November 30, 2016

2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers, good-bye. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

The first thing that grabbed me about this verse was how very different the NIV was from the Japanese. The Japanese says, “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Become perfect. Receive comfort. Be of one heart. Maintain peace. If you do that, the God of love and peace will be with you.” There are really only two points of deviation in that, but translating “rejoice” as “good-by” really grabbed my attention. Some people are such that we really do rejoice when they leave, or in this case, shut up! It is possible that “rejoice” was used as a parting term in that day, but I hadn’t heard of it. I can perhaps see some justification for expressing “Receive comfort” as “Listen to my appeal,” but it seems a real stretch. This sort of thing shows the huge importance of the theological mindset and attitude of those doing translations. Being bilingual myself I fully understand the unavoidable reality that any translation is slanted by the one translating. (That’s why I prefer to translate/interpret for myself.) Since I don’t read any of the original Biblical languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) I am dependent on translations, but even those who are experts in those languages have a different cultural context from those who did the original writing. All of that means that we are dependent on the Holy Spirit as we read, since He is the original Author. That’s not a bad thing! Any serious student of the Bible is going to want various translations to compare, but the Holy Spirit is more than capable of speaking through any translation, even a bad one. I know of cases where people have had encounters with the Living God and been born again reading the translation done by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and that is deliberately slanted to conceal the reality that Jesus was fully God while being fully human! What it all comes down to is the necessity of both humility and hunger as we read. If we humbly desire to hear from our heavenly Father, we will.

This is certainly applicable to my life and ministry. Growing up in a bilingual, cross-cultural ministry environment, as well as living in one today, this is very easy for me to understand. It is sometimes frustrating to interpret for American speakers because of their cultural assumptions that simply don’t apply in Japan. The worst case is when someone bases an entire message on a particular turn of phrase in their English translation of choice when that phrase doesn’t appear at all in any Japanese translation. (And yes, I’ve had that happen.) We need to let the words teach us God’s truth without tethering the truth to the particular words used. That can be hard! When I meet with blank stares I’ve got to back up and say the same thing differently. Recently I watched a DVD of a Japanese Christian teacher I know and respect, and I lost count of how many times he said the same thing in slightly different ways. I need to learn from that! Each person has had different life experiences, and often will have a different vocabulary. (That’s why it’s helpful for me to have as large a vocabulary as possible.) Those things erect filters, so I need to let the Holy Spirit direct me into expressing things in ways that will get through.

Father, I’m back to the awareness that the whole thing is hopeless if I’m depending on myself. Thank You that I don’t have to depend on myself! Help me be fully available and yielded to You at all times, so that as Your agent I may share Your love and grace in ways that people will receive, so that they may repent and believe 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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