July 15, 2015

Psalm 62:11-12 One thing God has spoken,
two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong,
and that you, O Lord, are loving.
Surely you will reward each person
according to what he has done.

Yet again, difference in language generates different nuance. The Japanese renders this, “The Lord has spoken once. Twice I have heard it (what He spoke). Strength belongs to You. O Lord, grace also belongs to you.” The last part of the passage is essentially the same. I would say this would be an illustration of why it is dangerous to pin points of theology on specific phrases in the Bible! Some of my most frustrating experiences in interpreting have been with American speakers who built their message around a specific phrase that didn’t even exist in the Japanese version of the passage they were using. I don’t believe in trying to add to the Bible, but I know that it is essential that we have the help of the Holy Spirit as we read it. Humanly speaking, there’s no telling what we might come up with otherwise! I have the highest respect for those who apply themselves to produce Bible translations, but I pray for them a yieldedness to the Holy Spirit that will protect them from writing what they think instead of what God has said. There are some “translations” out there today that make no bones about their agenda, with such things as a “gender-neutral God.” Such things are abominations, and are part of the devil’s efforts to destroy both the family, which is a picture of God’s relationship with mankind, and respect for the Bible as the Word of God. Honest paraphrases, such as The Message and The Living Bible, have their place, but in reading them, or reading any translation, actually, we need to let the Holy Spirit be our guide, not only as to what He said in the first place but especially as to what He is saying to us as we read.

I have always had problems with people who insist on “this translation and no other.” It’s actually rather funny when such people become missionaries, having to work in another language. There was even a movement for a while to produce a Japanese translation based on the KJV, rather than the Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew! It is clear from the New Testament use of the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament that the 1st Century Christians weren’t so picky, but trusted the Holy Spirit to straighten it all out. Either in English or in Japanese I sometimes prefer the turn of phrase in one translation over another, but for me the key is clarity and applicability. Even the most textually accurate translation does us no good if we don’t let it work God’s will in our hearts and lives. I remember about 40 years ago when my wife was reading The Living Bible devotionally. It was fairly new, and a missionary teased her about it, asking her, “What do you feed it?” Her answer was choice: “I don’t. It feeds me.” I need to feed on the Word, getting the spiritual nutrition God wants me to have, whether the “cooking style” is English or Japanese and whatever personal flair the “chef” might have put into it.

Father, help me value Your Word for what it is and transmit it as it is, not worshiping the words on the page but rather You who spoke them. Keep me from clinging to such things as “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” when those angels were almost certainly singing in Aramaic for the benefit of the shepherds! May I let Your Word live in me indeed, so that it may bring life to all to whom I speak, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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