German Bible Society copyright claims: from the sublime to the ridiculous

The German Bible Society has rather belatedly commented on my post Original Bible text cannot be copyrighted, US copyright attorney says, by posting a link to what the call A German Bible Society Statement on the copyright situation for the Greek New Testament. In fact this page is a very general one about copyright, in English, with no specific mention of the Greek New Testament. But I was amazed to see what they are claiming copyright for:

Please note that translations of the Bible and original text editions published by the German Bible Society are likewise subject to copyright. Permission is thus also required for the use of verses/passages from our Bible translations (e.g. Luther, Good News Bible) and the original text editions (Hebrew, Greek, Latin).

So, it seems that the GBS is claiming as “our Bible translations” and asserting its own copyright for Luther’s 16th century translation into German, and for the Good News Bible which is in fact copyrighted by the American Bible Society – formally a separate organisation. These claims are entirely baseless at least in British and American law, probably also in German law.

The German Bible Society needs to realise that they cannot claim copyright for anything and everything that they publish, but only (as I understand the law in general terms) for works which are subject to copyright and whose copyright has been assigned to them. Until they are able to demonstrate a proper understanding of this basic principle they can hardly expect any of their copyright claims to be taken seriously.

I continue to hold that the Bible, in the original text and in translation, is the property of the Christian public in general and not of any one society which tries to assert claims over it. I accept the need for proper remuneration of editors, translators and publishers. But I do not accept that unsupportable claims like those of the German Bible Society are a proper way of ensuring this; rather they become a means of restricting the freedom of the word of God.

The “right to spend” must not be a stumbling block

The newspapers’ scandal of the week here in the UK is that many of our MPs have been caught out claiming inappropriate expenses. These are mostly sums which they technically have the right to spend, and claim back, but which the people of this country, or at least the newspapers, consider excessive. On this matter Bishop Alan has had sensible words to say.

In this context Matthew Malcolm, an Aussie studying here in the UK, has posted an interesting but painful retelling of part of 1 Corinthians 8-10, with the principles outlined there reapplied to the acquisition of wealth. He calls this, in comparison to the commoner application to alcohol, “a far more attentive application of these chapters for Christians today”. Here is an extract from Malcolm’s piece:

But watch out that this “right to spend” of yours does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if someone should see you with your knowledge, making a down payment on a Range Rover, won’t their conscience, being weak, be built up to indulge in a hunger for wealth?  So the weak is destroyed by your knowledge – this brother or sister, for whom Christ died.  And thus, sinning against brothers and sisters and damaging their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.

As Matthew himself responds, “Youch”.

At the cross I don't bow my knee

This is part of a great song At The Cross from the 2006 Hillsong album Mighty to Save:

At the cross I bow my knee
Where Your blood was shed for me
There’s no greater love than this
You have overcome the grave
Your glory fills the highest place
What can separate me now?

Or is it so great? I like the music, as we sang it in my church last night. But what about the words?

I am not thinking so much about the strange last line: separate me from what? After all, well taught Christians will immediately spot that this is an allusion to Romans 8:38-39 and “from the love of God” is implied.

The issue I have is with the first line that I quoted, “At the cross I bow my knee”. No, I don’t. I bow my knee only to God, and he is not on the cross. As the angel said to Mary (Matthew 28:6), “He is not here; he has risen”. OK, that was about the empty tomb, but surely it is all the more true of the cross: Jesus is no longer hanging on it, he is alive!

Protestant Christians give this as their reason for displaying empty crosses in their churches, rather than the crucifixes more typically used by Roman Catholics. But the cross is still given the central place in most church buildings, whereas the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit are so often ignored in our church decoration.

The problem is that the Protestants have taken away from the image not the cross but Jesus! I am not actually advocating putting statues or pictures of Jesus in our churches, but there is a striking contrast here with the more typically Eastern Orthodox depictions of the living and reigning Jesus, such as Christ Pantocrator.

The danger with giving too much prominence to the empty cross is that it becomes an idol, something which we worship in place of the living God. It is not just a matter of the cross as a physical object or a symbol. In many branches of evangelicalism the cross, or what happened on it, is given so much prominence relative to the other events of salvation history that it becomes something of an idol in our thinking. Indeed surely it is this kind of thinking that lies behind the prominence we give to this symbol in our church buildings.

The bronze snake which Moses made in the wilderness was a great means of God’s deliverance (Numbers 21:8-9), and prefigured the cross itself (John 3:14). Nevertheless King Hezekiah had to destroy it because it had become an idol, an object of worship in itself (2 Kings 18:4). If the cross of Jesus has become an object of worship in itself, something which we bow down before rather than worshipping God, it too needs to be put in its proper place. If we bow down before the cross in a church building, it should only be because we recognise that God, the risen Jesus, is there.

N.T. Wrong is also alive!

Sorry for a long break in my activity here. My life has been getting busy in directions not connected with blogging. This also means that I have stopped keeping up with developments on the Todd Bentley story.

There has been one interesting area of ongoing activity on this blog: the comment thread on my post Jesus is alive! Last year the pseudonymous pseudo-bishop N.T. Wrong amused the biblioblog world for several months with his blog, and he was interviewed by Jim West as Blogger of the Month for February 2009.  But then in that same month his blog abruptly disappeared, or more precisely became “protected” and so inaccessible.

At the time Wrong’s resurrection or parousia was predicted. What bibliobloggers have predicted as in a glass darkly, I now openly proclaim to you: N.T. Wrong is alive! He has appeared here at Gentle Wisdom, not just once but in no less than six comments. True to form and showing that this really is the Wrong we know and love, he has been arguing against my contention that Jesus is alive. But at least he has demonstrated one thing: that N.T. Wrong is alive.

By the way, for anyone still interested in his identity, Wrong is still using a UK e-mail address, but is currently commenting from an IP address neither in Illinois nor in Australia, as previously reported, but in Los Angeles.

The substance of my conversation with Wrong has been interesting. I started by suggesting that the only people who continued to deny the resurrection of Jesus, after examining the evidence thoroughly, were those who held philosophical presuppositions that resurrection was impossible. Wrong objected to this, claiming that he had no such presuppositions but still rejected the resurrection. The grounds he gave for doing so were that he rejected the gospel accounts of the resurrection as much later additions.

At this point I shifted my position a little. I allowed that while he might not personally presuppose that the resurrection could not happen he was relying on the work of scholars, such as those of the Jesus Seminar, who base their rejection of the gospel accounts on this very presupposition. At first Wrong seemed to accept this. But then he objected when I wrote:

I do not accept that there are good arguments for the general unreliability of the gospel traditions, only weak arguments like those of the Jesus Seminar which are based on presuppositions that miracles cannot happen.

Wrong objected to this, citing as evidence a claim that he himself does not rely on presuppositions. Wrong! Or possibly not. Here is my latest, somewhat ironic, comment on this claim to be free of presuppositions:

N.T., I don’t say that you personally rely on presuppositions. But I do say you give credence to arguments for the unreliability of the gospel accounts which depend on the work of people with presuppositions. Well, of course we all have presuppositions and often rely on them, except of course for one honourable exception being yourself. I suppose a made-up online persona might just be able to be free from what is common to all humanity, even our sinless Lord Jesus.

But since there is no one else whose arguments you can trust, I presume you do all your work from primary sources and first principles. I look forward to your presupposition-free (and bibliography-free) magnum opus proving the unreliability of the gospels and the falsity of the resurrection accounts. Until I read and am convinced I will continue to believe in the gospels and the resurrection.