Lost in Translation

Coming out of the enlightenment of the 1600s and early 1700s the church saw great revivals in the late 1700s and 1800s lead by such noted Christian leaders as George Whitfield and Johnathan Edwards. This spawned the age of missions in the church through the 1800s and early 1900s.

Coming through an age of modernism and humanism I find it interesting how we have gone from the age of missionaries giving their lives to translate the Bible

…to Christians giving their lives over to read the Bible

…to Academic Christianity where academic thought and reason have been mixed with the Bible

…to further confidence in academic thought presented and then bolstered by using the Bible as a “proof text”

…to the opinions of men peppered with spiritual words and no scripture at all.

A good friend and I were talking or reminiscing about growing up in church and the first thing the pastor said was “Please open your bibles with me to…” In those early years as a Christian it seemed like it began and ended with the Bible. Sure some preachers were more topical and others were more expository but in either case it began and ended with scripture. I can remember as time went on and I attended other churches the services shifted from starting with scripture to starting with the topic, then the ideas and finally to give it further justification scripture would be presented. This has become more and more the norm in churches.

Another change was I remember the stress on scripture in Church. The churches I grew up in would say that it was good to read a paraphrase but they would always encourage Christians to move on to a more literal word for word translation and encourage us to study the Bible. We were encouraged to see for our self what God has to say, to get to know God beyond the filter of someone else’s take on its meaning. Now when churches present scripture they usually project it on the wall and never ask us to read it from our own bible. Many times the passages are from a paraphrased or dynamic translation as opposed to a literal translation. Nothing wrong with reading a paraphrase, but in many paraphrases meaning can be softened for our Victorian senses or meaning might be lost. Take for example the verse Matthew 4:19

NASB: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
ESV: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
NIV: “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
NLT: “Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!

The word make is the literal term that best translates the original Greek. It captures the essence of God’s sovereignty and transforming power in converting these fishermen into fisher’s of men. It also brings with it the connotation of reliance upon God that a fisher of men must have. While Jesus also certainly taught the disciples the phrase “show you how” leaves us at an instructional level and we can go no further.

I guess “where have we come from”?, “where are we at?” and “where are we going?” are some questions. But in light of where we have been and where we are at the more important question is “Where should we be?”. It’s time to take the Bible “off the wall” and put it in out hands.


About Last Fiddle
I have always had many interests; technology, science, philosophy, theology, politics, history, etc... Currently, life for the past twelve years has placed me in the area of technology fulfilling roles in System Administration and Architecture. But I have always been involved in the local church and enjoy researching and discussing issues of theology, philosophy, history and politics...

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