Etymology and vocabulary have caused a lot of mis-understanding in the Biblical text. As the new year kicks off, we will be studying a number of key words and verses to question if edits in the English translations of the Biblical text have caused us to misunderstand God's will regarding some central issues, like slavery, homosexuality, gender value, salvation, and a general moral code.
When Paul says that we are saved by “the faith of/in Jesus Christ,” what does he mean? Paul believed this faith was a faith that tore down walls, not a faith that built walls up. Paul believed this faith removed the demarcations that had divided the community, instead of being a faith that further splintered communities. This was not any faith, this was the faith of Jesus Christ – it is the Lord’s faithfulness that offers righteousness and claims us as God’s children.
The English language often fails to speak to the breadth and depth of the original Biblical languages. A deeper look at the Greek and Hebrew makes very clear: the Biblical Word is not Lord; the Bishop is not the Lord; the Church is not the Lord; Jesus Christ is Lord.
It’s time we stop using the Biblical Word to exclude people who have been called – gifted, inspirited, and empowered – to serve God. Though the English translation has been used to silence women in the church, a quick study of the Biblical text shows that God has always called women to lead the faithful. We cannot hide behind faulty translations; we must proclaim the good news of great joy in Jesus Christ, that all people are called, empowered with wisdom, and instructed to be found mature in the Lord.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul had a specific focus in his teaching, and it wasn’t covenantal, faithful, sacred, and permanent relationships between two people of any gender … it was acts that abused, broke covenant, and forced unfaithful, non-sacred, adulterous sexual acts on others. To claim the Biblical truth, we must look to the historic text, and claim a more faithful, long-standing, and traditional understanding of Paul’s teaching.
The Biblical text never promises wealth and prosperity to the faithful. What it does promise, is peace, well-being, and unity among the gathered faithful. The English translation fails us when it replaces God’s vision of shalom, with our worldly visions of extravagant wealth.
The Biblical witness can not be summed up by any one passage of the scriptural text. When passages are cherry picked, it most often leads to a watered down gospel or failed truth that does not stand the test of the Gospel on the whole. How we treat the word “slave” is a key example.
We should not cheapen the Biblical word due to our insufficient English translations, but claim the fullness of God’s desire for humanity as laid out in the ancient texts. God longs for us to delight in the goodness of creation, but not in a way that threatens the peace of the community.
Almost every major division within the greater Christian body stems from a disagreement in the way we read and understand the Biblical text. The translating of the ancient Greek and Hebrew texts is a challenging task, and often has lasting implications on how Christians think, act, and believe.