Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Patriotic Christian Artscroll on Steroids

The Jewish publishing company Artscroll has become infamous in certain circles for its creative adaptation of Song of Songs that avoids the problem of the books fairly explicit sexual material by not translating the work at all. Instead it simply gives a pious gloss that turns the entire book into a dialogue between the nation of Israel and God. This comical attempt to avoid an uncomfortable issue has become a symbol of the wider intellectual dishonesty that permeates Artscroll as it cuts and pasts the entire Jewish tradition to manufacture one suitable to its Haredi audience.

Long before Artscroll, Jews have been complaining about the license taken by Christians in their adaptive translations of the Bible, turning "young woman" into "virgin" and "like a lion" into "pierced." Here at Kline's we have a Christian hymnbook from 1811 that takes Psalms and gives them an explicit Christian twist. This leads to things like Psalms 2 saying: "Why did the Jews proclaim their rage? The Romans, why their swords employ? Against the Lord their powers engage, His dear Anointed to destroy?" when the text is supposed to be about the gentile nations plotting. For Psalms 22 we have:

The Jews beheld him thus forlorn, and shook their heads and laugh'd in scorn;
"He rescued others from the grave,
Now let him try himself to save."
Barbarous people! cruel priests!
How they stood round, like savage beasts,
Like lions gaping to devour, 
When God had left him in their power.
They wound his head, his hands, his feet,
Till streams of blood each other meet;
By lot his garments they divide,
And mock the pangs, in which he died.

This hymnal also brings the spirit of the American Revolution into Psalms. For Psalms 75 we learn:

No vain pretence to royal birth
Shall fix a tyrant on the throne;
God, the great sovereign of the earth, 
Will make the rights of Man be known,

This line of thinking was quite typical of early American culture. It thought of itself as the new nation of Israel in the new promised land. The American Revolution was not simply a secular event leading to the establishment of the separation of Church and State, but a profoundly religious event of biblical proportions. 

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