If it’s not confusing enough to deal with the English language and its complexities, let’s throw another angle of confusion. Last week, I wrote about how complicated the English language can be to an immigrant. As I was pondering the confusion a brand new country and language can bring, I was also struck by how confusing it was to become a Christian. When people are “cradle Christians,” they seem to take things for granted. As someone new to the Faith, I had tons of questions and it seemed that no one really knew what the answers were.
When my whole family and I were baptized in January of 2007, we were met with great joy from our congregation. For me, however, it opened up a new world. A world that began with getting my own Bible, as none was provided for me. I went to Mardel’s (a Christian store) and began my search. After two hours and forty five minutes, I still did not understand why there were so many different versions of the Bible. I actually panicked because I thought “maybe the Quran was right – there are so many different variations of the Bible here!”
I didn’t realize that all those different Bibles were not variations in the message of the text, but different translations. They are not corrupt nor do they change the meaning or intent of the passage. There is an excellent research article written by James White for the Christian Research Institute, titled “Is your Modern Translation Corrupt?” Mr. White provides parallel passages that challenge those who say that the Bible has been corrupted over time (not just a claim made by Muslims, but others as well). I am impressed by how much research and critical thinking has gone into providing a Christian with multiple views on how a passage has been translated. When you have more than one look at a passage – doesn’t it add to the overall understanding of the passage (and not take away from it, as many claim)?
New International Version
Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Psalm 119:89
New Living Translation
Your eternal word, O LORD, stands firm in heaven. Psalm 119:89
English Standard Version
Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Psalm 119:89
New American Standard Bible
Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven. Psalm 119:89
King James Bible
LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. Psalm 119:89
If you just look at the above, it is interesting how each of the translations say the same thing just in a different way. All reinforce the fact that the word of the Lord.
If all this was not confusing enough to the newcomer, there is also a host of “Christianese” that is tossed about. For example, during this time of year, the word “Lent” and how the 40 days from Ash Wednesday don’t really add up to 40 days until Good Friday. or why the grammatically confusing “He is Risen” or other words that go with Christianity that end in -ology: doxology, eschatology, etc. Then you have the other words that show up in the title of the Bible books like “Leviticus” and “Deuteronomy.” So strange! When I asked mature Christians about some of these terms, I ended up with looks of confusion on their part as well.
I think that the biggest thing a newcomer to the Christian faith brings is the hunger to learn all that we can about it! I wanted to know all these terms and not just accept them as “it’s just something we’ve always done.” There is a rich tradition in Christian history that allows us to question and even challenge what is presented to us. God gave us a brain to use – the deeper you get into His word, the more riches we find!
I hope you will consider some of these things and help a new Christian along in their faith. I hope that you will learn some of these things for yourself and also take a look at what you believe and WHY you believe it. If you ask God to help you with all these things, you will end up with a faith that is deep and wide.