Bear with me. This is not a theological debate nor am I trying to sway anyone in what I am saying. Mostly I want to just flesh out in words what has been happening within me over the last few years, and some thoughtful comments by a friend, finally prompted me to do it.
Something I had to accept, is that there really are translations of the Bible (in any language) that were either deliberately or unintentionally mistranslated. We can know that God foresaw this could/would happen because of verses like Deuteronomy 4:2, Revelation 22:18-19 and Proverbs 30:6.
For awhile, I tried to ignore it. Then, it angered me and I looked at the translation issue from a hurt, messed up mindset. Recently, I was reading a particular book and this issue of incorrect translation came at me in a different way. It’s started me on a path to healing that I didn’t know I needed.
The first time I can look back and realize I was presented this (without realizing it at the time) was when reading Titus 2.
Many times, within the church, the “working at home” aspect is kind of glossed over, because frankly, that’s what happens in many translations. Growing up, no one ever talked about what the original root wording for “keepers at home” was or what it meant in those times or for today – all I ever heard was not even about Scripture. Merely that working out of the home or staying at home were options for women if they “could afford to have the options.”
When I was separated from my ex-husband one of the times he’d been using drugs, I dug into a book called the Excellent Wife and was presented with something new – that God calls *all* wives and/or mothers to keep at home, and that we can trust Him to care for us in our obedience to Him. Later that year, I studied what the original wording meant for “keepers at home” (I’ll blog about that later) and what “blasphemy” means.
Coming to see this, I was not upset. I was invigorated! God’s plan is perfect and can be trusted! He doesn’t leave us to flounder in decision making. What a relief to me at that time.
The first time that I realized it as I was reading, was when Daryl and I were reading from a student NIV bible. In the introduction, they state that they altered wordings for various reasons.
I was very upset, but I tried to push past it – having been told by other Believers many times over some version of “isn’t God big enough to ensure ALL translations are accurate??” and that disbelieving this is basically disbelieving God, His existence, His sacrifice, His power, etcetera. I felt guilty and ashamed for questioning and being upset that someone could openly state they mistranslated God’s Word for one reason or another – because, from what I’d been led to… good Christians don’t question if translations are not accurate. “God’s Word is inspired – He can surely overcome misinterpretations, right?”
The next time, it was over the issue of corporal punishment. It took me a long time to gather the courage to finally read this article. I didn’t want to. I think I knew it was going to change me, shift my perspective, but I surely didn’t know to what extent. I read Christian Child Discipline: Is Spanking Biblical? (No!).
Realizing I’d basically been lied to (I doubt very much they realized it themselves) by every adult around me as I was growing up, about the meaning of these verses, angered me. I felt cheated. I felt led astray in my own parenting choices because of mistranslation, physical punishment (spanking). I could have spared Melody from what I thought was “God’s design” for parenting. I felt betrayed by myself, too.
I still read the Word, but it did become less frequent.
It didn’t help that this was on the heels of the criminal trial coming back with “not guilty” for the man that did assault my child. I allowed my heart to be angered by the lies and failings of others so much that I hid myself away from staying in the Word for quiet devotional time. I read it – but it was more a study tool than a personal love. I would try to do devotionals, but it was not because I “wanted to,” it was because I felt obligated to. It didn’t last. Each time, I would grow sad reading, wondering what I was reading that had been mistranslated by another failed human being, wondering how much more I failed in my studying.
I absolutely believed (still do) that God is God, He is good, and He has written Truth for us to guide us… but I was grappling with the knowledge that there are absolutely inaccurate translations and without studying all of the original root words and their meanings, I could be doing the exact opposite of what He called His people to.
My heart hurt deeply during this time and it did for a long time. I felt I could trust no one (again, this is very compounded by a trial that did not go the way of justice), including myself. It quite literally took two pregnancies to start to see that, and be willing to even try to let that hurt go. I am still very much a work in progress.
Finally, early on in my pregnancy with Stryder, I asked women in a family birth group that I belong to, what books they would recommend that would encourage me in a family birth. This is a group comprised of atheists, new agers, Believers, Followers of Christ, and others. I wasn’t expecting anything spiritual-specific. Still, I got one. I decided to read it, including it on my Mother Culture first semester.
The book is called Natural Childbirth and the Family, by Helen Wessel.
For the first half of the book, I made myself read most of it. Many of the story chapters felt, to me, dumbed-down to the reader. However, it shines in just a few of these chapters from the first half of the book – chapters which go over the original wording of birth/labor verses and what they really mean(t).
For example, on page 65 of the 1973 edition:
“‘But God, though He loved Adam and Eve, and through them the whole human race, and though He provided a means for their forgiveness, still found it necessary to impose a discipline upon them in this temporal life. Turn with me now, please, to Genesis 3:16 and 17.’
John opened his own Bible to this passage, sharing it with Mary as the pastor began reading from the Authorized Version, pointing out the underlying Hebrew word which was of significance:
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow (etsev) and thy conception; in sorrow (etsev) thou shalt bring forth children.
‘Do you notice that the word curse is not used here, and neither is the word pain? But now, let’s compare what God said to Eve with what He says to Adam in the following verse:
And unto Adam he said, … cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow (etsev) shalt thou eat of it all the days of the life.’
‘The Hebrew words are the same for the man and the woman!’ Mary exclaimed.
‘Yes, they are. But have you never noticed that the English words, sorrow for Eve, and sorrow for Adam are also the same? Notice, too, in the context, that the word cursed is used of the ground, and of the serpent, but not of Adam or Eve. Look now, in the margin of your Bible, at the alternate translation for sorrow in reference to Adam. What is it?’
‘It says toil,’ Mary answered, looking over John’s arm to read the smaller print. ‘That means hard work. Why, pastor!’ she exclaimed again, ‘that’s exactly what Carolyn told me giving birth is like. She said it’s hard work! But why is the word toil not in the margin for woman too, since the Hebrew word is the same for her as for Adam?’
This chapter goes on much further, but this will hopefully get you curious and you will hunt down a copy for yourself.
I am glad I continued pushing through the book, because there was a gem of a section in the second half that rattled in to my hurting heart and made me realize I was not angry with my Healer, but with myself and those around me who are just as broken, sinful, and messed up as I am.
It helped me realize that I needed to be digging into the Word, I needed to be diligent to find what the original languages meant, and I needed to be willing to lovingly talk about when there are inconsistencies in one translation or another.
From page 179 of the 1973 edition (italicized section was what challenged me):
The purposes here are three:
1) To determine as closely as possible the accurate meaning of the original Hebrew words.
2) To determine whether or not the English translators have consistently translated these words accurately (the inspiration of the Bible surely cannot be defined as meaning that every translation of it, into any language, is without error).
3) To suggest how inconsistent renderings of certain words have helped to create and maintain the negative philosophy toward the birth process that is so embedded in our culture.
So, I made a commitment to renew myself in God’s Word, and to study the original word meaning more fervently. To grant grace to myself and those around me, all of us whom are sinners in need of a savior. To be resolute in prayer for guidance.