Found in Translation
Why is the Bible a thing? Why do we have it? Why is it the number one selling book of all time? There are lots of answers to those questions, but for this quick post I will focus on why we read and study the Bible and how God uses it.
We read and study the Bible to deepen our relationship with God.
One of my favorite Bible stories takes place after Jesus is killed and then buried. Two of Jesus' followers were walking away from the capital city where all this just happened 3 days prior. The Bible describes them as "downcast." A random person is walking along the same road asks them why they are so sad. They talk about all that happened over the last 3 days. The leader they were following was wrongfully sentenced to death. They thought their leader was going to change their homeland, government and lives. They thought he was going to make a difference. What's more is that now there are crazy stories that the tomb is empty. They end their story by saying no one has seen Jesus or his body.
As we read this story, we know that Jesus rose from the dead and he was that random person walking with them on the road. Jesus was testing them. They flunked the test. Jesus then explains to them that parts of the Bible (written centuries before) predicted that Jesus would live, die, and come back to life. They soon realized it was Jesus this whole time.
This is my favorite part: After Jesus leaves, "they asked each other, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?'” Right away, they take a risk and journey back to the capital city to be with Jesus' other followers.
This was about a 2 hour walk at night. 2,000 years ago, this was risky. It was dark. (I just want to point out that there was no electricity back then). Due to the darkness, there was a good chance you would have been robbed. It is also notable that the rest of Jesus' followers were hiding because they feared they might be killed like Jesus was. Long story short, they find the other followers and then Jesus reappears! They are filled with joy and amazement. Jesus explains the Bible to all of them.
When God helps us understand the Bible, we come alive. Our hearts are set on fire. There is joy. There is surprise. We are amazed. We take risks. We realize we belong to a new family. We want to be with that family. We want to be at the center of the action. We want to connect with God in new ways. As we all become closer to God, we become closer to each other.
When we read the Bible, God shows us the difference between right and wrong, how we need forgiveness, how to live a God centered life, also how God has acted throughout history.
I think of time with the Bible in two aspects: reading my Bible and studying my Bible.
When I read the Bible, my goal is to spend time with God, and have a more experiential experience. (I know that sounds a little funny.) During my reading time, it's great to read Biblical poem, or read large sections at once, or memorize quotes from the Bible. During my studying time, it's great to dive into the deep details. Diving in, usually requires researching smaller parts of the Bible by using multiple books and translations. Both bring me closer to God, but require a slightly different mindset.
To use an analogy from homelife, reading the Bible is like going on date with my wife. Studying the Bible is like cleaning out the basement for her, because she hates clutter. Sometimes it's great to eat a marvelous meal while relaxing on the beach. Sometimes it's great to put in lots of effort sifting through years of clutter in the basement. Both deepen my relationship with Cait, but they are quite different from each other.
So why am I writing all this?
The Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. I don't speak any of those languages yet. Until I can, I need to rely on Bible translations. Because the words in the Bible are God's words preserved for us, the words matter. Bible translations carry the meaning of originals all the way into today's culture and language.
I'm glad that God used several languages to write the Bible. Because of this, we have examples of people relying on translations of the Bible in the Bible. (I know that sounds a little funny.) These people were like me! As the second half of the Bible was being written, the Greek Christians only had access to the older Hebrew and Aramaic writings of the Bible through a Greek translation. This was no issue for them. The expectation was that the Greek Christians would still read and study their Bible that was translated into Greek. It worked! God still spoke through a translation.
It's easy to focus on the differences and downfalls of each translation. No translation is perfect. There are so many complexities. During my time with the Bible, I truly believe that I need to have two foci. (Foci is plural of focus. I know that sounds a little funny.)
1. Enjoying my time with God.
2. Doing the absolute best studying I can to understand the details of the Bible.
To complete these, I plan to read the Bible using the most up to date version of the NIV. To study the Bible, I plan to use the most up to date version of the ESV, along with other books and resources. This will most likely mean consulting other translations as well. I will never rely on only one translation.
So at the end of the day, God uses Bible translations. God uses people to help other people understand the Bible. These people include pastors and translators. God uses the his Spirit to set our hearts on fire as we read and study the Bible.
The featured image for this post is a photograph that I have printed, mounted and hung above my desk. It's a photo taken from the Star Market, heading into Boston. The Star Market is built over the Pike, incase you were unaware.
When I see this photo, I am reminded of the journey we are on. We are travelers heading home. Even when we read and study the Bible through a translation, we truly find ourselves. God shows us who he created us to be, how we are forgiven through Jesus, how we have a home in Heaven. A perfect relationship with God is our destination.
In Boston, some of our trains have three rails. Two of the rails are for the wheels of the train. The "third rail" is electrified and provides power to the train, moving it along the track. When I see this photo, I am reminded that God's Spirit moves us along as we read and study the Bible.
<Insert reference to Dirty Water by The Standells.>
Note: Much of the thoughts above are a combination of my own with many from Wayne Grudem and his book Systematic Theology. It sounds much scarier than it really is. Feel free to replace the word Systematic with the word Topical. It is very readable. Each chapter follows a question/answer format. For example, the chapters I read were chapters 6 & 7: Can only Bible scholars understand the Bible rightly? and For what purposes are the Bible necessary? I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to study what the whole Bible says on certain topics.
Do you have any other questions or feedback? We would love to hear from you!