The Judeo-Christian Bible remains authoritative in the Christian world. But Jesus said: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24 NIV).
The above passage releases a properly converted Christian to no longer rely on the Bible. There is no longer any need to rely on engaging in theological studies, for properly converted Christians. They are sustained by the comforter, referred to by Jesus. (John 14:15-21).
However, Bible studying is still necessary for those searching for truth, before conversion and baptism. Therefore, accurate information should be made available, for those committed to understanding the word. Christianity has been entrusted to fellow humans, rather than Jesus.
Communication is similar to electric transmission from one terminal to another. If the medium has some fault, the power does not reach the intended terminal. Written communication will always be more effective than both visual and audio transmissions. The effectiveness of written messages are in that they leave no room for alterations, and one can always refer back.
Miscommunication causes confusion, in human relations. Arbitrators in marital disputes would agree that more than eighty per cent of marital disputes are a result of miscommunication. The bride or the bridegroom may have been misunderstood, right from the outset. The room for assumptions and suppositions creates such problematic conditions.
Language is not only in words, but also involves the background, under which the communication is transmitted. Therefore, understanding the customs and traditions concerning Biblical communication is necessary. For instance, there were many things said by the apostle Paul, which were applicable to those concerned, but not necessarily applicable to other groups’ customs.
While Biblical messages have remained for ages, their relevance needs comparison with Christ’s words. The complex challenge facing Christians is the issue of translation. The area of confusion, as far as the Judeo-Christian Bible is concerned, arises from Greek/Hebrew translation into other languages. Translation from one language to another should have the mechanisms to handle customary errors.
For instance, the translation from Greek/Hebrew into English ought to have been as follows: Produce the text from Greek or Hebrew manuscripts into the English language. Then find another independent translation expert to translate from the English language, back to the original language. Then compare the translated version into Greek/Hebrew language with the original Greek/Hebrew manuscript.
The aim would be to see whether the English translation into Greek/Hebrew compares congruently with the original Greek/Hebrew version. If without alteration, the English translation from the Greek/Hebrew version would then be deemed authoritative. The same should apply to translations into other languages.
This appears as the only authoritative verification of textual versions of the Bible. Otherwise, the issue of multiple versions causes confusion in Christianity. Translation Scholars should not necessarily be those with a background in Christianity. I would personally recommend purely Greek Scholars, with the background of the Aramaic language, used at the time of Jesus, for this job.
The problem with Christian Scholars is the tendency to perceive through the lenses of their own Christian persuasion. The fact that Christianity is divided, should bring everyone to appreciate possible lapses in communication, along the line. The initial undertaking is to shelve Christian viewpoints until the translation exercise is technically completed.
Christianity carries some so-called authorities from various backgrounds, whether Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists, Calvinism, Lutherans, Baptists, etc. Completely shelving those, for the time being, would be necessary. Also, another Council of believers, coming together, like the Nicaean Council, is unnecessary.
Where the English-Greek/Hebrew translation shows errors, the translation experts are supposed to address the anomalies, until perfection is achieved. The task sounds daunting, but worthwhile, for future generations. There is no room for mistranslation, where truth is of utmost importance.
It is difficult, at this stage of Christianity, to point one’s finger at those truly representing Jesus Christ. The proper translation of the Bible enables one to be properly informed, before taking a decision to become a Christian. The critical area is the necessity to be truthful on all matters of Christian commitment.
Nevertheless, those critically viewing apparent misunderstanding on Scriptures like Luke 14:25-33 and Matthew 23:8-12 among traditional Christians, feel uncomfortable. One could add to the confusion by forming yet another Christian denomination, citing erroneous applications.
This brings us back to the necessity for independent Theological Scholars, rather than those associated with Christianity. Independent theological scholars are extremely necessary, as long as doing their work outside Christian conversion.
This was the case, even during the time of Jesus. Luke and Mark had not originally been associated with the discipleship of Jesus. Luke, in particular, was hired by Theophilus, possibly a government agent doing surveillance on Christian activities? Regardless of whatever the case might have been, the truth is that Luke was not a disciple of Jesus.
When properly financed and, accordingly, entrusted to nonbelievers, a credibly translated document might emerge. I do not think anyone benefits when an important subject as Christianity is left to the whims of possible charlatans. In its ranks, Christianity carries deceived people, but who are well-meaning in their endeavours. After a properly translated Biblical document has been released, it would therefore enable ordinary people to access truthful information.
The confusion in Christianity may not be completely eliminated. But, at least, the well-meaning individuals would have a workable document for research on matters of Christianity. There cannot be any other way of handling the current confusion.
There is a possibility that after arriving at truthful translation, not many people would be attracted to Christianity. Nevertheless, nothing shows that Christianity was ever meant to be readily acceptable to ordinary people. Otherwise, Jesus could not have been killed. Christianity is not as simple as most people assume it to be. Especially, as most Scriptural passages show this reality.
When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside, everything is said in parables so that, “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” (Mark 4:10-12 NIV).
Many Christian groupings cannot accept the view that Jesus taught in parables in order to confound His audience. Others have, actually, come up with their own translations, assuming that the above Scripture was not translated correctly. This is what makes Christianity a real muddle that cannot be defended against critics.
This is what has given ammunition to atheists, including those of other religions. Christianity is the only religion that represents order, as directly coming from Jesus. There is no other religion with a documented resurrection story. Within the Christian-Bible should, therefore, not be allowed any room for misleading.
However, as mentioned earlier, the reason for engaging in translation exercise excludes true Christians. The proposition for the recommended translation exercise is to benefit non-believers, who seek understanding, before conversion. Although Scriptural texts are no longer necessary for truly converted Christians.
Most of the confusion of Christianity may have arisen from Paul’s ministry, in particular. The greatest challenge for Paul was in the area of reconciling Jewish customs with gentile customs. Most of Paul’s converts believed in Paul, more than they ought to have believed in Jesus. There is considerable doubt, as to whether most of Paul’s followers were truly converted.
However, as Christians, we do not have to sit as critics, except to compare everything taught by the apostles with Jesus’s teachings. The apostles were instructed to go out and preach the gospel according to what Jesus had taught. Most of that is revealed in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Those four Books alone, carry the veracity of what Jesus taught. Without Jesus, there is no Christianity. There are areas where the Apostles contradicted or did not apply what Jesus taught. We cannot condemn them. But at the same time, we cannot avoid evaluating their data according to the teachings of Jesus. As an example, the Book of Acts provides a disturbing anecdote:
Acts 4:32-37 And Acts 5:1-11 shows a narration of sacrificial giving, adopted by the newly converted believers. Many of them sold their properties and enjoyed communal living. The proceeds were shared equitably. But in Acts 5:1-11 we see the inclusion of a disturbing incident, involving Ananias and Sapphire.
The couple got caught up in the maelstrom of giving, just as they had observed others exercise giving. Their wrongful giving led to their demise, striking fear among believers. The record does not show whether the couple had children or not. But their death was indeed terrifying.
Did the apostles introduce a dangerous religion, as manifested in that unfortunate incident? Was Christianity dangerous, for ordinary people? I suppose the answer is yes. I presume that after that incident a considerable number of converts dropped out of faith. Like any lethal weapon, Christianity needs handling with care.
Jesus had advised His disciples to teach only what He had commanded. (Mark 16:15-18). He expected them to remain faithful to His word, rather than teaching outside His teachings. One of the clearly documented teachings of Jesus is found in Mathew, Chapters 5, 6 and 7. At the end of that sermon, Jesus left the following remark:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27 NIV).
The messages were directed, specifically, at His disciples, although including future believers. Without the recorded information, we would have not known what Jesus taught. While the disciples had the mandate to preach the gospel, a careful listener checks authenticity.
Had the couple checked whether everything taught by the apostles, came from Jesus, they would have avoided the disaster. The sermon on Matthew 5, 6, and 7, includes the principle of giving, which the disciples ought to have noted and taught, accordingly:
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4 NIV).
Peter is not the one who condemned the couple for inappropriate giving. He only passed on the information, directly from God, through the Spirit. God must have allowed this incident to pass, for the sake of future believers. The gospel books had not yet been available. The above Scripture, actually, instructs those practising righteousness to be careful.
Just by applying the above Scripture, the lives of Ananias and Sapphire could have been spared. That couple got confronted with sudden death. It is now a question of how many believers have constantly violated this Scripture. And what happens to them, if not judged similarly to how the referred couple was judged?
And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32 NIV).
There is no difference between being killed instantly, or in the next life. Jesus said those committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. There cannot be any difference, whether one’s condemnation is in this life, or in the life to come.
Proper communication requires duplication, before understanding. Hence, the suggestion that the Biblical translation should be revisited. This time aiming at ensuring that nothing is left to chance. The words of Jesus are vital, to avoid condemnation, similar to Ananias’ and Sapphire’s.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.
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