Continually Translating the Message

A post-Easter meditation.

Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtaine, that we may looke into the most Holy place; that remooveth the cover of the well, that wee may come by the water, even as Jacob rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well, by which meanes the flockes of Laban were watered. Indeede without translation into the vulgar tongue, the unlearned are but like children at Jacob’s well (which was deepe) without a bucket or some thing to draw with: or as that person mentioned by Esay (Isaiah), to whom when a sealed book was delivered, with this motion, Reade this, I pray thee, he was faine to make this answere, I cannot, for it is sealed. (The Translators to the Reader, King James Version)

I thought of this passage when I read this easter post on Monastic Mumblings, which points at the empty tomb and parallels it with the empty throne between the cherubim above the ark. There are many minor points about idolatry in the Bible, but the major one is simply this: You cannot represent God by anything whatsoever in the material world.

We are no longer all that anxious to create images of God, though we sometimes do head in that direction. But it is not that common for someone to decide that they need a statue of God himself to grace a shrine in their house, for example. But we still seek after images. Now these images are not necessarily material. They are things that we have created in our minds, ways in which we imagine that God must act, or how God must look, or where God must be. I’ve blogged on this before, suggesting that we need to constantly have our images of God shattered by encounters with the divine.

The connection with the empty tomb really struck me. The disciples saw the empty tomb. They saw the risen Christ, but it was up to them to translate that message for the remainder of the world. The gospel commission calls on us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Now in order to make disciples of Jesus, we have to somehow present the message of Jesus and do so in a way that will be understood.

On the one hand this relates to Bible translation, and the constant search for better ways to communicate the message in translation. It relates to preaching, and the ways in which we find better ways of proclaiming that message. It also relates to living, because the only way some people will ever understand the message is if they see it in the life of a disciple.

Translation is not something that happens once in a while when a committee gets together to translate the words of scripture. It happens any time one witnesses to Jesus with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Translation is a continual process for all of us.

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  1. Eddie says:

    Excellent, Henry. Many thanks

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