“Christian”: a title construed as a name, given a Latin suffix and confused with a slave-name

“In Antioch the disciples were first called Christians [Χριστιανούς].” (Acts 11:26)

F. F. Bruce writes, “It is natural that the designation ‘Christian’ should first have been given to the followers of Jesus in Antioch, and by Gentiles.” He explains:

1. This followed a pattern of attaching a Latin suffix to a name. “As the Herodians in the Gospels were adherents of Herod, so the Christians (christianoi) were adherents of Christ (such forms consisting of the stem of a personal name followed by an originally Latin suffix, -ianus).”

2. Non-Christian Jews would have avoided calling Jesus “Christ.” “Greek-speaking Jews at that date would not have referred to Jesus as Christ, for that was still a title (christos, the “anointed” one, corresponding to the Semitic messiah); to refer to him thus would have been to acknowledge him as Messiah.”

3. Gentiles, however, could have construed “Christ” simply as an alternative name. “But in Gentile ears Christ was simply an alternative name for Jesus; it had no such associations for them as it had for Jews.”

4. “Christos” sounded like a common slave-name. “Christos sounded exactly like a fairly common slave-name, Chrēstos (Latin Chrestus), and among Greeks and Romans there was considerable confusion between, the two spellings, as also between christianoi and chrēstianoi.”

5. The slave name sounded so similar, that some scribes copying Acts made the mistake of using it. “Even in Acts 11:26, where it is mentioned that “in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians”, a few Greek witnesses to the text (including the first hand in Codex Sinaiticus) exhibit the spelling chrēstianous (accusative plural) instead of christianous. The latter is certainly what Luke wrote, but the former may well represent what some of the Antiochenes thought they were saying.”

Bruce, F. F. (1977). Paul: Apostle of the Free Spirit (p. 132). Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster.


The Jesus-movement was otherwise (more internally?) simply called “the Way” (Acts 9:2, 19:9, 19:23, 24:14, 24:22).

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I hear you but I don’t hear you: Resolving the superficial contradiction between Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9

Acts 9:7 says that the men around Paul “stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one.” (NRSV)

In Acts 22:9 Paul says they “saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.”

Is this a formal contradiction, or merely a superficial contradiction that can be harmonized? Robert Bowman summarizes[1]:

“Evidently Luke [the author of Acts] means to convey that Paul’s companions saw a light and heard the sound of someone’s voice coming from the light, but only Paul saw the person in the light and heard the words spoken by the voice of that person. This explanation is reasonable, plausible, consistent with the wording of the texts, and supported by contextual elements in both accounts and in the third account found in Acts 26.”

Continue reading “I hear you but I don’t hear you: Resolving the superficial contradiction between Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9”

Book of Mormon Intertextuality

Royal Skousen is the editor of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. He has been a conservative voice on the topic of the method of translation of the Book of Mormon, arguing that the text as we have it was dictated by Joseph Smith.

“I began to see considerable evidence for the traditional interpretation that witnesses of the translation process claimed: (a) the text was orally dictated, word for word; (b) Book of Mormon names were frequently spelled out the first time they occurred in the text, thus indicating that Joseph Smith could see the spelling of the names; and (c) during dictation there was no rewriting of the text except to correct errors in taking down the dictation… Joseph Smith was literally reading off an already composed English-language text.”

My Testimony of the Book of Mormon, Scholarly and Personal, December 2009

His recent position on intertextuality is causing a stir.

“One incredible aspect of the Book of Mormon is the complex blending into the text of phraseology from all over the King James Bible. Other scholars have been working on this issue and generally refer to it as “intertextuality”… Here I am not referring to the language of the long biblical quotations in the Book of Mormon (from Isaiah and Matthew, for instance) but within the Book of Mormon text proper…

“We end up with these general results with respect to the archaic nature of the Book of Mormon: (1) the words, phrases, and expressions mainly date from the 1530s through the 1730s; (2) the syntax best matches that of the second half of the 1500s; and (3) there is an astounding blending in of King James phraseology (from both the Old Testament and the New) throughout the Book of Mormon…

“Is the Book of Mormon English translation a literal translation of what was on the plates? It appears once more that the answer is no. The blending in of specific King James phraseology, from the New Testament as well as the Old Testament, tells us otherwise. The Book of Mormon is a creative translation that involves considerable intervention by the translator (or shall we say translators, since we’re in a speculative mood). There is also evidence that the Book of Mormon is a cultural translation…

“Did the Lord himself do the translation, or did he have others do it? The answer is: We have no idea, and it’s basically a waste of time trying to figure out how the translation was produced.”

— “The Language of the Original Text of the Book of Mormon.” BYU Studies Quarterly 57, no. 3 (2018))

Nicholas J. Frederick summarizes a related problem (which he attempts to address):

“Terms such as quotation, allusion, and echo may be appropriate and even accurate for describing the way the Book of Mormon interacts with the Old Testament. After all, Nephi states that he has a record, the brass plates, in his possession. Readers of the Book of Mormon should then expect to encounter passages such as Genesis or Isaiah from the Old Testament. However, these terms become problematic when discussing passages from the New Testament found in the Book of Mormon, since, as far as can be determined, the Nephites did not possess that record.”

— “Evaluating the Interaction between the New Testament and the Book of Mormon: A Proposed Methodology“, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 24 (2015)

The following three LDS scholarly views attempt to explain the anachronistic presence of the King James Bible translation of the New Testament in the Book of Mormon text. Ranked from conservative to liberal:

  1. Joseph Smith dictated the Book of Mormon word-for-word from an already-composed “Early Modern English” (EModE) translation that another/others (unknown) had already accomplished. It was a creative English translation, but not one that Smith himself produced beyond dictation. This is the view of Royal Skousen (as I understand it).
  2. Smith creatively and collaboratively participated in the translation process of the Book of Mormon, using his 19th-century setting (including the language of the inherited King James Bible) to translate the original language of the Book of Mormon into intelligible linguistic categories. This is the view of Brant Gardner (as I understand it).
  3. Smith creatively and collaboratively expanded upon the ancient text of the Book of Mormon. He addressed theological controversies of the 19th century by adding stories and speeches to the ancient core of the Reformed Egyptian text. This is the view of Blake Ostler (as I understand it).

The traditional and mainstream narrative, that God was providing a live translation to Joseph Smith as he dictated, seems all but abandoned by LDS scholars.


According to a FairMormon post, as I read it, Skousen is holding to a form of the expansion theory, but an expansion that Smith himself did not participate in:

“Skousen argues that the themes of the Book of Mormon – religious, social, and political – do not derive from Joseph Smith’s time (also an 1831 claim of Alexander Campbell’s), but instead are the prominent issues of the Protestant Reformation, and they too date from the 1500s and 1600s rather than the 1800s – examples like burning people at the stake for heresy, standing before the bar of justice (often called the pleading bar in the 1600s), secret combinations to overthrow the government, the rejection of infant baptism, the sacrament as symbolic memorial and spiritual renewal, public rather than private confession, no required works of penance, and piety in living and worship. Skousen believes that the Book of Mormon would have resonated much more strongly with the Reformed and Radical Protestants of the 1500s and 1600s than with the Christians of Joseph Smith’s time.”

— Celebrating Two New Books in the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project: The Nature of the Original Language of the Book of Mormon


Summarizing the critical view:

“The skeptical theory is that the Book of Mormon is also an unsuccessful attempt to archaize, in that it aimed at the KJV but failed to nail it. Where Carmack apparently sees skillful “blending” of EModE and King James English, a skeptic sees a single fake dialect of amateur Bible-ese whose grammar ranges erratically between accurate KJV and older forms.”

— “Physics Guy” on MDDB, September 28, 2018

 

Paul wears his heart on his sleeve

The apostle Paul paces back and forth, closes his pitiful eyes, smiles, looks up, sees his audience, and then gushes his heart out to a scribe:

“[Paul] wears his heart on his sleeve. This spontaneity was no doubt facilitated by Paul’s practice of dictating his letters instead of writing them out himself. As he dictates, he sees in his mind’s eye those whom he is addressing and speaks as he would if he were face to face with them.” (“Paul Apostle of the Heart Set Free”, F. F. Bruce, 16)

Adopted as literal children of the Most High

Being an adopted child of the Most High is infinitely more dignifying and significant than being a “literal” spirit child of a regional cosmic patriarch and one of his wives.


Luke Wayne replies,

The children I adopted are literally my children. I am not a figurative or symbolic dad. I am literally their dad. Adoption makes one a literal child.

“What would NOT make me a literal child of God would be to say that I am an eternal, uncreated intelligence which was used as raw material by a pair of highly developed humans to assemble a spirit body and then later allowed me to acquire a physical body that was birthed by a completely different set of human parents who were not yet as advanced as the first. I don’t quite know what THAT would make me, but ‘literal child of God’ is certainly not it.” (Luke Wayne, May 22, 2018)

 

Dawkins vs Kerouac

“The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” (Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker)

vs.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved… the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”” (Jack Kerouac, On the Road)