Disclaimer: I seem to be Hatfield's coaeval and I spent my formative years with the Jesuits at St Ignatius' at Stamford Hill. Although initially drawn to Classics I spent my life as a psychologist and statistician, but always in search of the true documentary basis of my faith.
I discover that I have been handicapped by the word breaks in our Greek sources: as an experiment I put together some chapters from the LXX Genesis in majuscules without word spaces and discovered how to read such texts: you have to slowly spell them out, syllable by syllable (see p.51!) And when you're presented with a text like this, the anagrams, the word plays, the embedded words all begin to come out at you. Because words are separated by spaces in modern editions we do tend to read clumps of words as symbols and disregard their component parts - see for instance the nicely cited passage on p. 12 that did the rounds on the internet a few years ago. So it's not just that most people don't read the holy books in Greek - they don't read them in majuscules without spaces. Thank goodness for computers and Visual C++.
An interesting theme that emerged for me was the insistence by St Jerome of getting a "good" source for the NT canon in Greek, right, good move - but then of going back to a Masoretic text for the OT. Intellectual arrogance of a sort? The effect of this is to create such a disconnect between the OT and the NT that we are in the hands of whomever we elect as authoritative commentators!
A return to the Masoretic origins makes every bit of sense for a Jewish reader, and the Masoretic text is an impressive achievement. But it is time that the Roman churches took firm hold of the proposition that the only logical precursor to the NT canon is the LXX and to insist that for Christian reading, the Bible OT should be the LXX. It won't do that much for the losses made in translation but it will be an affirmative start.
But if they were to take this step then the way is open for accounts such as Hatfield's which threatens to unravel a lot of received interpretation. What's the betting they won't?
After a few random spot checks in my Nestle-Aland I decided that Hatfield was most probably accurate. If I were a serious academic reviewer I would be much more sceptical (hoping to be proved wrong.)
His contribution to the "numbers game" in the Mark feedings, and his careful dissection of the opening chapters of Genesis are outstanding. His account of the mis-translation of "ton anthropon" (p. 89) is startling, and of course it unlocks the NT "son of man" riddle, over which much ink has been spilt. I was trying to figure out how that sensitive and scrupulous man Tyndale got it so wrong. Perhaps a mind used to reading Latin would not have been alert to the difference, blinded as it were to the importance of the "ton". And Tyndale of course is the source for the "King James" version with its added "points" so it could be "read in churches."
However, I am not a professional Koine scholar and I would be interested to see how Hatfield's solutions are reviewed by those who have spilt ink over the same problems.
The real freshness for me is that Hatfield reads precisely and does not appear to be blinded by a Latin overlay. It's not just having the Greek text, I'm afraid: it's also being able to pick up the word games, and the grammar-crypto nerd in me thrilled.
I have one major point of criticism to which I hope Hatfield will be able to respond positively.
All the evidence presented so far is confirmatory - Hatfield uses the argument from induction to prove that all ravens are black. In order to stand up to the harsh scrutiny that his thesis will be subjected to by professionals (if we are lucky) we are going to have to develop some hypotheses that are a priori falsifiable (not that falsificationism is in itself a touchstone for knowledge - but that simply this will be the kind of test that Hatfield's examples will be put to by those whose command of the logic of scientific inquiry got frozen some time in the 1950s.)
It feels entirely too easy to pick up the anagrams and the "alpha-sigma" and "chi-theta" digrams (p. 278): can Hatfield show us passages in which (a) we would not expect to find such features, and (b) we actually do not find them?
For instance, are we to understand that ALL the books of the NT canon are riddled with such crossword clues? Surely, there must be some that don't! Can we list these and give a plausible explanation why not? At the risk of sounding really boring, we do need what in science we have learnt to call "control conditions" - ie, conditions in which the independent variable (in this case, gnostic riddles) is entirely absent.
Whatever the professionals will make of it, this is a fascinating book and one that deserves a lot more mention than that fatuous nonsense published by the likes of Barbara Thiering.
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Why Call Me God?: The Gospel Seen with a Single Eye Paperback – Jan. 1 1870
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