Part 7a: Mutations and Biblical Text
Recap to This Point:
I. Introduction (Part 1)
II. Authorship of Scripture (Part 2)
III. Who Are God’s Audiences? (Part 3): Some Pertinent Questions
IV. Might Jesus Have Been an Audience? (Did God Write the Old Testament for His Incarnated Son?) (Part 4)
V. Johnathan and his arrow boy: If Johnathan would do this for his dearly beloved David, why wouldn’t God do it for his Son? (Part 5)
VI. Polyfunctional Text and Today’s Reader: A Practical Application for Christians (Part 6)
New Material Begins Here
VII. Mutations and Biblical Text
The inspiration for the title and metaphor of this seven part series called “Polyfunctional Old Testament Biblical Texts” came from Dr J C Sanford’s book, Genetic Entropy (1). Throughout the series, rather than discuss the “meaning” of Old Testament texts, the conversation centers around the “function” of the texts. For example, what do the texts accomplish in the lives of their various audiences? What are the various purposes (intended results) for each audience? What “commands” do the texts give or what events do they set off? (See the example given in Part 5, the biblical text concerning Johnathan, David, and Johnathan’s arrow boy.)
10…11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11 ESV)
In the biological world, a nucleotide is a string of four molecules which together comprise one letter of the living code that forms the DNA messaging system of all living entities. Nucleotides can be polyfunctional, that is, they can participate in more than one cellular message.
Many specific nucleotides in a higher genome are poly-functional, affecting various biological processes simultaneously (2).
Scientists also speak of polyfunctional DNA.
It is increasingly clear that there are multiple, overlapping, functional information systems within higher genomes. This means that many nucleotides do not have one function but actually have several functions (even as a letter in a crossword puzzle can be part of two words) (3).
A mutation is a change in the molecules of DNA. To speak using a chemical metaphor, this author made many mutations as she typed the above quotation. These she went back and selected against, thereby restoring the quotation to its original form.
Mutational changes are directly analogous to word processing errors which arise in the copying of a text. There can be substitutions, deletions, insertions, duplications, inversions, etc. (4).
Poly-functional DNA is interesting because it is poly-constrained and is severely limited in terms of having any potential beneficial mutations (5).
To illustrate, consider two words in a crossword puzzle. The author decides to change the word “boots” to “boats” because the new clue fits in with the puzzle’s theme better. She fails to notice, however, that the horizontal word no longer has meaning. But the editor realizes and throws out the entire puzzle as being no longer acceptable. The crossword puzzle words in this example are poly-constrained, “severely limited in terms of having any potential beneficial mutations” (see above). Of course, if the remainder of the puzzle were complete, and if the words were more tightly packed, the constraints against change would be even greater.
Another illustration is the word “diaper.” The same six letters can be part of a message spelled both forward and backward, as in the sentence, “The diaper was repaid.” However, the mother who jotted the short note to her friend and left it on her front porch realized that she had borrowed six diapers, not just one. She changed “diaper” to “diapers,” and suddenly, the word no longer functions as a “semordnilap,” that is a word that can be read in both directions (Try reading “semordnilap” in reverse.) By adding an “s” to her original word in order to improve it, the mother broke her sentence as well. “The diapers was srepaid.”
The two examples above illustrate what is called poly-constraint with regard to beneficial mutations of polyfunctional words. These resemble the biochemical world, in which a beneficial mutation of a polyfunctional segment of DNA is very rare. Scripture is not so very different when well-meaning editors come along to improve the text of the original languages by changing words here and there to accommodate certain audiences. Some paraphrased translations destroy entire passages of polyfunctional text.
1 Sanford, J. C., Genetic Entropy, 4th Edition, FMS Publications: Lima, NY, 2014.
2 Ibid., 249.
3 Ibid., 250.
5 Ibid., 250.