John Walker's Electronic House

The BNP And The Traditional Christian

by on Apr.05, 2010, under The Rest

This weekend, over Easter, leader of the BNP Nick Griffin put out a statement explaining that the BNP is the only party fighting for traditional Christian values. It is part of the BNP’s attempt to redraw its battle lines, recognising that the exposed hatred of other races is not winning them votes, but instead tapping into the increasing fear that our country (whatever that phrase may mean) is being changed, subverted, made not what it once was. And it seems that part of this is to reclaim Britain for the “traditional” Christian. This needs to be unpacked.

First and briefly, there’s the most obvious point. As anyone who gives any thought to the matter will ask and has asked repeatedly, to just when exactly in Britain’s past do these people wish to retreat? Should we go pre-Angles? Before the Saxons? Perhaps it’s the Roman invasion that muddied our British gene pool? Or is the problem Britain’s own dirty foray with mainland Europe until 9000 years ago, when it was so disgustingly physically joined onto the continent? Something that allowed those Africans to just walk into OUR country and settle its first human population 500,000 years ago. Why can’t we just go back to those pre-Homo heidelbergensis days, when this country understood proper Christian values?

The idiocy of taking any position that argues there’s anything inherently “British” is inescapable. You cannot reason or rationalise with people who are unequipped to recognise that fighting to preserve some sense of British purity is patent nonsense. But of course what they really mean is “white”. They want a return to the earlier 20th century, before we so desperately needed immigration in order to maintain the country’s infrastructure after two world wars. There’s a brief window of perceived perfection, post industrial-revolution, pre-1950s, that contains this magical Britishness, this value, this predominantly white nation where those of other skin-tones knew their place in subjugation. European invasions are perfectly acceptable because their melanin levels were acceptably low. It’s only ever about race, no matter how it’s worded.

Second is this idea of a traditional Christianity. This is another phrase so nonsensical as to be almost impossible to argue with. (Similarly the BNP are of course amongst those who rally against “global warming”, pointing out that it’s just madness to claim this when it’s snowing in April! Somewhat ignoring the part where no scientist is talking about “global warming”, but rather “global climate change”, what with it snowing in April and all. When people argue with pure nonsense, they are unwittingly cleverly defended against arguments.) It’s based on an idea that’s disturbingly prevalent amongst many Christian clans – that there was a period of Christianity, generally chosen to be between the 11th and 16th century, when Christianity was being done right, and thus that becomes “traditional Christianity”. This is of course at a time when Christianity was being used as a banner of war to fight against armies of other colours, against Muslim nations, against any who would not agree to its subjugation. This culminates in the King James Bible, a translation of the Bible used to endorse oppression and used as a weapon of control. This is, of course, the translation used and endorsed by those who campaign for “traditional Christianity”. The “thee”s and the “thou”s today make it sound powerful, frightening, unknowable. It’s “proper”.

(Any who deliberately use ancient dialects to communicate the Gospel have only one intention: to make it inaccessible. In its inaccessibility, they take power. They are in control. Those who wrote the contents of the Bible, whether in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, did so to communicate. It has been updated, corrupted, fixed, re-imagined, mutated, mutilated, and restored countless times, each new generation in each country re-translating it into a form in which people can understand. Like a church that preaches in Latin, those that use the KJV publicly (privately it’s generally to pretentiously boast the value of its poetry) have no desire for communication with those outside. But I digress.)

In Griffin’s statement about the new central role Christianity will play in his party, explaining that all BNP leaflets and information will carry a Christian cross after the election, he dives headfirst into the custard of nonsense that is this mystical version of traditional Christianity. In case there’s any confusion Griffin defines his terms:

“I do not mean the gut-wrenching politically correct quasi-Marxist nonsense spewing forth from the treacherous leaders of the modern Anglican Church. I mean the traditional, upright, decent and honest Christianity that defended Europe from Islamic conquest, the Christianity of the Crusades and the Christianity of our forefathers.”

This isn’t plucked unfairly out of context. Throughout the short piece Griffin exclusively refers to Christianity as something that reaches back as far as the 10th century. He literally talks about its existence as only coming into being at the point it reached Britain.

“No, the Christianity of our forefathers was about honesty, family, patriotism, sacrifice, loyalty, king and country. For over 1,000 years Christianity held our people together and guided us through the centuries. If Christianity had not existed Europe would have been conquered by Islam centuries ago.”

This statement is so broken, so devoid of meaning, so completely unfathomable, that it becomes immediately obvious that Griffin is in no way referring to Christianity. Because if he were, well, he’d be in something of a pickle, wouldn’t he?

For Griffin to espouse these beliefs, he needs to abandon any meaning behind them, because otherwise Christianity is somewhat problematic. It’s (let’s all whisper now) foreign. It’s from one of those… brown countries. Jesus – a name Griffin does not use in his article – he wasn’t white! Not only that – he was a Jew! And the BNP are not big fans of Jews. For Griffin to use the name of Christianity, he has to abandon any notion of Christ. And when it comes to “traditional Christianity”, that’s, well, the version Jesus lived. It’s not a version that very helpfully ties into a belief system that’s about race exclusion, anti-Semitism, and other Nazi values. Hence Griffin’s need to have Christianity begin 1000 years ago, not 2000.

For the BNP, Christianity belongs to these mystical “forefathers”, these heroic figures who saw off the hordes of non-white people from Britain, and, er, their own nations. The Crusades become a time to aspire to, rather than a period of dark shame for those using the name of Christianity.

“The British National Party is the only political organisation in Britain that wants to keep this country fundamentally Christian, with Christian values, traditions and culture.”

What Griffin and the BNP are doing is re-writing the meaning of “Christian”, such that it renders it entirely detached from Christ. A man whom they would not wish to be a member of their own party. A dark-skinned anti-establishment Jew. A politically correct liberal-left quasi-Marxist olive-coloured Semite scoundrel who promoted radical and unquestioning love. The son of God who sacrificed his life for all of humanity in an act of absolute humility. In other words: trouble.

In making such an argument I can now be considered amongst those whom the BNP would label as the “politically correct liberal-left scoundrels”. I find myself in excellent company.

PS. Griffin’s muddled understanding of the faith he wishes to put at the centre of his party might have something to do with this.

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39 Comments for this entry

  • Gassalasca

    When I read the title of the post, I thought, ok, here’s Walker giving us again some good old common sense point of view on those BNP loons. And then this:

    “This culminates in the King James Bible, a grotesque and murderous translation of the Bible designed to endorse oppression and used as a weapon of control.”

    Wait, what?

  • John Walker

    I’ve edited above, as it’s not the argument I’m making today. But the KJV was the beginning of using the Bible to oppress women. And my words were poor – it’s been used so hideously since, rather than necessarily at the time. So yes – an argument for another day. Apologies for the distraction.

  • Nick Mailer

    For one thing, the KJV is a rubbish translation. I am au fait with the original Hebrew of the “Old Testament”, for example, and KJV cocks up the translation in at least three vitally important ways. And that’s in Genesis 1:1!

    So, by all means, enjoy this politically suspicious book for its poetry, but don’t pretend it bears anything but a passing relationship to the original.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the most reactionary, unpleasant, racist sorts love the KJV.

  • Fede

    Seems racist parties are starting to claim connections with religion in the UK too, after all.

    I wonder why people (here, there, or anywhere else) believe these politicians who just exploit their fears and their nostalgia for a not too distant past.
    Why do people believe their lies? Are we all getting dumber? I don’t understand how they could gain votes this way if we weren’t.

    Also, I don’t like much the church’s stance regarding this kind of political statements.

  • Nick

    Another slight problem for Griffin is that the Christianity of 1000 years ago was the Roman Catholic church. I somehow doubt that he intends to take Communion and confess his sins to a Church based in Italy.

    He also manages one of the most absurd sentences that I’ve seen in a long time, referring to the decent and honest Christianity of the Crusades. I’m sorry, does he have a different history book than me? Are these the same Crusades? The ones that sacked Byzantium to pay the Doge of Venice back? It’s certainly an interesting definition of ‘honest’.

  • James

    @Fede Which church, in purticular? I think most reputable denominations have been doing their best to make it plain these types of people don’t speak for them, haven’t they?

  • Mike Arthur

    Great post John. Totally agree about the KJV as well, it seems it’s just a deliberate attempt to foster an “us and them” attitude. The trajedy is that the KJV couldn’t have existed with Tyndale whose translation had the specific intent of bringing it to the language of the common man. The closest translation to this ethos now is probably The Message but I dare to even think what the KJV crowd think about that.

    The best thing about these folks is that they’ll say the translation from the Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic is “poor” but they’ve never actually learnt any of these languages. Funny how those who have seem to disagree with them…

    I’m increasingly sick of people who decide to try and twist Christianity into an intolerant horrible religion of hate and war (e.g. Griffin or Bush). It’s a truly depressing state of affairs where the “Christian Right” in the US were so against the healthcare bill. Some of the comments appearing on my Facebook about it were depressing beyond belief.

    Thanks for being another Christian that shows that we aren’t all judgemental dicks.

  • TheBlackBandit

    Fantastic read, John. It’s always brilliant to see reasoned and well thought out criticisms, but I guess the BNP are so close-minded that they simply can’t participate in reasonable debate.

    Like The Bugle said, the BNP is so named because when they’re finally hounded out there will be a British National Party. In the streets.

  • Rev. S. Campbell

    Who’s been stockpiling non-white people?

  • Arthur

    I guess I’m just curious since I’m not up on all the British parties, but is there an option for the strongly religious that is not extremely suspect or too small to be worthwhile?

    In America, the Republicans have basically taken control of the religious vote. They are becoming more and more terrible, as they push a more right wing Conservatism that mostly works to turn the US into a place that kills the poor and assists the rich. But the Democrats have, over the past 10 years, become increasingly unfriendly to religion. So liberal religious types are stuck in an odd spot.

  • Nick Mailer

    In what way have the Democrats become unfriendly to religion, Arthur? By “unfriendly to religion”, do you mean “upholding the constitutional separation between Church and State”?

  • Arthur

    I certainly don’t! I mean when trying to volunteer with the local democratic headquarters in my city, saying your a catholic will get a guffaw, an eyeroll, and a joke about intelligent design. I’m not a crazy person about this, I’m a moderate. It just seems more and more that the Democrats are abandoning the religious liberal.

  • Jambe

    A great post, John. I wish there were more of your sort of Christian around here. Your BNP is frightening.

    The time your Nick Griffin adores was the height of the Islamic Renaissance during which Muslims laid the foundations for many facets of modernity. They pioneered most major sciences and developed the tenets which frame the scientific method itself. They wrote beautifully, created fantastic buildings and advanced mathematics many-fold. Clearly, though, Griffin believes the Muslims did all this under the direction of the Great Satan, who knew trappings of modernity would taint the rightness of the day’s Christianity (serfdom’s good for the soul, apparently). God was clearly aware of the Devil’s machinations and so sent legions of his chosen to smack the tan-folk around. Somewhat curious, then, that luck seemed to favor Saladin far more than any European commander of the period… a being of contradictions, Griffin’s God.

    @Arthur: Australian philosopher Russell Blackford recently published a short piece called “Some speech deserves to be marginalised” which sums up my views about the relationship between religious and irreligious thought:

    The pithy bit:


    “Some ideas do merit marginalisation, and some opponents do lack intellectual legitimacy. That isn’t to say that these ideas and opponents should be censored. There are many reasons why it is best to allow people to speak their minds. But the political freedom to speak your mind does not entail a right to be taken seriously or given deference, or even to be accorded intellectual legitimacy. Indeed, there are plenty of ideas that people should be free to advocate, but which are so clearly foolish or even repugnant that they will, quite rightly, be ignored or treated with derision. Often, ideas that are treated with respect in one generation come to fall in this category in later generations.

    For example, a contemporary defence of slavery would fall on deaf ears. Or it might, depending on its context and the way it was expressed, provoke nervous laughter, scorn, repugnance, or even fear. It would not receive a respectful hearing, and anyone who put this idea forward would instantly lose all intellectual credibility (at least in Australia!).”


    When I hear “strongly religious” I immediately think “conservative”. “Religious liberal” strikes me as an oxymoron. I’m an American, mind, surrounded by staunch Baptists who’d sooner smack you across the face with the King James Bible than discuss abortion, gay marriage, corporal punishment, adultery, divorce, etc. So I’m definitely biased, but I’m tolerant insofar as faith deserves tolerance.

    I don’t care that people defend their views — political or otherwise — with religious tenets. I just get annoyed when they conflate the intellectual, rational or practical merit of “faith” with that of solid empirical evidence and good science. Those conflation arguments always boil down to something like “tradition > science” or “personal interpretation of fluffy poetic language > science”, etc. Those arguments are silly.

    Blackford writes much about this, too, and his basic observation is that full-on moral relativism is illogical — that morality does indeed vary depending on time & region, but that the core bits of morality are ultimately non-arbitrary. He posits that observable, objective facts about human well-being exist and that they can be the basis for an ethical worldview. Furthermore, he asserts that such a view would be much more defensible than a strictly “moral” view underpinned by faith.

    He’s right.

    You have every right to claim anything about whatever you wish… you just can’t expect to be taken seriously if your claims are indefensible. God glaims are indefensible (well, strictly speaking, they’re unfalsifiable, but that’s another discussion — suffice it to say that such claims aren’t *rationally* defensible). Do you want a law passed that makes snickering at religion illegal? If not, what?

    What do you expect? You say something like, “x should be law because I believe y, for which there is not a shred of objective evidence whatsoever,” and you expect applause for your rigorous application of reason? Now, I think randomly insulting religious people is objectionable as a matter of personal courtesy, so I’m not advocating atheists be jerks. I’m just saying some sorts of ideas hold objective merit and some do not, and the notion that a faithy assertion deserves as much merit as a scientific one is just silly.

    Also, if an eyeroll or a joke so perturbs you, perhaps you have some self-esteem issues to address? I’m not trying to be an ass — I’m just saying, people in general are not very nice. Why do you care that strangers roll their eyes at you? Why do you care how strangers interpret your religious beliefs? What difference does it make to you? If they can’t exert the marginal effort necessary to treat you with courtesy, then they can… uh expletive this and expletive that! Right? Jeeze.

  • Nick Mailer

    Jambe: generally good stuff, but don’t be taken in by the “Golden Age of Islam” myth too strongly. The brutality, the Dhimification and the fact that much attributed to Islam was actually developed by the pre-Islamic Arabic cultures (and, often, as with the number zero, Indians) should give pause. The best that can be said about Islam in its “golden” age was that it was better than the Christianity of that same age. But that’s not saying much!

  • wds

    re Global Warming: many scientists actually do call it global warming. The key points being that it’s warming on average, and global. That certain parts of the system happen to be a tad colder at the moment doesn’t mean the total energy contained in it hasn’t risen.

    The sad part is that this is just short sightedness based on a recent history of some unusually warm winters. Climate change only starts to show if you look at the trend over long enough periods of time, i.e. try the past 20 years. Even then, you need to take into account that just observing what happens in Britain is missing the point completely, it’s _global_ warming.

    Still, 2010 will probably turn out to be one of the hottest years on record, not that that will make any difference to the denialists. They’re not interested in the facts.

  • zipdrive

    Actually, Islam in its Golden Age was much more tolerant to (for example) other religions when not in a conflict zone.

    For example, Jews in Islamic countries of these centuries were generally MUCH better treated than their counterparts in Christian lands- even in much later centuries.

  • Nick Mailer

    Zipdrive: Jews were better treated in Islamic countries only in as much as they agreed to abase themselves as second-class citizens. There were also plenty of pogroms. As I said, still better off than living in Christian countries at the time, but please do not fall for the lie that the golden age was actually a time of freedom and liberality. It was not. Trust me, I’ve studied this in quite some depth.

  • Mike Arthur

    @Jambe: Spot on and I agree. As someone who cares about the scientific method and is religious I do agree that my religious views shouldn’t be simply accepted as valid viewpoints. For what it’s worth, most of the Christians I know in Scotland are of the generally tolerant and liberal persuasion and don’t believe on forcing their views on others through law. We’re not all bad :)

  • innokenti

    The revised KJV is not too bad at updating the discrepancies with the original but preserving the poetic tone.

    Then again, I mostly read the Russian Synodal translation, so yeah…

    Good post though. It’s hard to see Nick Griffin’s idea of Christianity as anything other than an awful perversion.


    (We got canvassed by the BNP a few days ago… which was fairly amusing. I was out, but my fiancee answered the door. They knew her name, so it would make sense that they’d know mine, which cannot be mistaken for anything but forrin. They then proceeded to assert that surely we’d be voting them in the coming election. There was a lot of laughter.)

  • Nick Mailer

    “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” says the Revised King James.

    In the original Hebrew, this reads “Bereshit barah Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha-aretz”.

    Let’s see how the perfectly adequate translation nevertheless misses many nuances in even this very first line of the bible:

    Bereshit literally means “In beginning” or “In [a] beginning”. There is definitely and unambiguously no “the” definite article there.

    Then there’s the Hebrew word “Barah”. This is translated as ‘created’, but it’s not simply the usual word for ‘created’. It’s a word specially reserved for God and actually comes from a word to do with meat. In the verbal sense, it sort of means “fattening”. So it’s as if God has “fattened” nothinginess, bred it out. You are meant to have immediately a slightly ambiguous sense of intent here. It’s a kind of cultivation, but for whose sake?

    Then the word for God – Elohim. The bible uses many words for God, and here, interestingly, it uses a word which is actually in plural, and would literally be translated as “gods”. Indeed, you know the ‘im’ suffix in words like seraphim and cherubim. This signifies masculine plural. And yet the verb barah was singular. So the sentence is forcing a plural noun into a singular action. One could write a whole book about the word ‘Elohim’ and, indeed, people have. But note – the first mention of God’s name in the bible is NOT Jehovah.

    Furthermore, Hebrew is a very “concrete” language. There are almost never words to describe simply abstract terms. There is no word, for example, for “religion”. Similarly, complicated metaphysical words are always intimately conjoined with normal words. So there’s no word, for example, for “heaven” separate from “sky”. So “ha shamayim” means both simply “the sky” and also “the heaven”. Interestingly, it derives from the Hebrew word for water, so you are meant immediately to think of something fluid, watery. Because of the concrete-for-metaphysical duality that every Hebrew word has, you are meant to be thinking this on both the concrete and metaphysical plane: a sky literally of water, as well as something fluid and full of potential and separated from the earth – ha-aretz.

    Now, I’m only scratching the surface of the words used in this first line and their potential and deliberate ambiguities, multiplicities and so forth. All smashed down into a two-dimensional rather banal English translation.

    If you ever, ever think you’re reading the bible in translation, think again. You’re looking at a black and white pencil sketch of a play.

  • Mike Arthur

    @Nick: That’s fascinating, thanks for the insight there. What translation/paraphrase do you view the most highly, out of interest?

  • Bobsy

    Mr Mailer brings very excellent and interesting points to the table. One of the hardline christian arguments that has most infuriated me over the years has been the infallibility of the bible, that god protects the words, content and message of the book like an overzealous copyright lawyer – that by virtue of being the bible it is beyond corruption or interpretation or being edited. A slightly more advanced view adds that anyone that were to edit, interpret or otherwise corrupt the bible is clearly posessed by the big scary devil, rather than just creativity and a pen.

    Well anyway. Worst of all is Griffin’s invocation of the Crusades. I think the most of we here assembled are more or less aware that these three centuries or so of fervant religious conflict were generally ‘bad’, but the Crusades are definately worth examining in a bit closer detail.

    The ideological notion of a Crusade to the Holy Land was not one of war, but pilgrimage. Christians with a bit of money wanted to go visit the places where Jesus had lived and died. Unfortunately this wasn’t especially easy since in 1095 these lands were being lived in by the ruling muslims who a) didn’t believe Jesus was a messiah and b) were a bit foreign and funny and probably ate falafel all the time or something.

    So in 1095 the popiest of popes decided that since christianity was so shit-hot they’d all pop over anyway, and if those funny muslim chaps put up a stink over thousands of christians forcably settling in their homeland of 500 years or so he’d make sure the christians brought with them a crapload of weapons to get their point across.

    Also, since the whole wheeze had been the pope’s, it put him back in pole position in European politics, after an otherwise miserable century or two where emerging european feudal kingdoms had sidelined papal authority a little bit, what with the legacy of Charlemagne, the norman conquest of Blighty and all that. It let Popey McPoperson become top dog again. Yaaay.

    Anyway, that was the first crusade, which shat all over the muslim rule of the holy land and established a christian kingdom in Jerusalem. 1-0 christians. The second crusade was more of a no-score draw, and only helped to aggrevate the already tense situation there. Then a chap named Saladin turned up, re-conquered Jerusalem for the Saracens, kicked out the crusaders so memorably in that film with the lovely Orlando Bloom in it, and started off the Third Crusade.

    Presumably it’s the Third Crusade which gives Griffin the biggest mental boner as it’s the only one where English* involvement could be considered anything other than a footnote, thanks to our big celebrity, Richard the Lionheart**. He turned out to be slightly heroic and quite a good general, but importantly, he never took back Jerusalem. Since this was the #1 objective of the third crusade this makes Richard (and England) a bit of a failiure. although later historians managed to retcon it all into another no-score draw.

    Then came the fourth crusade. As Nick mentions upthread, this ended… badly. It’s a horrific story of corruption and greed, and managed to kill off any last spark of honest idealism in the crusades. The void that was left was filled with fervour and zealotry, leading to a century of failed mini-crusades where ignorant zealots from the lower classes marched off singing hymns in the assurance that this would save them from Saracen arrowfire.

    The fourth crusade was doomed from the start. No-one wanted to join in this time. Crusades were expensive, largely pointless, and all the kingdoms in Europe had far more juicy conflicts on the go at home. When the crusader army finally began to assemble they were underfunded, under-equipped and undermanned. Worst of all, they didn’t have any ships. The Doge of Venice had ships. He agreed to let the crusaders use his ships at a price they couldn’t afford. To make up the difference the Doge had the crusaders fight a couple of his own private wars for him. Then they went off to Constantinople, one of the biggest and richest cities in the entire world. They sacked it, they slaughtered the locals (orthadox christians) and brought the good name of holy war into disrepute. Byzantium would never recover (which inadvertantly gave rise to the most powerful islamic empire in history when the Turks later invaded) and the crusades were never again taken seriously by anyone with any sense at all.

    Interesting that Griffin thinks that the crusades “defended” Europe against islam. If there was no christianity, would islam be all that bad as an alternative? Does he really hate falafel that much?

    *and it was English, not British

    **THIS WAS NOT HIS NAME. Richard was of Norman Plantagenet descent, only spoke Norman French and considered the important part of his kingdom as being the part now located in France. So of course he was known as Richard Coeur de Lion. I do wonder what Griffin thinks about him.

  • Nick Mailer

    Mike: I would always suggest trying to learn enough of the original to be able to appreciate it. This does not mean having to learn to speak the Hebrew or Aramaic or Greek, but in learning enough of how the grammar works, and what “mind picture” the language makes. That way, you can have the most mundane of translations and you’ll know just enough to fill in the gaps.

    Sometimes I find “The Message” gimmicky, but at least it tries to do the impossible. The others don’t even try. “The Message” has a very good translation of Ecclesiastes, for example, which captures the beat-poet weariness of the original better than the stupid KJV translation which utterly stupidly uses, for example, the word “vanity” when it should use “meaninglessness” or “emptiness”.

  • Mike Arthur

    @Nick: Thanks, I will try and learn a bit. I guess stuff like Strongs might help a bit here.

    That’s interesting you say that about The Message. The KJV crowd seem to truly loath the thing and even your ESV or NIV lovers aren’t big fans of it, dismissing it as a “paraphrase” rather than a real translation. I’m rather fond of it myself as it feels like a truly contemporary attempt that has freed itself from other translations and can help me to look at texts in another light. I generally attempt to look at the NIV-UK, NRSV and Message when doing any sort of Bible study but it sounds like learning some basic grammar of the languages might help too, cheers.

  • Nick Mailer

    Mike: As I hope I have illustrated, there is no such thing as a translation that is anything more than a paraphrase. The KJV is no less of a “paraphrasing” than is “The Message”.

    Continuing Genesis, skipping a verse, here’s what KJV says:
    “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”

    And here’s The Message:
    “God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss”.

    So, how do either of these compare with the original? It goes “V’ruach Elohim merachefet al p’ney t’hom”.

    Very literally, this means “And the wind of God[s] brooded-like-a-eagle on the face of the mythical-unformed-water-abyss”.

    As ever, Hebrew doesn’t have a word for “spirit” in this sense, but uses the same word for “wind”, ruach.

    I think you can see that in one crucial respect, “The Message” gets the mind picture far better than KJV. In particular, its use of the phrase “brooded like a bird” is spot on – the Hebrew word is specifically that usually used with regard to Eagles protecting their eggs, which the KJV’s banal “moved upon” completely misses. Indeed, it gets the kinetic structure completely wrong. God’s spirit is not “moving upon”, it is “hovering over”, in agitated, protective, static motion, not like some gentle wave.

  • John Walker

    It’s possibly worth noting that the authors of The Message didn’t intend for it to be an “authoritative” translation, but rather an open, modernised re-imagining of the text. In many places it’s fantastically clear and helpful. In others it’s a bit silly and distracting. Another passage it comes the closest of all modern versions to translating correctly is Philippians 3.8.

    “Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung.”

    “dog-dung” seems a really specific expression to throw in there, especially when you consider the NIV, NKJV, even the splendid NRSV say “rubbish”. (The original KJV text says “dung” too, but oddly this was removed in its modernised version.) It’s because the word Paul uses is ‘skuvbalon’. Which literally translates to “shit”. Paul used a shocking word for emphasis, a vulgarity that was not often used in Greek writing. He is making a strong point in extremely serious words, which we’ve now reduced to the banal and meaningless “rubbish” or “garbage” (depending on your location). So points to The Message for getting close. Although they cannot justify the “dog” – it most likely referred to human excrement. (There’s an alternative meaning where it means “table scraps”, but it’s very unlikely to have been Paul’s intent in picking such a word that would have shocked at the time.)

  • John Walker

    Oh, and I also want to add: I want Bobsy to be in charge of teaching all history from now on.

  • Mike Arthur

    @Nick: Yeh, I got that on the paraphrase. Thanks again :)
    @John: Yeh, I’ve heard that before too. Normally serves as a good argument against those who say the slightest swearing from a Christian is VERY BAD.

    Yeh, I know it’s not advertised as a translation. I also think the environment of it’s creation has perhaps helped, with Peterson being both a fairly respected academic and also a respected pastoral leader. Apparently it originated with him translated small snippets to help his congregation pastorally and then it turned into a NT translation and then full Bible.

    If you haven’t read “Eat This Book” by Peterson I thoroughly recommend it.

  • Mike Arthur

    @Bobsy: You rock the house

  • Jambe

    I’d be interested in the bible if folk like you commenters lived nearby. I’d be far more interested in the peculiarities of the language than in any construed message, though. Hebrew just sounds fascinating.

    Add it to Finnish, Hindustani, the North Germanic set and Mandarin Chinese as a language I want to learn. Ugh.

  • Mike Arthur

    Move to Edinburgh and I can find you a few people who’d I’m sure you’d enjoy talking to ;) I think the language pecularities are important in understanding the message though, it means that those who understand that we’re not getting a word-perfect translation tend to be less absolute in their reading of things and (generally) a bit less judgemental toward others.

  • Alex

    Gosh, when will you people learn that the ‘eye of the needle’ was an actual, physical gate in the city walls at the time of Jesus’ life? It wasn’t some sort of communist metaphor.

  • Nick Mailer

    Alex, there never was a gate to Jerusalem called the eye of the needle. This myth was made up later – perhaps by people who were a bit worried about the Commie implications of Jesu’s pronouncement.

  • Bobsy

    You don’t want me to be a history teacher. Summer term would begin with a module called “Ancient Greece: Not as straight as you thought”.

  • Kirrus

    @Bobsy.. Sounds a lot more interesting than my history lessons. I’d still like you to be a history teacher ;)

  • Global bullshit, not global warming

    I stopped reading when I saw you had used this as just yet another opportunity to cram your global warming agenda and propaganda, no matter the topic.

    Fundamentalist greens and global warmists like you are no better than fundamentalist Christians. Blind fanatics clinging to their dogma and infallible religious leaders. It really is more a cult than anything else.

  • John Walker

    You know me, always going on about global warming! Global warming this, global warming that. It’s all this blog is ever about!

    Um, go away, you blithering lunatic.

  • Bobsy

    There you go again! Talking about global warming! You manage to insert it into every topic!

    Oh my god, now you’ve got me doing it! You bastard!

  • james

    I am a BNP, member, it dosnt make any differance what people say or dont say on this site, 1, with in 2020 2090 war will take place between the degenerate west and Islam,2 it will begin with virus attacks against the soft under belly of europe , and the so called liberal USA.3 the people of the book jews and christains will find out soon enought, as to the true nature of islam, this 1600 year old form of the 3d reich, if hitler had ruled for 1600 years ,then people would bow down to Germania, and wear berkas, to insure racial purity as, as dos the 6th reich, Islam dos. THIS IS YOUR FUTURE ?