Sunday, June 17, 2012

Paranoid Eisegesis: Or, Antichrist Spotting for Dummies

Today on Facebook, a friend whose political views are well known shared a link to a certain video, which claims that in Luke 10:18, Jesus may be giving the name of the Antichrist. The video caption claims that "This video simply reveals what is written in the Bible's original language without the translations." To which I have to reply, having watched the video, "Rot."

Yes, Rot. For, rather than dealing with the text in Greek, the original language of Luke's Gospel, the video goes on at once to say "Jesus spoke Aramaic." You can see at once where this is going; appeal to a supposed original version, to "what Jesus really said." This is a common ploy by those who are trying to insert their own ideas into the Bible; rather than dealing with the actual text, they posit a lost Aramaic original, or just back-translate the words into Aramaic (most amusingly if they go from English into Aramaic, which is not unknown). Actually what this video does is considerably more daft - it announces that "Aramaic is the oldest form of Hebrew", which it is not (it is a different, though related language), and then renders the text into Hebrew, despite having just said that Jesus spoke Aramaic and would have spoken the text in that language, not Hebrew. Actually it does not even do that, because the person behind the video does not actually know Hebrew; but just looks in Strong's Concordance for the translation of two key words, 'Lightning' and 'Heaven'. And he doesn't really do that either, because rather than the familiar Hebrew word Shammayim, which means 'heavens', he goes with Bamah, which means 'Height' or 'High Place'. This is of course because Bamah fits what he wants the text to say, rather than the other way around.

What makes this all the more ridiculous is that the name Barak is of course Arabic, which is also related to Hebrew. It means 'Blessed', and while it sounds like Baraq, it is a completely different and unrelated word. The name Barak is also found in the Bible - in Judges 4 and 5 as the name of a hero of Israel.

We are then treated to a discussion of Isaiah 14, at which point my own particular views come into play, as I would argue that the text is not referring to Satan under the figure of the King of Tyre, but to the King of Tyre. One could argue that until the cows come home, so I will not do so; I will merely point out that the appeal to Isaiah 14 as the context explaining Luke 10:18 is a stretch to put it mildly. To put it less mildly, it's the tactic the cults use when they want you to accept their false interpretation of the Bible.

The end result of all of this solemn mockery is that we are gravely informed that if a modern Jewish Rabbi wanted to say "I saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven", he would say , "I saw Satan as Barak Obama." This is of course complete nonsense, and I am certainly not going to accept it on the say so of a person who has given abundant evidence that they know even less Hebrew than I do (although I have studied the language, I do not claim to be very good at it).

Why does this matter? Because it is a supreme example of the abuse of the Bible. Rather than the Word being treated with respect and investigated in an effort to bring out its true meaning, it it being pressed into the service of an agenda. Antichrist spotting is a long-lived hobby, but historically it has always taken its cues from actual prophetic texts. In this case we have someone who is so intent on claiming the current President of the United States as Antichrist that they are willing to treat the Word of God with the utmost contempt. Any Christian who approves of this video cannot consistently disapprove of any of the Bible twisting of the cults, it is really that bad.

Do we care enough about the Bible? The person who produced this video cares deeply about politics - and as a result is willing to treat the Bible as a wax nose. Jesus was not talking about the identity of the Antichrist in Luke 10:18, and it is dishonest to claim that he was. Saying that to get the true meaning of the text we have to translate two key words into Hebrew - one of them poorly - is a reversal of the Reformation principles of exegesis. Instead of the perspicuity of Scripture, we have the Bible treated as a code (rather ineptly as well). Everyone should care that such a video exists, and that conservative Evangelicals are circulating it.

God has given us his Word; if the Bible matters at all, it matters because of that. If the Bible has any relevance today, it is because it is the Word of God. So, as far as this video is concerned, every Christian who really respects and values the Bible should denounce it. It is merely trifling with holy things. To say "Oh, I don't believe it, but isn't it interesting, makes you think" is equivocal nonsense. That is not an option for us!

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