Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lost in Translation?

Every once in a while something will strike me in a profound way and throw me into somewhat of a tailspin until I can work it out in my mind. Today this occurred when a lovely lady, to whom I enjoy talking, challenged the translation of the bible I study regularly. (Actually I generally gravitate toward two translations more than others…the English Standard Version (ESV) and the New King James Version (NKJV).) Hers was neither and made my head swim. By the end of our conversation I was more confused than anything else and felt as though I had caused her to think a bit in return.

Throughout the day I replayed our discussion in my mind (…well, what I could remember of it) and carefully tried to sort through the details that caused me to feel a bit icky. But why was I feeling bothered? Was it because my flesh was rebelling against what she said or was the Holy Spirit offended?! Though I was leaning more toward an offense that could not be overlooked, it still made me wonder…how accurate is the translation of the bible I use??? I do not read nor understand Hebrew and/or Greek so really, how would I know if my version was mistaken or incorrect? And then the ball quickly gathered speed as it rolled downhill from there. If my rendition is wrong then what I am teaching my children is untrue and their souls could suffer because of it!!!

Our conversation began with Ecclesiastes 3:20-21 which says, “All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?” (NKJV.) From here we went to Genesis 3:19 which reads, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Here is where the conversation started to get a little cloudy. This is where I should have directed the discussion to Ecclesiastes 12:7, “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it,” as I would be very interested in what her translation reads. For throughout this conversation it sounded as though her version focuses more on the dust returning to the earth and less on the spirit returning to God. In fact, each time I brought up scripture like Luke 23:43, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise,’ the focus was returned to the body as opposed to the spirit. Not to mention a debate about where the comma appears in the Luke 23:43 passage (i.e. Is it “I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” or “I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise”?) and what is being referred to when Christ says, “Paradise”. Even when I pointed out Elijah and Enoch was I met with a dust to dust answer.

I never did get a clear response on what her bible says about what happens when we die other than our body returns to the earth. But then what? And what of our spirit? When Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” isn’t He referring to eternal life and the soul? Aw man, I guess I’m going to have to get a Hebrew/Greek copy of the bible and one of those handheld electronic translation devices/ pocket translators.
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