What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

09 September 2012

Be Light Made

I'm reading along in a textbook about oral cultures and their sentence structure, formulas, clichés, and so on (and it's fascinating, btw; I think I made need to explore this more), and I come across two examples from Genesis 1: The first is an early translation, still influenced by oral culture; the second is a more modern, American, literate version. Have a look:

In the beginning God created heaven and earth. And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters. And God said: Be light made. And light was made. And God saw the light that it was good; and he divided the light from the darkness. And he called the light Day, and the darkness Night; and there was evening and morning one day.
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. Then God said, 'Let there be light', and there was light. God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from the darkness. God called the light 'day' and the darkness he called 'night'. Thus evening came, and morning followed—the first day.
A page from the Gutenberg
Bible. I don't read in Latin.

Like so many people my age or older, I grew up hearing the King James Version read in church and at home. I was a teenager before I found out there were other versions. Ong goes on to explain after these passages just why one or the other appeals to a brain trained by orality or literacy, but (surprise!) despite being a literate person in a literate culture, I prefer the first passage. Why? Because from my earliest days, the Bible has been spoken word.

That isn't to say I don't read the Bible. But I've found in recent years that I prefer to read from a paraphrase in modern English rather than a strict translation. However, if I'm reading aloud or hearing it read, I prefer those older translations. And now I'm wondering if that isn't because the older versions adhere to the conventions of oral tradition they descended from (the Old Testament, at least, was spoken before it was written, whereas much of the New Testament was written with the intent that it would be read aloud). Those conventions make them easier to read aloud and easier for the hearers to remember them.

What's my point? Some things were meant to be read aloud, and some things-- the Bible among them-- were meant to be shared. I wonder if Christendom hasn't lost something as we've gradually made Bible-reading a solitary, rather than community, act. I wonder if by focusing on snippets and bits at a time, as we often do in Bible studies or sermons, we miss out on the joy of the whole.

I don't know the answer. But I do know that I'm going to suggest to my husband that we regain some of that community by reading together, instead of alone, and see what happens.

Do you read aloud? (Anything, not just the Bible.) To adults, or children, or both? Does it feel natural?

Source: Ong, Walter J. (2007-03-16). Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (New Accents) (pp. 36-37). Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition. 


Anonymous said...

Although I did read to our daughter regularly it has never seemed a natural thing to me, to read aloud.

Chadwick said...

I actually really like the idea of reading aloud. Storytelling is a really natural and deeply fulfilling. I just wish the stories would be told like they used to. ;)

Philip V Ariel said...

The version comparison is well done, though I too grown up hearing and reading the KJV version these days i read the NLT version which is I think more simple to grasp the thing very easily. SOmeone has said about it as a 6th grade std. but a well educated one can use it, We recently published a Bible study note as a guest post written by Br. John Vargis, explains it well.http://pvariel.blogspot.in/2013/06/how-to-study-bible-biblethe-only-source.html
Thanks for sharing this
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