...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Friday, January 19, 2007

WWWS (What Would Weber Say)?

I have recently acquired four very different religious texts:

1) The NIV Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible, $24.95 from Black Sun Books in Eugene. Kind of spendy, but it's in great condition and it would have cost twice as much new. It has annotations for tons of words in Greek and Hebrew, as well as lexicons in both languages and grammar guides. So, for instance, after the phrase "corrupted flesh" in Jude 23, there's a little number 4922; looking up "4922" in the Greek lexicon in the back tells me what the original Greek word was in that verse ("sarx," in this case), as well as every other place in the Bible where that word appears. You can do the same thing with the Hebrew words in the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures. I don't love the New International Version, or NIV (I prefer the New Revised Standard Version, or NRSV, which is what most people in my Bible Study use, so following along with the NIV is kind of jarring) but it was the only translation they had this Bible in, and I think I'll learn a lot from it.

2) The Book of Common Prayer, on loan to me from Mark, the Dean of the Chapel here. This might come out of the blue for some readers, but I'm considering becoming an Episcopalian, so I thought it would be good to familiarize myself with the Episcopalian liturgy and prayers. I'll probably write another post about why I'm thinking of converting sometime in the near future.

3) The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, $9.95 from Powell's. I'm taking a Mormonism seminar this semester and these three were required texts. I adore the edition that I found: all bound together in faded black leather, with the names of the books stamped in gold on the cover and "To Ben from Velda 3/19/45" written in cursive inside the back cover. Someone--Ben, possibly--made notes and underlined some verses, and someone carefully wrote the dates that the golden plates were originally written next to the table of contents in what must have originally been blue ballpoint ink but has now faded to a purpleish-pink: next to where it says First Book of Nephi, Ben wrote in "600 BC-570 BC;" next to Book of Ether, he wrote "Jaredites left Babyon 2200 BC.

4) The Liqqetei Amarim, or Tanya, $11.95 from Powell's. Now this was really a find, and is the crowning jewel of my growing collection of Chassidus. The Tanya is a mystical book written by the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, in 1797. It's smaller than I would have expected: about the size of CD case and about 300 pages long, with a faux-brown leather hard cover and a faded pink ribbon to mark your place. My edition is translated into English, of course, but I expect I'm going to learn a lot of Hebrew (at least, "a lot" relative to my current Hebrew vocabulary of maybe two dozen words) since most of the mystical concepts are transliterated, instead of translated. Plus, there's a glossary in the back.

I'm pretty sure that owning Jewish books is one of the mizvot (commandments) that Chabad most fervently encourages Jews to practice, along with hanging a mezuzah outside their doors, praying with t'fillin, lighting Shabbat candles, charity, and recitation of the Sh'ma. I can see why: there is something very sacred about books, the history contained in decades-old pages, and knowledge. On the evangelical teen forum, they're currently debating whether reading books like the Qu'ran is "playing with fire;" when I flip through the Book of Mormon, a text which I consider to be historically false and offensive in some instances, I have to think that the teenage crazies are missing the point.