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Thought for the weekend

Allen Sleith


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The Bible is often called the Good Book; a bit of a misnomer in that it's more like a library of 66 books, though the exact number and order of books involved varies depending on the Christian tradition to which you belong. (Dave Thompson/PA)

The Bible is often called the Good Book; a bit of a misnomer in that it's more like a library of 66 books, though the exact number and order of books involved varies depending on the Christian tradition to which you belong. (Dave Thompson/PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

The Bible is often called the Good Book; a bit of a misnomer in that it's more like a library of 66 books, though the exact number and order of books involved varies depending on the Christian tradition to which you belong. (Dave Thompson/PA)

The Bible is often called the Good Book; a bit of a misnomer in that it's more like a library of 66 books, though the exact number and order of books involved varies depending on the Christian tradition to which you belong.

The Bible is also called "the Word of God", a designation that indicates the divine origin and authority of these writings, which is not to discount the human factors involved in their composition.

To ignore or suppress the latter is to turn inspiration into ideology, a misrepresentation that has numerous damaging consequences.

Like many things in life, our easy access to the Bible is largely taken for granted, yet for many in today's world that's not the case, whether through persecution, poverty, illiteracy, or the fact that it hasn't yet been translated into their native language.

But even for those who do have it available, I wonder if we appreciate the process by which it is placed in our hands.

For the first few centuries, in fact, there were only a few rare scrolls and manuscripts of individual books and even after that whatever copies were made by scribes resided in religious communities and churches.

Only with the invention of the printing press in the 16th century did Bibles find their way into the hands of the populace in any significant way.

Furthermore, the original scriptures were written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, thus necessitating the arduous process of translation into various other languages, including English, so that people across the globe and throughout the ages could read the Bible for themselves.

You begin to gain some appreciation of the service that scholars have rendered in such translations since, without their labours, most of us would be unable to interpret these writings aright.

Yet, despite what some might claim, there is no definitive translation of the Bible. The authority and dignity of the Authorised Version inspired generations of readers, but many more versions are now available for use.

One such that I highly recommend is The Hebrew Bible by Robert Alter, a translation with commentary of what Christians call the Old Testament.

This beautifully produced, three-volume set is expensive, yes, but as a fresh rendering of creative fidelity, it's an inspiration and revelation that I'm glad I bought.

Belfast Telegraph