For some time now I’ve been variously confused, surprised, and even amused by the vehement if sometimes uninformed war of words between what I call the professional atheists and people who study religion and the Bible. To help sort things out, I’ve created “The God Confusion“:
Here’s an excerpt from the welcome post:
At a recent dinner I had with friends, an ardent atheist and a member of the clergy rehashed an argument that most of us are familiar with:
Believing in God is an inexcusable lapse — said one person — a blatant retreat from the obvious advances of science. So religion and God properly belong with superstition in the trash-heap of history.
The other countered that such a position is based on a naive misunderstanding of God and religion. There is no conflict between God and science, or between religion and modernity. It’s ignorance that makes some people think they have to choose.
The first person retorted that he knew exactly what God was. It was the clergy member, he said, who was trying to redefine God in a last-ditch effort to salvage religion.
And so it went: God isn’t a white-bearded magician in the sky. No, it’s worse: God is a vindictive and petty tyrant. God is the source of morality. Atheists don’t need God to be moral. That’s because atheists learned about morality from religion. Religion is the root of all evil. What about Stalin? There are evil priests, too. And on, and on.
I hope you’ll stop by and add your voice to the conversation.
My latest book — The Bible Doesn’t Say That: 40 Biblical Mistranslations, Misconceptions, and Other Misunderstandings — goes on sale today!
Here’s the cover copy:
The Bible Doesn’t Say That explores what the Bible meant before it was misinterpreted over the past 2,000 years.
Acclaimed translator and biblical scholar Dr. Joel M. Hoffman walks the reader through dozens of mistranslations, misconceptions, and other misunderstandings about the Bible. In forty short, straightforward chapters, he covers morality, life-style, theology, and biblical imagery, including:
• The Bible doesn’t call homosexuality a sin, and it doesn’t advocate for the one-man-one-woman model of the family that has been dubbed “biblical.”
• The Bible’s famous “beat their swords into plowshares” is matched by the militaristic, “beat your plowshares into swords.”
• The often-cited New Testament quotation “God so loved the world” is a mistranslation, as are the titles “Son of Man” and “Son of God.”
• The Ten Commandments don’t prohibit killing or coveting.
What does the Bible say about violence? About the Rapture? About keeping kosher? About marriage and divorce? Hoffman provides answers to all of these and more, succinctly explaining how so many pivotal biblical answers came to be misunderstood.
I’m excited about this latest work, and look forward to discussing it here.
Translators and poets, get ready!
Now that I’ve submitted my second book manuscript to St. Martin’s Press, I’m looking forward to spending more time here. As part of my return, in the next little while I’m going to announce a project to translate Isaiah 54 collectively. Some of the most moving words ever penned, in my opinion, translations unfortunately run from banal to barely intelligible.
So get ready. Take a look at the text. Start studying the words. Familiarize yourself with the imagery. And think about the best way to convey Isaiah’s message in English.
I’ll post details here soon.
Ever wonder what happened to Adam and Eve after they left the Garden of Eden? There’s an answer, but it was cut from the Bible.
Curious about how Abraham discovered monotheism? That was cut too.
So was the once-popular Book of Enoch, written before the Book of Daniel and quoted in the New Testament.
Though they fell to the Bible’s cutting room floor, we still have the ancient texts that answer these and similar questions, filling in blanks in our current version of the Bible.
In addition, these fascinating writings from antiquity offer surprisingly modern insight into the nature of our lives as they explore good and evil.
These are the topics of my latest book, The Bible’s Cutting Room Floor: The Holy Scriptures Missing From Your Bible, which goes on sale today.
I hope you enjoy it.
Do you have a blog or other media outlet? Do you post book reviews? If so, my publisher has offered to send you an advance copy of my newest book, The Bible’s Cutting Room Floor: The Holy Scriptures Missing From Your Bible. It’s available as a NetGalley (here) or an ARC.
Be in touch with Karlyn Hixson (Karlyn.Hixson@stmartins.com) directly at St. Martin’s Press to get your copy. I believe priority will go to people who can commit to posting a review during the last week of August or the first week of September.
For everyone else, if you pre-order the book by August 15, you get access to a special sneak peek which includes an extensive excerpt from my chapter about the second half of the Adam and Eve narrative, along with bonus notes and discussion questions.
(If you’ve noticed that I’ve barely posted here in a while, this is why. I’ve been completing The Bible’s Cutting Room Floor and working on another book, as well as building out my on-line resource to complement the book, “The Unabridged Bible.”)
Learn more about the book from the book’s website.
Though my newest project, “The Unabridged Bible,” won’t roll out until a couple of months into 2014, a sneak-peek is available now, with
two four lots of sample pages, including:
- The Life of Adam and Eve (which I mentioned on the History Channel’s Bible Secrets Revealed: The Forbidden Scriptures).
- Antiochus (in honor of Hanukah).
- The Hymn to the Creator, a Psalm from the Dead Sea Scrolls that’s missing from the Bible.
The Master Index is also live, though we’re still tweaking the format.
I’ll be grateful for any early feedback, here or on the project’s blog,
(except that I think I hate the look of that blog as it stands now) with a new look that I think I like.
Read the whole story — including air times, links to more information, and video trailers from the series — in my latest e-newsletter.
UPDATE (December 19, 2013): It turns out I had a prominent role in the 5th episode, as well: “Mysterious Prophecies.” You may be able to watch the whole thing on-line via the “Bible Secrets Revealed” Video page.
UPDATE (December 1, 2013): Learn more about “The Life of Adam and Eve,” which I describe in the third episode, from the sneak-peak look at “The Unabridged Bible.”
UPDATE (November 26, 2013): The third episode — “The Forbidden Scriptures” — airs tomorrow (Wednesday) night. This could be the most enlightening of the episodes, because it addresses something most people don’t know much about.
I remember talking about this in depth on camera, and I’m told that some of my explanations made it into the final show.
Here’s the official description, from the History Channel:
The books, gospels and epistles found in the Holy Bible are writings considered to be divinely inspired. But are there chapters of the Bible that are missing? Have stories been censored and characters deleted? And if so, just who decides what is included—and what is forbidden?
UPDATE (November 20, 2013): The second episode airs tonight: “The Promised Land.” When I was interviewed, I declined to comment publicly about the connection between the Bible and Modern Israel’s borders, so I’m not in this one, but I’m curious to hear what other people say. Here’s the History Channel’s description:
It is considered the most sacred place on Earth. But it has also been carved up, sub-divided and fought over for thousands of years. Was the area known as “The Promised Land” really given by God to a “chosen people?” For the Jewish people, it is the land where David was King, where Solomon built a great temple and where Abraham and his descendants could live in peace and prosperity. Christians believe they have a right to this area because, according to the New Testament, Jesus will first appear here when he returns for the Day of Judgment. Since the Crusades, Temple Mount in Jerusalem has remained under Muslim control and is the site of one of the most sacred mosques in all of Islam. Perhaps God’s real promise was not to Abraham, but to all of humanity, and that a “promised land” was to be earned—not simply given. Could this land of religious tension and endless warfare actually become a Promised Land of peace as foretold in the Bible?
From my personal blog:
It gives me great pleasure to announce the publication of “Revenge,” the second story in my thriller series, “The Warwick Files.”
In “Revenge,” a woman breaks off an affair with the governor, pitting Police Chief Kai Goodman against the State Police.
Like the first story, “Revenge” features Coyote “Kai” Goodman, whose past is so secret that even his cover story is classified. The setting is Warwick, NY, where, according to the official count, there are no spies.
To celebrate this release, the Kindle edition of “Checkpoint” — the first story in the series — is a free download, but only today.
I hope you enjoy reading “Revenge” it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
The stories feature Police Chief Coyote “Kai” Goodman, whose past is so secret that even his cover story is classified. The setting is Warwick, NY, where, according to the official count, there are no spies.
In the inaugural story, “Checkpoint,” a man evades a police checkpoint and unknowingly triggers his own murder. Police Chief Kai Goodman knows why. Do you?
I wrote this to be a fun diversion from my research (even though I try to have fun with that, too). I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I’m pleased to announce the third volume in the “Prayers of Awe” series: We Have Sinned: Sin and Confession in Judaism. Representing the 15th time I’ve collaborated with my father, Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, the book contains my translations of ancient Hebrew liturgical poems, along with detailed notes about why I made the decisions I did, so it may be of interest to those who are curious about how I approach translation.The book also contains detailed essays on the topics of sin, human nature, and repentance, as well as dozens of shorter pieces approaching those same topics from a multitude of viewpoints. As my father writes:
All my life, I’ve wondered about the High-Holiday confessions in Judaism, and I finally edited a book about them. Called We Have Sinned, it just came out from Jewish Lights Publishing, and it represents a multitude of Jewish voices on the topics of sin, human nature, and repentance.
The book is a beginning of a conversation. I hope we can continue it here.
Translating the Hebrew presented some particularly interesting challenges for me. Right off the bat, I had to deal with the central prayer in the book, ashamnu, which consists of an alphabetic acrostic of 24 verbs in a row, all roughly meaning “we have sinned.” More generally, much of the poetry is built around synonyms. As I write in the book (p. 92):
This creates a double challenge for the translator.
First, words often have fewer synonyms in English than in Hebrew. When that is the case, so that there is no natural English for all of the Hebrew synonyms, we must choose between accuracy and naturalness. But the poetic force of the Hebrew comes less from the nuance of each word than from the cumulative impact of the combined string of synonyms, so a non-natural translation for a specific word impacts not only that word but the words around it as well.
A parallel example would be this familiar phrase from Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors (act 2, scene 2):
Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season,
When in the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme nor reason?
A “translation” of the second line along the lines of “when in the why and the cause of what happened is neither poetic assonance nor reason” matches in some regards but misses the mark in others.
I think similar issues sometimes impact Bible translations.
I’ll try to post more from the book soon.