Bible and Mission Links 18
Krish Kandiah is rather excited about the prospect of Saddleback Church from the US planting a new church in London, but Matthew Phipps is somewhat more cautious and Simon Cozens is somewhat sceptical. You can make up your own mind by reading all three posts.
Bible translation has been getting quite a bit of coverage in the blogsphere of late. The Anvil journal devoted a whole issue to the question. You need to register to read the full articles, but the process is easy and only takes a minute or two (so far, I’ve not received any theological spam as a result of giving Anvil my email address!). The highlights are essays by NT Wright:
Opera-goers, of course, often have the luxury of surtitles, so that while the original words are sung on stage the translation can appear on a screen above. Despite the popularity of overhead projectors in church, I have not heard anyone suggesting that we should read the Bible out loud in its original Hebrew and Greek, with a modern English translation above. The reason we don’t do that, I think, is not just the lack of competent people to read the original languages out loud. The reason is that we believe in translation. Putting the message of Jesus, and the message about Jesus, into different languages so that people can understand it in their own idiom is one of the things Christians characteristically do.
and Lamin Sanneh:
Missionaries had to cope not only with strange, unfamiliar sounds and usage, but also with nuance and allusions in languages for which they had to develop, almost literally, new ears. We know from missionary correspondence what a crushing burden this puts on the shoulders of even the most able and willing, and how long and arduous is the effort to make headway.
Mark Woodward has an interesting post on the value of linguistic diversity from a Christian point of view.
In this light I believe a Christian response is to come alongside communities whose languages are threatened by extinction and offer our help in preserving and developing these languages, thereby allowing often struggling communities to thrive, affirming their identity, self-worth and their place in God’s world. This may not always be seen to be cost-effective or an efficient use of resources, but I think it is a practical outworking of God’s kingdom in an increasingly globalised world that is happy to see minority languages fall by the wayside. The alternative, to accept uniformity as necessary for the sake of convenience and “progress”, is merely to repeat the mistake of the builders at Babel, who sought to stay together and try to achieve something significant apart from God, rather than fulfilling God’s mandate to go, fill and steward his diverse creation.
On the subject of English Bibles, there has been a lot of hysteria about a new translation called The Voice (not to be confused with a TV show of the same name). Ben Witherington has reposted some comments on the whole thing:
In the new translation called The Voice Bible (Thomas Nelson Publishers), the choice was made to go for a more dynamic translation of some familiar words. The one that seems to have got some folks all worked up is the translation of the Greek word Christos as “the anointed one”. Hysterical people and some news outlets scream: “New translation takes Christ out of the Bible!” So, e.g., the lead scholar in the project, Dr. David Capes (Houston Baptist University), gets interviewed on CNN about why they’ve done this, and across blog-dom the hysterics spread.
So, for the record: CNN and USAToday have misrepresented the translation. Nobody’s removed Jesus from the NT. The translation “anointed” is simply what “Christos means. It’s not a name, of course, but a title.
Not all discussions of Bible translation are heated or uninformed. Simple discipleship has a great little post about the difficulty of translating the word doulos in the context of an ethnically mixed congregation in the USA. It is a superb illustration of the sort of minefield that translators are continually forced to navigate.
On the subject of minefields, the World Evangelical Alliance have announced the chairman of the panel who will be carrying out a review of Wycliffe’s translation policies.
Various Mission Issues
We have always enjoyed good relations with our supporting churches. However, this cautionary tale shows that not all missionaries can say the same thing.
Simon has posted an interesting piece on the danger of doing.
… events are the false god of missionary work. And yeah, that’s strong terminology but I’m going with it because I think there is something very seductive and very dangerous—at least for me, I’m speaking here about what pushes my particular egotistical buttons—about the idea that I can put on an event, lots of people come, and hey presto, my missionary work is worthwhile. I’m doing something, and better than that, I made it happen. People came to a thing I made.
In Christian circles, it has become fashionable to measure impact and results rather than activities. Yet, the apostle Paul wrote that some plant and some water, but God gives growth. When we try to measure results, we ultimately attempt to measure God’s performance. Which, to say the least, seems just a tad presumptuous… The biblical response for us, as it was for King David, is not only to cease and desist from a measuring behavior, but to repent of the desire to measure in the first place.
I’d be interested in your thoughts on that one!
Doug posted a wonderful article on inventing the mythical Jesus, which needs to be read in its entirety, so I won’t try and quote it. We’ve had a lot of dismal weather in the UK over the last couple of months, thankfully, the Beaker Folk have found the light at the end of the tunnel.