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How not to be a Christian 2

Again, I am finding myself in a situation where the lack of information, lack of frame of reference and lack of common sense force distance between myself and people that I may normally identify with, even if only because they are family. And once again the issue is not in English and the mere thought of having to translate paranoid hogwash to make a point fills me with dread and desperation. So, I will summarise for the sake of my own mental health (etc):

A new Afrikaans translation of the Bible is planned for 2016. My own opinion is that the translations of the past few attempts have been clumsy and have not found a satisfactory middle way between devotional “high” language and accessibility. They have either come out sounding plain funny or too “common”. Obviously, others also think so, thus the Bible Society was approached for new translation, directly from source texts, to fill the need for a widely accepted version.

But even in Afrikaans we have those who swear by the oldest translation of all, the Afrikaans King James version, so to speak: the 1933 translation. The reason? An aversion to change and progress and new things that is not unique to Afrikaners, just embodied in a very special way…So out jump the Boere-avatars of the “what was good enough for St Paul is good enough for me”-attitude – do you know that someone actually SAID that to me once about the King James version? He was a Mennonite convert, an American hanging around Serbia at the time. Anyway, back to the old Transvaal:  I get this petition emailed, being back in the communication loop with the relatives across the river after some years of bashing heads with Zulus (I like Zulu people! Just had quite a hard time trying to get them not to be like Afrikaners (I am one) in their resistance to change…).

The petition, to stick to the point, goes something like this: please express your horror and aversion to the proposed 2016 translation of the Bible to Afrikaans, and insist on reverting to the 1933/1953 translations. Reason being that the new translation, according to the petition, is hell-bent on denying the deity of Christ, will present the Godhead in lower case instead of capital letters, and is therefore a plot of the New Age to bring God down to its level. The full content of the petition is available in Afrikaans (I refuse to translate this!) for those who can read it.

A few glances at the petition confirmed my initial suspicion – you just know when you get these emails – that it was a load of pooh (this is a Christian blog and I will avoid stronger expressions) and based on a load of pooh. 1. Why would the Bible Society do such things? 2. Why would the Bible Society do such things? 3. Why would the Bible Society… 4. Why did everybody who signed the petition not ask themselves that question/those questions before signing the petition in the crudest expression of disinformation and ignorance I have almost been pulled into in a long time? Why do people – staunch and concerned “Christians” in this case, insist on believing POOH before checking the facts? Why do Afrikaners, particularly, rise to the occasion when POOH is at stake instead of spending that righteously indignant energy to rectify the huge problems in their own society and attitudes?

Fortunately, thank Google, I was able to track the issue on the net and immediately came across the RATIONAL rebuttal of the petition by the Bible Society. Which I replied with to the person who sent me the petition, imploring: “Can we please be rational and not take part in malicious lies?” I don’t know whether the reply was forwarded to all the people the petition was sent to, but one can hope.

The issue on which the paranoid petition was based was the following: one matter that is always the subject of serious deliberation when doing a Bible translation from source documents is whether to translate the Old Testament in the light of the knowledge provided by the New Testament, or whether to translate it as Jews would read it, which would be the original way. In other words, even though CHRISTIANS know that the Messianic prophecies, notable of Isaiah 53, for example, were fulfilled by Jesus, and thus READ INTO THEM THE DEITY of the suffering servant, for instance, should we translate the passages from the Old Testament as if that knowledge were available at the time of the prophecy, and thus use capital letters for the Servant (e.g.), or not?

As the Bible Society pointed out in its explanation, different theologies – and Afrikaans churches in South Africa are not all birds of a feather on these issues – have different approaches to this issue and all are expecting the Bible Society to present things in THEIR preferred light. Also, as the Bible Society pointed out, in the original Hebrew their ARE no capital letters, so a literally true translation wouldn’t have them.

Who got the tail end of this issue? Or, as my mother would have said: Who got the bull by the teat? And why did it escalate into a full-blown storm with red-faced farmers blowing murder and mayhem and New Age and insisting on going back to translations that just don’t speak to most people any more? The basic question here: Why do Christians, ANY Christians, EVER react in paranoid and uninformed ways?

If we are indeed the crown of creation, we should also have the wisdom and refinement and tolerance and and and…that correspond to the crown of creation. Willful ignorance, crude expressions of indignation, and deliberate disinformation are not worthy of such a status. That is HOW NOT TO BE A CHRISTIAN.


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