Thursday, April 4, 2013

We Are Legion: Part II of III

(Note: This post is part two of a three-part series this week.  The third post will be my sermon this Sunday, while part one can be found here. -E.A.)

All translation is interpretation.

I remember my Bible professor's words pretty clearly, even though my attention span for classes waxed and waned seemingly by the minute then.

All translation is interpretation.

How we decide to translate Scripture says a lot about the suppositions we already hold about Scripture.  Take, for instance, the Revised Standard Version--long the go-to translation here at FCC.  A hardline conservative pastor famously burned a RSV Bible from the pulpit in his church, claiming it was from the devil, when the translation first came out.

Today, it feels like there are as many translations as there are denominations these days.

Just as the church as become a religious equivalent of Baskin-Robbins' 31 flavors, so too has God's Word been given that 31 flavors treatment as well.

Don't care for so-called "liberal" translations (whatever that means)?  No problem, stick to the New American Standard Bible or the original New International Version.

Don't get why translations have to be so stodgy with their word choice?  Well, here's The Voice or the Common English Bible for you.

Feel the Bible should read poetically?  The King James Version sounds right up your alley.

And so on.

I'm not saying we shouldn't strive to translate Scripture the best way we know how, with modern methods and scholarship--in fact, I have all of the above translations sitting on my shelf right now.  But this also partially proves my point: after the translations are all made, we--and I--tend choose the version of God's sacred word that most comports with who we already are.

How is this not a form of idolatry?

I'm not saying we shouldn't discern a valuable translation from the chaff out there--I have to consciously prevent myself from rolling my eyes every time I see a pastor preach from The Message.

What I'm saying is that even if you feel comfortable in church (and you should, while at the same time pushing outside your comfort zones), you should not be picking a Bible based on comfort level.

The Bible is meant to challenge as well as comfort.  It is meant to confront as well as to calm, and to criticize as well as to contain.

After all, another maxim I remember from my Bible professors is this (roughly paraphrased): the minute you're comfortable with everything that is in the Bible, you don't get it.  At all.

I had to admit as much in our Bible study last night, when, as we were going chapter-by-chapter through Luke's Gospel, we hit Luke 11 and the harsh teachings of Jesus that stem from witnessing an exorcism.

It's tough stuff, there's no way around it.

And it has to be that way.

When we try to use translations to blunt the edge, we are doing ourselves a disservice.

One such exorcism that the Gospels document is that of the Gerasene demoniac--the one who I note in my previous post said, "We are Legion, for we are many."

Last week, I talked about one way--worship style--we divide up the church, that we keep the church from being Legion, from being "many."

Could it be that we are doing the same thing to Scripture?  That we are making it more for the few like us, so that it appeals more to us, than for the many and have it challenge us even more?

Yours in Christ,

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