It is day 14 of my house move, but I am still busy moving the accumulation of 24 years. Most of my books are still at the old house, and 5 big book cases that I made when I was young. I was busy removing books from the shelves yesterday. Today my back has informed me that I won’t be doing any more of that for a while! But I have bowed to the inevitable and asked a firm to quote for packing and moving everything still left in the house. Nor will that be the end of the matter, since the old house must then be readied for letting, with various necessary works. So my time is more than fully occupied.
Looking through the books, pulling off the shelves and into bags, is an interesting process. Do I still need this book? Or this one? The 14 volumes of the Wheel of Time novels – will I ever reread these? What about this three-volume history of the Church of England? I doubt that I will ever read the Three Musketeers again – but that copy came from my grandmother. I never read any C. S. Lewis these days – his work has entered into my soul forever – but those little yellow paperbacks I bought at university from my slender grant money. How can I let those go? Will I return to Arabic Christian studies? If not, do I need that five-volume copy of Graf, obtained at some cost and labour?
The question of what to do with the books is one that confronts every reading man on his retirement. Doubtless I shall keep too many, and, when I die, my executor will call a house-clearance company and they will go off to a charity shop.
Yet I don’t really want to get rid of books. I just wish they could vanish into some null-space area until called for, rather than occupying floor and wall space. If Doctor Who ever decides to monetise his Tardis, I guarantee that a few of us will be very interested in this “larger on the inside” technology!
In a way, Kindle allows us to do that. I have a library of novels on my smartphone, so I do not need to have them in physical form.
But I don’t really like Kindle. Legally you don’t own your e-books. Amazon take the high-handed stance that, on your death, you can’t bequeath them. So really you just have a lease. In fact I don’t trust our tech corporations one bit. They could delete the book. They could “suspend” access, as a means of political control. This may sound paranoid, but I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more.
Even worse, electronic materials can be altered silently. What if I go to read a book and find that it has been bowdlerised, not of obscenity but of truth?
Only yesterday I came across an example, when I consulted the NRSV of 1 Cor. 6:9-10 on the mighty Bible Gateway website and found that it had changed. The text did not read as I remembered.
On investigation, I found that it really had changed. The NRSV is not public property, as bible translations should be. It is owned by some group of decaying churches who have decided to remove the biblical condemnation of a certain vice. And so it has come to pass! The text is changed, a cynical footnote, “Meaning of Gk uncertain” is added, and that is that. The bible websites have already been updated. No-one can see what the old text was. No doubt the other versions will be altered also, to conform. Oldies will marvel, but young folk will not know that it ever said anything different.
The “KJV-only” cranks always claimed that the modern versions were deliberately corrupted. It is sobering to see a text-book example, proving them right.
The next question that springs to mind is even worse. Is this just the start, or is this rather the endpoint of a long process of deliberate interference?
How far back does this go? For some years Bible versions have been translating “ἀδελφοί” as “brothers and sisters” instead of brethren. We’ve been lectured how this is an improvement. This is not translation, but paraphrase, of course. But now that we know for certain that bible translators are making changes to the bible text purely because they don’t like what it says, why would we believe them?
How far back does this really go? All the modern versions prefer to render “αἱρετικὸν ἄνθρωπον” as “divisive person”, faithfully reflecting the liberal and ecumenical movement of the twentieth century, where the KJV renders it plainly as “heretic”.
I was rather dubious about the need for the ESV. But how right they were, to establish the new version at that time, before the pressure was on.
Now if this can be done to the bible, it can be done to any book. If all we have is kindle, then will we even know when things change?
Meanwhile summer has arrived here with a vengeance, and we’ve just passed through some exceedingly hot days. Luckily my mobile air-conditioning unit was one of the things that I brought over first! But it’s like flying to the middle east – the first couple of days is just too hot to do much. Let us lie back and enjoy it!