Monday, March 14, 2011

LOST IN TRANSLATION

There’s a notion that complex human language developed from an earlier system of grunting. One can only marvel at any attempt to verify this theory! What we do know for certain is that when God created man in His own image He verbally communicated with him in a language sophisticated enough for God to promise blessings for obedience and to hold the man accountable for his disobedience. And when Adam subsequently disobeyed God he didn’t plead ignorance of God’s intention. Therefore there had been no breakdown in communication between God and him, which is to say that Adam had fully understood the intent of the words God had spoken to him.

Indeed, verbal communication begins with the Triune God. From eternity the Father and the Son have spoken to each other by Their Spirit, who also speaks with equal power and authority (Genesis 1:1-3; John 1:1-3; Acts 1:16; Hebrews 1:1-2). The Son, the middle Person in the eternal Godhead, is identified as the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. He refers to Himself as the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 1:11; 22:13), which, among other things, means that He is the beginning and the end of the alphabet. Therefore every word, and every letter of every word, including every jot and tittle, i.e., every dot above every ‘i’ or every stroke across every ‘t’, regardless of the language or dialect, speaks of Him. He is speech incarnate. The Lord of lords is also the Word of words. Words have their ultimate meaning in the Word.

The written Word of God consists of the Hebrew (with a small portion of Aramaic) and the Greek Scriptures. These make up one Book, the Bible. These original languages have been translated into the English. A plethora of English versions abound. Some take a literal approach and may be slightly wooden in their translation, while others opt for the dynamic equivalent and may be of a more ‘general gist’ version. However, all try to capture original intent. Many people favour the King James’ Version only, but its wide use of archaisms can act as a stumbling block to the modern English speaker.

In Christian evangelism, though the accuracy of translation is important, it is the substance or message of Scripture that is emphasised; such as the overarching Everlasting Covenant, which includes Creation, Fall of Man, Redemption, Resurrection and Judgment Day, the New Heavens and the New Earth and Hell. It is the special work of the Holy Spirit to take the things of the Son and communicate them to those God is saving from His judgment. Thus the Spirit works with the Word convicting and convincing people of their sins and lost-ness, and the salvation from the judgment upon them for their sins, found only in the Saviour of sinners. This brings us back to Jesus, whose name, in a word, means ‘Jehovah saves.’

Regarding redemption, the theme of the whole Bible is that salvation is of the LORD (‘LORD’ being an English version of ‘YHWH’ or ‘Jehovah.). Thus Jehovah-Jesus is Saviour of all who believe (John 3:16). Redemption is an aspect of the Triune God’s covenant plan to buy back an innumerable multitude from His justice. Thus fallen human beings hear the Gospel or good news message, and by the power of the Holy Spirit working within them, in His good time, repent of their sins and believe it. However, those who do not receive God’s gift of salvation are those who remain deaf to God’s Word, which is to say that they remain in their lost condition with the wrath of God abiding on them (John 3:36).

Only an unbeliever would ignore or deny the wonderful message of salvation by grace. Attempting to justify their unbelief some aver that the Bible is the end result of a chain of ‘Chinese whispers’, that Its message has been ‘lost in translation.’ However, the Bible says that, pre-conversion, all human beings ‘suppress the truth in unrighteousness’ Romans 1:18. That’s why, ‘he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him’ Hebrews 11:6b.

When it comes to the message of salvation, nothing is lost in translation. Rather, those who don’t understand simply don’t wish to understand. Otherwise they would diligently seek God and be rewarded by Him. We are thankful that ‘the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost’ Luke 19:10. Otherwise the whole human race would die in its sins. We are thankful that by His Spirit the Word incarnate comes to us with words we can understand, words that bring us back to life. He that used words to bring creation and everything therein into being, with a word, can bring your dead soul back to life and on the last day, bring also your dead body back to life, merely ‘with a shout, with the voice of an archangel’ 1 Thessalonians 4:16b.

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