Lost in Translation(s): series summary

This week is the last of our series, "Lost in Translation(s)" -- seven weeks goes by quickly!  

This entry is also 1 of 2 because in our teaching time, we tackled both a summary of key principles from the series, and then we turned to an overview of the book of Revelation.  So this entry is devoted only to the series summary.  Head to UPPC.org/blog and read "The Throne, the Dragon, and the Crystal City" for the overview of Revelation.

So, over the last month and a half, we've learned some key principles for faithful reading of the Bible:

The Word of God made Flesh: The letter to the Hebrews begins: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…”  God chose to communicate through spoken and written human language. But we read scripture from unique perspectives, so principle #2 is:

Knowing Our Lenses: These are the realities--every aspect of who we are--that influence our perspective on the world and the Bible.  The Bible’s human authors also had unique perspectives, so principle #3 is to remember the difference between:

Historical vs. Eternal: learning to discern between what was meant for “then” and what was meant for “always.”  We’ve seen this in scriptures about shellfish, baptism, and even the role of women in the church.  Jesus also knew scripture had to be interpreted, so he showed us to:

Interpret the Bible through Christ: He fulfills the OT and simultaneously inspires the NT.  God’s covenant with Israel is completed in Christ, then lived out by those who exist in Christ, that is, Christians.  And we are also called to:

Interpret the Bible with the Bible: When we come across challenging scriptures, we hold it up against other scripture, to better discern the overall message.  But this takes a lifetime of practice, so finally:

Scripture is meant for meditation (hagah):  The Bible is not intended to be a quick read, any more than, as Aaron put it a couple of weeks ago, a filet mignon dinner is meant to be eaten in the car on your way to work.  In fact, hasty reading of the Bible is worse than unhelpful; it can be destructive.  The Bible’s beautiful complexity requires us to read it with repetition and contemplation.

We also printed a "Bible Tool Kit" for you, including a few tips, and a chart of eight common English translations, on a continuum from "word for word" to "thought for thought."  Translations that try to stay closer to “word for word” can be helpful for study.  But the downside is that the meaning of a word is often much more nuanced than a simple translation.  Translations that are closer to “thought for thought” can be good for personal devotion or if you’re new to the Bible.  The downside is that the Hebrew and Greek can sometimes be hidden in the interpretation.

Take a look at how different translations can read.  Exodus 15:25.  Note the underlined differences:
NASB:  Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet.
NIV:  Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.

Good translations and the other resources are helpful, but we can never really change the natural limitation of our point of view.  One set of eyes; one mind.  So because our perception is limited, remember these final principles:

Read in community.  Private Bible reading has its value, but it is historically very new and rare, and should be enhanced (and sometimes challenged) by other perspectives.
Read in humility.  Be a disciple, which means student, of the Master.  Don’t try to be the Master.  When you come to conclusions, which you should, submit even those to the Master.  At the same time being willing to...
Share graciously.  Scripture isn’t meant to be kept secret -- it’s a gift!  We don’t share it with a stingy or combative spirit.  But we also don’t keep it covered up, so it’s accessible only to insiders.

For reflection:
  1. If you're new to the Bible, what questions do you have about it?  Make a list and follow up with an appointment with a pastor or other discipleship leader.
  2. If you're experienced with the Bible, what translation are you most accustomed to?  
  3. Do you read your translation for particular reasons, or is it more because it's "just the one I'm used to?"
  4. How do you feel about understanding the Bible as divinely inspired but nevertheless human collection of documents?  What does that reality mean for your theology overall?

May you be blessed as you "hagah" (meditatively murmur aloud) the Bible!

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