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February Stuff

By Leocthasme

For All My February Readers

Who Look Forward To February Anyway

I know you all look forward to all the things I write about February, Lent, Mardi Grau, Saint Patrick, Easter, Passover, and all the other things that happen between February 14th and on up until about the end of April.

Seems that after the Christmas Season and the sort of lull while all the January clean up sales happen, we need some perk up celebrations. Albeit Lent as practiced by some who think they need a time of repentance is no longer my thing. Not that I may or may not need some repentance in my life, but what I have learned about Lent seems to be some sort of skull drudgery thought up by a muckle of monastery monks.

Way back when, maybe something like that may have held the masses in check, or maybe gave them some sort of a sense of Religious redemption. I don't know what was really on their mind but somewhere around 190 to 200ad, a good century after all the Apostles were gone and could no longer prevent the watering down of their teachings, all sort of supposed Apostolic teachings began to creep into Christianity. Monasteries of holy men and women began to appear and these supposed cloisters of holy humankind subjected all sort of fasting rules on the rest of the humans in an effort to subject them to a form of repentance, from what was never determined. Original fasting was usually a couple of days before a big religious event such as Passover.

By 300ad leaders of Christianity began to vie for leadership positions. Thus many of these would be leaders claimed all sort of Jesus' teachings that can not be found anywhere except in these would be Christian leaders opinion writings. Of course back then there was no published Bible, so the common masses had to rely of what they were told. It is easy to see why the Reformation happened. As soon as a printing press was invented and the widespread distribution of the Bible happened, it is not surprising that all sort of man made religions sprang up in defiance to Holy Roman Catholic teachings which were pushed on to the populous as being infallible. The ordinary citizen had no recourse to teachings that could not be looked into until there was a printed word. So, let's talk about the Bible.

The very best source of the Bible of course is taken from the Torah. It contains the first five books of the Christian Bible plus other writings and teachings of authoritative Jewish religious teachings throughout history. These 5 books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are all attributed to the writings and teachings of Moses. For Jews, the Torah was traditionally accepted as the literal word of God as told to Moses, a very difficult notion for those who are not connected to that type of thinking. For many, it is neither exactly history, nor theology, nor legal and ritual guide, but something beyond all three. It is the primary guide to the relationship between God and man, and the whole meaning and purpose of that relationship, a living document that unfolds over the generations and millennia. It is the story of mankind from his first earthly beginnings to the time of the 12 tribes of Israel being freed from Egyptian captivity and their existence in the desert for 40 years.

The five books contain both a complete and ordered system of laws, particularly the 613 distinct "commandments", individually called a 'Mitzvah' as well as a historical description of the beginnings of what came to be known as Judaism. The five books (particularly Genesis, the first part of Exodus, and much of Numbers) are, primarily, a collection of seemingly historical narratives rather than a continuous list of laws; moreover, many of the most important concepts and ideas from the Torah are found in these stories. The book of Deuteronomy is different from the previous books; it consists of Moses' final speeches to the Children of Israel at the end of his life.

Many Jewish laws are not directly mentioned in the Torah, but are derived from textual hints, which were expanded orally, and eventually written down in the Talmud and Mishnah. According to the Jewish view, the stories in the Torah are not always in chronological order, and sometimes they are ordered by concept. And, according to Jewish tradition, these books were revealed to Moses by God; some of it is said to have been revealed at Mount Sinai. There are many views of the origin of these books. All classical views, nonetheless, hold that the Torah was entirely or almost entirely Mosaic and of divine origin.

It would seem that they had to be of divine origin because Moses would have not known much of Genesis without some facts given to him. If the earth was destroyed at the time of Noah where would any facts come from except what Noah may have remembered from before the flood? Remembering all the detailed facts of Genesis before the flood seems unlikely for Noah. By Noah's time, some 1200 to 1500 years would have elapsed since Adam and creation. Thus it is even my conclusion, that if the Bible is to be believed as the word of God, then Moses had to be given the facts from the only personality that could possibly have known them, God alone. This conclusion of mine however, should not cloud my mind to scientific information, such as it is. I am open to all sort of scientific fact or theory. I do not believe the earth was created in just 6 days as some pulpit pounders may try to have all believe. In Genesis God tells what He did NOT HOW HE DID IT. Adam or humankind did not show up until the 6th day so any passage of time before an Adam or human day could have been any passage of time. God's first five days of creation could have been eons and He had no reason to explain that time, only that it happened.

The first translations of the Bible were of the Hebrew Bible... The Septuagint was a Greek translation written about three centuries before the birth of Christ. Two other early translations, composed after the birth of Christ, were the Peshitta in Syriac and the Vulgate in Latin. These three translations became the official translations of the Old Testament for the Greek, Syriac, and Latin speaking churches respectively. Each also became the basis for other translations of the Bible.

One pivotal figure in the history of the preservation and transmission of the Bible was a brilliant, temperamental, dedicated, irascible scholar named Jerome. He was born in 331 AD in northeast Italy and became the most learned man of the 4th century, Latin-speaking church. His parents were well-to-do Christians who sent Jerome to Rome to be educated when he was about ten. In Rome, Jerome became an accomplished classical scholar with an insatiable passion for learning. After completing his schooling, Jerome traveled throughout the Roman Empire, from Gaul (France) to Palestine. He studied Christian theology in Trier, Germany and became part of an ascetic community in Aquileia, Italy. Jerome moved on to Antioch where he had a dream which strongly convicted him Christ was scourging him and accusing him, "You are a Ciceronian, and not a Christian." Jerome felt he had devoted too much of his life to studying the pagan classics at the expense of Christian truth, and he vowed not to study pagan literature - a vow he kept for ten years.

From 374 to 377 Jerome lived as a hermit in the desert east of Antioch, fasting and studying. He found a Jewish Christian nearby from whom he learned Hebrew, eventually mastering Hebrew as no other Christian of his day had. Jerome stated his own principle in studying was to read the ancients, to study everything, to hold fast to the good, and never to depart from the Christian faith. When he returned to Antioch from the desert, Jerome was ordained a presbyter. However, Jerome never ministered in a church, preferring the monastic life.

Jerome returned to Rome when he was about fifty and became the theological advisor and Secretary to Pope Damasus. In Rome he began his great service to the Church of Rome - translating the Bible into common Latin (Vulgate a Latin word meaning common, should not be confused with 'vulgar' a later English word with a sort of downgraded meaning of 'common'). Jerome's knowledge of languages and his travels throughout the west and east made him perfectly equipped for this gigantic task.

Latin was the common language of the Western Roman Empire, and there were already many Latin versions of the Scriptures in circulation. These, however, varied greatly in accuracy and readability. Pope Damasus wanted Jerome to revise the translation of the Gospels and the Psalms. In revising the Psalms, in Rome, Jerome used the Septuagint text. The Septuagint was the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament which had been made in Alexandria, Egypt. The legend was that seventy-two translators worked in individual cells, and when they came together to compare their work, their translations were exactly the same! Many thought that the Septuagint (or LXX for the 70 elders) was divinely inspired. The apostles often quoted from the Septuagint translations. Early Latin translations of the Old Testament, including Jerome's work in Rome, were all from the Septuagint.

While in Rome Jerome also lashed out against the immorality and corruption of the imperial city. He protested that the clerics and the monks were worldly and self-seeking; the language he used towards them was often harsh and venomous. When Pope Damasus died in 384, Jerome went to Bethlehem, accompanied by some loyal followers, including several wealthy Roman ladies who had taken vows of chastity.

In Bethlehem, Jerome and a wealthy woman named Paulina established two monastic communities, one for men and another for women. Paulina also established a hospice for pilgrims, since Joseph and Mary had not found lodging in the town! Away from the politics and turmoil of Roman life, Jerome could live the ascetic, monastic life he so desired and devote himself to study. For the next fifteen years Jerome went behind the Greek Septuagint and translated the books of the Old Testament Bible from the Hebrew into Latin. These translations of individual books were often done for his friends. Jerome believed that the knowledge of the Scripture was the riches of Christ; ignorance of the Scripture was ignorance of Christ. He repeatedly exhorted others to saturate their minds with the Scriptures. Make knowledge of the Scripture your love and you will not love the views of the flesh....'I beg you, dear brother, live with them, meditate on them, make them the sole object of your knowledge and inquiries'. His work was accompanied by the prayer that his Latin translation might speak the truth of God as clearly and powerfully as the original Hebrew or Greek.

Jerome's Latin translation steadily increased in importance in the following centuries. He had stood at the twilight of the ancient world and had prepared the Scriptures which would be used throughout the dawning Middle Ages. Latin was the universal language of Europe during these years, and Jerome's translation of the Scriptures into the common tongue became the Vulgate (or common) Bible. For ten centuries the phrases of the Vulgate shaped the liturgy of the church as well as Europe's theology, literature, and law. When Wycliffe translated the Bible into English and Luther translated it into German, they translated from Jerome's Latin Vulgate. Though Martin Luther disliked Jerome's monastic ideals, he had to admit that Jerome had personally done more and greater in translation than any man will imitate.

The Original Vulgate Bible contains many other books and parts that the later translations leave out (The King James version), but now newer versions have put many of the parts back and some include the 'Apocrypha' - 14 books of the Old Testament included in the Vulgate (except for II Esdras) but omitted in Jewish and Protestant versions of the Bible; eastern Christian churches (except the Coptic church) accept all these books as canonical; the Russian Orthodox church accepts these texts as divinely inspired but does not grant them the same status as the rest of the Bible.

Commentary and research by Leo C. Helmer, 2006

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