Joel Hoffman delves into Bible ‘museum’

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Chase Robinson
Editor-In-Chief

The Bible is like the entrance of a museum, according to Joel Hoffman, a teacher, translator and author who presented a lecture Tuesday, March 31, in the campus library.
The museum entrance would have artwork representative of the whole collection, he said, but you wouldn’t stop there.
“You’re not supposed to walk into the foyer of a museum and go, ‘Now I’ve seen the whole museum,’ ” Hoffman said.
Hoffman’s lecture was based on his book “The Bible’s Cutting Room Floor: The Holy Scriptures Missing from Your Bible,” which was published in September 2014.
Hoffman said the Bible was supposed to be a sample of holy texts.
“The Bible was never meant to be a complete collection,”  Hoffman said. “It was meant to be an abridged collection.”
According to Hoffman, modern audiences are mixing contexts that the Bible’s original audience wouldn’t have needed written down.
The texts that make up the Bible mostly began as scrolls, according to Hoffman.
Eventually some of the scrolls were collected into codices that were easier to navigate and could hold more information.
Hoffman said technology influences how we see the world.
“Two thousand years ago, they invented something that scholars call a codex, and everyone else calls it a book,” Hoffman said.
“This was a huge leap forward. Now, instead of just the scroll — which you could only read forward or backward — you could leaf through things.
“More importantly, now you could collect much more material in a single volume.”
These books still couldn’t collect all the holy texts.
As an example, Hoffman said that there are more than 150 psalms, but the psalms in the Bible are meant to be a “best of” collection.
Hoffman also gave some examples of context modern readers are missing.
The Tower of Babel, Noah’s Ark, and the basket that Moses was found in all use bitumen.
Ancient audiences would have understood that bitumen makes things waterproof, but modern audiences miss this entirely.
“I’ll give you an example. If you’re reading the newspaper and there’s an article about France, they don’t put in brackets, ‘France is in Europe, you know,’ ” Hoffman said. “You’re supposed to know that France is in Europe, and, if you don’t, you shouldn’t be reading the newspaper.”
Hoffman based much of his lecture around three texts missing from most modern Bibles.
“The Life of Adam and Eve” is a story about Adam and Eve’s life after being removed from the Garden of Eden. “The Apocalypse of Abraham” discusses Abraham’s life before the events in the Bible.
The Book of Enoch was a popular text, according to Hoffman, and it’s referenced in the New Testament.
The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church both consider the Book of Enoch to be canonical texts and include them in their Bibles.
“I first got to hear Dr. Hoffman at the Temple in Dothan and have been wanting to get him down here for about three years, I think,” said Christopher Shaffer, dean of library services. “I just thought it was such a really great presentation.”
Hoffman received his doctorate in theoretical linguistics at the University of Maryland at College Park,  according to Shaffer.
Shaffer said the Troy campus library will soon have a copy of “The Bible’s Cutting Room Floor.”
The Alabama Humanities Foundation sponsored the event, Shaffer said.
Hoffman has two blogs, goddidntsaythat.com and blog.theunabridgedbible.com.

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