Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rethinking the Translation

A translation like the New American Standard has served me well for many a year, but after repeated readings there's a tendency to begin to slide over what the text is saying, and it no longer hits the mark. I've been reading The Message version (Eugene Peterson) this time round, and Peterson has a real knack of hitting between the eyes, and waking you up to what's in the text.

Here's Galatians 5: 19-23 in the NASB, for example.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

All good stuff, but a number of the words in the first list particularly aren't common to everyday speech.

Here's Peterson (I've broken up the list):

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time:
repetitive, loveless, cheap sex;
a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage;
frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness;
trinket gods;
magic-show religion;
paranoid loneliness;
cutthroat competition;
a brutal temper;
an impotence to love or be loved;
divided homes and divided lives;
small-minded and lopsided pursuits;
the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival;
uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions;
ugly parodies of community.
This isn't the first time I've warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.
But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard - things like
affection for others,
exuberance about life,
We develop a willingness to stick with things;
a sense of compassion in the heart;
and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.
We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments,
not needing to force our way in life,
able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Yes, there are a lot more words, but the first list particularly strikes home in a much more hard-hitting way. And he doesn't reduce the language to pap: few words in his list would be unfamiliar to the average person.

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