Newsweek magazine, which can’t get enough readers to continue to publish an actual printed on paper magazine, used a lot of ink to publish an article that managed to get a lot of “religious types” upset. I don’t know why. The author is Kurt Eichenwald.
“No television preacher has ever read the Bible. Neither has any evangelical politician. Neither has the pope. Neither have I. And neither have you,” Eichenwald wrote. “At best, we’ve all read a bad translation — a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.”
Eichenwald asserted the article “is not intended to advance a particular theology or debate the existence of God. Rather, it is designed to shine a light on a book that has been abused by people who claim to revere it but don’t read it, in the process creating misery for others.”
So why are religious types upset? One of the things that every child in my confirmation class learns is that there are all kinds of translations of the Bible. Any trip to a Bible bookstore will show you a dizzying array of translations and versions. In my confirmation class I tell the young people that if they want to read the real Bible they need to understand Hebrew and Greek. My confirmation students learn quickly that the Bible was written over hundreds of years by a whole bunch of people and we discuss the question – why is the Bible the Word of God even though it was written by men.? We teach our children that “In many and various ways God spoke to our fathers of old, but now in these latter days He has spoken to us by His Son”….
We talk about textual criticism and we go through the Bible and explain interesting things like the ending of Marks Gospel. Look it up and see what the text best evidence is. We ask questions about why the Gospel of Mark is in the Bible and the Gospel of Thomas is not. We go over how we believe that God preserved the “original transcripts” so that what we have in translation is pretty close to what you can read in your Bible today. Amazingly close. So close that we as a church body have never told anyone that there is a translation that we “must” read. But we do warn people about bad translations. So we can’t be upset about the bad translation rap. Compare the RSV to the New King James to the Good News Bible and you tell me if there are good and bad translations.
I would have gone further and said that no one has read the translations that we have. I can’t believe that those “I have read the Bible through page by page” folks really went through 1 Chronicles word by word unless they were doing a family tree. I am amazed by the things that I find in the Bible that I either read and forgot or never read before.
So instead of being upset with Newsweek and the author, ask why they are upset. What motivates folks to write something like this? There are the areas that we should be interested in. The author tells you his article ” is designed to shine a light on a book that has been abused by people who claim to revere it but don’t read it, in the process creating misery for others”.
There you are. We have talked about the fact that one of the reasons that Christianity lost much of its pull in the world is that churches turned faith into moralism. If religion is really a big reform school and some of the leaders and followers fall in the morality department then there are bigger and better reform schools than the church.
How do we, Christians, create misery for others? Because we, if we are “doing” our faith properly, are always a judgment against ourselves first and in so doing we make others feel bad. If Christ is “all in all” for us then everything else is pushed away. When Christ becomes all in all he moved us to love our neighbor and that includes loving them enough not to let them wallow in sin.
If we are doing our faith properly then we are doing everything in light of the end of the world and the world cannot abide that either. The only way we can create misery for others is by pointing them to a harsh reality – they are not the center of the universe. Their stars and idols and feelings and dramas are not all there is. Someday this will all come to an end and that is the ultimate message of the Scriptures. This world and all that is in it was created and redeemed and will someday pass away. It was redeemed by Christ and that means that it needed to be saved. If it needed to be saved their was something that it needed to be saved from. That something is sin. And that is what the world hates. The Bible makes us miserable because it shows us that we are, have been and will be eternally miserable unless rescued.
More on this as we move into the New Year.