Deep in the thread of the last discussion, I let slip something of my own view on this general topic of interpretation...
Unfortunately, for all the learning that has been presented here on Slashdot, the process itself has been woefully neglected in everyone's commentary. Many are willing to tell us how smart they are, but smartness is only approximately the same as truth, the best it can ever be is an estimate in matters of cultivating one's own life with richness and truth. I have no problem with that, as I realize for myself that is so far my process. The way to make that further step is my pursuit.
Interpretation is a tricky thing. The Greeks had a concept of "Muses" a team of supernatural beings who whispered great ideas into peoples ears. These muses would give them inspiration, a general get up and go try something new and improved that was from beyond the narrow focus of our survival of every day problems. That was inspiration, and it made everyones lives more rich and full. But they also noted that inspiration, as it was passed from one hand to the next, seemed to dilute or corrupt. Even when copying verbatim, the inspiration of the muse was best found in the origional work, and in Alexandria (IIRC) they tried to collect as close to the original work as they could.
As I continue what has been a very enriching look at the book of Genesis, I find I need to pause a bit and ponder on this topic of interpretation. To those who follow the belief of the muses, interpretation is nothing more than an incomplete copy of the original idea or thought. It is an approximation, a best guess. It is our own words.
And this is probably no better seen than visually, in how people paint or draw their interpretations rather than say them. In the next installment I will study the ark of the covenant, so I will ask for everyone to send me their favorite pictures of what the ark looks like. If you draw your own, that would be even cooler.
But for now, I want to start with another object of antiquity. The steel bow of Nephi, the prominent first author in the Book of Mormon. What makes this fun is that it is more controversial, the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is often disputed. And the presence of the steel bow is a common conundrum in that struggle. The Book of Mormon, as noted by Joseph Smith, was an act of interpretation by inspiration. A single step of interpretation aided by divine inspiration.
So why do I bring this up? Because while the presence of a steel bow is presented as problematic for the Book of Mormon, the King James Version of the Bible mentions steel bows also. But, we are told, that is a mistaken translation on their part because Israel in that time didn't have steel, let alone steel bows. So interpretation is sought to reconcile this dilemma by both Mormon orthodoxy and more generally Christian. But as the following link shows, if the interpretation of the Bible that Joseph Smith had was flawed, then perhaps he knew the problem and aligned the mention with the false interpretation already in place?
Read on as people explore this dilemma through an attempt at understanding interpretation.
So does steel really mean serpentine? Bronze? There are very compelling cases for each. Is the KJV translation just flat wrong on the matter? And did Joseph Smith know it was wrong, but follow along for conformity sake? Though there are other comments along a similar vein, projecting many feelings of frustration on every side as they grapple with the issue, it is with the dry drawn out timing simular to Monte Python that the last comment gets to the punchline. Which I won't spoil for people who wish to read the above thread...
Next stop, the road to Jericho and a lone traveling good Samaritan. And then if no more diversions are requested then we'll head straight for the lost ark. I look forward to seeing entries for the Ark art display :) Just submit them in any of the JE's between now and then.