Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Bible as a tool of resistance.

The Rev. Mitri Raheb taught (and published on their website) a Bible study for the recent meeting of the General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. (Google search on "World Communion of Reformed Churches" and search under the tab "General Council for this Bible study and others.)

Copied here is a portion of Rev. Raheb's Bible study on the Pentecost story in Acts 2. He connects the multiplicity of languages on the day of Pentecost with the translation of the Bible into the vernacular languages of the people, which was a central thrust of the Protestant Reformation:

Based on this Lukan vision, the role of the native language became key to Christian mission. While in traditional Judaism the Bible was to be read in Hebrew, and in Islam the Quran can be recited only in Arabic and no translation is allowed, in Christianity each people have “to hear the gospel in their own native language.” God wants to speak to us in the languages in which we dream. This understanding of Acts 2 became key to Protestant theology— Protestant theologians from Wycliffe in England to Lefevre in France to Luther in Germany. In a context where Latin was the language of the ruling and oppressing empire (described often as Babylon) the Bible translation became a tool of resistance and liberation. 

While celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we do not do the Reformation justice if we understood what happened in Wittenberg, Geneva, Zurich, Edinburgh or northern Italy as a mere religious revival. This was a resistance movement to empire, and the translation of the Bible was one tool of resistance. God had to speak the language of the people and not the language of empire. This is why the Bible was translated so far into more than 2500 different languages. 

In fact without Bible translation some languages would not exist in written form. This is not only true for tribal languages only but for most languages as well. The translation of the Bible and the development of written languages went hand in hand, not only in Coptic and Armenian as indicated before, but in most European languages as well. There is an interrelation between the King James Bible translation and the development of the standard English language, between Luther translation of the Bible into German and the development of the modern German language, etc.