Why I Search …

It is the mission of BiblicalRemains.com to search the geographical, textual, and archaeological remains of the ancient near-east to better understand the biblical text. While the church generally expresses heightened interest in topics of Biblical archaeology, or Linguistic studies of Hebrew or Greek, or even further afield, textual/historical studies of the people of Ugarit or Mari; few can conceive how those topics are valuable on an everyday devotional level, or how such studies can fit into their greater model of small group fellowship. As such, this is the first post in a series which will discuss why I search, why cultural backgrounds studies are so vital to the church today.

Called to missions, created as a mission field

A few years ago a movie called The End of the Spear came out as part of a new wave of Christian filmmakers trying to steer Hollywood back to a reflection of the more wholesome portions of American society. The movie, told the story of an MK, a missionary kid, who spent his life translating the biblical text into a remote dialect of an indigenous population. He did this with the full knowledge that his father died at the end of a spear trying to deliver the gospel to that same indigenous population. The movie displayed some the greatest works of the church and some of its hardest sacrifices. The church’s drive to translate the Biblical text into the localized vernacular of any thousands of indigenous populations both reached and unreached has been one of its greatest endeavors over the course of the last thousand years. We too are called to be missionaries, to go out to all the “ends of the earth,” to translate the text for those who have little to no access to it.

As the seat of Roman Power in the levant Herod's Caesarea would have represented the "ends of the earth" as Peter spoke with the centurion Cornelius.

Herod’s Palace at Caesarea: As the seat of Roman Power in the Levant Herod’s Caesarea would have represented the “ends of the earth” as Peter spoke with the centurion Cornelius.

But, we must not forget that though we are called to missions, we were created as a missions field.  In order to be good translators we must first recognize that we should be good receivers.

All too often we imagine, whether consciously or unconsciously that the biblical text was given to all people in all languages from the beginning. We comfortably read our KJ, NKJ, ESV, NIV, NRSV, NASV, JPS or even The Message, without ever stopping to ponder the fact that every word, not just those glossed in the footnotes come from languages, a people and, a place very different from our own. Indeed, our translations frequently allow us to ignore the fact that the language of the text started in Hebrew, and it started in Greek, and it started in Aramaic.

I search the remains of the ancient near-east to better understand those original languages. To better understand the message God intended to communicate both to scripture’s original recipients and to myself.  In other words, I search the remains of the ancient near-east to be a better receiver of God’s self-revelation.

Moving from translator to receiver is a sea change in the way one relates to the text. If you are the receiver you are constantly attempting to better understand the translation; to understand why god choose that period, that place, that people and that language to convey his message. I search the original language of scripture to remind myself that I am neither the source of this revelation nor its original recipient. That original recipient was far removed from myself, both in time, space and worldview.   Instead, I am a missions field, the receiver of a translation, the confused indigenous humbled by God’s provision of a text at all.

This Article is part of series on Why I search the cultural backgrounds of the bible. You can find more articles in the series here.
 
Join the discussion below: What is the value in having received scripture from cultures that are very different from our own? What is the benefit of being the receiver of a translation rather than its origin?
 
 

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  • Jennifer

    I think there is great value in receiving scripture from cultures that are different than our own because it gives us insight into the time and circumstances that God gave his word to his people. Although at the same time it can make deciphering the meaning of his word more difficult. I trust that the amplified bible that I read has the same meaning that God intended when he first gave his word to the disciples, believing that the translaters were inspired by God in their translation. God knows our limitations in knowledge and understanding so he speaks to our hearts and lets those who are recievers with greater knowledge than ourselves help each of us to have a better understanding of God’s word and it’s origins.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response! You’re right to say that we need to have faith that God has charged the task of cultural and linguistic translation to capable hands, hearts and minds; but it is also a reminder that we should be willing to encourage the research and studies of those called into such a task.

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