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Birds and Bibles in History

Birds and Bibles in History by Tian Hattingh ⎥ The London Press ⎥ 2011 ⎥ ISBN 9781907313707 ⎥ Paperback

The Author Says: My parents were nature and outdoor lovers. Especially my father. So from an early age I was made aware of the splendors of Mother Nature. Our holidays were always spent caravanning in the great outdoors. After completing my schooling I had to spend a year in the military and was fortunate enough to be posted to Walvis Bay, a coastal town on the edge of the Namib Desert in the present day Namibia. After that, I spent two years as a Pupil Forester at the “Saasveld Forestry College” as it was then called. (The Port Elizabeth Technicon expanded to the Southern Cape in 1985 when it took over the college from the Department of Forestry. In 2005 it became part of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University). There I met Dave Pepler, and because of his enthusiasm, I became interested in the birds and in the different aspects of ornithology. He later became a respected scientist and academic with an M. Phil. in Zoology from Cambridge. He is currently presenting the environmental program Groen (Green) on the TV channel kykNET and is now one of South Africa's best-known environmentalists.

In July of 1990 AD, I visited the Holy Land as a Christian pilgrim. The worth of this visit was twofold: Firstly, the text of the Bibles which I was reading and studying since childhood was to a large extent replaced by real images and experiences. Secondly, it stirred in me the longing to return and explore the birdlife of the region. Later I involved myself in studying undergraduate Biblical Hebrew at the University of South Africa. One of my teachers was Prof. J.C. Lübbe, Head of the Department of Semitics. He not only taught his students the language, but opened our eyes to a very special way of dealing with the text of the Old Testament.

The fulfillment of my dream to re-visit the Middle East became a reality much sooner than I had anticipated, as I was given the opportunity to visit Israel again in March/April 2000. This time around, Lesley Ryan, my good friend and fellow birder at the then Rustenburg Bird Club, (now BirdLife Rustenburg) in the North-West Province of South-Africa, accompanied me. We had the privilege of traveling three thousand kilometers at our own will, visiting virtually all the worthwhile locations from a birding point of view, and experiencing the country and its people first hand. As I observed the country and its birdlife, I became more and more convinced that the birds in my Bibles were very special, and that my knowledge on the subject was extremely limited. This prompted me to search my Bibles for references to birds, and the exercise in turn resulted in me realizing that the subject was a fascinating, but also an extremely complex one. As I discovered more and more interesting, and even mind-boggling, facts, dilemmas, and unsolved mysteries, the urge to share my findings with others began to emerge. The idea to write this book started taking shape, and I returned to Israel from November 2000 to February 2001. Using Jerusalem as my base, I gained further information and insights into the subject matter.Fatbirder I am afraid I cannot feign interest in this work… its just so far off my Radar. Organised religion is just not something I have anything to say about publicly – my own peculiar take on things as a total non-believer is that the concepts needed to understand the universe cannot be understood by humans. I’ve always thought religion was, in a sense an acknowledgement of that – if one has to posit a ‘greater power’ or ‘all knowing being’ surely its safer to just admit that we don’t understand and leave it at that?

However, I know that most of the world will disagree and will be fascinated in all aspects of the written embodiments of their creeds. The Bible is shared in some part by three of the worlds most popular belief systems so it doesn’t surprise me to learn that there are references to the wild world within its pages. In fact I am a little surprised at how infrequent they are… but then, for me, spending time among the wonders of nature is as close as I get to communion, prayer or worship.

I cannot commend it this book nor would I seek to criticize it – I merely draw it to the attention of those who will want to look into birds and the bible further.