Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Anastasis (part 5) - Bible in the Oxyrhynchus garbage dump

Lego Jones


It's actually Greek for "sharp nose fish."

And it's a city in Egypt - literally the City of the Sharp-Nose Fish.
(reference: Christian Oxyrhynchus (modern al-Bahnasa) and its Environs)

The site is significant as it is a great archaeological find - what Egypt has been so famous for. For the City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish, it's all about the papyri.
(reference: Armchair archaeologists wanted, no experience necessary)

Indiana Jones - perhaps the most famous fictional archaeologist - could have been most interested in this site as his tales included searching for artifacts of Biblical proportions, such the Lost Ark and the Holy Grail. And the papyri in the garbage dump at this site was key to piecing together some of the mysteries of the Bible - its Greek translation, that is.
(reference: POxy Oxyrhynchus Online)

Oxyrhynchus papyrus
The New Testament was first written in Greek with a vocabulary of about 5000 words. And much of the criticism was that the Greek used was *not* the high level or classical Greek of scholars, such as found in Plato or Aristotle. But the Greek words used were very common and low level.
(reference: Biblica | In what language was the Bible first written?)

Yet, for years, scholars puzzled at some these Greek words - about 500 of them - which were not found in secular Greek. Even German theologian Richard Rothe had concluded that these words, seemingly unique to the New Testament, must be the "language of the Holy Ghost."
(reference: Eat This Book by Eugene H. Peterson)

But in the late 19th century, Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt (pictured here) first dug out pieces of paper from the Oxyrhynchus rubbish heap and pieced together life in ancient Alexandria. They accounted for all these unique "Holy Ghost words" in the scraps from letters, accounts, grocery lists, bills - writings in the common language that never got bound and put in libraries.

After 1900 years, the "Holy Ghost language" was finally cracked.

The language of the New Testament was that of everyday people living in humble circumstances.
Tyndale's Gospel of John

William Tyndale had the wish of writing the Bible in the common language of the people in the 16th century. He was one of the first translators of the New Testament into English and the first one to print an English translation of the New Testament (though John Wycliffe produced the first hand-written ones).
(reference: William Tyndale)

It has been said that a clergyman once told Tyndale:
"We had better be without God's laws than the Pope's."

But Tyndale responded:
"I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!"
(reference: 400th Year Anniversary of the Authorized King James Version of the Holy Bible, the KJV - 1611 - 2011)

It was Tyndale's mission that the humblest of people, like the lad driving the plow, know the Holy Scriptures as spoken in their common language, which could be clearly understood by all.

And as shown in this clip below, Tyndale was martyred for this cause, strangled and burnt at the stake in 1536, for this heresy. His last words:

"Lord, open the king of England's eyes."

This prayer was answered. In 1539, King Henry VIII allowed the publication of the English "Great Bible." And in 1611 was published the most well-known English translation, the King James Bible, of which 75 to 90 percent was incorporated from the work of William Tyndale. And it's still the most widely spread version in the English language 400 years later.
(reference: King James Bible still going strong at age 400 | World news | The Guardian)

Meanwhile ...

There has been a spiritual struggle as old as the fall of man to keep the Word of God from the common people. This was especially true during the Dark Ages. And the spiritual darkness of medieval Europe is the setting for the historical fiction trilogy:

The Forbidden Book and the Upside Down Kingdom

The first book of the series:

Anastasis - The Forbidden Book Concealed

This book is divided into four parts. The first part concerns the hero, Lord Adryan Crippen, and is aptly called -

The Rise and Fall of Lord Adryan Crippen

This high and exalted lord, Adryan Crippen, one of the elite Fortunate Five Lords of the Kingdom, has everything in this world within his grasp - wealth, position, power, handsome looks, and the chance to marry the most beautiful and wealthy woman in the region - Queen Anastasia.  Then it all evaporates ....

 (The Queen's name is derived from anastasis - the Greek word translated as resurrection in the New Testament.)

The following Bible verse is the theme of the first part:

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
Isaiah 57:15
(King James Version) *

Only by losing everything does the hero gain everything. And his help comes from Bishop Sinjin, a type of John Wycliffe and William Tyndale, whose passion is to translate the Word of God into the common tongue of the people, so the humblest in the kingdom can understand it. And there is great opposition to this - which plays out in this book and its sequels.

For more information and news check out: Anastasis
Available: for a Nook or ePub - Barnes & Noble
                  for Kindle - amazon.com

* (Yes, I know the King James came out in 1611, and the trilogy is set in the 14th century. But the version is readable, has the flavor of antiquity, and most important - it's in the public domain, so there is no issue with copyright or license.)

That was then, what about today?

The King James Version has set a high standard, yet many regard it as sacrosanct. But some very good modern translators have this same passion of translating the Word of God into the language of the everyday people of the times - much like William Tyndale.

Here is a clip of the Gospel presented in hip hop - G.O.S.P.E.L. by rapper Propaganda for the person on the street in the 21st century:

The Lord dwells in the high and holy place, but also in the hearts of those of humble spirit. And the New Testament was written in the language of the street - not for the erudite or the elite.

And Christian rapper Propaganda puts the Gospel in the speech of the street in the 21st century. And I believe William Tyndale would be most pleased with this translation.


Other articles on this subject:

The Viral Power of Spoken Word Poetry – The Gospel Coalition Blog (2012)

King James's Bible: perhaps the greatest work of translation ever – Telegraph Blogs (2010)


Previous posts on similar subjects:

Easter - The Sign of the Prophet Jonah (2011)

The King James Bible: 1611 - 2011 (2011)


Previous posts in this series:

Anastasis (part 1) - The Forbidden Book Concealed (2011)

Anastasis (part 2) - standing up (2011)

Anastasis (part 3) - Famine (2012)

Anastasis (part 4) - Back to which Bethel? (2012)


Photos from:
everystockphoto.com: Lego Jones
wikipedia.com: Oxyrhynchus papyrus, Tyndale Gospel

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