We unpacked what makes a translation trustworthy. We recognise that the choice lies in finding one that holds the tension between my culture and the translation’s consistency with the original texts. What God desires for us to hear trumps our desires. But how a translation affects meaning is an even greater question. Because a translation has the ability to shape my mind and form ideas of who God is and how he works. Let me show you how.
See the different versions of me and God
Every word counts. The call to shape people’s minds around the character and work of God is not a light-hearted matter. Here is a comparison of two versions of exactly the same verses. And see how the different versions of me and God emerge.
…who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the [a]course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
EPHESIANS 2:1-3 NKJV
1-6 It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us.
EPHESIANS 2:1-3 THE MESSAGE
See the different versions of me emerge
One passage describes our life as dead while the other describes it as stagnant, one merely tells us we are disobedient, while the other describes humanity as sons of disobedience whose allegiance is to the to the prince of the air (Satan). One describes us doing things when we feel like it, while the other describes us as being lustful in our flesh.
In a nutshell, one sounds very heavy in its description of humanity, while the other takes a lighter spin.
In one version humanity is considered dead without God, but in the other we are bogged down by our old foul life. To be rendered dead is huge. It’s a hopeless, impossible position to be in. No one can change that. But to be bogged down by a way of life, opens the door for me to choose to step out and make a change.
Do I emerge incapable or capable?
The NKJV tells me humanity follows Satan if I don’t follow God, that he works in us, if God is not. If we are not in Christ, we are in Satan (remember this is a passage describing Christians past tense, but unbelievers present tense). But notice Satan isn’t even mentioned in The Message.
Did you see the different versions of humanity emerge. Who do I become?
See the different versions of God emerge
If the idea of humanity being dead is lost, then so is the amazing act of God to resurrect my life (vs 4-6). We are told in the NKJV that Christ makes us alive. Our position is resurrected by God, only he can change us. Only the work of God can intercede to resurrect a dead person. The change rests solely on a gracious God.
When I emerge incapable, God is revealed as the only capable change agent.
God’s grace is dumbed down. His amazing act loses its magnificent power when we change words significantly.
But it’s the last line that strikes me the most. One describes God as almost losing his temper, while the other speaks of us being objects of wrath. Either God is righteously angry or capable of losing his temper, but managing to hold it back?
These words shape who God is. Is he a God of wrath? Or is he just capable of restraining himself? Is temper a word that should ever be used to describe God? Are we under his wrath (when outside of Christ)? Or just able to side stepping his temper?
Who has God become?
A translation shapes your worldview
A translation affects the meaning of who I am, and who God is. The translation shapes my theology, shapes the way I think about the world; who God is and how I believe God is working. It’s a serious call to make significant changes to the word of God.
So be careful. A translation affects the meaning of the Bible, and in doing so affects the version you will hold of God and yourself. A translation shapes your worldview.