Saturday, December 05, 2009

Not The Smallest Letter

The title is taken from Matthew 5:18 which reads, "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (The smallest letter is a translation of "not one iota", which is a figure in Hebrew that looks like an accent or apostrophe.) A lot of people point to wars, famine, natural disasters, and our increasing wickedness to claim that we are in the "end times". I'm not one of those, but you could add all the hand-wringing over Bible translations to push personal agendas. I read about this before, but showing up in the headlines yesterday motivated me to write about it today: there is an effort to re-translate the Bible to remove "liberal bias". As if the Main Stream Media wasn't enough of a strawman enemy of the Right, you can now add "professors [who] are the most liberal group of people in the world, and... who are doing the popular modern translations of the Bible." Riiight.

They want to remove, or at least re-translate such controversial passages as "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" from Luke 23:34 even though my Bible contains the footnote that "some early manuscripts do not have this sentence." There's no mention if they also want to take out the last several versus of Mark or the story of the woman caught in adultery which are also not found in the earliest manuscripts. If we're not smart enough to make note of these footnotes, then maybe they should call this translation "The Bible for Dummies." Oh wait, nevermind, that's already taken.

There's more to this though than trying to reflect the original intent of the Biblical authors. There is an admitted political agenda."The phrase 'theological conservative' does not mean that someone is politically conservative," says Andy Schlafy, the person behind this. I hate to break it to Andy, but Christian does not mean Republican either.

This is nothing new. There was a big fuss a while back over translations trying to make references to God more gender neutral. The Jesus Seminar color-codes quotes of Jesus by how likely they think it was he actually said it. Thomas Jefferson re-wrote his own version of the Gospels taking out anything "supernatural" like all of his miracles and the resurrection. And Martin Luther wanted to remove the entire book of James because it didn't agree with his theology.

So I don't take offense to this, but I would advise Mr. Schlafy and everyone else contributing to this (they're editing it like a wiki) to consider the following passages (pick your favorite translation if you must, these are all NIV):

"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book." (Revelation 22:18-19) While this specifically applies to John's personal vision recorded in Revelation, it shows how serious God takes his Word.

"This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true." (John 21:24) A "testimony" is more than just writing a biography and is even more than being a witness in a legal case. The author, in this case John, was admitting here that if anything he wrote wasn't true he should be put to death by being stoned. I wonder if Mr. Schlafy would take a similar stand for his truth?

"As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
(Isaiah 55:10-11)

God's Word has a purpose and I've already demonstrated how seriously he takes it. I would not want to be one who stands in the way of God's Word not accomplishing what he desires.

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17) The Bible is used for "teaching" making translators therefore "teachers." And there's specific warning against aspiring to teach: "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness." Ironically, taken from the book of James.

No comments: