It’s been a while since my last bunch of Bible and Mission links. This is partly because I’ve been horrendously busy at work, but also because I’ve not come across a great deal of interest in the blogsphere for the last few weeks. Mission blogging seems to have taken a summer break!
The first thing I want to mention is the announcement that a festschrift has been published for my friend and colleague, Stephen Levinsohn.
Stephen and his wife Nessie (nee Marks) joined SIL (then known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics) on graduating from the BTI; they worked with the Inga (Quechuan) people in Colombia from 1968 to 1997. Since 1997 Stephen has run “Discourse for Translation” workshops in 16 countries for linguist-translators working with over 350 languages.
I have no doubt that a scholar of Stephen’s ability would have been showered with academic awards had he stayed within the university world and it is good to see this recognition of the quality and importance of his work.
The perennial question of English Bible translations has been pretty much to the fore over the last few weeks. Jeremy Myers wrote an excellent piece on which Bible translation is the best which contained lots of charts and diagrams as well as this good advice:
For me, the best Bible translation is the one you enjoy reading. The one that, when you are reading it, you forget you are reading “the Bible.” The one that, when you are reading it, you don’t have an urge to pull out a Bible Dictionary, or put together an outline for your next sermon. The one that, when you are reading it, you forget to “look for the main point” and just enjoy the story, the poetry, or the letter which is being read.
Unfortunately, if you read down to the comments, you will discover that most of the people reading the piece ignored what Jeremy wrote and went on to advocate for their own preferred Bible. Hey ho!
Meanwhile, the Common English Bible has been coming in for a lot of stick because of some of the translation decisions which have been made. Blog after blog has complained that the CEB has dropped the term “Son of Man” in favour of “The Human One”.
Of course, the CEB has not changed the term “Son of Man”. The Translators have chosen to translate the Greek phrase usually translated “Son of Man” (which is itself a Hellenization of an Aramaic phrase) differently in English. Their view is that “The Human One” is a better rendering of the Greek term, with its underlying connotations, than the traditional one. The CEB has not dropped the term “Son of Man” because the term “Son of Man” was never in the Bible in the first place – the Bible wasn’t written in English! Perhaps the best comments I’ve seen on this question have come from the Bible Gateway blog:
The Christian theological vocabulary is full of specific words and phrases that we’ve come to hold dear—we read them in our Bibles, sing them in hymns, and repeat them in prayer. When translators conclude that there’s a more accurate way to translate one of these linguistic “sacred cows,” should they do so? Or is it better to leave a beloved, but possibly inaccurate, translation intact to avoid reader confusion?
Joel Hoffman, predictably, has a good post on the subject too – the comments are mind expanding!
At this point, let me add my usual frustrated comment that while we carry on endlessly debating the subject of English language translations, there are vast numbers of people without a single word of Scripture in their language.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ben’s piece on ethical saving: how we use our money is very much a missional issue and Simon has an amusing, but thought provoking tilt at the question of ‘Worthy Occupations‘ (or Christian elitism, if you prefer).
I’m in the middle of writing a series of talks on the Book of Acts (In French!) for a retreat in Togo later on this month. It was good to be reminded by the Bible and Mission blog of David Smith’s comments on Acts 10 and 11 in his excellent Mission After Christendom:
It is important to consider carefully the nature of the obstacles that initially prevented Peter from following the call of the missionary Christ. He has a vision in which a sheet comes down from heaven containing both clean and unclean animals, which he is then commanded to ‘Kill and eat’. His reaction is a very strong one, something like the ringing statement: ‘Never Lord! For not once in my life have I ever eaten anything unclean’ (10:14). Peter has always understood dietary behaviour to reflect the divine will since it was based on what seemed to be special revelation. The dietary laws were not a merely human construction designed to provide ethnic distinctiveness to the Jewish people, but were an expression of holiness. It is this perspective which explains the strength of Peter’s reaction and his seeming irreverence in resisting the voice from heaven. He is, we might say, arguing for God against God. Peter’s resistance to the divine command is long and vigorous, so that even after the instruction has been issued and declined three times he is still left ‘wondering about the meaning of the vision’ (10:17).
For my money, the star post in the Bible and Mission world over the past few weeks comes from Andrew Jones. In a longish article, the tall skinny Kiwi takes a good look at how the world church has changed and how the western missionary paradigm has failed to move with it. You really need to read the whole thing (and then print it off for your church leadership), but a couple of quotes will give you a feel for the thing:
Seminaries are in trouble. They depend on accessibility to easy credit for student loans which should not be an assumption in these tough financial times. Having a “high student count” is not a sign of success. My guess is that most of those M.Div students will not walk into the paid positions they are training for. Many will return to Seminary to work on a doctorate to get the competitive edge. Having racked up 7 years of debt, students with overseas missions aspirations will never find the support to pay back their loans, let alone their high monthly support required to live a similar life in a more expensive country with a weak American dollar. There are not enough paid positions awaiting Seminary graduates and the pay is not sufficient to eliminate their loans in a reasonable time. It is more common now for young people training for ministry to avoid Seminaries and Bible Colleges or not consider them an affordable option.
I saw American missionaries overseas sell their washing machines and move back to USA. There are many reasons why, but nobody is talking about missionary attrition. Our best missionary families, who know the language and culture, are returning due to lack of funds and in their place we are sending teams of teenagers to visit mission pilgrimage sites on a 3 week tourist trip. Something has gone wrong. (OUCH!)