In October, David Bentley Hart published a translation of the New Testament(NT). In the preface, he explains his reasons. Essentially, he claims that many English translations intentionally change specific words from the Greek to fit particular doctrinal stances even when doing so goes against the best scholarship. The result is translations which prevent the Scriptures from truly speaking for themselves.
Since I don’t know Greek, I cannot speak to its accuracy, though it didn’t stray too far from the other translations I have read. The differences were subtle, but by the end, I was left with a disconcerting sense that much of what I have believed came from indirect means. That is, I have understood the Bible to be revelation, but when changing the way a few words translated from the Greek gives the Scriptures a different meaning, it brings up a lot of questions.
Why would the Creator of the Universe depend on sacred writings to communicate with his creation? As I pondered this, the answer was altogether beautiful and frustrating: Individual Freedom. God uses intermediaries, like the authors of the Scriptures, to keep our freedom to choose intact. Recent history, the past 100 years or so, has taught us how people will behave when they are part of a crowd. The scary part of the Nazis was not Hitler, it was the millions of Germans who joined him. Were they all monsters just waiting for Hitler to come to power or were they ordinary people caught up in a web of social pressures to push them to act in a specific way? If people are able to manipulate others by using images, the vibe of the stadium, passing laws, etc., how much more would our freedom be violated if God revealed his unfiltered nature to us? Instead, God uses the weakest of all human creations, the written word, to develop an authentic relationship with us.
Perhaps it’s the sensitivity of having a newborn in the house, but the thought of God’s delicacy towards us moves me to tears. Every image of God in human history shows power, throwing lightening bolts and living on mountains, not a God who loving preserves our individual personalities. Clearly, he is more concerned with being with us as we are, than getting us to act a certain way. Look around us, influencing human behavior is easy, but developing human intimacy is arduous. Yet, this is exactly where we meet the King of Kings. “He stands at the door and knocks,” and he has left intact our fragile ability to freely choose to open our lives to him.