Section 1: Truth and Knowledge

This is a short extract from Am I My Keeper’s Brother? 

The filters through which we perceive truth

Did you see it yourself?

Most of what we consider to be the truth is received at least second hand or maybe third, fourth or fifth hand. In the case of rare scientific experiments or distant historical events, we may be receiving truth 100th or 1000th hand.

How many of us were there when Rutherford fired a beam of alpha particles at gold foil and, after measuring the trajectories, formulated the nuclear model of the atom? How many of us have personally verified that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen, or seen Pluto, let alone measured how far away it is? How many of us have seen our own brains and verified that that is what we think with?

How many of us were there when Moses came down from Mt Sinai with the tablets of the commandments God had given? How many of us accompanied the Israelites across the Red Sea, or walked around the walls of Jericho with them? How many of us participated in the meal when Jesus fed the five thousand, witnessed the stoning of Stephen or listened to Paul talk to the Athenians?

We receive and believe all these things from what was reported first hand as well as the multiple stages of re-reporting. We believe them because we also believe that the vehicle – the person or writings – that reports them to us is trustworthy. In one case we believe in the trustworthiness of the scientific reports of the original observers, the scientific process, and the teachers or textbooks. In the other case we believe in the trustworthiness of the chroniclers of Jewish history, and the translators. We believe that the Bible as we have received it in our own language is reliable, as are those who have taught us about it. Most of our belief in the truth is taken on trust.

Did you read it in the original language?

Translators bear a heavy responsibility for communicating ancient thinking to us. Different languages have different ways of thinking and explaining concepts. translation of the original ideas requires complex skills. Sometimes it fails. It is often difficult to understand English from a few centuries ago, such as the Bible in the King James Version (KJV). Take 1 kings 13:27: “And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him”; or 2 Samuel 8:13: “And David gat him a name when he returned from smiting of the Syrians in the valley of salt, being eighteen thousand men”; or 1 Corinthians 7:9: “But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn”; or read Romans 2:3-11 in the KJV. If we find these passages obscure in old English, how about understanding ancient Greek or Hebrew? Often understanding of a scientific topic written in Latin, or of a portion of the Old testament written in Greek or Hebrew, has suffered in the translation filter.

Am I My Keeper’s Brother? pp 37-38.
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