Bible translations, part 2

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Chet and Shirley conclude their review of Bible translating over time with a discussion of why there is a such a variety of Bibles read in churches today.  And they relate how Mary Baker Eddy's emphasis on the "inspired Word" rings true for all time. 

  1. There are serious challenges with any attempt to present a text that purports to carry a deep spiritual message from the world of TRUTH into the world of dreams and materiality. If you have had the opportunity to learn another language besides your native tongue, you will quickly learn that some words have multiple definitions and meanings, which may or may not be obvious or accessible from the context.

    When one is dealing with a prophetic, revelatory, metaphysical text there can actually be multiple levels of meaning not unlike that which is incorporated into poetry and song or humor, metaphor, allegory, and symbolism. The student is best served by actually learning something of the original language in which these special teaching texts have been written. In the absence of that a lexicon for that language becomes a very helpful tool in opening up the text to those hidden, or closed off meanings.

    Translators make a best effort to try to incorporate as many of the openly presented levels of meaning in the original text as their skills enable them to discern. If the translator's thought is uninspired and purely material and literal, the translation will reflect that "spiritual dullness."

    As an example Hebrew has multiple levels of meaning and graphic representation which can be used to either hide or reveal those meanings. It is a derivative of an alphabet that was first and foremost a pictographic or hieroglyphic one. Each letter represented an object of some kind. Next only the consonants were presented as a short hand form of the phonetic word and the vowels were inserted by the speaker from his knowledge of the aural vocabulary that he had learned from child- hood. Eventually the scribes added special marks to indicate the vowel sounds in order to eliminate potential ambiguities. Unlike english, the letter characters were also used to signify numbers so one would have to gather from the context whether the characters in the sentence or phrase were number presentations or really words....another reason for adding the vowel marks to help distinguish one group from the other. The presence of the coexistent, alternative number meanings was eventually developed into an alternative translation or code system called Kabbala, which seems to have surfaced in the middle ages, but may have had a much older history than that as a way to encode special or sacred messages in non-sacred or ordinary appearing texts.

    There are gender elements in Hebrew which give words different shades of meaning that are nonsexual in nature. Example: the Hebrew/Aramaic for Peter is the masculine word for stone which is a fist sized or maybe bowling ball sized rock. The feminine word for rock refers to a mountain of rock outcropping such as would have a large rocky cliff face. When Jesus changes Simon's name to Peter and calls him a rock it really means stone....a reference to his firmness and conviction of the truth, but also his impenetrability in absorbing the truth or slowness to learn. Thus, an ironic inside joke touching on Peter's character. When this slow learner is the one who both discerns and answer's Jesus's question about "Whom do You say that I am?" correctly. Jesus uses the feminine version of rock or stone to affirm that upon that kind of rock he could and would "found my church." So it was not a reference to the person of Peter, as some would have us believe, but a lesson as to how the "author and finisher of our faith" was going about his Father's business to build a church in the thought of mortal, humankind....that would have a lasting effect upon the world such that "sin and hell could not prevail against it."

    There are other subtleties that are very easily missed, if one does not make the effort to "dig deeper" into the 'origins: of the text and the words within the text. Jacob's ladder is a unique word used nowhere else in the bible. It is based on a verb that means to elevate,(raise up, exalt) something. The powerful phrase that Jehovah gives to Moses on his mount of revelation "I am that I am." is actually, a playful play/pun on the Hebrew words used therein, that not only indicates that the one God is the source of all being, but that that Being also has a sense of humor.

    Most Hebrew nouns have verbal roots so that a "name" is like taking a static snapshot of something that is actually perpetually in motion. Certain letters in the Hebrew or greek alphabets can take on special symbolic significance. The first letter Aleph is a singular sign of the presence of God when used in special ways. The greek version is... I am the Alpha and Omega the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, which signifies God is the totality of intelligent expression or the Word, which we have come to see through Biblical teaching as being "the Christ."

    As to the inspired Word that is something that the Spirit (and spirit) breaths through, it turns out this becomes fairly easy to spot or uncover when one goes to the Bible quotation portion of the concordance of Science and Health and looks at the various excerpts of scripture that are collected there. Alternatively, one would have to believe that a properly instructed and inspired lesson sermon committee would be equally discerning in selecting examples of the inspired word to incorporate into each weekly lesson....unless some passages of the uninspired word were selected as a way to purposefully point out the difference.

    Finally, there are those passages that "speak to our hearts, which give us as seekers and searchers for righteousness and truth, the uplift and healing that help us feel and know that there is a special presence and force for Good available to us through scripture. Sometimes those angel messages can consist of special images of thought that are hidden or incorporated into the special vocabulary being used in that passage, but which our conscious mortal mind may seem blind to at the earlier readings until that surge of spiritual insight eventually, shines forth from the sacred page and successfully enlightens us.

    Oh, it is also of interest to note that Arabic and Syriac are among the living languages today that most closely resemble the Aramaic that was spoken by Jesus and the Jews of his time.

    I have heard a Wed. Lesson presented by a Reader which was based solely on the Reader's Bible and which seemed especially clear and accessible. I have also appreciated the use of the Revised Standard Version for various selections given as benedictions or scriptural selections presented by the current Readers at the Mother Church.

  2. Thank you for opening thought to the important role of Biblical scholarship & value of multiple translations of the Bible to help make the Word more accessible to people of different eras & cultures.

    We need to be alert to worshipping idols, by which I mean deifying any one translation of the Bible.

  3. Good to hear from you, N.G. Christopher.

    You might also be interested in our compilation of ideas in the document in the 'Research/Browse' section of Circle of Faith. Go to Circle of Faith>Research/Browse>Resources relevant to Christian Science in Christian relationships - and then find the third document down, called 'Christian Scientists and Bible Translations'.

  4. Having participated in many ecumenical discussion groups, and having experienced instances in which people of very different faith paths were clearly accessing Spirit in very inspired and healing ways, I've had to ask myself why those of us who depend on a scriptural and word-sy transmission can claim the special excellence of our particular "door". Of course, Mrs. Eddy often healed instantaneously simply by maintaining her conscious communion with God, but nevertheless she spent her whole life opening a language path in for all of us.

    My gratitude for the gift and clarity of that path is certainly beyond MY words. But why does this work so well? I finally decided that our human experience is greatly mediated by our language and the expectations and assumptions it contains. Therefore, inspired writings work so well at revealing, challenging, and clearing out the excuses which these preconceptions use to keep us blind to God's immediate presence right in front of us!

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