The difference between fact and fiction thus seems crystal clear - even without a crystal ball.

So where is the problem?

The problem is that in all the examples of fiction given above the worlds imagined by the authors are totally intertwined with the facts of this reality of our world.

Please, let me explain that idea by examples in another post.