Now that the festive season of Christmas is over let us have a sober dekko at the Bible which is the source of Christmas.
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ though nobody knows when he was born let alone where he was born. Gospel writers Mark and John say nothing about Jesus’ birth. Luke says nothing special about the birth. Mathew is the only one who says Mary became pregnant from the Holy Spirit.
Christmas in the UK simply means a great festive occasion with childhood memories, when the children get lots and lots of presents while the adults revel with plenty of booze working up to the New Year’s Eve (England) or Hogmanay (Scotland) celebration. This is the time when National Newspapers print out a variety of concoctions known as “the hair of the dog” as a remedy for big hangover.
Drunkenness especially in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, apart from the Trafalgar Square in London on New Year’s Day has not changed much since Robert Louis Stevenson’s account of “New Year’s Day in Edinburgh” 120 years ago, and since my student days there 35 years ago. Some have been saving their wages for perhaps a month to do the season honour.
This is the day when the family has a traditional “Christmas dinner” i.e. lunch with stuffed turkey that have been fattening up for a year and Christmas cake with lots of brandy.
Given my struggle to believe in the existence of God, I cannot help but admire those Christians whose faith extends not just to God’s existence, but also to the idea that he had a son (Jesus).
I must have been 14/15 years old when I first read the Bible. It was a tiny pocket sized book, which I borrowed from a Tangkhul friend. The Bible was written in old English and that made me believe that it was the word of God (Christian).
I met this friend first at Ukhrul, his name escapes my memory at the moment. Every time he came down to Imphal he came to visit me. And we used to spend some time together. My mother was very fond of him. Whenever he came, my mother called me out saying “nupa macha, your friend from Ukhrul has come.”
The Bible is the most scientifically studied religious book — a doctrinal book. It is a teaching book written by ancient Israelites quoting perhaps some of the teachings of Christ, some symbolism and mythology borrowed from the saviour religions of the Near East especially the Persian cult of Mithraism and the Egyptian mythology of Isis.
Many Christians especially the “Catholics accept a few central doctrines of the Christian faith such as the Incarnation, Resurrection, Trinity, and Virgin birth, Baptism in water and Eucharist. The Resurrection (coming alive) of dead Christ is the most important part of Christian belief. Without Resurrection Christ cannot be the son of God.
The name Bible indicates its nature as a collection of writings. The first Bible was assembled 350 years after the birth of Christ. The Bible researchers have now agreed that he was born during the reign of Herod who died in 4 BCE, aged 69.
The Bible was not a simple homogenous book in the form in which we see today. It was first translated into Latin in the 2nd century CE in North Africa and was first printed in Latin in 1452 CE by Gutenberg in Mainz in Germany.
There are over 20,000 variants of the Bible in some 5,000 manuscripts, all claiming to be the correct translations of the originals. There are no copies of the original Bible. Besides, there is no such thing as an original Greek Bible with all 27 manuscripts bound together in one book.
Miles Cloverdale (1488- 1568) translated and printed the English Bible from Greek in 1536 CE. Later on, he added versions of others derived mostly from the Latin and Hebrew text of the Vulgate, supplemented by reference to Martin Luther’s German Bible. He then incorporated the revised version of the Book of Psalms into The Book of Common Prayer in 1539, for corporate and common worship. The Book of Common Prayer is distinctive for the dignity accorded to Virgin Mary and certainty of the Resurrection of dead Christ.
There were different versions of the stories of the Bible in what is known as the “Geneva Bible” of 1560 and the “Bishops Bible” of 1568. King James of England authorised an authentic English translation of the Bible from its Hebrew and Greek origin in 1611, known as the “King James’ Bible.”
— to be contd
The Sangai Express