Monday, December 03, 2007

Lost In Translation?

The phrase, 'lost in translation' is used a lot. It was even the title of a film, one of my favourites.

It can sometimes be used in relation to the Bible.

Some passages in the Bible can be interpreted in many ways. When the Bible was originally translated into English it was done so in a certain culture, so the words were interpreted a certain way.

To understand how to live like Jesus, to understand the Bible fully, we have to interpret it. We have to go back to the original meaning in its original language, then translate it and bring it back into our culture, to see its meaning today.

For example, when Jesus is talking about 'Hell' in the Bible, He is actually talking about an area of Israel outside a city where people dumped all their garbage, where there were fires and where it was full of rubbish. People at the time called it a place that was cursed and basically it was somewhere nowhere liked to go. So when Jesus talks about 'hell' he's talking about that place. He could even be using as a metaphor for something else, as He does often.

So you see, the more we know about the culture it was written in then the better we understand what Jesus was trying to say and it opens it up even more to new understandings.

But even then, whether we like it or not, we always bring our own experiences, opinions and prejudices to the Bible and they effect our interpretation, even if its just by a small amount.

It is unbelievably arrogant to say 'this is what this passage definitely means and it means nothing else at all' with most of the Bible. To say you like a church 'because it preaches the Bible' is almost as arrogant. What you mean is it preaches your version of the Bible, a version you agree with.

I do believe there are wrong interpretations of the Bible. For example, when Jesus says "I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me" then its impossible to interpret it that Jesus means there is more than one way to God or that non-Christians get into the Kingdom. That's just not what it says.

But it says more than just Jesus is the only way to God. It poses questions. What is truth? What does it mean to go to the Father 'through Jesus'? Those are questions which need answering. In another blog one day or talk I will try to do that, but the point is that we can't just leave the Bible as black and white. It needs to be questioned.

Jesus poses questions to His disciples and challenges them throughout the gospels. The reason is that He wanted them to ask themselves those questions and that He wants us to ask Him questions. He wants us to ask questions of His word and the teaching, to try and understand it properly.

Not to make it say what we want it to say. No.

But to see what He originally wanted to say through it.

We don't bring our own agenda or the worlds agenda. We look for God's agenda. God's perspective. God's opinion.

We have so much still to learn from the Bible. Lets not limit ourselves. Lets not get lost in translation.