A Subtle Prohibition

A Subtle Prohibition

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

The Index Librorum Prohibitorum was a Roman Catholic list of prohibited Bible versions. Anything other than the Vulgate was illegal to possess. Violations had severe penalties. No lay person would ever want to be caught with a common, modern translation while the Index had force of law.  

While not nearly as dramatic as a forbidden book list, some have inadvertently created similar prohibitions. Their reasons are different, their motives less nefarious, but the outcome is equally destructive. 

Are translations like the ERV and NIV perfect? No! But no one translation is perfect. Read multiple, but be sure to include versions like these in your study. If and when something comes up that seems different, investigate it! Spend some time figuring it out! Look at context, consult multiple translations, see how it fits with the author’s overall message. 

This is a difficult statement, but true: many Christians do not understand the Bible. Some equate memorization with knowledge, but could not accurately elaborate on what a passage means. Secularization and hectic schedules are partially to blame, but difficulty understanding their translations is often the culprit. 

Some examples:

(ESV): Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. 

(KJV): God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

(ERV): In the past God spoke to our people through the prophets. God spoke to them many times and in many different ways. And now in these last days God has spoken to us again. God has spoken to us through his son. God made the whole world through his son. And God has chosen his son to have all things. The son shows the glory of God. He is a perfect copy of God’s nature. The son holds everything together with his powerful command. The son made people clean from their sins. Then he sat down at the right side of the Great One (God) in heaven. God gave him a name that is a much greater name than any of the angels have. And he became that much greater than the angels. 

Which was easier to read? Which was easiest to understand? The last probably shed some light on the ESV and KJV. How? It’s translated the way people actually communicate. It removes an obstacle to understanding that formal equivalence has kept in place for some time. 

This quote is famously attributed to Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” The same readily applies to the Bible, which was originally written in the recipients’ common language. 

The translation committee for the English Bible for the Deaf include this statement at the beginning of their work: 

“The main concern of the translators was always to communicate [the message] of biblical writers as effectively and as naturally as the original writings did to people in that time. Faithful translation is not just matching words in a dictionary. It is a process of expressing the original message in a form that will not only have the same meaning, but will sound as relevant, attract the same interest, and have the same impact today as it did thousands of years ago.”

Reading a modern translation that utilizes dynamic equivalence (alongside other translations) in personal Bible study is extremely helpful. Doing so can have no other effect than enhancing one’s understanding of God’s word! 

“Schrodinger’s Spring”​

“Schrodinger’s Spring”​

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

This has been a beautiful spring. I cannot recall a time in recent memory when I’ve noted so many dogwood flowers in the trees. Our daffodils have been more prolific as well. There is phlox and violets blooming throughout the yard. Since I know that it is through nature that God first reveals Himself to us (cf. Romans 1.20), I could not help if wonder if what I have been seeing is providential. Think about it. We are in the midst of a pandemic and have been asked to shelter in place. What if God providentially boosted the fertility of the spring to grab the attention of all of the people stuck at home? It is a nice thought, isn’t it? Certainly, those who’ve inherited the earth (Matthew 5L5) would take notice of that.

Yet, the truth is, I cannot say this with any degree of certainty. My statement about this spring’s beauty is contingent on the amount of attention I have paid to it this year as well as the joy I’ve experienced having more time to spend outdoors since “normal” life has been shut down. The thought has occurred to me that maybe every spring is as beautiful, I’ve just been too busy or distracted to notice. Perhaps, there were plenty of equally beautiful things that had existed but went unobserved.

Maybe you’ve heard of “Schrodinger’s cat.” This is a thought experiment proposed by physicist Erwin Schrodinger, based on idea he had gotten from Albert Einstein. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, a poor kitty is imperiled by two deadly things inside a closed box. After an hour, you check to see if the cat has died. As crazy as it sounds, quantum mechanics allows for the cat to be both alive and dead until such time as one makes an observation; that is, until he or she opens the box. It is at the point of observation that the fate of the cat goes from superposition to a single state. If you find the thought experiment flawed, you’re not alone. Other physicists thought that it was ridiculous that a cat’s fate was contingent on whether or not we observed it. The radiation or the poisoned air would have killed the cat long before we opened the box. Another camp gave it a many-worlds interpretation. In other words, they say that upon opening the box, you as the observer become entangled with the cat on a quantum level and you both continue on in a reality in which the cat is either alive or dead. Since there are two possibilities, two worlds result in which the cat is alive and the cat is dead.

I apologize if I thoroughly confused you. Fortunately, it is not the wisdom of man that saves, but the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1.19-21). However, I referenced the thought experiment in order to frame my concept of a “Schrodinger’s spring.” God’s natural laws lead to a rebirth every year that He gives as we go from winter’s death to spring’s life. Because Christ sustains this creation (Colossians 1.15-17), we know that the promise God made with Noah will be kept (cf. Genesis 8.22). Hence, there will be “seedtime and harvest.” Yet, as I admitted about myself, there have likely been many years when I have failed to observe this unfolding process. There is a sense in which I allowed myself to be taken into a different world, one devoid of the joy God’s creation brings. We can do this when it comes to many different things besides nature, can’t we?

When I fail to note God’s providence and majesty, I create a world for myself that lacks contentment and joy. I don’t look to become satisfied with the state in which I am (cf. Philippians 4.11-13), but waste my life yearning for something else. We see the difference taking a moment to express gratitude made in the life of one former, Samaritan leper. Jesus had already cleansed his flesh, but extended forgiveness to him in response to the gratitude he had shown (Luke 17.18). A thankful heart is more predisposed to recognize the blessings of God, including the provisions made for our salvation. This is why, as with the cleansed Samaritan, it prompts worship. In what other way can we respond but with that desire to prostrate ourselves at His feet?

The next time you see the smiling face of the a child or a colorful sunset, remember “Schrodinger’s spring.” God has certainly surrounded you with blessings. It may be that in the hustle and bustle of life you simply haven’t had the time to notice. Make observations and change your reality as well.

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