Apr 9, 2013

A Hashtag and Textual Criticism

One of the challenges of reading some ancient manuscripts is that the words can run together. This can create a problem when one tries to separate the individual words. In many cases making such divisions are not a problem but occasionally there can be some ambiguity. 

The problem has been commonly illustrated (I first seen it in Josh McDowell's Evidence Demands a Verdict) with the following example: 


Should this be read "God is nowhere" or "God is now here"? The major challenge to making such a decision is the lack of context. 

But a recent news story illustrates that sometimes there can be ambiguity even when you have a context. Yesterday, a trending Twitter hashtag disturbed some fans of the entertainer Cher. The hashtag read "#nowthatcherisdead." Instead of seeing  a reference to the death of the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, some read it as an announcement of the death of Cher. I will refrain from making a snarky comment here. At least we now have a more up-to-date illustration of one of the challenges of reading ancient manuscripts and at least one reason to be thankful for Twitter.

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