Language Barriers In Religion

Language barriers in religion can have a multitude of consequences.  The most obvious is the translation of the Bible, and the multitude of consequences that mere words can have on the direction of the church as well as the entire Christian religion.  Take for example the fact that even early Protestants didn’t quite read the bible as is today:

It has long been assumed that reading “the Word” in Reformation Germany meant reading Holy Writ as Luther translated it and as his publisher, Hans Lufft, printed it in Wittenberg — and as it was borrowed or pirated and published all over German-speaking central Europe. The publishing history of devotional literature, however, suggests a much more complex picture of “the Word” and a far more extensive set of genres and titles. More often than not, the common man, woman and child read their Word not in the canonical biblical text, but on the pages of any of a variety of collected excerpts from it.(2) Such a volume might be a simple verse-a-day collection for the calendar year. Or it might eschew biblical text altogether and include only explanatory chapter headings taken from the Luther translation, as did Veit Dietrich’s summaries of the entire Bible for children.3

If we stop and think about it, it’s difficult to nitpick based on singular words or verses from the bible when perhaps whole periods of time have gone by without much literal attention paid to the actual words in the Bible themselves.

Translation from one language to the next leaves so much to be desired, especially from ancient languages whose idioms we may have lost for good, and whose application of certain words are not an exact science all the time, and it’s mostly educated guesses.  The fact that entire groups of people are persecuted based on the results (sometimes biased) of these educated guesses is absurd.

The thing that we must remember is that the Bible should be taken perhaps not quite so literally as figuratively – and whose meaning is more plastic than rigid when it comes to application to the society and culture of the times.  This is a tough pill for many literalists to swallow, and indeed for many Christians to follow as well.  One issue that might be applicable to this debate is the gay marriage issue.  The translation in recent times may leave much to be desired, as new research shows that perhaps the church’s stance must be reconsidered.

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