Christianity’s Next Reformation — Aside number 2
This is the second in a series of comments on Gerald R. Baron’s series on a new Reformation for Christianity. He has just published a second article entitled ‘The Benefits of Believing in a Creator’. I do not intend a full analysis, merely to focus on one key point.
Baron’s theme is to “defend the proposition that it is better to believe the universe was created by a benevolent and powerful God than to believe the universe is uncreated”. I have no disagreement with this; I’m happy to concede that the universe was ‘created’, i.e. thought into existence. However, as in the previous article, I query why Baron uses the word ‘better’. Does he mean ‘truer’? I assume he does, in which case why not say so? To say that it is ‘better’ is ambiguous, and might suggest that it is more comforting to believe something.
I’m more interested in what follows. Baron says that “the God of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is an eternal Being who willed the universe into existence. The Genesis account has God issuing commands such as ‘Let there be light’ and then there was light… Those who wrote Genesis and edited it into its existing form did so based on the knowledge of the cosmos available to them at that time. But, that does not say they did not convey something true and of crucial importance. What Genesis says is that there is a Being that exists outside of time and space who willed the universe into existence”.
The problem here is that, as every biblical scholar knows, the word originally used for God in Genesis 1, Elohim, is plural. It is hard to see how this could be intended to mean one single being. This becomes more complicated when one considers that the following verb is singular. (I’ve read that two or three times so assume it’s true.) A more accurate translation might therefore read “God in its plural form created…”, which is more suggestive of polytheism than any version of Christianity. “The God of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam” cannot therefore be found in Genesis 1 in its original language, as Baron claims. Perhaps “those who wrote Genesis and edited it into its existing form” had a deeper knowledge of the cosmos than modern Christians, since the text suggests that the universe was created by a group of ‘deities’, perhaps emanations from an ultimate Ground of Being.
I once read the preface of an edition of the Bible (from memory it was the Good News version), in which the translators said that they were aware that Elohim is plural, but chose to translate it as ‘God’ because the Christian tradition is monotheistic. In other words, they deliberately mistranslated the original text so that Christians would not feel challenged, and have to probe more deeply.
It is reasonable to ask Christians who believe in one God and that the Bible is His Word, which Bible is actually the Word of God, the original Hebrew or the English mistranslation?
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