Chapter 11 ends after the brutal scene of the bourgeois being buried by bird bodies as they beat it to Hazeroth, a location that wasnít named after God murdering people. Weird, right?
This terrible way of ending a chapter makes me want to address biblical structure. When debating Christians, youíll often find people who take a great deal of pride in the particular version of the bible they use. I recently argued with a Christian who claimed the KJV is the ďbest preserved version,Ē and even after I pointed out its atrocious source material, the Christian remained convinced of its superior accuracy. Catholics, however, claim that the Douay-Rheims translation is the best because itís based off the Latin Vulgate which is the official Latin translation of the church (made official by God?).
The problem is, no matter what version you use, it has been heavily modified. The original manuscripts didnít have the arbitrarily assigned chapters or verses (they were added around 1200-1600 CE). And while apologists can claim that the numbers are only there to provide quick reference, truth is they can actually alter a bookís perceived meaning. Even worse, the modern bibles have line breaks, indentation, capitalization, and punctuation marks. These too arenít present in any early manuscripts, but their addition really gives an editor power over the perceived meaning. For example:
i really enjoy cooking children and other christians
I really enjoy cooking, children, and other Christians.
Punctuation kind of changed the tone of that sentence, didnít it? And yes, punctuation variations are extremely common throughout the various translations because the editors donít know the original intent, so they make their best guess. But who are these editors to tell God where a new paragraph should start, or when to use a semicolon? If Moses wrote the Torah without semicolons, dagnabbit, you should read it without them! For that matter, who are you to tell God where spaces occur? The original manuscripts donít even have spaces between the words, so when you see this:
Which is correct?
A: God, a real ark.
B: Go dare a lark.
C: God. Area: L. Ark.
Still, some will argue that to really understand the scriptures, you must read them in their original language. But even if they know Hebrew, are they really doing what they claim? Letís say you get a Hebrew bible and turn to this passage, Numbers 11:35. Youíll and see something that looks like this. Surely, youíre reading the bible in its original form now, right?
Not even close! Youíre reading the bible in modern Hebrew. Verse numbers, commas, and spaces are just small potatoes compared to the niqqud of modern Hebrew! These are the diacritical marks added to modern Hebrew to imply which vowel sounds to use between consonants because Biblical Hebrew was written without vowels. Thankfully, Hebrew has a long oral tradition so we can assume that a lot of the words are still spelled and pronounced relatively accurately, provided we ignore accent drift, spelling variations, homographs, and similarly spelled words. Of course, even with the impressive preservation techniques of the Hebrews, many of the words found in the bible have no modern equivalent and no known etymology. This means that every single one of these words has a real potential of being completely wrong. Want to know what itís like deciphering Biblical Hebrew? Here is an example in English. Try reading this sentence and see if you can figure it out:
And that hot mess is what you get when you try to decipher an early biblical source! You wouldnít be reading an English translation, or even modern Hebrew, youíd be reading something like this excerpt of Job from 50 CE.