May 4, 2004
Dear Original Bible Project associates,
This general letter will go out to our entire mailing list as an update on the Original Bible Project and our unfolding plans for 2004. As it happens, I am writing this letter on Pentecost or Shavuot, which in ancient biblical times was a festival celebrating the beginning of the harvest—the feast of “firstfruits.” It was a time of “new beginnings” in the Bible, marking the new world in Noah’s time after the flood, the giving of the Torah in the days of Moses, and the official constitution of the Nazarene community following the death of Jesus in the year 30 C.E.. For the OBP may it also be a season of rejuvenation and inauguration as we begin to execute some of our exciting plans for 2004 that I announced in the February letter. I will begin with some general news and updates.
A New Testament Translation Sample!
Many of you have written to ask what is next in terms of our Translation Sample distribution. So far we have released the complete book of Genesis and Exodus 1-20. Our immediate plans are to send out the remainder of the book of Exodus, and then, shortly following, our very first sample from the New Testament writings—the Gospel of Mark! I am working now to complete my initial draft of this book and it seems to me the methods I outlined in my previous letter are working very well. I wish Dr. Ernest Martin had lived to see this day. He and I talked many times about the ways in which the New Testament thought-world was essentially Hebraic, and he was anxious to see this fundamental reality brought out in the OBP translation.
Since this will be our very first distribution of an entire New Testament book, we are most anxious to get feedback from all of you as to how you think the result compares with what we have been producing so far from the Hebrew Bible. Our goal is to follow the same methods, correlating in every way possible, the New Testament translation from the Greek with our fundamental principles worked out on the Hebrew. Let me repeat here my description of this method from my February, 2004 letter:
One goal we will attempt, that as far as I know is unique to the TEB, is to preserve when possible a correspondence between the way we translated key concepts and words in the Hebrew Bible with their carryover into the New Testament writings. I have in mind here dozens of familiar terms such as “salvation,” “redemption,” “soul,” “hell,” “church,” “baptism,” “atonement,” “covenant,” “sanctification,” and so forth. What we will do is attempt to track the Greek equivalent of these major Hebrew concepts through the LXX or Septuagint (the 2nd century B.C.E. Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), into the koine Greek of the writers of the New Testament. That does not mean we will ignore the vast contemporary evidence of the Greek papyri, inscriptions, and literary documents, but that we will attempt to give a certain privilege or priority to the Hebrew “thought world” as it moves into Greek dress. After all, early Christianity, or the “Jesus Movement,” was thoroughly “Jewish” or Hebraic in its origins and development, a fact that all contemporary historians acknowledge.
As far as I know no other translation has attempted this kind of correlation, especially in terms of vocabulary, as one moves from one language to the other. However, since the New Testament is essentially a collection of Jewish literature, written almost exclusively by Jews who were immersed in the “thought world” of the Hebrew Bible, we can expect the correspondence to be rather direct. I think all of you will be pleasantly surprised and impressed with the way in which this is working.
We have not yet finalized our arrangements, nor fully funded the costs, for our anticipated appointment of our New Testament editor, who will function in a way parallel to Dr. Haak with the Hebrew Bible. I expect to be able to make that official announcement by September, 2004. This means the version of the Gospel of Mark that we will be distributing will be my draft copy, not yet fully honed through our editorial process, as were our distributions of Genesis and Exodus. However, since this is our very first New Testament release, I want to go ahead and send it out so we can begin to get feedback from all of you as well.
Future Translation Samples
Once we send out Exodus 21-40 and the Gospel of Mark, where do we go from there? At our Board Meeting in January, held in Pasadena, CA, we had some extensive discussions of this subject. Rather than proceeding through the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament in order (Leviticus next, then Numbers, then Deuteronomy, and so forth), we made a decision to move around a bit so that our readers and supporters could get more of an idea of the entire picture of the TEB as a whole, rather than book by book. Right now plans call for sending out the following books: Jeremiah, 1 Samuel, Galatians, Deuteronomy, Proverbs, 1 Corinthians, Hosea, Judges, James, Numbers, Song of Songs, Revelation, and Leviticus. As we map our plans for the others I will let you know, but so far, these will be next in line.
At some point we want to give more thought to our methods of distributing these Translation Samples (TS). We essentially have two mailing lists, our general list to whom these newsletters go, and our special list of those who receive these TSs. To be on the TS list all one has to do is make that request. We have never put a price on the distribution of these materials and have trusted that those who appreciate this work will contribute generously. One possible way to save money might be to use the Internet or Web as an alternative distribution method rather than rely exclusively on mailing out hard copies, whether domestically or internationally. Many of you are Internet and computer savvy, and would have no problem downloading PDF versions of the TSs from our Web site, which would cut our costs tremendously. That would allow more funds to be used at the production rather than at the distribution end of things. One concern, of course, are copyright issues. For that reason, so far, we have only put small samples on our Web site. Right now we mail materials to a select and trusted group who stand loyally behind us. If we decide to put these materials out on the Web we expose ourselves, potentially, to millions of people worldwide who might make use of our materials without permission. One solution that has been suggested is to make use of some kind code or password that would be used by our “own people” who wanted to participate in such an electronic distribution program.
I want to assure everyone, however, that any who want to receive hard copies in the mail will be able to do so. The idea of making use of electronic distribution would be a voluntary alternative for those who preferred that method. In fact, many of you have written us suggesting this very thing, as a way of cutting printing and postage costs.
If you are receiving this letter and are not yet on our TS list, but would like to join this “select group,” simple return the enclosed envelope and let us know. We are pleased to add anyone who has a sincere interest in the Project and wants to join us in this great effort.
I wanted to pass on a few random personal notes that I think you might find of interest. From time to time I like to include this sort of thing in these letters and have always gotten very positive feedback from those who would like to know more of what is going on in the professional life of the OBP Editor…
Beginning July 1st I will become Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. We now have 14 full-time professors with plans for further growth. Just last year we began a Master of Arts program. We now have two fully endowed Chairs in Judaic Studies. I am honored by my appointment to this position. As an administrator I will only teach one course per semester, but I will still carry on my regular load of research and work on the OBP. I try to devote about 100 hours per month to this work and should be able to continue at that level, even with these shifted responsibilities.
I mentioned last summer that I have switched all my work over to an Apple/Mac computer system. I work mainly on a 12 inch G-4 Powerbook that can go with me everywhere (it weighs only 4.6 lbs!), but contains all my software and files. It is an amazing machine and I continue to be thoroughly pleased with all aspects of its performance. I have become a dyed-in-the-wool, hardcore, “Mac” devotee. I recently added the Apple 23-inch High Definition desktop display as an accessory. Perhaps some of you have seen this wonderful marvel of technology at your local Apple Computer store. This allows me to put up on this huge screen at one time four different documents or programs, all visible and accessible side by side. It has made an amazing difference in my productivity. For example, I can have open whatever WORD file I am working on (say, the Gospel of Mark), the Bible Works program, and a couple of reference works, without any need to switch back and forth from screen to screen.
After having lens replacement surgery on my right eye in 2002, and then my left eye last year, I am able now to see perfectly for distance and close work without any kind of correction, whether glasses or contact lenses! Quite a few of you had written and asked how things were in that regard, so I wanted to mention that things have gone better than I could have ever expected. In terms of eyesight I feel like I have have gone back 40 years to my youth!
In March I was in Israel for a week, over our Spring Break. I was mainly following up on research related to the “Tomb of the Shroud” that Shimon Gibson and I discovered in 2000 while hiking in the Hinnom Valley south of Jerusalem. Quite accidentally we came upon a freshly robbed 1st century rock-hewn tomb. We called the Israeli authorities and they allowed our team to do the “rescue archaeology” that is carried out in such cases. To our surprise, in one of the burial niches (kokim or loculi) we discovered a decomposed corpse, but with remnants of the burial shroud still intact. C-14 dating established the deceased was from the early 1st century C.E., contemporary with the time of Jesus! We had stumbled across the only example every found of a Jewish burial shroud. We also had the only example every found of Jewish male hair, as the skull still had the hair fairly intact. All of this is now being studied, and Dr. Gibson and I are going to publish a full academic report on the discovery next year. There are also some rumors in and around Jerusalem that the now famous ossuary with the inscription (whether all or in part authentic) “James son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” might very well have been looted from our Shroud Tomb. If so, might we have come upon the “Jesus Family tomb”! The possibilities are too intriguing to even imagine, but there is some fascinating circumstantial evidence that such might be the case. Stay tuned for further developments.
I will be participating in one of the six-day Biblical Archaeology Seminars this summer at St. Olaf college in Minnesota. Check out http://www.bib-arch.org/bswbTrStolaf.html for details on costs, topics, schedule, and location. Also, further along in the year I will be presenting at the annual BAS “Bible and Archaeology Fest” in San Antonio, TX, Nov 19-21. Check at http://www.bib-arch.org/bswbTravel.html for further details as they are posted. My topic in San Antonio is “Recovering the Lost Gospel Source Q: Literary Imagination and Textual Realities.” I hope I might see some of you at either event. It seems whenever I do these BAS seminars OBP people often show up and it is always a great pleasure to meet some of you face to face.
Well I will close this letter and get back to work! Please let us know your requests in the enclosed return envelope. As always we appreciate the generous contributions of our supporters.
James D. Tabor
Chief Editor, The Original Bible Project
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