Religion nerd’s thought for the day…

“As to the Apocryphal books, I omit them because I am no papist.” (King James… allegedly)

Midday reading got me pondering the notion of the Bible as a form of “graven image,” ultimately, with temporal bounds and such (leaving aside the question of whether the book was divinely inspired). I found myself contemplating how political considerations have inevitably played a role in the book’s many translations and redactions, over the centuries; and how, even within the faith, there are different preferred versions of “The Bible,” from one sect to the next. (In the 21st century, leading Christian institutions still haven’t managed to agree on a single, unifying Bible… although leading Western-Christian institutions have largely coalesced, it would seem, behind America’s three-decade embrace of neo-fascism, even as Muslims have been slaughtered by the millions and as the planet’s life-sustaining systems are clearly foundering… hooray for blessed corporatism!)

And then the post-apocalyptic film “THE BOOK OF ELI” popped into my head (go figure)… and I realized an unintended irony of the film. Eli’s quest is to deliver a King James Bible, specifically, to those who will properly value and preserve it… faithfully, as he has. But even if Eli’s faith is indeed founded in some cosmic truth, and the book he carries was originally handed down by God Hirself*, the bowdlerized version of the text that Eli is carrying would seem to represent the sort of distortion of The Word of God that CARNEGIE (Gary Oldman’s pathetic, power-crazed villain) has in mind!

In Carnegie’s mind, this book is for crowd control; this book serves the crown; this book is about POWER. This is the Bible Carnegie knows… and desperately wants to possess. With the Apocrypha all but expurgated and Adam’s first partner, Lilith, effectively banished (transformed into a banshee-like spirit of the deep, dark woods) much of the “original” text’s richness is lost in the old King Me version. But something tells me that more than poetry has been lost. I suspect that the book’s more Hellenistic notions — expressionist, empathetic, imaginative, feminine — have been pared down in favor of Christendom’s more Hellenic, militaristic, “heroic,” and patriarchal predilections.

Who benefits? Cui bono? (Sonny Bono? I don’t know, I’m just asking questions…) I’d wager that Mr. Oldman’s villain, Carnegie, would have some excellent insights on this matter.

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* a nod to the dual-sexed Shekala aspect of God (referenced in our Oxford/NRSV Bibles, in the Book of Genesis)

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