On the wall of a 14th century BCE tomb in Egypt archaeologists found a beautiful hymn to the god Aten. What is really strange is that the Pharaoh Akhenaten (1352-1336) who lived in an era when everyone believed in many gods, chose to believe in only one, Aten. In fact, many scholars have argued that Pharaoh Akhenaten is the earliest documented example of a monotheist in history, though others argue that he was a henotheist (thought many gods existed, but chose to worship only one.)
What’s really curious about the Great Hymn to the Aten is that it closely mirrors Psalm 104 in the Hebrew Bible as a song of praise to the creator, though written hundreds of years before. Biblical scholars and historians disagree as to whether these two hymns are actually related by way of influencing one another, or whether both were independently written. In any case, the similarities are fascinating.
Language changes. Alot. And this often makes it difficult, if not impossible in some cases, to understand the original meaning of certain phrases or words by an ancient author.
This Bible verse shows the evolution of English over one thousand years. Now imagine having to deal with Hebrew and Greek over a few thousand years. To this day there are passages in the Bible where no scholars are sure what the original text says or means.
This is even worse for cases of ‘hapax legomenon‘ or words that only occur once in the Bible, in a fluid language that is constantly evolving.
There are at least three different endings for the Gospel of Mark. Among these, the “longer ending” is the one that most people are familiar with, as this was found in Bibles until recently when translators began removing it or adding a footnote.
Today it is accepted by all biblical scholars that the “longer ending” is absent from the earliest copies of Mark, and only began appearing hundreds of years later. It is a later addition, not in the original. (1, 2)
However, that does not stop some people from creating a religion based on this “longer ending” of Mark. For example, it s only in this “longer ending” that we find the command to “pick up serpents” and indeed many people do: