Mantras vs Insight
Posted by CiteSimon
“This church is destroying people and God will judge it!” She was shaking with anger as she pronounced her judgment. Strong words for a visitor who was anxious to escape. She dressed like a normal person, and mostly behaved like one. She knew what to say in regular conversation. She had been raised somewhere in the south and seldom ventured out. She understood conservative.
A couple of questions soon revealed her trigger. The pastor had not used the King James Version of the bible. She had tolerated unfamiliar songs; she had struggled through “Californian culture” with its “completely irreligious” dress code. She’d heard young people telling about the changes happening in their lives.
The final straw was the church using the “wrong version of the bible!” Obviously everything was wrong and riddled with deceptive error. No defense could move her from that view. Religious people do that; they focus on an issue and nothing else matters. You are either right or wrong on the litmus test. Fail the litmus test they invented and you are surely damned.
It’s only a translation anyway.
Jesus spoke in the colloquial Aramaic of the first century. His hearers understood what he said. His disciples memorized phrases and concepts and put the records together when he was no longer with them. They were inspired in doing this and they were careful to be accurate. There’s also four records so we can cross check them against each other to discern what was meant if there’s any doubt.
First century Aramaic is not everyone’s mother tongue so it wasn’t long until folks found themselves trying to explain exactly what Jesus meant to people of other languages and cultures. The more diverse the followers became the less anyone really understood. It became evident that something needed to change to avoid the church from losing its grip.
Scholars! Let’s find the smartest and most linguistically gifted people we have and translate our important documents into the most widely understood language so when people hear the words (not everyone could read) they will understand without all this laborious and variable interpreting. We’ll all be on the same page.
They did that and produced a Latin version of the bible. You can be sure that there was a resistance movement that lamented the loss of knowledge in the population and urged everyone to learn Aramaic. They lost.
Pretty much the same process has continued over the centuries with the same issues at stake:
* Common people can’t understand the bible so they aren’t being transformed by its content, producing errors and heresies. No one actually speaks this language anymore.
* Everyone is trying to explain what it means – some are wrong, some are twisting the content to their own agendas, most don’t have the skill to do this reliably.
* Everyone is familiar with the old version they don’t understand and some will have problems letting go of it. Instead of connecting with the content of what Jesus said they seem to think the familiar words are some Harry Potter spell – only powerful if said the right way. Isn’t that a mantra?
The first two of these issues are relatively easy to solve by assembling a team of smart people to do the translation work. The third one is where religion rears its ugly head and things get nasty. Bottom line: “Change is evil and we won’t go along with it!” It’s a crazy stance that has filled volumes of church history books. The King James lady was in good company and far from lonely.
The power is in the content – the ideas, and the concepts. It is released when we understand it enough to grasp the meaning and begin to apply it to the way we live. No mantras required. If no one understands what Jesus said then it doesn’t matter what he said – it is impotent and irrelevant no matter how faithfully it has been preserved. No worry, God keeps breaking past our petty little barriers. People do work it out and they are changed because they come into understanding of what the bible says.
“For the word of God is living and active. sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
You can’t tame it or control it. Once you light the fuse of understanding, transformation is the inevitable result. Prove it by reading a translation you understand.
About CiteSimonSometimes we find the "right answers" but maybe it's the struggle of discovery that helps us grow most.
Posted on October 21, 2011, in Active faith and tagged Authorized King James Version, Bible translation, conservative Christian, Harry Potter, human growth and development, Jesus, personal transformation. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.