As we continue to look at the language of the Bible and the choices that some translators make in choosing to make the Scriptures 'accessible' to the masses in the common language, you might be asking - what exactly is the problem? Isn't it a good thing if more persons understand the Bible? Wouldn't God want us to have the text in our own language?
Yes...and no. Certainly, God's Word was not meant to be a mystery to His people. As many times as He tells us how life-giving His Word is, we could not say that He doesn't desire for us to have it within our reach.
The problem is that when we try to cram the concepts of God into a language of common usage, we completely lose the essence of so many of our sacred words. We lose them to a culture who has defined for us the words and allowed us to use them for our religious texts. This is a far cry from having a sacred word with the power to shape our culture.
For example, let's take a word like 'love.' God is love. Jesus loves you. Love one another. But...what is love?
If we listen to our culture, love is tolerance. Love is blanket affirmation of anything and everything. Love is supporting someone no matter what, even if you disagree with what they're doing. Love means making no judgments and requiring no morality and having nothing solid on which to plant your feet. In fact, our culture has even told us that the love of Jesus is even this way - Jesus loves you just the way you are, expects nothing out of you, and does not dream of better things for you. Jesus's love means He believes you're living your best life already and that He's just come alongside of you to offer you eternity for all the good things that you already are.
We now find ourselves in a battle over the very nature of Jesus, and it's because we have let culture define the word before God does. It's because we have let culture tell us what 'love' is and squeeze our God into its narrow concept of a word that God intended to be so much richer.
Want to look at some other words? Try 'grace.' Or 'forgiveness.' Or even 'faithful.' What's happened with all of these words - and many more - is that we let culture create a concept for them, and then when we see them in our Scriptures, we think they must mean the same thing. After all, if the Scriptures are written in our common language, then these words must share our common meaning.
It is the very thing the translators I've been talking about this week were worried about - that someone would read 'staff' and think of it as a roster of employees of a person or organization. Except what's really happening is that we're talking about words far more important to the heart of God and His people - truly sacred words.
And it may seem like such a small thing to say, hey, let's use the footnote to explain the nature of the shepherd's staff instead of dumbing it down into the common language of 'walking stick,' which vastly misses the meaning - but all of a sudden, it's a much bigger thing when we start to say, hey, let's make a footnote here to explain what biblical grace really is. Or love. Or forgiveness. Or faith.
It says a lot about how much we've already lost our language to realize that we're already at a point where such footnotes would be extremely helpful to the average reader. That such footnotes would already dramatically change the way the Scriptures are being read in our culture, in our so-called 'common' language.
And that's why we have to be careful about what we're willing to translate and how. Because it may look like it doesn't matter, but we're just a breath away from changing the entire Gospel. And if you don't believe that, just ask our culture - in its common language - what it thinks the love of Jesus means.