February 18th 2010

It’s All Greek To Me…

“Whom shall one teach knowledge? And whom shall one make to understand the message? … For it is precept by precept, precept by precept, line by line, line by line; here a little, there a little. For with stammering lips [faltering or unsure speech] and with a strange tongue [via a foreign language] shall it be spoken to this people…”
Isaiah 28:8v11 (The JPS Masoretic translation of 1917 with marginal exposition)

The experts tell us there are three books very few manage ever to read. The first is the impenetrable Ulysses by James Joyce; the second is Samuel Beckett’s enigmatic play Waiting for Godot—and the third is The Bible. Several times I’ve tried reading Ulysses and failed, like so many others, after about 24 pages. Waiting for Godot I have read, but certainly didn’t understand. The main problem with both of them was, when you come down to it, I didn’t really care! 

But the Bible is another matter. I accept that often times someone reading the Bible finds that, too, impenetrable. It’s not really surprising when you consider that still the most popular version in English, in century 21, was first published four hundred years ago in 1611. 

These days I have 128 different English versions of The Bible in my library. These range from the first New Testament produced in West Saxon English in AD 990, to the latest, also a New Testament only, determined to use only modern English to the point of obsession. 

The surprising thing is that, whichever version takes your fancy, God can and has used it to convey his Good News and ultimately convict an individual as to its importance.

God, you see, speaks to us through the Scriptures, not by the scriptures; and he is perfectly capable of cutting through ancient or modern obscure English, indifferent printing—even when the translator’s own prejudices get in the way—to put his truth right into the very heart of our minds. The secret is to involve God first, through prayer. That is, if you really, really want this to happen. Then he’ll make sure that what he wants you to understand, you will, in time. Guaranteed.

Most merciful Father, thank you for your mind, revealed to us through the Scriptures. In our reading, grant us your gift of understanding, so that what may seem dead words on the page take on living life when lived through our flesh; lived through the spirit and mind of Christ in us. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by John Stettaford 

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