Posts Tagged ‘Hebrew’

3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated”  —  book review
Today’s review is for “3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated” (1991©) written by Donald E. Knuth.  Back in 2011, I read another book by Knuth, titled: “Things A Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About“. (Review here.)  That book, was a discussion about the author’s faith and his prior book, which is being reviewed in this post.  When I retired (in 2017), I was presented with an Amazon gift voucher, which I promised to “waste” on books, music or technology.  In this case, part of it was used to buy this book (along with a number of other Knuth books).
To save everyone the time of reading my earlier review, basically, Knuth wanted to know if one can learn anything unique or unusual about the Bible by doing a stratified (but random) sampling / review of a particular Bible verse.  In theory, if you have a sufficiently large sample to draw from, you can gain “some” knowledge about any topic by analyzing a random sample of the topic’s data.
Because Knuth was not sure this type of investigation would work for literature, Knuth chose a verse he knew would have at least one interesting data point: “Chapter 3 Verse 16”.  The chapter and verse he was confident about was John Chapter 3: Verse 16 – “Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only child, so that all people with faith in him can escape destruction, and live forever.
The first problem Knuth encounters is that not all of the books of the Bible have 13 verses in their chapter 3.  To get around this, he simply carried the sample forward the same number (count) of verses and take up wherever that left him.  There were, however, a number of books which were simply to short to use even this method.  In those instances, he simply chooses to drop the book. Knuth ends up with a sampling size of 59 verses.
The second issue was Knuth found scholars did not always (rarely, in fact) agree on what exactly was meant by the writings in the various Bible sources.  Not only were the scholars interpretations differing, so were the texts across the various Bible versions.  There was (is) even disagreement on if some source material is valid and / or should be included in the Bible.
In order to determine why this was happening, Knuth determined to read the Bibles in their original Hebrew / Aramaic and Greek / Latin.  He could then present his own translations as he felt they should be interpreted.  In addition, he felt he needed to translate the verses immediately before and after the target verse to ensure he was accurately relating context as well as the literal meaning.
The method of describing each of the 59 verses itself is interesting.  Each verse is covered in four pages.  Page one provides overall historic, geographic and character background information.  The second page is devoted to a calligraphic representation of the verse.  The final two pages are a word by word breakdown of the verse.  In order to do this in a manner which makes sense, Knuth sometimes adds an analysis of the preceding or following verse(s).  Just a word on the calligraphy.  Knuth approached a friend who happened to be a world renowned typeface designer to assist with the book cover illustration.  The friend (Hermann Zapf), in turn commissioned calligraphers from over 20 countries to provide the “illustration” pages.  This calligraphy, in turn, became part of a formal exhibit which I believe is currently “owned” by the San Francisco Library.  I don’t know if it (the entire exhibit) is ever shown publicly.  I know it was back in 2011, but I was not able to go view it back then.  My loss, I am sure.
So, is this book interesting?  Is it entertaining?  Is it enlightening?  Yes.  Yes, and Yes!  I am a life-long Roman Catholic, but I have never read the Bible through cover to cover.  I tried to a few years back, but had limited knowledge of the names and places and found it rather boring.  I attempted to co-read Isaac Asimov’s “Guide To The Bible“, but even this was of limited value.  I now think I just gave up too soon.  Mea culpa.
Almost every chapter of this book explained something I didn’t know or fully appreciate about the book being covered in that chapter.  Some were simple “interesting”.  Some were “that never occurred to me”.  And, some (a few) were “Wow! I’ve got to go back and read that!”  Anytime I read a book which prompts me to read more or more in-depth, I am grateful to the author.  (I’m still not sure if I’m weird that way…)  In any case, I’m now more determined than ever to read more of Knuth’s books.
In this case: final recommendation – very highly recommended!!  Even if you are not a Biblical scholar or particularly religious, this book will provide insight into one of the greatest books in all of literature.  At less than 270 pages, this is a fast read and the calligraphy is truly beautiful.  Two final notes: 1) in the afterward, Knuth wonders if his selection of “3:16” was not “influenced” and therefor not entirely random.  His conclusion was, with further analysis, it may have been, but was not intentional.  He adds, however, that he enjoyed the process so much he intends to use the methodology for further future study of other verses.  And, 2) I’ve seen in various places this book was copyright in 1990.  My version says 1991 and that’s the year I’m using above.
On This Day In:
2018 Happy 34th Anniversary, Hil!!
2017 Happy 33rd Anniversary, Hil!!
2016 Happy 32nd Anniversary, Hil!!
2015 Happy Anniversary Hil!!
2014 30th Wedding Anniversary
2013 Number 29 (And Counting)
2012 Hammer ‘N Roses
Happy Anniversary
2011 I Can Hear It Now

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A couple of months ago, I was talking to my nephew and he told me he was a Jew.
I asked if he had ever been to a synagogue.  No.  I asked if he had ever read the Torah or the Talmud.  No.  I asked if he had ever read the complete Old Testament from the Bible.  No.  I asked if he had ever spoken to a Rabbi about the Jewish faith.  No.
After chuckling, I asked him why he thought he was Jewish.  He advised me that Jesus was Jewish and he was a follower of Jesus, so he was Jewish, too.  Needless to say (after another chuckle), I advised him that declaring yourself to be of a certain faith does not “make” you a member of that faith if you do nothing else to demonstrate your beliefs.
Later, though, it occurred to me that I know almost nothing about the Jewish faith either.  Yes, I’ve read some of the Old Testament, but I’ve never read any of the Torah and would not be able to tell you the first thing about any differences between it and the Old Testament.  So, when I was visiting my local second hand book shop and I stumbled upon a copy of a book which professed to be an “everymans” guide to orthodox Judaism, I picked it up and added it to the reading list.  As it happens, I rested the book close to my computer and it “called” to me repeatedly – so I bumped it up the list.  I finished it last week and the rest of this posting is my review…
The book is titled: “This Is My God” (1988©), and was written by Herman Wouk.  The book was originally published back in 1959, but this is a republishing with a chapter update about Israel (the nation-state).  Mr. Wouk wrote the book because a friend came up to him and said his son knew next to nothing about Judaism and the friend knew Wouk to be a practicing Jew and could he recommend a good “starter” book for him to give to his son with the hope the son might gain some appreciation for their heritage.
Now Wouk admits to not being a Rabbi (a teacher of the Torah) and could not think of (or find) such a book – even after asking around himself – so he decided to write one.  After about a year or so of intense research, he did.  And this book is the result of Wouk’s effort.
I have not read any of Wouk’s other works, but he is a terrific writer!  The book is obviously a very simplistic introduction to Judaism.  That does not mean it is not worth reading.  It merely recognize’s there are whole libraries devoted to the various aspects of Judaism and anything other than an overview would have taken many, many volumes.  Having said this, I felt reading this book was an insightful introduction to this faith upon which my own was based.  Indeed, it is the faith on which both Christianity and Islam are based.  All three faiths are the “children” of Abraham.
Although I don’t usually attribute such sentiments to books, this book has been a blessing to my own personal faith.  (I am a practicing Roman Catholic.)  Wouk’s words are kind and wise, yet humble and moving.  And most of all, they are educational.  There were several times I said to myself, “Wow! I never knew that!” or “So that’s why…”
Two quick examples are: there is no requirement for a person to be a Jew to enter Heaven.  One only needs to live a good life to be judged worthy of Heaven.  And second, not all the stories in the Bible are about Jews.  Some “holy” men are not Jews at all.  Job for example.  This was a real “Wow!” moment for me as I’d always just assumed Job was Hebrew.  Wouk explains why this is not so, but I still could hardly believe it so I had to do some additional research on the internet.  As near as I can tell, there is no proof he (Job) existed let alone that he was Jewish.  Like I said, the book is full of little “gems” to help you explore your faith (if you are a Christian).
The book is a fast read at only a little over two hundred and eighty pages and is so well written it doesn’t even feel that long.  There is a fifty page “Notes” area which has clarifications and recommendations for further readings and an eight page Glossary at the very end.
So, final recommendation:  Highly recommended!  You will, of course, see several quotes from this book over the next few months as I try to share some of Wouk’s writing with you…
So I called up my nephew to thank him for “prompting” me to learn about Judaism as the basis of my own faith.  His response: “Uncle Kevin, I never meant for you to read a book about it!”  I guess he just doesn’t know me that well…
On This Day In:
2012 When Young
2011 14 Ways To A Better Judgement

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